Written by: Cheyenne Trujillo
(Note: This article was originally published in the Odyssey Media Group, Inc.)
I can’t do this. If I stand in this line any longer, I am either going to throw up or pass out. Although I feel like I have been standing in the line since the age of the dinosaurs, maybe only twenty minutes have passed before I am at the front of the line checking into myplane ride. I have flown plenty of times before, by myself, and yet I have never been so nervous as I am right now. None of the other trips were as important as this one.
On July fourth, most people are shooting off fireworks to celebrate, but I am waiting for my delayed plane to shoot me off into the sky. Thirteen hours till I land in Doha’s airport and another full day till I land in Kathmandu, Nepal. Despite only being there for two weeks, at this moment, I feel like I am going to be gone for forever. My mind blanks, and even though it is 2016 (2073 in Nepal), I think that all communication to my existence in America is severed. I speak no Nepali, and I have never left the country. I look like I’m twelve and too young to be traveling alone. And at the moment, I feel that way too. Just breath.
I applied for the Global Peace Exchange chapter at BSC when I was having a mid-mid life crisis during first semester; I had an interview in the Spring and a few weeks later, I was informed that I was chosen to be a part of GPE and would be heading to Nepal in the summer. GPE partners with Clinic Nepal, a non-profit organization, to help teach English, leadership, health, and environmental sustainably and work on improving the different projects that Clinic Nepal has built. I love volunteering and this is an amazing opportunity. I am blessed to have this experience… if I can get over my nerves first. As I stand in the impossible line waiting for my visa, my journey has begun.
Of course Nepal is geographically another country, but I am not prepared for the culture shock that ensures; stray dogs litter the roads, sleeping away the blazing hot day while people calmly walk into chaotic traffic to cross the street. Traffic laws exist, but are ignored just like the serving size of your favorite snack. Horns are constantly honking as a reminder that drivers are sharing the road. Did I mention that it’s hot? Because I am simply sitting in Hari and Sirjana‘s house in Kathmandu, yet I am sweating like I am a runner in the Marathon des Sables in the Saharan desert. This reminds me of home, I think as the hot, humid weather pays homage to Dothan, AL. Just like home. But without air conditioning. Little did I know that Nepal could actually get hotter.
The people of Nepal are really polite and nice, a reminisce of southern hospitality. Visitors are welcomed with Nepali tea and bouquets of flowers (that will later be confiscated by customs). When Anna and Annika, some German volunteers, and I were traveling to Daldale, someone on the bus always checked in with us to make sure that we understood what was going on. We always had clean, cold water to take to our rooms. Along with the other teens and kids staying at the hostel, we explored Daldale, local temples, and the birthplace of Buddha. Nepalese people were patient to explain their customs and language to us when we had questions or did not understand what was being said. Many times. I have never felt so welcomed in my life. Albeit, there is that one guy who insisted on selling me a pashmina no matter how many times I told him no. Don’t let that guy ruin the country for you.
Almost as beautiful as the people are the mountains that are ever-present in the scenery. The drive to Daldale consisted of winding roads with gorgeous views of immense mountains and falling waterfalls. The climb to the waterfalls would have been hot, swarming in mosquitos, lurking with stealthy predators, but to feel the water cascade into one’s hand would have been worth it. Sitting on the balcony of the hostel in the mornings, the clouds surrounded the mountains in mystery; its true height would not be revealed until later that day. In Meghauli, a ride down the river and walk in the Chitwan National Park revealed a jungle teeming with life; deer, monkeys, and exotic birds rushed around us as they scattered from the foreigners passing through their home. While riding on the back of an elephant, we got even closer to the animals and came face to face with rhinos.
Another rivaling beauty is the countless temples built in dedication to their gods. Lumbini, the birthplace of Buddha, is like the Epcot of Buddhism. Buddhist temples sponsored by different countries give breaks to those on their pilgrimage and are beautiful works of artfor the tourist. I mean no disrespect to Leonardo da Vinci, but Mona Lisa has nothing on the Great Lotus Temple designed by Germany. Vibrant colors fill paintings depicting the birth of Buddha and his path to enlightenment. Small carvings of animals line the inside where pictures aren’t allowed. No pattern on the wall repeats. Every painting is a new one, allowing the viewer to pay tribute Buddha. In another temple, a giant Buddha rest in the center, guarded by two medium sized Buddhas, and a thousand Buddhas the size of one’s hand circle the ceiling. I favor the regal Shri Lanka temple with it’s cream color and shaded pond where we rested.
I got a fair amount of sight-seeing done in Nepal; however, I came to work and to learn about Clinic Nepal. I helped some with English homework and planted some of the four thousand fruit trees the French volunteers were working hard to complete. In Meghauli, Sydney, Anna, and Annika worked alongside the French students to renovate a kindergarten. GPE volunteers from FSU mainly worked with the scout troop to teach leadership and hygiene. On our first day in Meghauli, we toured the water plant that was providing the municipality with clean water straight to the tap after finding arsenic from the water produced by the hand pumps. Clinic Nepal is revered in Meghauli. And I revere Nepal and its people, Clinic Nepal, and the Bhandary family and friends. Clinic Nepal is working hard to provide for a people so deserving of more. Families opened their doors, willingly and lovingly, to host strangers that are almost completely ignorant of their ways. Sometimes, it seemed like I was surrounded by chaos; buildings were still damaged from the earthquake, landslides delayed our departures, and pollution muddled the air. And people thrived. Kids played futbol in the fields and jumped in the rain. Teenage girls huddled around the TV to watch their romantic drama shows. The adults watched over us if we were their own.
It’s said that people come for the scenic views, and they return for the beautiful people. It’s true. I hope I get to return to Nepal and continue to help expand this inspiring non-profit with the hardworking and genuine family that started it all.