I recently ventured, for the first time, to Pokhara and observed massive amounts of lush greenness as I peered out of the window of the bus. This trip and the return to Kathmandu made me realize how much I really love Nepal. In a little less than one year, I’ve made a life for myself and call Kathmandu my “home”.
The friends that I’ve made, the people that I’ve met and the opportunities that have presented themselves have helped to embed Nepal into my heart. For the past four years I’ve been able to live/volunteer in India and Nepal and I feel so very “rich” and blessed.
There is no doubt in my mind that it is easier living in the United States, the infrastructure is well maintained, things are very orderly and familiar, there is less pollution, garbage is almost non-existent. (As I waited to take a plane back to Kathmandu from Pokhara , I started talking to a Nepali who described Kathmandu as a mini-hell). The US, however, lacks culture, adventure, challenge, color, the unexpected and everything else that goes along with living and being part of a so-called “developing country”.
During the past four years I have become an avid photographer and could spend hours sitting at Boudhanath as I did on Buddha Poornima, or hanging out at Potter’s Square in Bhaktapur, or walking from Thamel to Sanepa, observing, snapping photos of people’s faces, which are my favorite subject. This never gets old.
When I’m not working, I spend a good amount of my “spare” time coaching and promoting sports for Persons with Disabilities. I talk a lot about the UN Convention, accessibility and inclusion. This is a hold-over from my three years of volunteering for the Indian Government in the disability field. I co-coach, along with my friend Raj Kumar, the Nepal Army Wheelchair Basketball Team. On the last day of coaching before I left for vacation, we took a group photo and two hours later I was presented with a beautiful, hand-made frame with the photo inserted in it. This was all done in a small ceremony with Raj Kumar and me receiving rose colored tikas and red khatas. The guys call Raj Kumar, Guru, such a sweet sounding word of respect. This entire scene, including the taping of a segment about the athletes for the on-line magazine, Ventzine was very unexpected and “touched” me deeply.
I constantly talk to Nepalis who tell me that they want to go to America, as if somehow, this is a country in which they can fulfill their dreams. Nepalis can tell me all about the two party system, the Democrats and the Republicans. I can only smile in their knowing. But yet somehow I am flowing in the opposite direction.
I cannot name all of the Nepali political parties and I feel like an “infant” in understanding what makes the country tick. But where else, in such a small geographical space, can I meet people from so many different countries and cultures and become part of a global community? Where else can I enjoy the colors of holi, find so much intrigue and so much to marvel at while being so accepted?
Of course there are other countries, but I’ve found a home in Nepal, a place where working on issues of Corporate Social Responsibility and land rights, integrated development and women’s empowerment opportunities can really make a difference. While I was cooking a last dinner at my NGO, Community Self-Reliance Centre (CSRC), a young woman came into the kitchen and started to tell me that she had been a Kamlari and I immediately felt a sense of wanting to write about her, to help her tell her story. I ask myself, where else can these kinds of stories present themselves.