Flying signifies to me the beginning of a new journey. And from the moment I landed in the Nepal airport, I knew I was about to experience something different.
I had always wished to visit Nepal–the beautiful scenery, the mesmerizing spirituality, the welcoming community, and so much more. And recently, in the midst of global chaos, hatred, fighting, and hunger for power and money, I had lost hope in humanity. I needed to go out and explore. I needed to find more balance. I needed to find some peace and unconditional warmth and love. I needed to find happiness in spite of everything else happening in the world.
I needed to find Nepal.
verything became real the moment I got off the plane. I didn’t have any expectations; I knew what I hoped to gain from this experience but I didn’t want to embark on the journey with preconceived ideas about what I might find. And in the end, I could see and feel–despite the visible poverty and suffering–how it was such a rich country in many different ways. The Nepali people’s happiness, generosity, acceptance and optimism spoke to their emotional, spiritual and mental richness.
During my time in Nepal, I worked with an organization called International Volunteer HQ (IVHQ) and taught at a school in Pokhara. Working with the program was very helpful, as leaders coordinated all travel in Nepal and took me to many great local places I might not have found on my own. I took sightseeing tours in Kathmandu, visited various temples, took a rafting and safari tour in Chitwan (where the National Park is simply amazing), and of course experienced the beauty of Pokhara.
Through meeting and interacting with many locals and staying in a home with a local family, I was able to better understand Nepalis’ way of living, their culture and traditions. For example, I got to see how Thangkas–intricate paintings on cotton depicting Buddhist scenes and symbols–are made. As an artist and art enthusiast myself, I was very inspired by the artists’ dedication to the technique and by the spiritual experience they gain and provide through their work.
The teaching was very challenging. Much of traditional Nepali education does not focus so much on understanding language and concepts but rather on memorization and reciting answers without really processing their meanings. When my students started to think outside of the box of memorization, I really felt like I was teaching and they were learning. I will never forget that feeling.
One experience in particular will forever stand out to me: After my second lesson at the temple, the students told me to come with them for a second and pulled me in to the room where I first met them. The priest/teacher was sitting down facing the door and they pointed me to sit right in front, facing him. They also sat and were watching eagerly with genuine smiles on their faces.
After I sat down, the priest starting saying things in Hindi. He held a flower and dipped it in water. As he continued to chant, now accompanied by the boys, he shook the flower, an action that sent several drops of water towards me. He then put a bindi on my forehead with the colored powder in front of him. As he finished blessing me, he gave me the flower he used and a banana from their garden and told me to eat it and put the flower on me. The room was full of beaming energy and life.
I can still hear the Hindi chant echoing in that small room. I can still feel the energy of every one of those boys filling it. I still feel mesmerized. I was truly blessed. Not only blessed by the priest, but blessed to be present in that temple, blessed to be in Nepal, blessed to have met so many wonderful people and blessed to just be.