What have we been doing our last days in Nepal? Sleeping. We were seriously planning to go to Pokhara, to see another part of Nepal and we had heard so much about Pokhara. In the end, we decided to stay put in Kathmandu and try to digest the past 3 months and are very content with our decision. We met some new friends here and have been spending some time with them and had some very interesting conversations.
Tomorrow we fly home to Stockholm – we have been counting the days and hours (literally) and cannot believe we actually get to pack soon!
So, our time in Nepal has come to an end and the life we have been living here is already starting to feel distant, though it still feels a little odd to be going home tomorrow. But when it is time, it is time.
We have lived in a village known as Ghat, past Lukla. We have passed several other villages each day. We have been one with nature all through our time here and we even had the opportunity to visit the highest mountain in the world, with that also seen valleys and many other villages. We have met so many wonderful and interesting people with amazing stories, different backgrounds. People who also have been here to do volunteer work. They have left their homes, friends, families and loved ones to embark on their own journeys – some to find something, some to just be, some to live a simple life, some to try something new and different and some to challenge themselves. Regardless of the reason, we have met here and will always have something special in common.
It is difficult to explain how simple our lives have been here – apart from the possibility to access internet in Phakding upon our arrival. Wood burning stoves, wood, “poop-cake” fuel, yaks, mules, washing hands with gathered water from the rain, showering with a bucket in a small shed, making own flour, no heating…by the end of our stay the weather turned very cold and I have had spiders big as my hand “strolling” above my bed, found maggots in my socks – and yes – I screamed as an old-fashioned girl on all of these occassions (not when it got cold) but I would say I have become much more tempered here. Simplicity exposes the real you completely and I like it.
Showers have been taken each and every 7 or 10th day, we have changed between 3 outfits – which we have washed in ice-cold water – we realised that back home in Sweden, we would have had about 100-120 showers in 94 days. Here, we had not even had 15 showers by the time we left the village. We have also adjusted to the cuisine in the mountains (rice with potato, potato with bread, soup with potato, pasta and rice), we have tried to learn the traditions they have here and we have felt comfortable. 99.9% of the local people here have mistaken me for Nepalese, or even a “Sherpani”, I have received a “marriage offer” so that I can bring back my Sherpa man back to Sweden, offer about coming here and opening a restaurant. As you may understand, none of these “proposals” will be fulfilled Daily life where you are met by lodge or shopowners/employees serving you whilst brushing their teeth. People’s homes are a part of their businesses in one way or the other. I will miss the simplicity and unpretentiousness of life here.
Poverty is not strictly noticeable throughout the villages – many here are entrepreneurs and run some sort of business. All trekkers who want to get to the Everest base camp, Gokyo peak or Island peak and more all start from Lukla. This means that they pass all of the villages we walk through. Thanks to all the foreign currency circulating throughout the valleys, villages and its families keep themselves well afloat.
It is no fun being seen as a “wandering bag of money” – too many times I have felt this way and many others here as well. It is as if, if you are a Western person, automatically – you have a lot of money. Who cares if you don’t or that you had to work extremely hard for it. If you have chosen to make some kind of donation – initially you would be asked to donate each time such an “opportunity” would rise – for example, this and that, Jenny would you like to donate? It is this and this festival, you should give some money, or, Oh you received a kata from him, you should give him some money. Or, would you like to come to a birthday party, you can bring some money. I understand that some customs may be…customs. But don’t just assume we have a lot of money and that we are willingly wanting to give it away to anything or anyone.
The Monastery and the children
The Monastery we have been volunteering at has been here in the Khumbu region for about 500 years. It is a very small Monastery compared to many others, though considered to be one of the very powerful ones. The Monastery was built round a statue that was discovered back in the days. The children living here have been here for an average of 3 years and are 7-16 years old. They have a compulsory time of 7 years and then they may decide to stay at the Monastery or leave for another one. Most of the children are there since their families have no financial (or other) ability to take care of them.
We have worked 6 days per week and spent about 3 hours per day walking to and from the Monastery and taught in average 3-4 hours per day.
We were supposed to teach English and prior to our arrival we were informed that there would be a headteacher who would conduct and coordinate the classes. We arrived and discovered that this was not the case. Lack of communication in the project and this region + absence of any earlier curriculum etc. led to some new ideas that I started discussing with IFRE (who stopped replying my emails about 1.5 months ago) and RCDP.
IFRE has not been here at the Monastery – they don’t know the conditions of the Monastery or the children’s living conditions. I wonder if they even care how much money the Monastery gets? In their last email to me, I was asked to remember that “they would not change anything in anyones religion and that I should keep in mind that they had to work very hard so that female volunteers would be allowed to work at the project again”. I replied that I did not understand what they were talking about…I never received a reply after that. I understand that this might be the “true colors” of some volunteer/non-profit organisations, but it stings you when you see it so upfront. Telling me and other volunteers that we cannot change what is impossible/what we cannot change – they claim this without knowing anything about us – I find it so unprofessional and ignorant, especially when one has not even been here to make an assessment themselves. With such a negative attitude and lack of respect, how far will we ever come in trying to make any kind of change?
Nevertheless, we have tried to make the absolute best out of the situation and certain events we have experienced during our time here. A new volunteer position was created and I will function as the Education Co-ordinator for the Pema Choling Monastery. We will work on a 6 months basis (at a time). It will be better for the children, to give them some kind of consistency – it is worth a try and I am happy RCDP and I agreed upon the simple details in the end.
I try to remember that one can only do their best and see the bigger picture. Remember how I mentioned I wanted to sponsor the children at the Monastery? Unfortunately, (as I guessed) the requirements to open bank accounts is that you are a resident in Nepal, which I am not. I do not trust anybody here, therefore, I will find another way. However, I have understood that there is money – just that they are not invested in the children per se. But I will be in touch with the Monastery and I can follow up on certain things that have been said. I must remember to be patient.
I met a pilot from Scotland and we have exchanged a couple of emails discussing different non-profit organisations and trekking. He kindly offered to donate to the project I was working with here in Nepal – if I actually knew where the money went/that it would fulfill its purpose. I was utterly touched by his trust in me but due to the short time I had left I said no and hopefully, the offer will come again when I feel another project needs it and I have time to follow-through on-site.
I must also remember that I want to get to a point where I find my own projects by myself/create my own proejcts without and organisations in between. That – together with you and your trust in me, we can make a change. New books, clothes or items that are worthawhile are great and I will make such purchases – but you do know that I want so much more than that – Build schools, children’s homes and such. Nepal has taken me just a few baby-steps along the way – I have many left but patience and learning is the best foundation to get where you want. That you are with me on my journey gives me so much support and I am grateful for that.
We have met fabulous people during our time in Nepal and would like to mention the volunteers we shared times with in Ghat or at the Monastery: Michaela (Australia), Kenneth (Belgium), Eva (Germany), Teresa (USA), Fransesco (Italy), Julie (Italy), Andy (USA), Dagoberto (Colombia), Rosi (Australia), Alex (Canada), Cathy och Kelly (Australia). Most of them have stayed for 2 weeks. Eva was here for 2 months. Andy, Teresa and Rosi stayed for about a month. We learnt so much from you, thank you all!
I finished one painting here. The free time I figured I would have did not happen. I will hopefully have more time for art next year.
I sold one painting before I traveled to Nepal and I managed to exhibit 6 pieces of art in Stockholm during 10 days in November – with help from my wonderful friends.
What does it cost?
If you can or would like to make a trip such as this one – and also understand why I want to sell my art I have decided to share the costs from Nepal.
(all prices are approximate and in SEK so it could vary depending on which country you origin from)
Trekking shoes 2.500 (necessary)
Non-profit organisation 15.000
Visa for +90 days 1.500
Hospital visit 1.200 (reclaimable)
If you can and want to go to the Everest B.C, cost is approximately 8000SEK.
Private donation, Monastery India 700
Schoolmaterials and toys 775
Warm fleece jacket 1.400
“Sitting cushions” 250
875SEK is 25% from the painting I sold to Jenny Johansson – thank you JENNY JOHANSSON!
2.250 is from own pocket.
2.000 for the camera is from own pocket, but was bought many years ago.
What happens now?
Since I will be working as the Education Co-ordinator for the Monastery, I will be in touch with the older monks and also RCDP. Not sure yet how this will work out, but one day at a time. I will try and follow-up on if they will start building a new sleeping area for the children (there is money for this). Remember how much fuss I was making about the lights in the classroom? I was initially donating that but it turned out they had money for that!
I will be off to Costa Rica next year, working at a children’s home and I will stay in the project for 3 months. After that, the plan is to find a project “of my own”. My ticket back home to Sweden (for now), is booked on September 1st.
I will start working in Costa Rica by the end of January. Until then I will be taking a little vacation – I will be home in Stockholm for 3 days and will continue to the US and then Colombia. I would like to wish you all a Merry Christmas and may you enjoy the holidays and have a fabulous start on 2014. Thank you for supporting me, following me and also for your reflections and comments – it means the world to me. Until I see you again, enjoy the beautiful photos from Nepal and do feel free to discuss any ideas or opinions you have.
I am leaving Nepal tomorrow and my final reflection tonight is that Nepal has stolen a spot in my heart and life and I will always remember everything and everyone with profound gratitude.
Be well and see you in January.