A REFLECTION ON MY NEPAL

I would first like to say that all photos in this blog have had the permission of those in the photos to share them. Also, I recognise these as my own experiences, viewpoints and perceptions and I appreciate that as individuals we all have our own life journey, meaning that no two experiences, viewpoints or perceptions will be the same – I think this is such a beautiful thing about humanity and the opportunity to learning from one another.

To my friends and family reading this, firstly apologies in the delay in having a platform such as this to share my experiences – I know many of you have been asking for a long time, but finally here it is!!

Secondly, sorry if this is old news. I just wanted to share a little background to what has been my life to date, particularly over the past 5 years – this time has been huge for me and filled with at least one or two crazy adventures. Hopefully, for others, my story to date may shed some light onto how I have, for now at least, ended up in living in Nepal. 

Ok…deep breathe…here it goes my first ever blog!!

I feel like I am an incredibly lucky person; I have had a great education, endless personal and professional opportunities and the absolute freedom to travel and visit new destinations. It is my perception that I live one of the most privileged lives imaginable and in my mind it is the best life I could have ever imagined; the highs the lows and everything in between. I was reminded recently that while some privilege is fact, others are subjective – there are great things in my life that I feel are a privilege, however, they may not be viewed as a privilege by others. Nonetheless, I still often find myself feeling guilty for the hand that I was dealt in this life. It is something I have found myself having to work through on a regular basis and is something that I still process and reflect on daily, at times so much so it becomes exhausting.

I reflect on this in Nepal as I walk through the dusty streets filled with endless potholes, rubbish and stumbling individuals from alcohol overdoses because everything became too much. I reflect on this as I hear stories of people living day to day unsure of when the next pay cheque will arrive or loved ones gone missing abroad because that was the only way the family could see that they could survive. I reflect on this as I see beggars lining the streets, often with small children and babies. And I reflect on this when I see people sleeping in their rickshaws with nothing more than the clothes on their back, particularly in the winter months when temperatures in Kathmandu at times fall below 1 degree Celsius.

A rickshaw in the commercial neighborhood, Thamel, Kathmandu

My reflection process continues regularly when I am home. My heart breaks and I feel utter despair when I see people living on the streets, living in their cars, and struggling on a daily basis to meet the basic human physiological and safety needs in our “lucky country”. I am aware of the painful struggles experienced by many Australians and when I say this to people, I often get asked the question,

Then why do you travel to other countries when you witness such pain and struggle at your doorstep?

Great question! Yes, absolutely there are incredible challenges within the context of Australia and my heart breaks the same way it does in Nepal each time I return and the same way it did every single day for 6 months during my time in Sierra Leone. However, I see the absolute beauty of our mate ship, kindness and generosity in Australia and the way we always support each other in the hard times – and it’s not just me. I have heard stories of kindness and generosity from Australia and of Australians on my international travels. I know our government is not perfect, but who is? I strongly believe that our government and the non-governmental organizations in Australia provide a solid infrastructure and ongoing support for its people that far outweighs what is provided in many other countries worldwide. And that is why I have chosen to use my skills to provide healthcare to people in Nepal and in other developing countries around the globe.

There are layers and layers of complexities associated with every country around the world and with the hardships I have seen both in Australia and abroad, one of the biggest lessons – if not the biggest – I have learned in my life to date is,

Education is absolutely priceless and I beg of you never to take it for granted!

For now, I am now in Nepal and I will be for the next little while so that is my current “blog focus” – to share more about this breathtaking country and my experiences living as both a nurse and the member of a Nepali family.

Over the past 5 years my life has sky rocketed with life changing and absolutely awe inspiring experiences for which I am truly lucky to have been a part of and feel so blessed to have lived. There are a few unique experiences that have contributed significantly to the way I live my life today and challenges that have sent me on crazy roller coasters (and slightly crazy), both physically and emotionally.

I want to share with you a little about one of the most intricate experiences of my life to date, my relationship with my amazing fiancé Amrit and my, let’s call it interesting, relationship with his home, Nepal. Since meeting Amrit my life has been absolutely amazing, heart breaking, torturous and magical all at the same time. In fact it has been really hard to find to share the most accurate description to explain the reality of my time in Nepal since I first stepped foot off the plane in early 2014.

my first time in Nepal

The very first time I visited Nepal I absolutely loved it! It was February 2014, the Nepali winter time. Nepal was fun, the streets were chaotic, every single person I met as I walked through the streets had a smile that traveled from one ear to the other with gentleness beaming through their eyes. There were festivals happening every second day (or so it felt like), loud music bellowing with a peaceful undertone from a flute or string instrument and their was an unexplained, enchanting energy floating down from the Himalayas across the country. Here are some quotes from the first few days of an journal I kept during my first time in Nepal;

As I walked past the children playing in the streets this afternoon, so many greeted me with excitement and the joy was contagious.

I woke up to the sound of local music playing in conjunction with bikes, car horns and dogs barking- it was actually very magical in a weird kind of way.

The first time I came to Nepal, my main purpose was to work as a volunteer in a general hospital in Banepa – an industrial town in the eastern part of Nepal, about 1 hour from the center of Kathmandu. I was welcomed by and lived with an endearing family in Banepa as well as an array of wonderful people from all over the world who very quickly became dear friends.

Two in one: A welcoming for me and a farewell for a fellow Australian heading back to Melbourne
The first group of people I ever worked with in Nepal with my host parents on either end of this photo
My room during my stay in Banepa, Nepal
The view from my room in Banepa, Nepal

In between visits to local temples, terrifying bus rides to different parts of the country to explore what was on offer and involving myself in local festivals with my Nepali family and new friends, I spent most of my my days working alongside the staff at the hospital and absorbing the vast differences in the health care system of Australia and Nepal.

Scheer Memorial Hospital in Banepa, Nepal.
For one month, I worked here alongside local nursing staff with aim of up-skilling staff and learning as much as I possibly could from such a diverse way of delivering healthcare
A view inside Scheer Memorial Hospital in Banepa, Nepal
The Emergency entrance at Scheer Memorial Hospital in Banepa, Nepal
The Children’s Ward at Scheer Memorial Hospital in Banepa, Nepal
PLEASE NOTE: This photo was taken with the permission of the child in this photo and her family
May be of interest for health professionals among you, the IV preparation area
Again, maybe one for the health professionals – an ECG machine.
The small black balls you can see are squeezed and the grey round part of the machine is attached to the skin by way of suction. After the ECG is done and these parts are removed, painful red welts are left as evidence on the skin. This is particularly painful for elderly people and those who are malnourished or dehydrated, sadly a reality in Nepal.

I loved working at the hospital, however I would always long for a quiet moment when I could leave the ward and sip on a delicious cup of chiya (tea). Nepali chiya is a sweet tea, many more spoon full’s of sugar than ever recommended in a general diet, with a hint of cinnamon. It is perfectly warming for a cold frog like me when the average daytime temperatures in winter are between 8-10 degrees Celsius.

After my more recent experiences in Nepal – experiences that have proven to be much more challenging for me – it has been really lovely to read old journals and reflect upon my first Nepali experience in early 2014 and to be reminded of the simple and undeniable beauty of Nepal. It is a special place and despite the challenges that sometimes seem to great to overcome, Nepal brings me joy in the simple things. It always brings me joy in the beautiful temples, the music that surrounds me, the smiles I see everyday and the magical mountains of the Himalayas.

and then I returned…

Following my first trip to Nepal in February 2014, I again visited 3 months later in June 2014. My Dad and I visited Nepal together as he was newly retired and looking for an adventure, and I was eager to return after such a wonderful experience earlier that year. I have to admit that I returned to Nepal incredibly naïve, lacking knowledge and understanding about how the country worked and without giving a whole lot of thought as to what the locals wanted or if the locals even wanted what I had to offer. I had a dream of taking my initial experience and working with locals I had already met to

Create something beautiful with the hope of helping the country.

Despite having done a significant amount of work in the developing world, I spend a lot of time thinking about the work I do and why I do it. I am now very cautious about what I do and how I collaborate. I still to this day struggle with the concept of helping in developing countries and how we do this to ensure we are truly bettering the lives of locals as per their vision of what “better” looks like. I am incredibly passionate about this and spend a lot of my time considering and re-evaluating if my collaboration with the locals within a specific country is positive and contributing to the greater good for the people and their country. I have no doubt that as I post more blogs and further develop my experience in countries that are developing, I will likely share more views, concerns and hesitations – not to say that any of my views are right or wrong but I will simply share what my perceptions are and will always welcome comments in response.

It was my second time in Nepal and it was July 2nd 2014. My dream of “creating something beautiful” in Nepal had come tumbling down right in front of me. The reason for this was complex but was mainly related to concerns around transparency of funding associated with the plans we had proposed. Sadly, this is a common issue I encounter in my own experiences when working in Nepal as well as a familiarity shared with the Nepali and expat community. On this day I was a little despondent but Dad and I had decided that we would continue enjoying our time in Nepal by exploring the incredible views of snow capped mountains, the magical temples engraved with traditional wooden art work from thousands of years ago and the craziness of Kathmandu with its constant horns, rickshaws and charming Nepali’s who were right around each and every corner.

We were determined to embrace all opportunities awaiting us in Nepal.

and then I met him…

On this day, July 2nd 2014, Dad and I walked into a construction site of a social business in the major commercial area of Kathmandu, Thamel. We had been invited the previous day by a wonderful woman from Melbourne, Australia who was the main investor in this exciting new business. We were excited and inspired to see what was going on! It was then that I saw him. A handsome man standing in the half built stairway to the rooftop area. He was not much taller than myself but had a lovely solid build and was wearing a fitted white t-shirt and jeans. He appeared shy and timid in that moment but his eyes were honest and glistening in the reflection of the sun.

His name was Amrit (sorry for that sappy introduction) and I was pretty sure I was in love.

and Gandharba Health Projects was created…

As conversation began flowing between Amrit and I on the stairway, there was a subtle undertone of flirtation initially and later in the conversation, a very clear request from himself and his friend Kedar, for us to visit some of their local villages. After finding out within minutes of our conversation that I was a nurse, Amrit and Kedar were keen to plan at trip to one of their villages to see if there was any way that we could help improve the living standards as part of a collaborative project between us and the local Nepali families living in the village. Amrit and Kedar explained that families living in a village suffered from lack of access to water, electricity and good sanitation practices. In our determined state to embrace all opportunities offered, we eagerly said yes and travel plans quickly developed, virtually overnight. On July 3rd we met again over coffee to finalise details and on July 4th 2014, Dad and I traveled to two villages with Amrit and Kedar. We experienced village life, spent time talking with locals and brain stormed some projects that we could implement. Within the year, we established Gandharba Health Projects Adelaide and since then we have carried out significant health promotion projects in 3 different villages in the western part of Nepal – check out Gandharba Health Projects (GHP) Adelaide on facebook https://www.facebook.com/GandharbaHealthProjects/ Apologies in advance if you do check us out, we haven’t posted for a while as we are currently taking a bit of a breather while we reflect on our projects so far and how we can best move forward – but please stay tuned.

The first Gandharba Heath Project team to visit the villages
(Lamjung, Nepal in March 2015)

our love was growing…

During the development of GHP Adelaide, Amrit and I spent a lot of time together. We spent time talking with locals, researching the needs of each village, creating need-based projects in the villages and discussing logistics for how they each would each evolve.

From this flourished a great love


Out on one of our many adventures through the hills

In July 2015, I made the decision to spend most of the next year in Nepal working on our various projects and enjoying precious time with Amrit. We spent most of that year together and since 2016, I have been traveling back to Nepal whenever I can to continue our work, join in family celebrations and spend time with my wonderful fiance and our family.

My Nanu (sister-in-law), Babu (brother-in-law) and Buda (my husband).
In Nepali culture, even though we are not yet married, I am mostly referred to as Amrit’s wife (Budi).
There do not seem to be Nepali words that translate for an engaged couple.
(Sorry, its a little pixelated)
One of our first projects, encouraging a wider range of fruit and vegetables to be grown within a community

confessions of an Aussie living in Nepal

One of my ideas for blogging is to push myself to face up to the idea of being open in sharing my thoughts, so here goes my first confession:

I know I am so blessed to have two places in the world that I am now lucky enough to call home. However, as blessed as I am, for me this comes with constant cultural struggles including a daily routine of reflecting, processing and understanding so much that is still so unfamiliar. My more recent experiences in Nepal have often resulted in tears on my part as I constantly battle with the discrepancies between my own cultural values, belief system and upbringing while maintaining respect and normality for my fiance as we live in Nepal as a Nepali couple. On more than one occasion I have become absolutely pessimistic and disapproving of the country from where my future husband is from.

I know that for those of you who have been to Nepal and experienced this amazing country, you may be scratching your head wondering how I could possibly feel this way – a visually spectacular country with amazing views and incredible sights every way you turn as well as the most hospitable and beautiful people you may ever meet. I agree. I absolutely do, however for me it was the hidden cultural beliefs and the unexpected cultural challenges that I had not at all seen or predicted when I first came to the country and fell in love in mid 2014. The traditional subculture of Nepal has challenged me on a daily basis. Maybe I am over sensitive or I over think things (I know some of my family and friends will be sitting laughing to themselves thinking that it is exactly what I do), but nonetheless this is my experience and I am proud of my processing and my understanding (most of the time) of so many unfamiliar cultural issues, even if it takes me a while.

While I know I sometimes fail, I always try to appreciate that living in an environment with such diversity, when compared to my “norm”, and the ability to understand culture is an incredibly unique opportunity for anyone in any situation. Particularly in a relationship where there is so much to learn, I know that I have been provided with a beautiful opportunity to live and breathe as a Nepali; however the concept of navigating our way through such inherent diversity is terrifying and at times seems unimaginable.

One of my most special friends said to me this morning, “If you lose sight of your culture, you also run the risk of losing sight of yourself”. This was something that on this day particularly, I needed to hear. It was something that I had been battling with internally for so long.

Is is okay to incorporate my own culture when I am living in a different country? Is it respectful? Will my cultural practices upset the people in Nepal who I care about and who care about me?

Will people think that I am better than them because of what I want and what I need as an individual?


Right or wrong, these are thoughts that have weaved through my brain on so many occasions during my time in Nepal.

I am not expecting that this one statement is a profound answer to all the above questions but it is kind and provides me with another avenue for processing my thoughts as I navigate this journey that is my life. Another layer of complexity for Amrit and I is that, despite multiple attempts for various visa types, there has not yet been an opportunity for him to travel to Australia. One of my biggest philosophies in life is that there is an indescribable beauty derived when we learn from one another and viewing the world in a different perspective allows us to be challenged, to grow and become more open as individuals. While I can share so much of my culture with Amrit verbally and visually, it is difficult when he does not have the opportunity to physically experience my world and my culture. While I am slowly (but surely) learning to see the world as Amrit sees it, it is hard for him to see the world as I see it. It saddens me and again requires immense processing to think that despite the mentality so often that portrays us all freely living together as one in this world, the reality is often so different for so many people.

It is hard and I will admit I have struggled, over the past few years particularly. But despite the array of trials and tribulations that have been our lives for the past nearly 5 years, the relationship Amrit and I have is more often filled with an intense love, care for each other and his constant reassurance that we will work everything out is an absolute saving grace for me.

So there you have it..that is a story about what has been my Nepal since our complicated love triangle began (Nepal, Amrit, and myself). I have decided once again to base myself here so I can spend time with Amrit until there is another option for us. As mentioned, we have postponed our work here in Nepal until we have evaluated what we have already done and then we will move forward slowly and cautiously. In spite of this, I am still keeping busy here. I have a nursing webinar to prepare for, ongoing study to complete, some potential paediatric nurse teaching sessions to prepare for here in Nepal and now a blog to upkeep 🙂 Also, I am awaiting a secret, maybe not so secret, mission to a unknown land. I am currently awaiting a paediatric nursing placement with Medecins Sans Frontieres and very excited about it!! After the posting I will return to Nepal and Amrit and I will continue our constant adventure.

Writing is important for me and while I have normally done it in the privacy of my personal journal or in the form of letters or emails, I am so excited for this opportunity and I am ready to share my experiences and the lessons I learn everyday. It is terrifying to expose myself like this but even in just one blog I have been reminded of the things that bring me happiness. Writing brings me gratitude and in turn provides me with a great happiness. I know it seems so simple and is likely true of most of us, but when I am happy and when I feel loved I have so much more to offer to those around me and I am just so excited for that.

Until next time…..

With thanks to @revelatori

14 thoughts on “A REFLECTION ON MY NEPAL

  1. Love you Em… I need to read it again and then we can talk at lunch. The thing we all have to remember is, that we all struggle in life. It is part of what makes us interesting and the emotional aspects of the struggle are what make us human. We have the luxury of deciding which struggles are worth it for us to live with. In Nepal, and indeed most countries, people are born into the struggle they will endure for most of their lives. YOU ARE AMAZING!!! xxx
    Candy

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    1. Oh Candy, I could not agree more! What beautiful words that I hope many others will read and reflect on in their own lives. Thank you for your friendship during my time in Nepal x

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  2. Good morning – what a wonderful blog to read – congratulations. Some of your comments went straight to my heart as I have similar experiences and thoughts around doing the work we do in Nepal. Can’t wait to sit down with you and Amrit next week. You are amazing, brave and have soo much to give. Roslyn

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    1. Hey Ros, thank you 🙂 It’s funny because I actually thought of you often as I was writing this and had frequent flashbacks to conversations we have had over the years. I am so pleased you could relate and I am also very excited to catch up next week x

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  3. Wow, thanks so much for sharing Emily. It’s fantastic to hear about your reality, which is so different to that of most Aussies. And isn’t blogging a great forum in which to do it!? I’ve often thought about blogging some of my remote experiences but am still contemplating how to go about maintaining the truth and fun of stories while also maintaining respectful of the privacy of the small community I was a part of. I look forward to reading your future installations!

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    1. I have loved sharing with others and I feel proud of myself for sharing which I think is lovely 🙂 I completely agree though it is hard, however I think that you have so much to offer and if you choose your stories and share with those who are involved first then it can also be a beautiful thing for those who can relate 🙂 I would love to read about all of you adventures some day x

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  4. This is just a beautiful piece of writing (her best yet) by my beautiful daughter and I just love how she has opened up publicly and spoken from the heart about her life and experiences in foreign lands and especially about Amrit whom I have met several times and have great respect for and can see how much he adores and cares for Emily which is a great comfort when ones daughter is so far away, it brought tears to my eyes.

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    1. Oh Dad, you brought Amrit and I to tears as we talked about your kind words last night. Love you and thank you for always supporting me in my decisions – even though sometimes you don’t agree :S x

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  5. This is such an exceptional story Em. You’re such a beautiful special source of light for those around you. Delighted that you’ve started a blog. Travel safe gorgeous one. Ra x

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  6. It is a brave thing, sharing your feelings in this way Emily, so I acknowledge you for your courage. It may inspire others to take the leap and start living their dreams too, so it is important that you continue with this blog. Stepping outside of yourself for the sake of others will always lead you in the right direction, so don’t worry so much about making cultural mistakes. As long as your heart is in the right place and you learn from your mistakes, you will be forgiven. XXX

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    1. Thank you so much for the positive feedback Sandra! That is something so special and so unique of the Nepali culture, forgiveness is so inherent in their blood – a conversation you and I have had many times.

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