Oh man oh man there is so much I could say about our trip to Nepal. I’m going to keep this short and sweet though and include the highlights.
It was my first time in Nepal while it was a kind of coming home for Ross. This allowed me to really see Ross reconnect (again) with people here as well as the culture itself. He remembers a lot more Nepali than I (or he) thought he would! He’s been really enjoying trying to speak as much as he can and is excited to learn more. It’s nothing short of amazing to see the legacy his family has in Nepal. His grandfather helped to found Patan Hospital here and most of his aunts and uncles on that side have lived here at some point. We stayed with his Aunt Becky and Uncle Paul, who were THE most generous and loving hosts! We went to Nepali church with them that first week and it was crazy having his aunt point out to me the different people connected to the family. “This person helped with the birth of Ross’s cousin”, “This person knew Ross’s grandfather and saw the kids grow up”, “This person worked at the hospital Ross’s grandfather founded” It amazed me and also helped me understand Ross better and his pull to this country.
Ross was reading a book called Fatalism and Development while we were there and it has shed a lot of light on things for both of us. It talks a lot about the caste system in Nepal and how it came from Hindu levels of importance in people groups. We still see this today in the way Nepalis relate to each other. Super interesting.
My time at WomenLEAD was rich. What other word can I use? These girls were incredible. They were open to trying new things while at the same time rooted with well-formed opinions and genuine questions. I was extremely impressed with their ability to articulate their thoughts on complicated issues, such as the role of women in the reconstruction process in Nepal. It’s obvious that this organization is doing a stellar job of mentoring and empowering these girls with the skills they need to make change in their communities. Go WomenLEAD! I’m a fan for sure! You can follow the powerful projects they are doing on their FB feed here.
While I was with this group of WomenLEADers, I did a mix of mediums with them, including drawing, poetry, and dance. All of the activities connected, as we used the art work and poetry to create choreography, all based on the girls’ experiences during the earthquake. I was nervous at first that the material would be too sensitive or that the girls would feel reluctant to share with me, someone who did not experience what they did. They surprised me, however, with their openness and their willingness to jump into the creative process. I allowed a lot of time for sharing with the group throughout the 3 days of workshops, and I was humbled and honored by hearing them share. What a privilege to hear them tell their stories. Some were at the WomenLEAD building when the earthquake hit. Others were in their homes. Some saw buildings crumble before their eyes. Others watched as ancient temples collapsed. Many saw death.
Recently I started reading The Poisonwood Bible by Barbara Kingsolver. As I read and think back to the stories of the WomenLEADers, I turn over in my mind the idea of having a threshold for suffering. So many times, we think to ourselves when we hear about the earthquake, or read about hardships in the Congo, “I cannot imagine going through that.” And in many ways I can’t. But as I listened to these girls share their stories, I saw that they did. They did go through it. They went through the unimaginable. And they kept standing, eventually they even kept walking. I saw this in Afghanistan too. How do you keep going? You just do. I believe women, in particular, have an incredibly high threshold for pain and an ability to keep standing, keep walking. It is an amazing thing to behold.
The girls did a showing of the art, poetry, and dance they created on the last day of the workshop. Many of them kept telling me how they had surprised themselves! They didn’t know they could create a dance piece! They didn’t know they could write poetry like that! It was so fun to watch them. I continue to fall more and more in love with the magic that happens in this combination of poetry and dance. Physical wellness meets creativity meets truth speaking in performance. I just dream of an opportunity to grow as a teacher in this and a chance to develop this combination further, especially in developing countries.
While I was busy at WomenLEAD, Ross was able to volunteer with Rescue Network Nepal, a Nepali organization distributing first aid supplies as well as doing first aid training. He helped with some report writing to let funders know exactly what supplies had been distributed and where. Through his report writing, we were able to see just how busy this organization has been with implementing Phases 1 and 2 of relief since the earthquake! They are doing an incredible job! Check out their work here.
Ok, I really did try to keep it short and sweet. It might not look like it but I did. There’s just so much to say! We had many more moments of goodness…seeing our friend Sharmila again, meeting the amazing Marian Krantz who has spent half a lifetime in Nepal making contributions to women’s health and lactation, as well as endless dinners with the most dear people. Many parts of Nepal (including Pokhara, where we spent a few days during our trip) are unaffected by the earthquake and are very safe to travel to. In fact, every shop owner, restaurant manager, and travel agent we talked to said that Nepal is ready for its usual peak season in the Fall. What’s that you say? You’ve always wanted to see the unbelievable Himalayas? Now is the time to invest in tourism in this draw-droppingly gorgeous country. We look forward to the next time we have an opportunity to be in this beautiful place. We will miss it like crazy.