The first time I visited Nepal was in 1978. What stood out for me then was the unsurpassed natural beauty, and everywhere I went I met people with smiling faces. Kids ran towards me excitedly, and women and men showed great but respectful interest in me. It felt like they were harmoniously living with nature, poor but content. I fell in love with this country.
Back then I was dressed in orange clothes like an Indian sadhu (holy men in India and Nepal dress either in orange or white robes). My hair was braided with threaded beads in them. I was 21 years old.
I visited two more times in the following years and then had a long break until I was invited by my Nepalese friend, Amir, in 2010, to visit his family. They live in the rural and mountainous area of Nepal in the village of Karki Gaun.
The family welcomed me so graciously and warmly, and I had so many invitations from other families in the village to visit their houses. In every house I was served chai and some sugary biscuits of some sort. I told Amir to please not accept any more invitations because I was on a sugar and caffeine overdose.
Most of the people in the village didn’t speak English at all, but somehow it didn’t matter. We had some laughs together and some beautiful moments where I felt completely seen and met by them. It was enchanting. I had a feeling of being completely at home.
Amir’s family invited me to travel with them to the “Dunche Hot Springs”, which were later completely destroyed in the 2015 earthquake. These are hot springs for Nepalese people; western tourists are not seen there.
We traveled for two days, sometimes by bus and sometimes on foot. I was completely integrated into their lives and their ways of living. We ate Dahl Baht (Nepalese national food, rice and dahl), walked, rested and laughed together. It was wonderful to be so loved and accepted. They called me ‘Guru Ama”.
When I was back in the USA, I kept in touch with my new family. We talked a lot on the phone. At some point, I shared with Amir about a challenging and scary time I was facing at home.
When he told his mother that “Guru Ama” was having a difficult time, she brought the whole village together to visit their local “gumba” (Buddhist temple) to light 108 candles in my name and to pray for my freedom, happiness and well being.
I was touched and overwhelmed with gratitude when I heard about it. What an amazing feeling to know that people on the other side of the planet care about you so profoundly!
Touched by their generosity, I said to my friend “You know, Amir, I may have a bit more money and live in more material comfort, but your people have richness and generosity in their hearts.”
I knew then that one day I would have the opportunity to give back to them.