Thursday, September 3, 2015

One month on: A reflection

It makes you think really – going to somewhere like Nepal after they have experienced two ruinous earthquakes – about the things in life that are important to value. Things like relationships, wellbeing and creativity. Everything else is just a diversion we get caught up in ... money, possessions, status and identity.  It is interesting going somewhere like Nepal at this time. Natural disasters are great levellers – for a while everyone is on the same footing; for a while (a short while) I am certain a caste system must mean nothing.  My immediate reaction when I came back to New Zealand (my counter-culture shock), was that I did not want to be here – I just wanted to go back to Nepal.  Now, four weeks later it almost feels as if it was a dream.  That’s the funny thing about travel – it transports us (literally) through to an altered dimension in time (being from New Zealand we ALWAYS go back in time!), and it dumps us in to something we know should be recognisable but somehow is as if we are on different planet, not another continent.  For me that feeling did not last long; being an avid collector of books about Nepal and the Himalaya I felt as if I had been there before (in another life perhaps?), and so the adjustment was not so much about the culture but about corporeal aspects - like how my body managed the temperature and humidity of monsoon season (being a winter person).
Being engrossed in the construction of ten temporary shelters for ten different families in a broken town called Sankhu was amazing. It is also incredible how the desire to help is almost primal in nature, stemming perhaps from a realisation that really, we are all connected – help someone … help ourselves.  It is easy to get caught up in the vibe of giving.  No matter what it is that is given – if done so in the authentic spirit of love and connection then the energy derived from that can manifest in on-going dynamism.
The people I met in Nepal were what touched my heart the most.  The big wide-open smiles and genuine affection of the Nepali are unlike any other culture I have experienced.  To find something every day to be happy about amidst so much destruction, has the potential to teach everyone in western cultures a lesson or two about acceptance.  Life just went on.  No one moaned about their situation; there was just a quiet dignified acquiescence – this is how it is.

Other people who opened my heart were volunteers also staying in the same accommodation as I –  Starview Guesthouse – in the small hilltop village of Changunarayan.  Amanda has lived on Nepal for nearly five years and is actively involved in helping volunteers to volunteer! Some of these volunteers had put aside a “normal” life and had chosen to spend their days giving to others. To truly absorb oneself in the act of giving to others, as a way of life is something few people can achieve in reality, as the ego asks us to stay here in the “real’ world. It takes courage to disentangle from the dogma of “normal” and immerse oneself in the spirit of giving.  I truly admired these individuals as there was no sense of self-centredness about how they went about doing what they did.  It was just as if they were sprinkling a touch of fairy dust over the planet as they travelled!
Entrenched back in ‘the daily grind’ of work has not been an easy or seamless transition for me.  I have found it challenging to focus; my head and heart are still in Nepal and I have wrestled with an amoebic infection which jumped on board for the ride from Nepal and has left me feeling nauseas and bloated.  Of course people say “ah well – you shouldn’t have gone to a country like that so what did you expect!”.  They tut-tut and just do not get it.  Nepal is such a world away from what we know in New Zealand; and even going through our own earthquake does not make us as empathetic towards the Nepali as we could be.
As Nepal moves out of the monsoon and into its first winter season since the quakes, my heart and thoughts are with it; with the Nepali who battle on courageously and with the unseen but tangible spirit that dances throughout this glorious country.

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