Namaste! I’ve officially begun my journey as a photographer in Kathmandu, Nepal. I arrived two weeks ago, and this may be my greatest adventure yet. I’ve been exploring the city, making new friends, and learning Nepali.
Last week, my friend Derek and I decided to take to the hills right outside the city. I had my first bites of Nepali food and then we grabbed our cameras and wandered through a nearby rural village.
Nepalese people are very kind and open to strangers. Every person we encountered on our hike greeted us like our presence was nothing out of the norm.
It was great to be able to use the few bits of language that I learned in Nepali class. And people actually understood what I said! It reaffirmed that there is real value in learning the language in the countries you live. There is no greater way to connect with someone, and it makes a tremendous difference with the people I photograph.
Surprisingly most of the connections we made with people on the trail were completely on accident. Early on in our walk, we came across an old gentleman making baskets---called dokos. Dokos are made out of bamboo and are typically used by porters to carry goods like vegetables, grains, bricks, and water pots. They are attached to the forehead with a strap called a namlo.
We took several photos while the man worked. Then we asked if we could purchase a doko from him. His daughter came and negotiated with us, and we made a deal. I was pretty excited to have a doko laundry hamper in my mostly empty apartment. But I didn’t realize that our doko purchase would help us connected with everyone else on our hike.
As Derek carried the doko up the hill, other people called out to us asking us where our namlo was. They giggled up at this tall, white man carrying his doko. We tried to make conversation, pointed at the doko, and joked with people on our journey.
It really opened the door for better photographs.The lesson I learned is you can never underestimate the power of having common ground. My doko basket may be holding my laundry today but yesterday it was the means to connecting with someone else.