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Princess Nerezi MAG
As I pushed open the two-ton brass door of the five-star hotel, I was swarmed by sweaty men who were at our beck and call. We hopped in an old Mercedes and sped downtown. I was shocked by the scenery as we left the paved driveway and turned onto a bumpy dirt road where fearless cows and chickens had the right of way.
We made our way to the mecca of Nepal, the center of the country: downtown Katmandu. I peered out the tinted window to see toddlers wandering the streets naked; I knew I was about to have an experience unlike any other kid from Alamo.
We roamed the streets and picked up information from the man who was assigned to be our tour guide. He had thousands of stories from his life. I didn’t pay attention to any of them – except one about a beautiful young Nepalese Princess who was exactly my age.
The guide led us to a temple where the 10-year-old princess lived. She timidly looked out from her window into the courtyard where the three of us stood. I removed my knock-off Oakleys, and all I could do was stare. She was stunning. She had long, thick black hair all the way to her hips. Her clean face and huge brown eyes sized up my wiry platinum blond hair and geeky American outfit. She did not budge. She looked like a wax figure from a museum in her crisp white dress.
The guide spoke to a guard in Nepalese, and to my amazement the ominous wooden door opened and we entered the temple. Inside everything was simple and perfect.
Born into the Buddhist culture, this girl was chosen by the previous Princess Nerezi to be her successor. The closer we got to her room, the more it seemed like her life was straight out of a Disney movie. As the guide rambled on with dates and facts about this living goddess, all I wanted to do was speak to her.
We got on our knees and bowed toward her room. Then she opened the door and showed us in. Nerezi knew perfect English and was educated. She was interested in many things American girls were – I discovered we both loved dolls, drawing, and keeping diaries.
My father and the guide continued touring the temple while I visited with Nerezi. She was shy; I was not. I forced answers out of her. I interrogated her about Nepal and why babies here don’t wear diapers. I knew she secretly really liked my questions because she revealed she had not spoken to anyone her age in months and was lonely.
She looked around her enormous red and gold room, for the most part avoiding eye contact. In her soft voice she said, “I cannot imagine being surrounded by children like you. I have lived my life surrounded by adults. I have no friends except the two boys who are training to be monks, and they rarely speak to me.” This was so different from everything I knew, everything I was raised with. I had no response to such a statement.
After a slightly awkward silence, I decided that she might find my culture as interesting as I found hers. I told her the basics about my mom, my pet dog (which she found odd), the places I liked to hike, and how I loved swimming. Our conversation after that was completely natural. We were together for two hours.
The time flew and before I knew it my dad was back to retrieve me and relieve the princess of my relentless questions. We exchanged addresses even though we both knew we would never write. As I walked out the door, I heard her call my name and then she ran up to me, teary-eyed, and threw her arms around me.
I will never forget the warmest, most unexpected hug I ever shared. It showed me that even across the world, two people from different cultures can connect as friends. I learned that the outside world is beautiful: I am by no means stuck in the little bubble that I grew up in. I can reach out in the world and find happiness, love, and culture from an unexpected friend who, with one hug, unknowingly changed my life.