Nepal was the exact opposite to what I had imagined in one sense. With all the work we had been set to do I thought it would be very busy and fast paced, however, it felt to me like the world had stopped spinning and time had stopped ticking. My home with the Kumal family was situated amongst the Himalaya's so every angle I looked there were more 'himal ramro chha' - a phrase I found myself saying a lot because I was in such awe of the beautiful mountains. Mesmerized by the way the clouds would slowly float past, so low over our heads you felt like if you jumped you could grab a piece. It was like nothing I'd ever seen before, views of pure greenery, communities and homes up in the hills living off the animals and nature around them. The most simple and peaceful life you could imagine, filled with smiles and love.
Then night would fall and the sounds of nature would be impossible to ignore, never annoying, it became like my lullaby, such a comforting sound to fall asleep to. I heard silence in the sounds of the animals singing. My favourite thing about my home in Nepal was the terrace at night time, no light apart from the moon and stars. Everywhere you looked the sky around you would be filled with fireflies sparkling like stars in space - even better, my brother Manish would catch them and put them in my hands. When I held a firefly in my hands and watched it glow it felt like magic. One night I lay awake in bed in agony from ant bites, but one little firefly had gotten into my bedroom so I watched the tiny star dance around my room for a while before drifting off. The moment for me emphasized the fact that-
You can't appreciate happiness without sadness, nor love without pain.
I was placed with the most caring loving family in a wonderful home, I couldn't have asked for it to be any better. I had seven members in my family - Aunty, Uncle, Grandmum, Grandad, Samikshya (sister), Manish (brother) and Lunika my counterpart... Not to mention the endless neighbours who were all Didi/Dai's in some confusing way or another. My fam would always cook the best food and to think one of my worries before I came was that I might be hungry OMG! I did not stop eating, my plate was always piled up high and tasted too good to refuse it. The family went above and beyond to create a homely space for me to live and it really did become my second home. Despite feeling the love from them, one major test of my patience was the language barrier. Jarring af to say the least. Being the only British one in the community, it was so hard not being able to truly use my voice to talk as much as I would have liked. I felt so suffocated not being able to speak clearly with people and have a normal conversation. My favourite part of the week at the beginning of my journey was weekly team meetings where I just wouldn't stop talking because it felt so good. It was hard talking with my family because we really wanted to but often we just didn't get each other. After time had passed things got easier and we began to understand each other better and I felt more comfortable being in situations where everything was spoken in Nepali. I would usually be freaking out because it was all just mad different to me it was kind of scary and had me on edge sometimes. Sadly though, when things began to feel normal and I wasn't fazed by the language barrier - it was time to leave!!!!!!! It's common sense to learn the language of the country you are visiting, but after being in Nepal I will definitely make more effort in future when visiting a different country. Not only for my own benefit, but the people there will really appreciate that you've made the effort to learn the language, small things go a long way.
The cultural differences really slapped me in the face when I arrived in my local community Tinpiple. Not to say that I didn't expect it to be different, but I quickly learnt how to be more adaptable and accepting to the things happening around me. I had to adjust my perspective and change my outlook to a lot of things, they have so many traditional morals and rules that I had to live by which took a little time to understand. For example, during menstruation women wouldn't be allowed to enter the kitchen area and had to eat food alone in their bedrooms, then their plates would be left outside to clean after eating. Menstrual hygiene is a new topic in Nepal, even period pads are a very modern thing. We held a menstrual hygiene session in the school in hope of creating a more open conversation about periods, many young girls are unaware of menstrual hygiene management and their parents are also uneducated. Their lack of knowledge about periods leads to many girls missing school during menstruation. There is also inequality between girls and boys, girls are frowned upon for leaving the house in the evening time whereas boys are often more free. Most girls are encouraged to be housewives whilst the men seek education and jobs. This being said I was shocked that it is mainly women who do the labour work like farming in rural communities. Studying is also what most children spend their days doing, even when not leading up to exams, many are made to stay home and study an awful lot. One half of me agrees for the sake of their future, however I often noticed children feeling depressed about constant studying.... we all need a break sometimes.
My time away taught me how to truly appreciate the little things in life like nature, family and food. I ate dal bhat twice a day every day for 11 weeks. Dal bhat is a traditional meal which consists of steamed rice and a cooked lentil soup, it is a staple food in Nepal. At the beginning I would sometimes complain about the lack of variety because in the UK we have thousands of food options - at restaurants, takeaways, fast food shops, corner shops, or supermarkets filled with the ingredients to make anything you could imagine. I began to love aunties food and I realised that this is all we actually need, despite having so many options in the UK, so many of us still neglect out bodies binging on rubbish unhealthy foods which are made to be luxury treats for us which results in many health problems like obesity. In Nepal we would eat the same thing twice a day with no complaints and if one night they had chicken or a cake it would be the best thing ever and they would genuinely appreciate and enjoy it. My point is, we don't realise just how lucky we are in this country. I know not everybody has it easy here but there are some simple things which go unnoticed which make our lives easier here.
Usually the cockerel would be our alarm clock but they ate him for dinner one night. I thought I was a straight city girl before going to Nepal, but I proper loved waking up every morning brushing my teeth outside whilst watching my grandmum do the crops and uncle feeding the chickens. It was so calming, no worries about crazy things just simply living life. One night Manish came in the bedroom cwtching the cockerel and I wondered what he was doing, he was saying goodbye before eating him for dinner. For any meat eater, the freshness of the meat killed on your doorstep is a dream. You know exactly where it lived, what it ate, who owned it and who killed it- what more could you ask for, cheap as chips also. But for me, seeing chickens heads ripped off and their bodies still clucking, and the village men sharing goat body parts around for dinner it was all too much. Like my little goaty and chicken wasn't perfectly happy roaming around grazing on the grass a few minutes earlier???? Then the absolute horror of walking into my kitchen to see bowls full of flesh, it was the reinforcement I needed to keep off meat. Why can't we just eat chicken eggs and let the chickens cluck happy? Aunty would always make me the tastiest omelette when the family would eat meat. The family would laugh at me for being vegetarian and always tried to make me eat meat and also to eat with my hands... not for me thank you.
Life as a Nepali was a huge mental challenge for me, partly just having to settle into different environments was what made it hard but also because of how different it is to home in Cardiff. I knew that the good times would outweigh the bad times by a mile so I tried to keep sane during the bad times because I knew they would pass. Sometimes when things were tough I began to blend into the background and enjoy the views instead of facing my emotions and taking it upon myself to get involved. How can you expect positive happy things to be happening around you if your mind is full of negative energy? I quickly learnt that you can't deal with things alone, as much as I've always tried to do that and believed that I can - It's so much easier to talk to somebody about how you feel. Often they understand and can help you, it's better than keeping things to yourself. I often nearly lost my mind so writing, reading, doing exercise and yoga helped to distract my mind and keep me sane. My love for poetry grew from suppressing my thoughts and feelings so much in the beginning of the journey before I grew closer relationships with my teammates. I found such comfort in pouring my mind and heart into writing. In week three I wrote in my diary "As beautiful and mesmerizing as my surroundings are, it's been a struggle sparing myself from exploding"... but here I am months on and proud that I pushed through the bad times. You really have to be stronger than the situations you are in because there is joy to be found within the small things, and if not there are better days to come.
Sometimes you have to take yourself away from your usual gang/scenes to help you reflect and understand yourself better. It helps you to prioritise and see what's important. Also being with different people is important for discovering new things, it's not hard to get on with people if you just try to understand them. In the end of my journey I found myself respecting and learning a lot from the people I originally didn't want to talk to. Our main business is not to think about what lies ahead, but to do what you can with what lies at hand, don't sit waiting on a certain something or someone to make you happy - you have to find love and happiness in every situation. As you read this time is slipping away so rapidly so if there's something you're thinking of doing, there really is no better time than now. Reminder - PLANET EARTH IS OUR HOME AND WE NEED TO LOOK AFTER IT AND EACH OTHER.
The mind is a place of its own, and in itself can make a heaven of Hell or a hell of Heaven.