Thirty six hours had passed since I said goodbye to my homeland and to everything familiar. In just a few minutes, I would be stepping out on top of the world. I had already gotten a birdseye view of the mighty Himalayas and my weariness had now given way to overwhelming excitement as I prepared to enter the tiny little country of Nepal, obscurely nestled between India and China.
I thought I was prepared for this amazing journey in the Land of Smiling Faces, but stepping off the plane, I knew there was no way to be full prepared. Everyone of my senses was bombarded. The sights, sounds, smells, and yes, even the taste of the strange air, and the pushing and shoving of the hordes of people stopped me in my tracks. I felt the strange uneasiness of being alone in the midst of a crowd. A foreigner understanding not a single word spoken.
Seeing my son and daughter-in-law waving to me from outside the fence helped calm my fears. I knew I was about to begin a new chapter, and that my life would never be the same again.
“Jamassee, Welcome to Nepal,” they said as we embraced and they whisked me away to a waiting taxi. Immediately, I tried to embrace everything in this strange land that was to be my home for the next 3 months.
Arriving in Kathmandu in October, I experienced the best season of the years. The monsoons of 2007 were the worst in history, but that was now past. Gone too, was the hot dry season with its severe drought. Now the days were pleasant with temps in the mid-eighties. Only a few weeks passed, however, before First winter started and each new day brought lower temperatures, greater water restrictions and more power outages. By the time I left in early January, we were beginning Second Winter with bitter cold temperatures and at least eight hours a day with no electricity.
I learned very early what strong, resilient people the Nepalese were. The people I met took all the difficulties of this harsh land in stride and did everything possible to help those of us who weren’t accustomed to the struggles they face each day. Facing so much adversity has taught them to learn quickly, remember profoundly, and work with great ingenuity.
In early November, I was invited to take a flight around Everest. What a ride! The captain invited me to view the majestic Himalayans from the cockpit. No words could ever describe the scene. Tears flowed as I sat transfixed by the beauty of the natural wonder that I had often read about, but never dared to imagine I would see and be almost close enough to touch.
On another occasion, I visited both Swayambhu Stupa (the Monkey Temple) and Boudhanath, the second largest Buddist temple in the world. At Swayambhu, I was even allowed to observe their worship. I also went to Pashupantinath, the Hindu cremation site. There, I watched the rituals of three cremations. I came face to face with Buddhist monks and Hindu priests on a regular basis. I stood outside a Hindu temple and watched as a little girl about eight-years-old dressed in a garish, colorful outfit was being married to the sun.
The country of Nepal, about the size of the state of Arkansas, has over two million people living in the Kathmandu valley. The streets of the capital city are always teeming with people scurrying to and fro. It’s not all unusual to find a family of eight or more living in a single room.
When I said my tearful goodbyes to my family and precious new friends, I left behind my American belongings and much of my Western-world mindset. I will return someday. These beautiful people and their strange way of life, have shaken my very being.
When I stepped on American soil again, I wept! We are so blessed and sometimes God shows us just how much.