Return to My Second Home – Nepal

MM, a VICS volunteer who spent 9 years in Nepal from 2000 to 2009, shares some experiences from her return visit in 2013.  (Look for a full version in the Thanksgiving LINKS newsletter)

It was great to be “home” once again, to awake to the sounds of the cuckoos, to walk to 6:30 Mass at St. Mary’s and be welcomed so enthusiastically by the St. Mary’s sisters, so many of who had been praying for me as I journeyed through cancer.  In fact it seemed that they could not get enough of just looking at me, so healthy and full of life.  How they rejoiced!  They showed me photos of me which they had in their prayer books, as they prayed each morning for me.  It was very humbling to know how much they cared.

Friends from Canada joined me through my journey.  Three of them had never been to Nepal, and two had never been to a developing country, so it was fun to once again see Nepal through they eyes of a newcomer.  At first they seemed pretty overwhelmed, but they quickly adapted to the traffic (the “death seat” in the fron of taxis was a hot favourite) and to the life in this corner of Asia.

back at the Summit Hotel after our trek

One morning we got up early (4 am) and set off for Kopan nunnery.  There we joined 370 Buddhist nuns in their morning prayer.  It was really neat to meet and pray with these women who had prayed for me after my cancer diagnosis.  So much of my visit to Nepal seemed to be meeting old friends and rejoicing with them over my good health.  Gift!!

The 7 hour drive south to Chitwan gave our group an opportunity to see how life is lived outside the Kathmandu valley – the traffic on the highway, the teashops, the towns we passed through.  Riding (and washing) elephants was the highlight of our Chitwan visit, though walking through the jungle and finding a rhino was also pretty exciting.  We saw loads of crocodiles as we drifted down the river in a dugout canoe.

Elephant washing in Chitwan

The Trek

By 7:30 the next morning we were off, following the river along and up and up and down and up through bamboo forest and across suspension bridges strewn with prayer flags.  The bridges were actually very high quality, and the need for prayer flags did not seem as acute as some bridges I had been on.

trek, prayers flags in the frost

After a day or two we all settled into our rhythms, and by day 4 we were in the snow, though it really wasn’t all that cold.  It was so nice to once more be ambling in my much loved Himal, and to gave up at the snow capped peaks as we walked past many walls (walls of carved prayer stones) and waving prayer flags.  We stayed two nights in Kyangjin Gomba.

trek, waiting for the key to the gomba (monastery)  trek, Himal at last

Altogether we were 8 days trekking.  It was hard work, but just so good to be up in the Himal once again.  And the rhodos!  We walked through hours of rhododendron forests, with the trees arching over us, laden with red and white and pale pink blooms.  Those rhodos kept me going up many a stone step!

trek, rhodos in bloom     trek, rhodos in all their splendor     trek, down the unending stone steps

Later in my trip I met with the physio faculty of the Physiotherapy School of Kathmandu University School of Medical Sciences (KUSMS), the programme I had helped to start in 2002.  It was so special to find them engaged and enthused about their work, and so competent.  The assistant dean of KUSMS is now keen to look at starting a Masters Programme in Physiotherapy – such a far cry from the diploma course I got started in 2002.  It  continues to be the only Physiotherapy training in the country.   What a thrill to see it thriving.

KUSMS physio faculty

I had a really wonderful 4 weeks away.  How blessed I am!