Adrian's First Impressions
“That’s crazy!” So comes the response from everyone, my family to the chiropractor, when they ask what I’m going to do next. Now is the time for a new adventure.
I’m in a plane flying over Nepal.
Seeing a different country to your home for the first time is a deeply spiritual experience. Some people instantly realise the vastness of the Earth and they shrink. In their heart they feel that the universe is not just huge, but mind-bogglingly big and we are merely peanuts. As for me, my heart stops. This far-away land, which only existed in my imagination or in documentaries, is now right below me. The world has shrunk. I feel bigger and more alive than ever!
Looking down below I see the beautiful village life of the Nepali. Houses are dotted along the peaks of mountains and crops have been carved into the hill-sides. Life looks simple and peaceful. As I get closer to Kathmandu housing density increases and two things hit me. First is the massive difference in wealth between households. The lower income earners of the western world enjoy complaining about the massive wealth gap in their country. Soaring through the sky of Nepal, I can see what a real wealth gap looks like. Slum homes built from mud with roofs made from corrugated sheets of metal held down by rocks sit next door to multi-story homes, manually crafted from stone standing tall and proud.
The second thing to his me is the colour! The homes are scattered and shine brightly among the lush green surroundings. I feel like a hyperactive 4 year old kid looking at my hundreds-and-thousands covered birthday cake. My eyes grow ever wider with amazement as I absorb my first glimpse of a new land.
Up until now I have spent my life as a westerner, living a white life with creature comforts. All is about to change. As the plane touches down I sit still, close my eyes, and wonder; “what will happen next?” Speechless, I step out of the plane into a new world.
Travelling in a taxi from the airport to my hotel was an experience in itself. The very moment I appeared out of the airport 10 people descended on me offering to carry my bag. I am tyred and overwhelmed. After finally getting my bags into the taxi one of the 10, who did absolutely nothing, harasses me for a tip, 5 rupees (approximately 5 Aussie cents) made him go away – an unworthy amount, even in Nepal.
Now, I can only offer you one piece of advice for travelling on the roads in Nepal. Stay calm. Your taxi driver will fly down pot-hole covered streets. He’ll mostly keep to the left while constantly shooting across to the right overtaking those ahead and only missing the oncoming traffic by a hair’s width. Stay calm. Wind down the window and soak in the amazing scenery. You’ll see shopping centers; children playing games; well dressed men and beautiful women going about their daily lives while the smell of s*** and vomit courses down your lungs.
This place is completely different from anything I have ever experienced; my first time to another country.
I am now alone in the middle of Kathmandu. People are in my face, they want rupees or to sell me drugs. The streets are incredibly narrow forcing a constant game of extreme dodgem-cars. I am yet to get myself across the country along one of our world’s most dangerous roads. I cannot help but wonder, “Is this how stupid people die?”
Life here is different, really different. I must remind myself all the time that I am the foreigner here. People here do things differently, and as a new friend just explained to me, they are not wrong. The culture here is based on different values. What they do is the right thing according to their value system. But one thing is striking, our very own European based culture used to be exactly the same. Here, they beat children in school for getting the wrong answer; we once did the exact same thing. They have a lower respect for women; remember the women’s rights movements 1848-1920? They have a cast system here; hundreds of years ago Europe had presents, land lords, knights, noble men and royalty. No different. In many ways Nepal is poles apart from us. In other ways, it’s like look back on our own history and appreciating the culture that many great men and women before us have built.
Over the next two months I will be teaching primary children everything from English to maths and computer science. This is not how stupid people die; this is how the adventurous thrive!
By Adrian Letchford – 2 month teaching volunteer
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