Nepal has created a sense of contemplation within myself and around myself. I contemplate on what I have done and what I have seen. I see people loose themselves in a cloud of thought as they gaze out at Mansawar Road from their cafes; I’m not sure if they are contemplating or dreaming – living or sleeping.
As June sped by and the end of July approaches I realize that August is right around the corner. August is a special month for my family: it marks the life and death of a beloved son, uncle and brother. I see my uncle David in the kindness of the Nepali people. When they aren’t smiling and urging me to join in on their traditions, I see compassion and a desire to reflect. As I’ve spent time to reflect in Nepal, I see that his life was beautiful; beautiful in the most understated way.
I see now that my uncle understood the complexities of the basic spirit of humanity, the beauty in not speaking, rather reflecting. He processed information and because of this he was and is the kindest, most aware person I have ever met.
I know little of the art of being an observer. While I sit and look at how the Tibetan monks live, constantly praying – consistently moving their thumbs over the worn prayer beads, I see David.
His legacy, in my eyes, is that he lived a prayer. Noble, selfless and appreciated beyond words; his life was a prayer. Thank you Nepal and thank you David.
Is beautiful, mysterious, annoying, foreign; the list goes on and on. A group of volunteers, six in total, trekked from Nayapul to Tatopani. Tatopani is famous for its hot springs, and that is where we ended our trek and caught a local bus to Pokhara.
We began our journey optimistic, naive and maybe a bit too eager. After the first day of “easy” trekking I thought my legs were going to fall off my body. We were ascending the mountain at a steady pace but as we continued our hike I would see Nepali men and women, with upwards of 50 pounds strapped to their foreheads. I was astounded.
We were lucky to see the Himalayan Mountain Range, we saw terrific views of the most sacred mountains and I could see my favorite mountain, Annapurna South. June and July is monsoon season so we were told to not get our hopes up. So, after two days of trekking I was immensely relieved to see the sun set behind the mountain range.
We woke at 4:15 am when we were in the city of Ghorepani and hiked for 45 minutes to the top of Poon Hill. The views were spectacular, I think what I enjoyed most was seeing an array of people, from all over the globe, marvel at the same kind of beauty. I do believe humanity is relative, culture is different and beauty may be the most personal. However, I came to the conclusion that there are few things that people cannot deny and one of those are the splendid Himalayas.
I feel like I’m rambling now, I’ll post photos and continue with the updates. Namaste!
When do people grow up?
I know people grow into responsible and mature human beings, but does that require a narrowing of our imaginations? All too often I see miserable people, in miserable jobs, acting out of something that is not in them. When imagination is gone, what drives people? Is it the responsibility of owning every mistake? Or is it the culmination of youth, when coming into an age of independence is more important than anything else?
I haven’t worked with children before; since arriving in Pokhara I’m constantly astounded at what they have to say.
When I was on my way to the school to drop off the kids, a little girl, Dawa, was walking beside me and waved at another little girl on the other side of the street. She was wearing the same dark blue khaki skirt and light blue button up shirt, so I assumed they were classmates. I turned to Dawa and asked who she was and if she lived at the Himalayan Children Care Home, she looked at me and told me her name then said, “she lives with her parents, she’s rich.”
I like how simple that statement is. As long as you have family you’re rich. I thought about how I would describe someone who is “rich” in the states. I would probably equate wealth with the size and location of someone’s home and what profession the parents did.
I don’t think I’ve lost my imagination but this Nepal experience seems to be a crash course in enlightening my imagination. I think I would call it, Imagination Rehabilitation: For The Worried Westerner.
Happiness and wealth seem to go hand in hand here, that is one thing that I will take away from Nepal.
Over the school year I took a required introduction to Philosophy class; my professor was a man from Reykjavik, Iceland who loved to swear and day dream out loud. Throughout the course we studied classical philosophers as well as modern philosophers; the Feminists, Theologians, Poets and self proclaimed deep thinkers.
One such modern philosopher was a Danish man, Soren Kierkegaard. Kierkegaard came up with the 3 stages on life’s way. The stages include the aesthetic, which is a life without deep thought or contemplation. The ethical, which is when the self becomes cognizant of good and evil and is able to scrutinize its actions. And thirdly, religious. The religious stage is a blind leap of faith. It’s like walking on stepping stones in the middle of a lake at the dead of night.
The other day when I was dropping the kids off at their school (also a Tibetan refugee camp) I saw an old man walking around the stuppa, spinning the prayer wheels. I wanted to know what his story was, how he found himself in Pokhara and if he was okay with being here. I’m not sure how to make sense of the blind faith that many of the Tibetan refugees have but I decided they were in Kierkegaard’s third stage. They have nothing but faith and I admire that.
To say I’m blessed is an understatement. I have all the opportunity I could ask for and more. Kierkegaard believed in beauty and ugliness, he thought “nice” was a terrible thing and when I look around at all the faith that is here, all I see is beauty.
I’ve never been somewhere that is so chaotic yet so controlled. The people are standoffish yet hospitable, happy yet serious, traditional yet westernized. I flew into Kathmandu with the most anticipation I have ever felt, but no inclination at what I was getting myself into. I chose to spend my summer volunteering to contrast my summer working at a country club in the resort town of Harbor Springs, Michigan.
Last summer I discovered that getting out of my comfort zone was my comfort zone. I like wandering and Nepal is full of those with wonder lust. For the first few days I was located at the Kathmandu Peace Guest House in Thamel, Kathmandu Nepal, the tourist part of town. I met Australians, Europeans, Canadians and Americans; each with their own reason for travel. Our group, associated with the NGO, Home and Home explored the Monkey Temple and the popular Stuppas. We dined on rooftops and at night went to a bar called the Phat Kath.
On the 4th we traveled to the orphanage that we were to volunteer at in Pokhara, the Himalayan Child Care Home. The kids come from a rural part of Nepal called Mustang, an area once part of Tibet. The village is cut off from the western world so education is limited. They’re sent to Pokhara to learn their craft or receive an education then are sent back to Mustang to preserve the way of life their ancestors lived.
The kids are kids. Energetic, happy, angry, sad, loving et cetera. I’ve only spent two days with them but they seem to adjust well with new volunteers. Every other day we rise at 6:30 (a bit later than usual) and herd most of the children to school. Their Tibetan school is a half an hour walk away and in the morning the cool air makes it pleasant.
I’m sitting at a cafe down the street from the orphanage where wifi is easy to access and the food is cheap and good. Thinking about the flight home and the type of person I will be when I leave this country of everything.