2012 Study Tour: The unique aroma of Nepal
Ever since that first step onto the tarmac, we could all feel that there was something in the air... No, not the aeroplanes, or the beautiful snow-topped peaks of the world's highest mountains, but just something that stuck in your nose and your eyes. After a few days it begins to become normal but it still remains rather pungent. It is simply the dust, smoke and pollution of a city lying a valley; Kathmandu, Nepal. With no wind to collect the dust and carry it downward, it sits rather stagnant across the city creating an unmistakeable haze. That is not the only thing that sticks to you, but I feel this one is much more enjoyable - the unique rhythms of the Nepali way of life. A mix of the humdrum of selling fruit and seeds on the side of the road; the haphazard (and fairly hazardous) traffic weaving in and out any-which-way, and the friendly faces ready to great you, 'Namaste!' without the pressure of doing business.
Our last couple of days have been jam-packed and full of confronting experiences that can only be explained though a Nepalese lens. The ancient Hindu temples that lie across Durbar Square in Patan speak of centuries of Hindu monarchys' and worship of the 33 million deities. Yet each day, there are still children playing on the steps, and an old man who collects water for the local shops and receives his 5 rupees (5c) from each shop owner. There is a great aura of respect for the Holy men who have given their lives to serve the Nepali people. At Pashupati temple, we witnessed the public cremation of Nepali people, as is custom, to send off the body as the Hindus' believe that the spirit has already left the body and will be reincarnated. Interestingly, there are still caste levels in the location of whose body is cremated where, starting from royalty, then soldiers, then architects, then Buddhists, then everyone else.
Along with this engaging and intense cultural introduction, we shared a traditional Nepalese meal together - Dhal Baat which consists of rice which you mix with sides of spinach, vegetables, pickles, chutney and curd (and in some cases meat). It was also an excellent time to meet some of the people involved in the new Seven Women centre which we are going to do some work at.
As we have been challenged, we must look, experience and process these experiences through the cultural lens of the Nepali people. That is something which will take courage, patience and understanding, but I believe that is the only way we and others can make a tangible difference to the lives of those whom we are supporting through Seven Women. To understand who they are as a people, and to work with them, learn from them and help them to grow as Nepali people.