By Julia Crofton, Staff Writer
“How was Nepal?” is the only question I received the week I returned from the remarkable city of Kathmandu. I had expected to have an answer to this question after returning. I had expected to be able to say that it was incredible, perfect, and dreamlike. And while it was all of those things, it was so much more than that. Nepal was beautiful, yet very trying and surprising in often uncomfortable ways.
There was beauty in nearly everything I saw: in the street life, in the harmonious culture, in the food, in the views, and in the people. Walking through the streets allowed glimpses into thousands of lives so different from my own. The blatant difference between my life and life in Nepal was the most beautiful aspect of the trip.
The only way to convey how impactful this trip was, is for me to explain not only the enjoyable moments, but also those that were difficult. Without the comparison, the good would be nowhere near as impactful.
My group and I took a jeep ride up to the top of the highest peak surrounding the Kathmandu valley so that we could hike back down the steep slopes. The views were absolutely breathtaking. The trek was all downhill, but it was beyond worth it for the company of a group of Nepali teens we were with, and for the surroundings. The hills of Nepal are monstrous compared to our mountains. Hiking these hills was wondrous, and the day was jovial. But, this day also held one of the most difficult moments of the trip for me.
When we were at our guest house and waiting in the Jeeps to begin the drive to the mountain, a woman approached the open windows of the jeep. This woman appeared to have leprosy, and as she approached she stuck her bloodied, mangled hand through the window of our jeep, and begged for money with her other hand. All we could do was keep facing forward, ignore her, and roll up our windows. After seeing something so horrifying all we could do was ignore it, and continue our conversation.
It is surprising being faced with these things. There is no amount of preparation that will truly prepare you to see people laying on the streets, starving, and begging. No pictures or articles on poverty can prepare you for its reality. This was not something I had realized would be so striking… so striking that it did not even hit me until I got back to New Paltz. The adjustment when I returned home was much more difficult than the culture shock of arriving in Nepal.
Experiencing so many new things and being completely submerged in an entirely different world, and then coming right back to your ‘normal’ and being expected to feel and act the same is beyond difficult. However, I have gained a deeper sense of appreciation for all that I have, and everyone that I love. New Paltz has never looked more beautiful than when I got off that bus.