As promised, I will follow up my last post with an opposing look at my recent life lessons. For all that Nepal has made me appreciate about my own home, there are an equal number of things that they do significantly better. Hopeful that I can continue to bring these practices into my own life. Also hopeful that you’ve got nothing to do today, because this is a really really long post. I have always had a tendency to be long winded and I just really went for it on this post. Sorry. So you should definitely take a seat, and maybe be entertained by my thoughts for a few!
Life is simple here, it really really is. In having so little, the Nepalis manage to have so much. I have wracked my brain trying to come up with a gift more my host father this week. When we arrived we were told by the program coordinators it would be a nice gesture to buy them something they might need at the end of your stay. Well, I have decided my Baba is the man who has everything. Yet, he has never touched a computer let alone owned one. Nor does he have a sports jersey supporting his favorite team, or a refrigerator to keep his beer cold, or a working television. Or even a mirror! His clothes are old and tattered. His flip flops are worn and breaking. I wanted to buy him a “topee” (nepalese hat) but when I realized he had 2 I knew he would laugh and probably tell me he would never wear it. As far as he knows, his clothes are perfect. In fact, I saw him sorting them the other day with ones he wanted to get rid of (I think he was frusturated he had too many). There is something to be said about people who own less clothes than I brought in my backpack and have no desire for more. I can’t help but think of my overly cluttered bedroom, with clothes i never wear and knick-knacks I don’t need. Such a life of excess. I showed some of the girls at my work a recent “People” magazine today. Jessica Simpson and a near nude Miley Cyrus graced the cover, none of the girls having any idea who either was. I am envious of this ignorance. People in the village walk around barefoot, in their tattered clothes, smiling, sharing cups of tea, living so simply and yet so happily. I can’t help but think, if we all simplified our lives a little bit, we might be better off.
Compared to what I eat here, I feel embarrassed about the foods I ate at home. So much take out, frozen entrees, greasy fried anything, and overly processed crap that probably came from China. In Nepal, my meals consist of rice and vegetables. I realize I have complained about this, yes. But it is the root of the food itself that I am appreciating here. My meals are pulled from the garden minutes before they are cooked for me to eat. Every single one them. It blows my mind! Like I said previously, we don’t have a fridge so there is no storing food or freezing a prepackaged pizza. We also eat what is cooked (which can be quite a challenge for me sometimes!). Auma tries to prepare only enough for what we will need at that particular meal, if there is too much we stay until it is eaten. Leftovers are not a thing. She has a small rack of spices, sugar, and salt. The rice is harvested from nearby fields and the vegetables are growing in the front yard. Although I’ll admit I crave certain foods from home (burgers, a cheesy egg omelet, a sandwich), I cant honestly say I have not opened a packaged food since I’ve been in Nepal. And really I don’t think I’ve missed it too much. No packages of crackers, bag of chips, or box of cookies. Those things are just not eaten here in the village. In the future, I will try to be more conscious of what I eat and where it came from.
3. Sense of community
Nepalis love their neighbors! I wish I had the connection with my neighbors that they do. I don’t think I even knew my next door neighbors name (but I did know he was divorced and had weekend visitation rights!). I am ashamed about that. I know his gossip and not his name. I imagine the lady on the other side of me is old, because I see oxygen get dropped of and home health nurses stop in. It would be kind if I stopped by to offer some help now and again. Granted, I grew up surrounded by fantastic neighbors that I have remained close with, but neighbors are something I will appreciate more. In Nepal, if you are sick in the hospital your neighbors come to bring you food and take care of you. I can’t imagine what visiting hours looks like from what has been described to me. Your neighbors are almost more important than your extended family. Actually, they almost are a family. If you can’t pay your hospital bill at check out, your neighbors pitch in until it is filled. Imagine? If there is a project going on at the neighbors house, you forget your daily tasks and work until their job is complete. When you die, your neighbors arrange you a proper funeral and help with cost. I imagine that neighbors are synonymous with “best friends” as the people that live around you are probably going to be who you spend the most time with when you don’t have a car or phone or enough money for a plane ride. My best friends live all over the country and I don’t seem them regularly. When I get my next house, I will make an effort to know my neighbors.
Everything is cheap in Nepal! It all feels so reasonable. And if you don’t think so, feel free to say so and the shopkeeper will do his best to match your requested price. Last week, I went paragliding for $50. At Jackson Hole Resort in Wyoming, it will cost you a steep $350. That doesn’t even make sense. So much money all the time for everything in America. Hey Patagonia- I don’t want to pay $150 for that jacket, so how about I buy two jackets and we’ll make it a deal for $200. Haggling can be a headache, but it’s well worth a couple minutes of pain for a good price. There is so much overcharging and hidden fees and inflation crap in America it is ridiculous. Nothing costs what it actually costs anymore. The health clinic here in the village is free. Free checkups, free pharmacy, free pediatrician, free dentist, free everything. People can actually pay for college here too. You don’t have to sign your first child away and maybe even your soul to get a degree. Just saying. Life is cheap, and good.
5. Appreciation of culture
Nepal has such a beautiful, rich culture based from the Hindu religion. There are many daily rituals and cherished festivals. Nepali people love their culture and completely embrace all of it’s history. When was the last time you REALLY celebrated Presidents’ Day? Or labor day? Huh? I mean, don’t ask me how to celebrate.. but we have the day off of school for pete’s sake so I suppose we should do something. Just kidding, that’s a bit of an extreme example. But I’m just saying I/we could get to know our own culture a little bit better. The United States has a unique and diverse culture, that changes somewhat drastically from region to region. Anyways, I think I should try to appreciate my own culture a little bit more. As eclectic as our culture may be, it’s still pretty cool and I want to learn more about it. Nepali people have so many fantastic traditions and I want some of my own dang traditions. I will learn to love American history and celebrate my culture. Yay Thanksgiving!!
6. Actions speak louder than words
I grew being told this, but don’t feel like I really understood it until now. In a place where I can’t understand the words, the actions are all I have. Nepalis smile all the time. It makes me smile and feel happy. I can’t even talk to these people but they make me feel happy! I need to smile at people more when I go home. I am so wrapped up in my own head all the time that I don’t acknowledge anyone around me. Now, I know how it feels to be acknowledged and I will try to spread that happiness around a little bit better. Laughing also, it is amazing how much fun you can have with someone just by laughing. Baba speaks only a few words of english, but he laughs ALL the time. It is better than english. He laughs at me, he laughs at himself, and he laughs at absolutely nothing. I can’t help but start laughing and then neither of us can stop. I am having so much fun and I don’t even know why. My family and boyfriend have scolded me on separate occasions for laughing “too much” in a movie theater. I used to feel embarrassed but now I have no shame. Sorry guys. Laughing is great, everyone should do it more often! As I’ve said before, I have recently experienced the magic of a cup of tea and I am hooked. I’ve never ever been a tea drinker and probably wouldn’t believe you if you said I someday would be. But on my hardest moments in Nepal, Auma handed over a cup of tea and suddenly I could breathe again. I’ve never felt so comforted by such a simple action. Maybe I’m the last to the party on this one, but I’m telling you people- TEA! And here’s the key, with lots of sugar!! It will stop your tears or someone else’s and warm your soul from the inside out. Some of my favorite moments this month have been sitting on the porch with Auma, sharing the silence with only smiles and sweet tea.
What a beautiful place I am in. But what an equally beautiful place I live in at home! Utah is one of the most breathtaking states in the US. Even in New England we have SO much beauty all around us! I am guilty of neglecting my surroundings. In the village, people live off the land and love it. The city (just a 45 minute trip away) provides so much more economically and beyond (running water, the potential for a refrigerator, a stove, etc). Yet, these people don’t have any interest. Auma and Baba hate the city. They do all they can to avoid it. It’s dirty, loud, busy, and ugly. They love the village- the serenity, the beauty, and the pace. I have so much of this all around me at home, there is no reason I should spending my saturday sitting on the couch. I do try to get out and enjoy it, but it wouldn’t hurt to appreciate it a little more. I have had much time to explore these past few weeks and my day almost feels incomplete without a hike after work. Often, I have no destination in mind (“m’am, where are you going??” “Just..walking” … thoroughly confusing to nepali villagers) but it makes no matter. Sharing the fresh air with the trees, sky, hills, and birds is so beautifully soul cleansing. I can actually hear myself think, or sometimes I don’t even think at all, and it is so calming. I will seek out the beautiful places in my backyard more often, where I am, even if it’s just to wander. What do they say, “life is a journey.. not a destination” right? And its true, even in the smallest sense. Just journey out your front door today, to the nearest green space- breathe in, deep, and enjoy!
8. Hard work
The home I live in was made and is kept with the blood, sweat, and tears of its owners. Okay, maybe just the sweat, but it sounded good? There is no paying someone to fix your roof. clean your floors, tend to your gardens, or build your… anything. Baba is 60 years old and still wakes with the sun every.single.day. Every single day, he goes out to the fields to cut the grass to feed his animals or harvest the rice to feed his family. He returns mid afternoon with bushels twice the size of his body bursting behind his back. I have never seen such a little man carry such a big load. He makes another trip. And then it’s time to milk the buffaloes and make a trek to who knows where to sell his produce. He eats and then he sleeps, often fully clothed with the lights still on. This is a hard working man. I don’t imagine he will stop until he physically can’t do it. It is the same story across every village household. In the meantime, Auma has tended to all the animals, pulling out the dirty hay (soiled with many forms of excrement from nine non-potty-trained animals) and replacing it with fresh grass. She has cooked them breakfast (they eat dal baht too!) and lugged several gallons of fresh water up the hill for them to drink. You wouldn’t believe how much food is required by a buffalo. Then she tends the garden, fixes up the house, and also goes to the field. The bushels she carries are three times her size. Wow! My life is not hard. Sometimes, I whine that it is. These people are not afforded a sick day. They do not get to go their lake house for the weekend or take a road trip to the beach. They can’t complain to management that their load is too tough and the expectations unfair. If they don’t work, they don’t eat. My life is not hard. I will try to remember this, next time I am sitting in the staff room eating cookies and complaining about how crap my day is. I will remember a sweaty, tired, aging baba; still smiling though holding his aching back bones, on his way out to the fields on a Sunday. I will get up from my plush chair and work a little bit hard, relishing in the fact that tomorrow is a day off.
Okay, whew, this writing thing is hard. So I may have to give these last two a little less love than number 1-8 or may fingers might fall off and my head pop. But as you know from my multitude of remarks about the struggles of village life, there are many many modern marvels that are lacking in this neck of the woods. The result, is a keen sense of ingenuity that would impress the likes of Albert Einstein and Thomas Edison. If they were alive, that is. Everything is used, re-used, recycled, and refurbished around here. I wish I had been born with a creative bone in my bottom and maybe my remote-nepal-village survival skills would be a little sharper. Maybe in the next life. For now, I will look on in awe at medical tape tubes that become water pipes and short lengths of rope turned backpacks capable of carrying a fifty pound load. And next time something breaks at home, I will try to think a little bit harder about fixing it myself or finding it a new purpose before I run to the store or toss it in the trash.
10. Self Reliance
Okay, now I’m seeing stars. I will finish this post, I will finish this post. So I’m sure you can imagine where the art of self reliance comes in handy in my remote nepali village life. From a young age up here in the hills, the villagers figure out they’ve got themselves and themselves to count on when the going gets tough. Hell, I’ve figured it out and I’ve been here a month. People are brave up here and they’ve got it figured out that they count on themselves. My four year old neighbor walks two miles home from school by himself. The last half mile down a steep stone path (refer to post #2 for further insight on this path) and through the frequently leech infested rice paddies that I once cried about (also- post #2). He is usually singing or laughing when he gets home. I’m officially embarrassed about that. Auma swats scurrying mice off her face in the middle of night. She’s not scared or panicked, just irritated. Baba spends the day in the sweltering heat of the sun by himself. If something goes wrong, I suppose he could yell.. loudly. There’s no hospitals, police officers, or shops of any kind around when you’ve got an issue. Few people have cars. My point is, if you’ve got yourself a problem it’s on you to figure out how to fix it. These people live in conditions far more difficult than any of ours, and they just have to make it work. Some times things are really hard, and they work it out and survive. So can I and so can we all. Sometimes its good to remind yourself how strong you really are and that when it comes down to it you have to be the person you trust most in the world. I was scared, challenged, upset, and worried during the past month. I had no friends and not even a fellow english speaker around. But I made it through, with a smile on my face. It was a good lesson in my own strength. Sometimes, you can find a lot of comfort in discomfort.
Queue the band and fireworks. I made it through, and if you are reading this, so did you! You are a good person for sitting through my stream of consciousness and reading my sometimes incongruent thoughts. Sometimes it doesn’t even all make sense to me, so if I’ve managed to get any points across I’ll consider it a success. Even when living my home life, my mind is up and down and left and right. You can’t imagine what traveling Asia on my own has done to it! But, it has been both fun and therapeutic becoming a “blogger”. So I will continue trying to narrate my experiences, maybe letting you see a little bit of life through my greenish brown eyes. Thanks for reading!