The Amazing Jyväskylä!

The Amazing Jyväskylä!
Me at the harbor of Jyväskylä

30 September, 2014

Frequently asked questions (FAQs) about living and studying in Jyväskylä (Part 1) - How to start/Living expenses

Click here for Part 2 - Admission

Click here for Part 3 - Admission - English language proficiency

Click here for Part 4 - Grants/Scholarships

I have been receiving lots of questions and inquiries which are very similar to each other about general process of application and admission to the University of Jyväskylä and also studying and living in the city, so I thought I would write an entry for frequently asked questions (FAQ)

But first and foremost, I need to emphasize that I am a student ambassador of the University of Jyväskylä, so I ONLY answer questions relating to applying to or studying in University of Jyväskylä. If your questions or inquiries are not addressed, it could be for this reason or others that you’ll find out below.

1. I want to study in Finland. Please help me. / what should I do? / I want more information about studying in Finland/ I have this degree and that degree, my GPA is … am I qualified? …

First, as a grown-up person, these questions trigger my anger toward the passive attitude expressed from these very lazy requests, which reflects on my judgment toward ones who ask them. These questions show me that the ones who ask them have not done enough research and neither have they had the right attitude toward pursuing studying abroad. I always try my best NOT to be judgmental because I understand every one has a reason for their acts. However, I cannot help it when someone claims to have a bachelor’s degree and still does not know where/how to find information while it is available all over the Internet. It shows laziness – a quality that is not appreciated anywhere in the world. Therefore, it is highly possible that I will ignore these questions because I do not want to waste my time.

Secondly, while giving it some thoughts, I sympathize the confusion of first-timers when they want to study abroad. I was once very confused as well and I didn’t have anyone to turn to but Internet. I guess this blog is also a form of information available on Internet so I’ll write down my advice once and for all as someone who has gone through this process myself.

a.   Please, be SERIOUS about your research on studying in Finland. Invest some time to READ essential information online that is relevant to you. Do not expect someone to tell you what to do from start to end. Only children do that. Finland is an advanced country in technology; hence, all necessary information is made available online for easy access from all over the world as long as you can get a hold on Internet connection. And the important thing is the online information provided is reliable.

b.   Know what field/studies/majors you want to pursue in Finland and look for the courses/programs accordingly. This sounds like common sense but aside from those who have already been accepted into the university, others who ask me to provide information about offered programs do not know what they want to study to at least start with.

c.   The website of my university in and if you want to find out what international Master’s Degrees are offered, you go to Study With Us section:, the available programs should be listed on the column on the left side of the page. When you click on any programs, the link will take you to the page of the faculties/programs with detailed information on the program structures (available to download pdf), required qualifications for candidates and very clear instructions on the application process.

d.  If all Master’s Degree programs offered in my university do not match your desire, go to to look for courses that are suitable for you. I have checked this website myself, its information is precise.

2. Questions which are concerned about accommodation, transportation and living expenses.

Alright, I think this is the question that gets asked the most. And I think it’s fair to think about these matters before hand since Finland is an expensive country after all.

If you’re only in the application stage, don’t worry too much about it. Once you are accepted, my university will send you a package full of brochures of detailed instructions on how to proceed from there. This is one thing I love the most about Finns, though they appear to be cold, they are actually very thoughtful and considerate folks. You’ll find all information you need in these brochures.


For students, there are two choices for cheap accommodation in Jyväskylä:

KOAS – an organization that provides student housing that is supported by the City authority, the University of Jyväskylä and Jyväskylä University of Applied Science. Website: I myself am staying in a KOAS apartment in Roninmäki area and I have no complaint about it. In fact, I have been gradually developing some emotional attachment for the place and now I consider it home. It’s near the supermarkets and located about 4 km to the South West of the city center. Right after you receive the letter of admission, apply for accommodation immediately! About 1 month before you are supposed to come to Finland, KOAS will send you an offer. The earlier you apply, the better chance you have in being offered a room because it’s quite packed during Fall semester with lots of exchange students. KOAS offers furnished rooms in some locations, not all. When you take a furnished room, you’ll pay 15 euros (from January 2015) more every month aside from the rent. Like their Facebook page to check out photos of their apartments

This is where I live, KOAS housing, Roninmäki

Kortepohja, a.k.a. student village, is another choice. I think this is under the management of the university’s student union. Many students I know love living in Kortepohja since it’s a quiet and friendly area where you meet lots of degree students. It’s also located next to a big supermarket. Website: The same rule goes for this, apply right after you are informed that you’re accepted. Kortepohja does not have offer on furnished rooms. However, there is a storage where you can get furniture for free and bring up to your room. Also, there's no guarantee on the availability of furniture in the storage room all the time.

Please note that when it says UNFURNISHED room, it means there is absolutely no furniture inside the room: no bed, no closet, no table, no desk, no chair, etc. It is going to be an empty room.

Both places offer the price that already includes electricity, water, internet, fridge and stoves in the kitchen.

Living expenses

This depends very much on your lifestyle. Of course, if you like to go out to eat and hang out in bars or go to parties often, it’ll cost you a lot. However, you need at least 6,720 euros in your bank account to apply for one-year residence permit in Finland and it is also your minimum living expenses in a year here. I am living off my parents’ money during my study in Jyväskylä so I choose to live cheap. I do not go to bars much, only once in a while when it’s a special occasion like a birthday or a farewell of a good friend. I also do not like noisy places so I do not go to big parties either. Yeah, yeah, I know, it sounds boring. It’s just personality. I enjoy having dinner or tea with some good friends that I’m comfortable with rather than going to a party where I have to continuously introduce myself and answer the same questions over and over again. And of course, I cook for myself. 

So, last year, I would say I spent less than 6,000 euros on basic living expenses such as accommodation, transportation and food. Now, as I am writing down this number, I feel ashamed of not having been able to spend less than that. In some countries in Africa and South Asia, like Nepal where I’m doing my internship now, the GDP per capita is from 500 USD to 700 USD. It means that my living expenses for 1 year in Finland (~7000 USD) equals 1-year income of roughly 10 to 15 people in these parts of the world. How crazy is that??

Anyway, just a word of advice: don’t waste money on alcohol! Why would you spend money on something that kills your liver? If you are someone who needs to eat a lot, then I guess there’s no choice but spending more on food. If that’s your case, I can give you some advice on where to shop and what to cook in order to fill up your stomach, save some money and still stay healthy. But you’ll have to inbox me for that. And feel free to do it: Or, if I have time, I’ll probably write a separate entry for it.

For social butterflies, here’s a monthly get-together for foreigners in Jyväskylä You can get lots of advice from this community of expats and also find your country fellows as well.
The cheapest place to shop for groceries 


This is easy. There are 4 options for you.

Walk – one of my friends from the U.S walks to school, city center, supermarkets … everywhere that is in walking distance even in winter. So, it’s possible to just walk and take the bus occasionally.

Bicycle – this is my option. You can easily get a second-hand bike for 50 euros to 90 euros depending on the quality of the bikes, of course. There’s a Facebook group for selling and buying second-hand items in Jyväskylä here

Bus – with the student status, you can purchase monthly bus card with unlimited uses within the month of purchase. I’m not 100% sure about the price but as of 2013, it was 60 euros/month, the first time purchase will cost you a little bit more for the card. Also, another option is 55-euro bus card for 40 times if you do not take the bus very often. This card is valid up to 6 months from the day of purchase. More information here

Car – if you can ride a car and have your valid driving license with you, great, you can purchase a second-hand car or rent one. I’m not so sure about the price since I have no interest in it. But it’s easy enough to find out once you’re here.

Phew ... that's it for part 1. I'll get to application process in the next part. 

23 September, 2014


It’s been 20 days since I arrived in Kathmandu and started going to the office of PEEDA every weekday. It now already feels familiar; thanks to the welcoming and friendly colleagues.

The office of PEEDA is located in the middle of a street called Old Baneshwar and shares the same slot with a minor private TV Network of Nepal. It takes about 45 minutes to walk from my apartment to the office every morning but I do not mind because for me, it’s exercising. Pushing myself though crowds of people along bustling and busy streets of Kathmandu, even though it’s a rough walk, I feel so much alive. I know, it sounds quite cliché but it’s the truth. Seeing people hurry to schools, to work or to catch a bus reminds me that life is a busy train and it’s a blessing to have a seat on it.

On my first day at work, there were only 4 people working because everyone else was in the field. So far, I could only remember one or two days when the office was full of people and there were 11. I brought some chocolate and some salmiakki from Finland and to my surprise, my colleagues here liked salmiakki. Well, I’m glad they did!

We have a didi who is a lunch lady and also helps with errands around the office. She cooks for us every day so most of us have lunch together on the top floor of the office building. I enjoy lunch time a lot. Even though most of the time, I don’t understand what other people talk about, I take pleasure in hearing them talk and observing their gestures. I have to say Nepali are expressive people. When they talk, they have all kinds of expression on their faces to show how they feel about it, lots of time accompanied with hand gestures and head motion, which sometimes cracks me up. They are certainly the liveliest people I’ve met.

I always come in the office to see a bottle full of water and a clean glass already sitting on my table. Didi also brings each of us a cup of hot black tea every morning when everyone has arrived. When she puts the cup of tea on the table, she always turns the handle toward me so I’ll have easier access to it. It’s not like we are too lazy to reach out a few centimeters further to have a proper grasp of the cup’s handle but it’s the thought that counts. That just shows how considerate and thoughtful she is. I feel like being spoiled here.

I share a room with two other colleagues. One of them is the Community Development Officer (CDO) and the other is an intern like me but he’s Nepali. They’re both quiet people. While I can understand the intern perfectly with no problem whatsoever, I have a really hard time figuring out what the CDO talks about most of the time since his accent is sure very heavy. But that's fine, I'll get used to it soon. I have my own little table, which I’m perfectly happy with for my laptop is tiny as well.

You know, only after a week at the office did I realize that we never turn on the light in our room. We have sunlight for most of the day and even if it gets quite dark late in the afternoon, we all work on the computer so that doesn’t seem like a problem at all. And this way, we save electricity which is always lacking in the valley.

As I was reading about Nepal before coming here, I knew that Nepal’s society was a collectivism one. I had sort of figured since it’s an Asian country. However, some expats here complain on their blogs about how they do not have any privacy because of the collectivism character of the society. Well, I certainly see it differently. Even though I also come from a collectivism society, I do insist on having my privacy when I need it. However, I do also understand that when people ask questions, that’s because they care enough to do it. When they don’t bother asking questions anymore, you know that you have become invisible to them.

From the very beginning, the director and the head of administration kept telling me that we were a family here in PEEDA, so if I ever needed any help at all, I just asked and others would be happy to help me out. See, that’s a great thing about collectivism society. People feel the responsibility to help each other out. They are happy to be of any help. Unlike in Finland, you don’t have to hesitate when you feel like helping others. It’s not a crime! It’s encouraged.

Despite the struggle with allergy due to the air pollution here, I find the place heart-warming and it does give me a nice, though vague, sense of home.

22 September, 2014

Maybe the post-developmentalists were right after all ...

As much as I am trying to focus on completing another paper for the last compulsory course of the program, I cannot. While I concentrate on reading the books that are required for the course, other thoughts keep sneaking into my mind as the experiences that I have had so far here in Kathmandu are quite overwhelming and thoughts-invoking. So, no better way to get rid of these thoughts than writing them down (or typing them up to be exact).

Last weekend, I found myself yet again wandering around the touristy area of Thamel looking for a hair salon since I was desperate and determined to get a haircut while I am here. It is too expensive in Finland and the result I got was not worth the money I spent. Well, I was not really satisfied with the haircut I got here either but at least it was cheap. The hairdresser was sweet and welcoming even though I was 2 hours late for the appointment due to the rain. It was fast and cost me less than 2 euros comparing to the 15 euro haircut that took more than 2 hours to be done in Jyväskylä from an amateur vocational student.

Of course, small talks are inevitable while having a haircut; especially in a collectivism society like Nepal. Basic questions: where are you from? What are you doing here? How long have you been here? How long are you going to be here? She was much surprised when I told her that I was from Vietnam. Cannot blame her. I think very few Vietnamese travelers know of Nepal or consider traveling to Nepal since it is typical among our society that when we go abroad, we’d better go to rich countries like those in Europe or North America. This might go off track a bit but I find it laughable that when I talk to some younger Vietnamese students studying in Jyväskylä about going to Nepal, they find it strange and ask me if I am going there to do some charity work because they often go to France, Italy, Germany or even Greece for their internships or exchange programs. I don’t really bother to explain since it’s a waste of time explaining things for those with that kind of mindset. Alright, back to the hairdresser. So, when I told her that I was doing my internship at a non-governmental organization here in Kathmandu, she did not understand what I was talking about. However, I suddenly remembered the same reaction coming from a waiter in a coffee shop I went to the other day. And when I changed my answer to the abbreviation NGO instead of  full-on, spelled-out “non-governmental organization”, she immediately understood and so did the said waiter.

Very interesting …

Now, when I am doing some thinking and also reading a piece about aid work in Nepal from the book Development Brokers and Translators by David Mosse and David Lewis, I realize a very interesting fact. In this piece that I just mentioned, the author provided some statistics on the dramatic changes in the number of NGOs registered in Nepal: “From a mere 250 in 1989, the number of organizations registered with the Social Welfare Council in Kathmandu shot to 1,210 in 1993 and to 5,978 by 1997.” (p. 195) Then I went on doing some simple searching on Google to find out the most recent number. I found an official number on an online news outlet called Kathmandu Insider published in 2011. Apparently, as of 2011, there were approximately 50,000 NGOs and INGOs including ones registered with the Social Welfare Council (SWC) and those which were not registered. The official document listing registered NGOs from SWC has total 1,126 pages listing 30,284 INGOs and NGOs.

That is a tremendous number of NGOs and development workers in such a small country like Nepal. That number also gives us a hint of the amount of money pouring into developing Nepal every year. The article on Kathmandu Insider goes on analyzing the number: “Acting Deputy Director of the SWC, Uma Paudyal, informed that about 34,000 NGOs have been registered with the council to date. Moreover, there are many NGOs which have not yet registered at the SWC. She estimates that the total number of NGOs in the country must be around 50,000 already. Interestingly, given the population of the country, 34,000 NGOs means one NGO per 872 people! Or if the NGOs are centered on VDCs, eight NGOs can focus on one Village Development Committee (VDC). Similarly, 202 INGOs are working with the SWC, according to the latter. That being the case, it would not be wrong to expect far more from these non-profit organizations.” Unbelievable, right?

[I saw the sign of this project just across the road from Chinese Embassy]
First, it’s obvious that the term NGO has become a popular concept to Nepali, especially those living in Kathmandu. However, from the experiences I've had so far, I doubt that aside from development workers and their families, most Nepali do not understand what NGO even stands for; evidently the cases of the hairdresser and the waiter (and now, when I think about it, it's the same case with the guy who sells momo near where I live and claims to be my friend after selling me momo twice, haha) . I think they might have a vague idea what NGO workers might be doing but not really the whole picture. And of course, due to the huge number of NGOs, the expat community here in Kathmandu is incredibly large. There are two common questions posed for foreigners here: “Are you here to trek?” and “Are you working for an NGO?” Just like in Vietnam: “Are you here to travel?” and “Are you here to teach English?” And some Western NGO workers in Vietnam would be angry when asked if they teach English because they think that’s stereotype.

Secondly, I have to ask myself very obvious questions: With that incredible number of NGOs, why is Nepal still considered among the poorest countries in the world? What have they done for the past 25 years that this status hasn't changed at all?

Some typical reasons are laid out: corruption (which is true and quite serious in this case of Nepal); lack of resources (especially electricity); geographical difficulty-landlocked, weak governance; etc. … but … let’s face it, maybe Escobar, Ferguson and other post-developmentalists were right after all: development, the way in which it is being operated, is not working anymore …

15 September, 2014

Nepal 101

It’s Saturday and I got up at 5 am to accompany my landlady to the local market (or vegetable market to be exact) so that I’d know the way to get there if I want to buy vegetable for myself. It’s actually her morning routine that she would take a walk at 5 am, go home and have tea then go to teach at the university. However, it’s weekend and I had asked if she could show me the way to the market, I think she decided to do some groceries shopping as well. She said what she had bought might last for 2 or 3 weeks because the daughter didn't have lunch at home and they did not eat much though.

After leaving the house, at the corner between the alley and the big street, there’s a very small temple with a statue of an elephant God and she asked me too wait for her while she came inside the temple. There’s some sort of red powder surrounding the statue; I saw her touch the statue first and then put the red powder on the top of her forehead, this symbolizes the blessing from God, called Tika. So, very often, I see women with two red dots on their forehead: the one on top of the forehead is the blessing from God and the one between their eyes shows that they are married. Finally, to finish the ritual, she walked around the statue one time and came out of the temple. There’s also a bell hanging from above the statue and sometimes I see people ring the bell as well and touch their head and chest with their index finger but my landlady didn't do so. It’s an optional thing, I guess.

We reached the market after stopping by a dairy products shop and a spice shop. It’s a very common thing here that they eat yogurt after their meal. However, the taste of the yogurt here is quite different from what I am used to in Vietnam or in Finland. It’s not as smooth and also leaves a hint of citric after-taste. And regarding the spices, it’s amazing how many kinds of spices they have here. Of course, the common spices every one knows from Indian style of cooking such as cumin, turmeric, masala mix, cloves, star anise, cinnamon, etc. and lots of other spices that I have never come across  before. The vegetable market was huge. The basic vegetables that most of the stalls carried were cabbage, green pumpkin, daikon, morning glory, tomatoes etc. and only a few stalls had potatoes, garlic or limes. The limes here are exceptionally small!!!
The landlady and I walked all the way from one end to the other end of the market. She asked for the price, bargained and bought lots of them for a roughly two-week supply.

[Behind this fence is a small pond and behind the pond is the vegetable market]

[A close up of details on the fence]

[A close up of details on the fence]

Back to the house, the landlady invited me to have tea with her. She asked me if I wanted black tea or milk tea. I love the fact that milk tea is a norm here because I LOVE MILK TEA!!! Later, she said she had been surprised that I wanted milk tea because even though Nepali love their milk tea, normally foreigners preferred black tea. Well, I’m no normal foreigner! Hahaha =))
While having tea, we were talking about lots of things among which was her experiences of working with a Finnish project. My landlady is a chemistry professor in a renowned university in Kathmandu and she also runs a consultation firm. She took a leave from university for 2 or 3 years to work as a consultant for a project funded by Finnish government a long while ago, back in the 90s. She also paid a visit to Helsinki once during the project. We shared lots of common opinions about working with Finns in general.

After retiring from the tea session with the landlady, I came back to my room trying to figure out how to activate the internet package on my phone so that I would be able to use GPS and Google Map on my phone to explore the city. After a call to customer service with lots of “sorry, come gain?” or “sorry, I don’t understand what you mean”, I eventually managed to get the Internet working on my phone. The mobile Internet service here is actually very convenient if you know how to work it. They provide all kinds of Internet packages with amazingly cheap price. I only wanted to have the Internet available on my phone for 1 day so I activated the daily package of 20 MB worth of data for 10 rupees (1 euro = 126 rupees, so … you do the math). It lasted me for about 8 hours of constantly checking my location and occasional Facebook log-in.

I then walked my way to Thamel, a very touristy area in Kathmandu. This area is packed with souvenirs shops, cafes, restaurants, hostels, guesthouses and travel agencies. Some people would come up to me and asked if I wanted to use their services, I did have the tourist look with my camera and all. Even though the streets are always crowded during the day and motorbikes make their way through the traffic as fast as they can, people do not seem to be in a rush. I remember reading a blog written by an American expat about her life in Kathmandu and she said people here were always in hurry to go nowhere. However, from my observation from the past week, I can’t say I agree. It seems like they are in a rush if you look at the traffic. However, that’s just how it works when they don’t really have traffic lights and the flow mainly depends on the police. If they don’t go fast with their motorbikes or cars, no one knows how long they will be stuck in a busy intersection. Looking at the pedestrians; however, I see the opposite. They have a fairly relaxing and slow pace. I constantly find myself having to jump down to the street and then back again to the pavements in order to get pass other pedestrians who walk quite slowly. In Vietnam though, people are in fact always in a hurry to somewhere or nowhere. It’s just how we are, I guess.

[A type of cyclo lining up around Thamel to serve tourists]

[Similar displays in many shops in Thamel district]

Many of the stores are closed quite early at around 5 or 6 in the afternoon. I was quite surprised at first but then I realized that Nepali start their day very early. Many of them get up at 5 in the morning according to the rooster. The local markets are crowded around 5.30 or 6 and dismissed by 10 a.m. Aside from touristy area which is lighted all night, people go home around 5 p.m. and the streets are pretty empty at around 8. I was told that many families had dinner very late at 8 or 9.

Back to Thamel, there was nothing really special there aside from what you would expect from a usual hang-out location of foreigners. As I was buying some postcards to send home, I saw the name Durbar Square appear quite often. It must be a popular place to visit. So I decided to go there after having lunch in a local restaurant.

Durbar Square is a vast area covered with 49 Hindu temples, a palace and a history museum. I was surprised at first with the architecture of the palace which was absolutely European style. Apparently, one of the kings who came back from a visit to England really loved the architecture that he had seen over there and decided to build something similar. An English architect was actually hired to design this palace. It’s kinda odd seeing this palace standing next to the Hindu temples.

This is the place where one of the most important festivals in Kathmandu is hold annually: The Indra Jatra Festival. This is an extremely interesting festival which reminds me that I have been back to the land of legends and myths. And I do love to hear and to tell mysterious and mythical stories.

First, the name of the festival is Indra Jatra which is a Rain God. The statue of this God is often seen with tied hands since the myth says that he once came to the valley to steal a flower and was caught red-handed. Even when he said he was a God, no one agreed to let him go and tied his hands together. This story was to teach people that the act of stealing was not tolerated and the thief would be punished even if that was a God. However, since he was a God, the people in the valley made a deal with him that they would let him go in exchange for rain every harvesting season in the valley. Well, I think so far, he has kept his promise. ;)) More about it here

A major event of this festival is the worshipping of Kumari – The Living Goddess. The Living Goddess is a young virgin girl who is chosen among many candidates from Newari community, Shakya clan from which Buddha was from. The myths behind the Kumari are all very interesting but long and quite complicated. Those who are interested can go to this link to read more. This is a review of a biography written by a former Kumari about her life during the time of being worshipped as Kumari and the struggle to adjust back to the society after that. So very interesting that I spent the whole working day reading up about it. I’ll try to see if I can find this book here.

[Me trying to have a photo taken with the royal soldiers dressed in 18th century uniforms]

[Close-up of the current Royal Kumari of Kathmandu]

[Royal Kumari's chariot]

[The back of the chariot]

I was lucky enough to arrive in Kathmandu just in time for this important festival. I went to the first day of the festival which was September 8th and witnessed the pulling of Kumari’s chariot. The scene was incredible! Streets were packed with people playing musical instruments and pulling the chariots. My friend and I managed to get up to a restaurant’s balcony to have a clearer view of the Living Goddess. However, after passing the building that we were in, the chariot carrying Kumari was accidentally pulled off track and almost hit the building, a short while after that, it was stuck just down the road from where we were. When we were to leave the festival area, we had to push through ocean of people going against our direction. I was surprised finding myself totally okay with it even though I’d been living in a country where my personal space could go as far as 1 km to all dimensions and no one would stand closer than a stretch of the arm while talking to me. Such worlds apart!

[People are waiting to see the living Goddess Kumari]

[People are waiting to see the living Goddess Kumari]

I talked about this event with co-workers during lunch the next day. The director of the organization told me that if the top of the chariot falls down, which has happened several times, there will be some major changes or happenings in the valley during the year. He spoke of a year when there was a big massacre in the valley and the year when democracy took over and ended monarchy, the top of the chariot did fall off during the festival of those years. 

I also found a famous biography of a former Royal Kumari named Rashmila Shakya, edited by a British journalist Scott Berry, who used to live in Nepal during the time this said Kumari was in office. The book tells stories from when she was selected to be Kumari to the struggles that she had to cope with after she had retired from the position of being a worshiped living Goddess. I finished the book within 24 hours after my purchase because I was awfully fascinated with this tradition. Imagine that while many other myths or legends remain fictional; this is one unique legend of Kathmandu that has been alive and carried on for centuries on end. How fascinating is that!!!

Cover of the book From Goddess to Mortal by Rashmila Shakya

05 September, 2014

Finally made it to Nepal for my internship!

It was a long long long trip to get to Nepal from Finland but I made it! I am finally here in Kathmandu – the capital of Nepal.

I arrived in Kathmandu on 3rd September and my friend G (I don’t know if she’s okay with me mentioning her name so I’ll use the initial) picked me up at the airport with a car sent by the organization of my internship. Needless to say how happy I was when I saw her since we haven’t seen each other for more than a year now and the last time we said goodbye, we did not know when we would see each other again. But now I am already here, which we both found so surreal. We talked and caught up as if we had been seeing each other every day for the past year.

Arriving at the Tribhuvan International Airport and trying to get a visa upon arrival could already make a good story. After getting out of the plane, even though the gate could be reached with less than 2 minute walking, we were asked to wait for the bus. The first batch of passengers had already departed when I was outside the plane. So, together with lots of other passengers, I waited. The bus finally came around for the second pick-up. Everyone was trying to push themselves through to get inside the bus with no particular order or priority. I’m no stranger with this custom, to be honest. So, I went with the flow otherwise I would have to wait under the sun for additional 10 minutes for the next bus ride.

Finally, I reached the gate, due to a recent outburst of a particular disease in some African countries, there was a sign advising those who had been to these disease-affected areas in Africa to have their health checked with the doctors located right there at the international arrival gate. Well, I had never been to Africa or in contact with anyone from those areas so it didn't concern me, of course.

I kept walking to the visa application stands. They had 4 or 5 machines there for the visa application. What I did was to scan my passport and the basic information (such as name, nationality, date of birth) was then recorded on the screen. I was stupid enough to keep my passport cover on, so I had a hard time scanning the passport. An airport staff saw that and came over to help me. I then filled in other required information, posed a silly pale face in front of the webcam for an ID photo and a slip was printed out for me. I was told to present the slip when asked. I received a copy of the slip later on in my email confirming that Department of Immigration had received my online visa application. I was very impressed with the availability of technology they had in the airport. That might be due to the giant number of tourists who come here to climb and trek Mt. Everest every year.

I went on to pay my visa fee and it was 100 USD for a 90-day visa. I got a receipt and was told to proceed to the next table to get the official stamp. They had 4 tables for 15-day, 30-day, 60-day and 90-day visa. To my surprise, many people actually applied for 90-day visa and they all said it was their first time in Nepal. This is the stage where I spent the most time waiting because the computers kept shutting down while the officer was asking me questions and typed up my answers on his computer. Well, I found it hilarious rather than annoying because every time it shut down, the custom officer acted so irritated and frustrated, then with the typical Nepali head motion (can be seen often with Indians as well) he complained in a few sentences and got back to work. I remembered the electricity went out once (all the lights and computers immediately shut down) and after that his computer just shut down by itself for no reason for another 2 times before he could finish filling in the form. I later on told my friend about this while apologizing to her about the long wait, she said to me: “That’s Nepal, you know. You’ll see.” And we burst out laughing.

After obtaining the visa, I was headed to the baggage claim area and my bag had not been sent out yet. I waited for a little longer and felt so relieved when I saw my giant backpack slowly make its way out on the luggage carousel (yes, I actually had to google this word!) because I was supposed to claim my bag in Delhi but I wasn't able to do so without a visa to India so I had to ask the airlines to do it for me and I was not so sure if they got it right. Bottom line, I was just glad that my bag did not end up in another flight to somewhere else.

My friend took me to the apartment which would be my home for the next three and a half months. It’s a two-story red-brick house at the dead-end of an alley. I was happy at first since this location often meant peace and silence. I found out the bitter truth early enough the next morning that I would be woken up every morning in several different stages: the rooster at 4 or 5, the water pump a short while after that, the construction nearby of course since I am totally under the curse of being followed by constructions wherever I live.

However, the landlords are very kind people. The husband is a retired geologist; the wife is chemistry professor at a renowned university in Kathmandu; their daughter somewhat shares the same background with me: bachelor’s degree in development studies and master’s degree in International Relations in Germany, now working for a local NGO. She’s a friend of my friend G. I actually was able to rent the apartment downstairs of her family’s house through this channel. They all live on the first floor and I now live on the ground floor.

I had a short greeting conversation with the landlords, which was pretty much about the power shortage and using the electricity in as much moderation as possible; I finally came to understand why the organization of my internship was working on energy-related issues. I learned later on that Nepal has never had enough resources to provide electricity for its citizens even in the capital city. Only wealthy households can afford the generators to have back-up electricity for 24 hours. 

Depending on the weather, the power cut schedule is changed monthly. Here, they call it the load-shedding schedule. The city is divided into 5 groups with different hours of power cut. For example, I am now living in group 5 area, on every Friday of September, the electricity is cut from 12 pm to 4 pm and then from 8 pm to 10 pm. So, that means every day, electricity is cut for about 7 or 8 hours. In dry season, the number of hours without electricity certainly increases. That’s why most of the traffic lights do not work and the traffic police here have to work very hard during the day to keep the traffic flow. Traffic in Kathmandu is completely reckless, one has to admit that; but then again, I am no stranger with chaotically crazy traffic. It actually makes me feel right at home. It’s the beauty of chaos, you’ll always somehow find order in it. It keeps people awake and alerted. Everything is alive the second you step out of the house. I had thought that I would have some difficulties adjusting back to this lifestyle after a year in Finland, but that was easy! I've been on the back of my friend’s scooter after such a long time not riding one and it really made me homesick.

Later on, my friend took me to a super market near the apartment by to get some food since I was starving. I ended up buying only instant noodles because we couldn't exchange any money at the time and she was lending me the money for the food. Well, I guess at least it was better than the croissant I had on my first day in Jyvaskyla.

In the evening, after Skype session with my parents, I was just happy to finally be able to rest on a proper bed after 2 days of constant movement. Isn't it the magic of traveling? When you are derived from certain undermined essentials such as a simple bed, you grow to appreciate more and more what you used to take for granted. Well, it’s just an example. I have never taken my bed for granted. Together with a soft pillow, they are my dearest friends in the world! ;)) Haha, don’t take me too serious though! But I do love my bed! Always!