Jet lagged and nauseous, I stepped off the whitish gray airplane onto my father’s beloved motherland, Sankhuwasabha, Nepal. I had come here with my mother and sister to build a temple in my grandfather’s name, who had recently passed away. I didn’t know what kind of experiences were awaiting me as I entered the van alongside my mother and sister, to go to Khandbari.
As the sun’s rays beamed on my exhausted eyes, I looked around the so called capital of this far away land. Khandbari was not what I expected at all. Growing up in the metropolis of Nepal with advanced infrastructures and colossal houses, this underdeveloped capital looked smaller than the smallest slums of Kathmandu. I was baffled to see vandalized buildings everywhere. A huge torn billboard read “Welcome to Sankhuwasava.” The alleys were full of vivid colored houses clustered next to each other. A group of women wearing monotonous sarees walked down the street, laughing hysterically. There were outdoor tent bazaars everywhere with all kinds of products, from green spinach, to bright red apples, to even cashmere scarves! This is where my unforgettable journey began.
From the capital, the only way of transportation anywhere was walking. Thus, we hiked for three prolonged hours alongside steep hills and towering mountains, until we finally reached my aunt’s house right before sunset. It was a puny white cabin with a brownish balcony, surrounded by enormous fields, in the middle of nowhere. And they owned a pregnant black and white cow and a calf! “Oh my god! Where in the world am I?” I thought to myself. As I went to bed that night, I thought of all the things I could be doing instead with my friends back in my hometown. I couldn’t wait to leave this unfamiliar place.
However, the next couple of days in this place were so enchanting and I completely fell in love with this beautiful paradise that opened my heart to new experiences and different lifestyles.
Only in this place had my sister and I ever sprinted across muddy hills, chasing the brown calf that suddenly decided to go crazy! Only in this place did I see more banana trees than houses. Only in this place did I wait in line for hours just to drink out of a traditional stone water tap. Only in this place I walked around with unexplainable joy, as I carried a worn out straw basket around my head, acting like I was a villager. Only in this place had I fallen so deeply in love with a baby goat that I even took it to bed with me! It was in this place I learned how to milk a cow! It was in this place I got swollen blisters all over my tongue from eating too much of the mouthwatering and fresh dairy products and not enough salty food. It was also here that I fell off a fragile two story hut and didn’t hurt a bone in my body! It was in this village that I walked for over six hours in a day to visit relatives’ houses. It was here that I crossed a “jholunge pool” (a swing-like bridge that wiggles as you walk on it) for the first time. It was in this place that I saw the house my dad and his family of over eight people lived in: a shaky hut completely made up of straw with only two bedrooms and an outdoor bathroom (which was basically a hole in the ground)! And lastly, it was in this place that we built an exquisite temple in the memory of my grandfather.
Since the day of my birth, this was the farthest I had ever traveled from Kathmandu. I was an eight year old girl who lived in the largest city of the nation, and had never in life faced any kind of hardship. Thus, coming to an indigent village where people worked extremely hard to survive was truly astonishing to me. In this place, I saw young girls whose ages were still in the single digits, who woke up at five in the morning, walked for hours to attend school, came back after sunset, and still helped with house chores and agriculture. And still, these girls had the most heartfelt smiles and laughs in the world. To me, being in this ravishing place with these diligent human beings was so inspiring. This once in a lifetime experience began with a reluctant heart and a disparaging mind, and ended with a kinder soul and an open heart.