For the last 3 years, I’ve written a year in review, and it’s no surprise why I almost skipped writing one this year. I went back and checked out my old posts and was reminded of some cool stuff that I had forgotten about, and it inspired me to write a 2020 post. Has this year sucked? Absolutely. There’s no denying that, but it’s also been an interesting year. Like a really interesting year. So, here’s what happened in my 2020…
We got married!
Oh hey, I got married this year! It feels like a lifetime ago, but we did get married in 2020. I imagine in the future, it will make a great story. We actually got married just 14 days before the first lockdown hit Nepal. Something that makes us laugh is that in Nepal it’s common to see a fortune teller before getting engaged. Our fortune teller told us to get married in nine to ten months and not to wait or the timing wouldn’t be right. I thought this was a bizarre piece of advice. Would we not like each other after nine months? What an odd thing to say.
Nine months ended up being last December. I had to leave the country because my tourist visa was expiring. The earliest we could get married was January, but it would be freezing cold, so we waited till March. Now we laugh about this little tidbit of information because as you all know, December was the first case of Covid-19. And, if we’d waited any longer, the time would not have been right because in March the first lockdown started in Nepal.
My family & friends visited…
Since we got married in Nepal, my mom and some friends came to visit for the wedding! A lot of people had to cancel because of the pandemic, but I was so excited to spend an entire month with my mom and to see my friends halfway across the world. We got to go wedding shopping, and we made a ton of trips to the store to get all the things we needed for our new apartment. My mom got to see the local side of Nepal. But we also got to do a weeklong tour of the country so she could feel like a tourist too.
One of the best memories was after the Chitwan jungle safari. We were given safety instructions about what to do in case we encountered different animals. For a rhino, we were told to run in a zig zag. Apparently, they can’t turn easily once they charge. We were walking down the main street headed to dinner one night, and as we turned a blind corner, a large dark shadow appeared ahead of us. It was very dark and we assumed it was an elephant on its way home with someone riding on its back. It wasn’t an elephant. It was a rhino. In the middle of the street.
I began to walk slowly backwards after screaming “RHINO!” Then, I heard my mom yell, “Zig-zag!” and by the time I turned, her and Suraj were already halfway down the street sprinting as fast as they could while laughing. We later learned that the rhino was raised by the military and that it goes to that spot every single night to poop. We just happened to run into him on his way to the toilet.
I got to spend an entire year in Nepal with my husband…
Gone are the days of living on a tourist visa and having to leave every five months. Now, I can officially live in Nepal. And this year was a true test. We got a wonderful apartment that Suraj picked out, and we spent A LOT of time there. For at least 4 months, we were in lockdown. And in Nepal, that meant you couldn’t leave your property unless you were going food shopping. We have only left Kathmandu for 1 night since my week long trip with my mom in February.
Luckily, I got to hang out with my best friend and husband. This last year has been an interesting first year of marriage. I prepared mentally for us to get on each other’s nerves, but the truth is, we rarely did. Even though this year has sucked, and we had to cancel all of our plans, I feel so lucky that I got to spend the entire year with my favorite person. There’s no one I’d rather have been trapped inside with for 10 months than Suraj.
We saved a life…
One of the most rewarding things we did this year was save a doggie’s life. In Nepal, there are more than 10,000 street dogs, and sadly not enough organizations to help them all. I got in touch with Don’t Panic Nepali Dogs about being a foster. While we were locked down, we were able to help our foster doggie Dot (lovingly known as Buddy, Bud, Buddy Chha, Buba, and more). Now, he’s at his forever home in Canada where he got a new name (Jethro), a new home, and an awesome new family who loves him a lot. Although it was hard to say goodbye to him after 6 months, I feel so proud that we got to make a small difference this year. With all the negativity in the world, this was a bright spot for us.
My blog tanked…
If you’re reading this, then you are one of my regular readers, and I owe you a giant thank you for sticking with me this year! With almost no tourism in Nepal for an entire year, my blog has pretty much tanked. I’ll be honest, I’ve had some melt downs, and I’ve wondered what in the world I’m doing with my life, but ever the optimist, this ended up being a good thing because I realized I can’t have all my eggs in one basket.
Because my blog hit rock bottom this year, I had to re-examine some things, and that realization led me to an awesome opportunity with a friend. Unfortunately, I can’t share all the details yet, but it’s something I’m really excited about and it’s challenging me in a whole new way.
I made friends…
Okay, this is going to make me sound like a loser, but it’s hard to make friends in a foreign country. I work from home, so I don’t have co-workers. When I travel, I usually become friends with tourists who leave after a few weeks or months. And, I’m not fluent in Nepali, so it can be hard to make local friends. Even though everyone speaks perfect English, when we get into a group everyone reverts back to Nepali because, well, it’s their language.
This year, I feel so lucky to have found an incredible group of girls that I truly love. We all ended up staying in Nepal during this crazy pandemic, and it gave us a chance to grow close to each other since so many other people left. This has made one of the biggest differences in my everyday life here, and it’s made it so much easier to call Kathmandu home. This year would have been pretty bleak without our random girl days each week.
I’m learning Nepali…
So, I’ve been learning Nepali since my first visit, but this is the first year I started to take it seriously. I got myself a tutor (shout out to Nisha from Nepali Bhaassaa) who is trying her best to teach me grammar. Let me tell you, it’s not easy. A lot of times I feel like a total failure, but Nisha is super encouraging.
Since I haven’t had that many interactions this year outside of family and close friends, I haven’t had a chance to practice. After a visit to the hospital, I realized I’m doing just fine! The nurse wanted to hear me speak Nepali. I told her I wasn’t very good, but she insisted. So, I gave it a whirl. As soon as I started talking, she burst out laughing and said, “Oh my god, you know a lot!” Sometimes I have to remember that I’m hard on myself. I’m not fluent, and it’ll be a long time before I am, but not many Americans can speak Nepali, so I’m proud of the progress I’ve made this year.
What’s ahead in 2021?
Well, in last year’s post I said that 2020 “held a lot of promise” hahahahaha. Excuse me while I continue to laugh at that. Therefore, I won’t try and guess what’s ahead for this year.
Some things I’m hoping for are a visit to the US with my husband. Suraj was supposed to come see my home in America and meet my family this last year, but we had to cancel due to the embassy being closed and no tourist visas being offered.
I’m also hoping we can go on our honeymoon. Where? I have no idea. We originally planned for Malaysia, but after spending the entire year in Asia, I think we might want to go somewhere vastly different. Europe perhaps?
Last but not least, I hope to get a major project off the ground and recover my blog. I’ve put a lot of effort into work this last year with almost zero reward, so I’m hoping to see it pay off by the end of 2021. But who knows what the future holds. Only time will tell.
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Michelle Della Giovanna
Writer at Full Time Explorer
I’m just your average New Yorker who quit her job in the fashion industry to explore the world. Come find out what it’s like to trade in five-inch heels for squat toilets.