The plane landed safely at Tribhuvan Airport. It was a beautiful winter afternoon. The brilliant shafts of sunlight shone not just brightly, but with a touch of warmth that pinked my cheeks. A bleak, thin wind it was, like an ancient ballad in a forgotten tongue, searching the smoky sky of Kathmandu. I could almost hear the rumble of the city from far away, the murmuring of the crowd, the prayers and mysterious folk songs, the clamorous bazaars with bright-coloured lanterns and the rattling wheels that rose upon the thick air. Here I was, second time travelling to this amazing country, and I felt alive.
Since my first visit I have fallen in love with both the country and its people. I was one of the volunteers in Take on Nepal student volunteer group in July this year—the very first after the devastation of earthquake. It was a wonderful journey, challenging but extremely rewarding, with opportunities to make a real difference to the people who need it most. The experiences of teaching in Batase village was indescribable. I witnessed every small positive changes after earthquake throughout the remote village, sharing my knowledge of the world through education and developing such a memorable and heartwarming relationship with the students. There were days and nights we held our stomach and laughed into tears when we sang, danced and played games in the soft summer breeze. The kids would climb up the tree to pick fruits and the worst days seem okay with a big mouthful of berries and delicious passion fruit. When the heavy rain came, me and my fellow volunteers would sit in a circle, sip a cup of hot black tea and exchange bizarre life stories. This is one of my favourite parts of my experience in Nepal—meeting a lot of very kind, happy and lovely people—and the memories of living in the Himalayan mountains will stay with me forever.
I was fortunate enough to come back only after a few months. I missed the pristine environment and the rich cultural history of the country. I missed the mountains, the beautiful people and the enjoyable time we spent together. I missed the kids, the way they ran around with bare feet and a big, genuine smile on their face. On my second journey to Batase village, I trekked with the locals in the warm winter sun. The trail snaked around the side of the mountain and the naked winter trees twisted out of the side of the hill like slumbering giants. The sun shone through the caramel-coloured land surrounding a flowing country creek. A waterfall, small but mighty, saw a curtain of water cascade down the rocky outcrops and tumble into the peaceful blue river below. The air was thick, like a silent lullaby echoing in magnificent snow peaks. We perched on a hill that gently sloped down to some unknown villages in a distance. I was amazed by the stunning natural beauty of the country, as if the time had stopped between the high Himalaya and the steamy Indian plains and even on the coldest days the bright sunshine would elevate my spirit and bring joy to my heart. The local staff told me a trail run event would be held in Batase Village on January 2016—what an exciting news! I was thrilled to think this beautiful trekking route would be discovered and appreciated by more and more mountain lovers all over the world.
The Nepali people are renowned for their great hospitality and kindness towards the others. They are blessed with optimism and enthusiasm that keep the fire in them burning even after tragedies and all have been lost. My second trip to Nepal is, not only a valuable experience of volunteering and travelling, but also a great life lesson that strengthens and empowers me. I have learnt so much from the local people in Batase village. I lived with a big family in which everything was shared with love and everyone looked out for each other all the time. The boys and girls, from four to sixteen years old, carried the responsibilities of houseworks (including carpentry projects or caring for buffalos, chickens and goats), meals and taking care of the young and old. They were shy, with big brown eyes looking at you curiously and their head nodding at everything you said. They were also merry and full of life, incredibly bubbly and free spirit with such beautiful and infectious smile like the most brilliant sunrise. They never complained a word about all the hardship of life. They never cried for the time of scarcity when the shortages of goods could barely meet their demand. In those freezing winter nights, they would appear in front of my window and invite me for a lovely dinner. A fireplace and kindling wood, a lighter and an authentic Nepali Dal Bhat dish, these would make a thoroughly-satisfying night. I still remembered the time when the two young girls cut their hands in the grass field and I carefully helped them cover the wound with clean bandages. The browning blood had drizzled down their fingers, congealed and cracked. I looked at them anxiously but the older girl spoke to me as if it was the most normal thing in the world, “It’s okay. Let’s go to the fire.”
Life in Nepal requires a brave, adventurous and loving spirit. Trekking, volunteering and living in a small village are never easy for me—in fact, I fell over on a pile of stones and had a bad skin allergy at the end of my trip. However, it offered an amazing opportunity for me to experience the thrill of joy after overcoming all the difficulties that lay in front of me. It made me treasure all the things I had, and the person that was always there for me. When I looked back at the past, it took me so long to finish this article, as all the memories had crowded upon my mind and all the feelings, the tastes of the ups and downs, came in like the tide. I once stood atop the rocky surface and overlooked Kathmandu Valley from a distance. Clouds swirled around me in an icy greeting and snow coated the mountain far away. It was a moment when I deeply felt the desire, impulse and vital force for subsistence throughout the land. Today even sitting in my room in Sydney, I’m still visualising the spectacular views that I saw that day and the beautiful stories I heard on the way. I know I will come back again. I Left my heart here.
~ Jasmine Yu
© Take on Nepal 2019