13 November 2006

Ma Nepali Hoina!

Ma Nepali Hoina (I'm not Nepali)!

Before I started my trip around the world, I wasn't even considering going to Nepal. Now, it's the country that I've spend the 2nd longest amount of time in (behind 2 month spain), and the country where I learned some valuable lessons about humanity.

About a month or two into the trip, I decided that I needed to do something more worthwhile with my time abroad. And, thus, I got in touch with the Nepali run organization
INFO Nepal. Inside Nepal Friends Organization, which ran a perfect three week volunteer and travel program. I signed up, and soon, was on my way.

It was one of the best decisions of this trip.

The second I arrived in Nepal, I knew I was in a different world. The taxi whisked me away to the guesthouse, where, due to my flight's late arrival, I would spend the night. The next day, awoken early, I was whisked off to the orphanage, Happy Home, to begin my Nepali language training, and begin my three weeks whirlwind tour of Nepal and its fabulous people.

Instead of boring you with the details, let me tell you two stories that summarize my time in Nepal.

Story 1

On day three of training, me and my training group were going to head to a nearby village to do "village training", where we would stay with a family, do some sightseeing, and learn more about Nepali culture. The drive started out horrible - the streetlight-less, jampacked, two lane road out of Kathmandu was jammed, passing trucks spewed clouds of black smog into our overcrowded car. It was hot, I was feeling sick, and we were moving at a Snail's pace. The flat plain of the Kathmandu valley spread ahead of us.

Then we broke free.

We were all breathtaken. The smog filled, dirty road gave way to the most magnificent hills I have ever seen in my life, with ride paddy clinging to jagged cliffs, mud huts alongside brick shelters, old women carrying bales of hay on their back up vertical paths. The hills, steeper and more twisted than many mountains in America, stretching endlessly in front of us. We all started quietly out the window. This is Nepal.

Story 2
While in my "placement" in the village of Dhulikhel, Nepal, a village spread over a series of hills around a peaceful, rice paddied valley. Here I taught English at the local Government school, where my classes often totaled over 60 students, crammed into a room smaller than what would fit 20-25 in the states (picture of school below).

I had to wake up at 5:30AM every day, because my family was a farming family, and farmers rise and fall according to the sun. I would leave for school around 9, after "dhaal bhat", rice and lentils that is the staple of every Nepali meal.

After teaching, my supervisor would have some students take me sightseeing. So, on my second day of teaching, two students, Bine and Ram Kumar, took me on an adventure from village to village. We climbed over a hill teeming with dangerous wasps, where Ram Kumar had seen a leopard attack and kill his dog. We traversed creeks, to a small village where people from only one caste lived. We stopped at a fellow friend's home, and when she wasn't there, her mom offered us fresh buffallo curd, nepali tea, and a refreshing yoghurt drink. Later, I got my first chance to eat sugarcare, and we continued our trek, sugarcanes in hand, attacking the hand-sized but harmless spiders of Dhulikhel.

Everywhere I went, I was treated like a friend. The hospitality was amazing, and I felt ashamed at what little I could do to return the favor. Which made me think - here, these families are so poor. The students can barely afford school supplies, many have to walk miles each day back and forth from school. Yet, me, a stranger, is welcomed heartily. In America, would a stranger be treated this well by people far richer?

I vowed, then, to be more open and giving when I return home.

At sunset, my two friends walked me home, refusing to part ways until they knew I was safe. And then, they wished me a good night. Nothing more, nothing expected in return but the trust of a friend.

I will never forget my time in Nepal, and I promise this. I will be back!
My School in Dhulikhel, Nepal.

The Family and volunteers at Happy Home!

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