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Posted by: Jonathan Liebling | Date: October 21, 2008
While the majority of Nepalese spent the Dashain
festivals by exchanging gifts and enjoying the company of family and
friends, this American intern made the decision to venture the grueling
I arrived in Nepal over a month ago on a spiritual and mental journey, on a search to understand the beauty that exists within different cultures and that are shared within the human race. Not knowing if such a task was possible I arrived in Nepal, unfortunately, with a deep homesickness and a longing for the comforts of my own country.
On my first evening in Kathmandu as part of the Internship Nepal program, a fellow intern working in the Human Rights division proposed the idea of trekking the Annapurna circuit. I guess the adventurous spirit got the better of me and I quickly agreed to go without truly understanding the difficult task that lay ahead of me.
As my first few weeks in Kathmandu flew by, the reality of the trek began to set in, and quickly I went from being an idealistic foreigner in Nepal to a terrified American.
Representing my home country I attempt to dispel many of the American stereotypes that exist. Unfortunately I, couldn't alter the image of a lazy, slightly overweight American. As weeks became days a true fear set in as I was to trek about 80 km carrying about 10 kg on my back for 10 days.
As I boarded the crowded bus early in the morning on the October 4th it occurred to me that there was no turning back, and that I was about to embark on an unforgettable adventure.
Majestic Annapurna towers over the Buddhist prayer flag
Trekking began at 5:30 the next morning and before any thoughts could set in upon the issues of humanity I was quickly humbled by the majestic mountains that towered over me. I realized that my life was going to come and go, but the mountains were to stand forever. The description is not meant to sound as bleak as it does, but rather allowed me to foster an appreciation for the beauty of the landscape.
As I slowly trudged the ascent it became evident the paradox that I had entered. I was staring at the most beautiful landscape I have ever seen, but to reach the next viewpoint required a deep struggle of both the mental and physical.
As my journey crossed path with interesting trekkers, weary porters, tired donkeys and the struggling locals of the region it occurred to me how blessed and privileged I was to experience the magnificence of the countryside and those that ventured through it.
Here I was 16,000 km from my country and the luxuries of my home and university, being able to see and understand the beautiful struggle that exists in life on a daily basis.
As I experienced a culture far different from my own it dawned on me that what I was truly learning from this experience was a deep appreciation of beauty. These mountains that towered over me like giants were accelerating my understanding and appreciation of the definition of beauty.
Mules crossing Jhulunge Pul As the evenings would set in, and guides, trekkers, porters and lodge owners would rest, trade stories and experiences, contemplate their days accomplishments and the next days struggles; I was finally beginning to see what set apart Nepalese culture from my own. I saw from experiences both in Kathmandu and in the beautiful country a true sincerity and desire from the Nepalese to learn from the foreigners that ventured through their homes.
I began to imagine how wonderful this world would be if the people of every nation were so dedicated to learning and understanding the differences that we as people have?
As I entered my descent from Manang, (unfortunately I did not have time for the whole trek, an incentive to return of course), I thought deeply about what message I could offer my readers?
And I conclude with this: whether Hindu or Buddhist, Christian, Muslim or Jewish, we are all capable of seeing and understanding beauty. It exists in the greeting from an elder, a laugh of a child, a smile from a mother and the rolling mountains of a countryside. We are so fortunate to be able to share the appreciation of beauty and instead of searching for differences we should relish the things we can savor together.