I recently took on the adventure of a lifetime to Nepal with World Vision Australia and Inspired Adventures to trek to Everest Base Camp. We had the most incredible experience and raised more than $100,000 for women and children in Nepal. Sadly, three weeks later an earthquake struck Nepal, causing devastation. More than 9,000 people have died, 17,000 injured and millions were affected. I hope to share some of the different facets of Nepal and why this country is so important to me.
1. Stay for a day with someone – you are now family
The Nepalese people are incredibly kind, compassionate and warm. They are welcoming and within minutes of your first encounter you could be taken into the home and have three aunties, a couple of cousins and a grandfather figure. Everyone wants to know about your story, where you came from and what you’re doing. You’ll be fed until you can’t stand the sight of food – a full stomach is the sign of good health and a lot of love.
2. The Nepalese are a blend of many cultures
As you spend time in Nepal, you will begin to notice the different facial characteristics, dress and even language as you discover the blend of many cultures. These people come from Tibet, Mongolia, India, Bhutan and of course, Nepal. Over many centuries, some of the cultures have blended and melded together and all of them contribute to the rich history and culture of Nepal today. I loved learning about the people from the mountains, the sherpas and their ingrained hard working ethic. To speak to people who have come from Mongolia originally and learn about their different flavours of food and style of dress. As soon as you think you’ve got one facet of the culture covered, a new element will spring up. It’s a wonderful learning experience.
3. Many religions can coincide peacefully
Although being a largely Buddhist culture, Hinduism is also a strong faith in Nepal. There are not constant fights, there are not restricted areas to segregate the religions. They can stand side by side, harmoniously. You can buy a prayer wheel and a statue of Ganesh from the same stall. It’s beautiful. My two favourite tourist sites in Nepal are from completely different religions. Pashupatinath is reserved for Hindus and it’s a sacred place for funeral rites, burning of the bodies.
Bouddhnath is the largest Buddha stupa in the world. A magnificent dome of white, shrouded with brightly coloured prayer flags and a gold spire atop with the eyes of Buddha watching all around. There is also Christianity, Muslim and many other religions in Nepal. Yet, they can all appreciate one another and even sometimes take a leaf out of the others books. It was so wonderful the first time I visited in 2006 when my Hindu friend took me to the Buddhist site, Swayumbunath and proudly told me about this special attraction and how much it meant to Nepal. All aspects of Nepalese culture are appreciated, religious or otherwise.
4. Sherpas are more than just porters who carry your bags
The Sherpas are people who hold a rich culture and history that goes far beyond their strength in carrying bags. They come from Tibet originally and have made the Himalayas their home. They can endure extreme temperatures and conditions and have adapted to live in this part of the world. The work of carrying bags and portering goods to towns around the mountain has now become synonymous with their name. They are hardworking, humble and dedicated people. They are tiny but mighty. Smile and they will smile back. You should always say “Namaste” as you pass them. I have great respect for these people and enjoyed learning about them at the Everest Museum at Namche Bazaar on the way to Everest Base Camp.
5. Nepali people are tiny but mighty!
Following from my last point, these people are tiny but mighty. On my day at World Vision office in Dhangadi, I spent half the morning laughing with the tiny intern and posing for photos to show how tall I am in Nepal. I’m in fact 5ft 6in, very average for a Western woman but a giant in these parts. The way these people work, carry items and go about their daily business is amazing. Seeing my friend in her home making dumplings from scratch and needing the dough – this is just for the nightly meal and I was exhausted.
In the recent earthquakes, to see these people pulling together, as a group and lifting things to save others trapped underneath, it’s incredible. They are also mighty in sprit. They have a great sense of national pride and they stand strong together. You can feel their great love for Nepal and their defence of it. Also, have you seen the Gurkhas!! That army is the strongest in the World. The British even took some of them in and had a regiment specifically made up of the Gurkha soldiers! I saw these guys running up hills with other soldiers on their shoulders… they then jumped off, swapped and then did it all over again!
6. Anything is possible –ask and you shall receive (they can make things happen)
I can’t count the number of times I’ve asked for something and I’ve got an um and ahhhh and then my expectations have not only been met but exceeded. Where there is a will, there is a way, they can make it happen. From wifi at 5100m, to having our sherpas walk through the night down 1000m to meet a participant who was unwell at another camp. They will do whatever they can to make you feel comfortable. I will never forget standing in a market in Thamel in the centre of Kathmandu. My friend called me and said an employee of his would come and find me and bring me back to the house. I didn’t believe he could find me in this crowded place and get me back there in the timeframe allotted.
Lo and behold, before I know it, there is a man on a scooter saying my name and holding out a phone to speak to my friend on the other end. WHAT! Whether you need shoes for a function that night, a conference organised in three days or to get delicious food in the area – they will make it happen. My father was there in 2003 and they literally organised a conference for more than 50 people in 3 days – and it was incredibly and well run. My father tells this story often and remembers the hard working people – my love of Nepal part stems from the stories he’s told me since he first visited in 1993.
7. A two year old speaking Nepali is the cutest thing on Earth
OMG!! Aunty! Didi! These things were shouted out to me in the house at all hours while I stayed in my friends Nepalese home. This tiny little boy was calling out to me in Nepali and would chatter away to me in his native tongue. So freakin’ cute. Even cuter, when they speak English! TANK YOU! TANK YOU AUNTEEEEE! I was also in Nepal in 2010 when my friends daughter was just two and we had so much fun chatting in Nepali and English and learning from each other. Melts my heart.
8. They know trekking
The people of Nepal, no matter walk of life, can talk to you about their famous Everest and Himalayas. You ask someone oh have you trekked much, “oh yes, I’ve been to Base Camp three times.” What!!! They are mountain people and are used to the higher altitudes. The guides know the mountains like the back of their hands and they are as sure footed as mountain goats. I had complete faith in their abilities to get us to Base Camp safely. We had an incredible company with us, Royal Mountain Travel. I saw other groups up there and was able to compare the service and knowledge of my guides. They managed our group so well, they gave us so much information about the mountains and they had the utmost respect for their country and the environment. It was so beautiful to just walk amongst these giant mountains every day.
9. No matter what walk of life, people won’t complain
Whether they are a Sherpa, a farmer, a businessman, a taxi driver or a waiter. You will not hear the people of Nepal complaining. They accept the way life has been presented to them and they work hard in the area of expertise. The man who sells tea is passionate and can tell you where the leaves come from and how they are made to taste best, the woman making momos has nimble fingers and works with pace and proficiency. People work hard to have what they have and they are proud of their achievements.
10. A little bit of our support can go a LONG way for the people of Nepal
In the wake of the massive earthquakes in Nepal, it is now more than ever that this country needs our support. As they start to rebuild, they will welcome and encourage tourism to bring that much needed income into the country. The work of aid organisations such as World Vision Australia is crucial in providing basic supplies to people in need and to restore some sense of normality to communities, especially children who need to grow in a safe environment. Child friendly spaces set up after the earthquake have been so important in the recovery process – kids can be kids.
These are the things that World Vision’s funding can go towards. I went to meet my sponsor child when I was in Nepal for my trek. An emotional and rewarding moment after five years of sponsorship. My monthly contributions amount to that of one night out to dinner, $48. This amount I barely notice come out of my account yet is helping this child and her community. Through a number of us sponsoring this community they have provided access to education, clean water, a women’s health clinic for maternal health, immunisations, cooperatives and farming groups and other ways to generate income. To see the work firsthand is incredible and if all of us just gave a little, collectively we could do so much for these people.
To donate to help the people of Nepal, or to sponsor a child, head to the Word Vision website.
Emma Lovell is passionate, professional and Lovelly. Emma believes that no dream is unachievable and sees the world full of opportunity. Emma is a traveller at heart, consistently travelling over the past 9 years and has been lucky enough to include her passion for travel and charity in her work. Through her travel with Inspired Adventures (who she travelled to Nepal and Everest with), she has raised 1000’s of dollars for various charities. She’s conquered Kilimanjaro and trekked to Macchu Picchu with Inspired Adventures as a participant, and cycled through Cambodia and Vietnam twice as a Tour Leader. She writes on her blog, www.travellerem.com, about her world escapades. Emma is a also a blog ambassador for World Vision Australia and travelled to Uganda last year to share the work in the field. In her professional life, Emma is a PR, marketing and social media specialist and runs her own business, Lovelly Communications, www.lovellycommunications.com. If she’s not travelling, you can find her tweeting, instagramming or blogging about her incredible adventures and sharing the stories of her amazing clients. Emma is currently undertaking a three month contract in the Media Team at World Vision Australia.