We spent our last night in Nepal attending another Culture night (music, dance and food representing a variety of diverse Nepali Cultures) with Rajan, the President of Earthbound Expeditions. Another couple from Spain joined us for the last hurrah in Nepal. The couple was recently married and spent the last two weeks on their honeymoon in Nepal touring the remote Mustang region, a newly opened trekking area which has very limited facilities (basically camping the entire time) yet is supposedly Tunbelievable.
We had a wonderful time sharing stories of our treks and praising Rajan for his remarkable service and commitment to ensuring every need was met on our trek. Another friendship was made with the “social ambassador” himself (see post dated 2/28/11). Rajan depends a lot on word of mouth for his business so we promised him that we would complete a review of Earthbound and our trek on tripadvisor, which I gladly did immediately upon my return to the states. Earthbound has over 126 reviews on tripadvisor to date and all are 5 stars. To read the reviews, go to: http://www.tripadvisor.com/Attraction_Review-g293890-d1148178-Reviews-Earthbound_Day_Expeditions-Kathmandu.html)
Since this was my last night in Nepal, I had time to discuss with Rajan and also reflect on what the “third eye” had discovered and learned in Nepal. Hari, our cultural, nonstop smiling and laughing guide really taught us a tremendous amount and our experience in Nepal would not have been the same without him. We learned about the importance of religion in Nepal and how Buddhism and Hinduism coexist somehow without problems. We also learned about how the culture is struggling to move ahead into the future. There needs to be some give and take between abandoning some of the old traditions and customs (such as the caste system which is still very prevalent in Nepal) and modernizing to newer, more western traditions. For instance, living together as an unmarried couple is pretty much unheard of in Nepal and is unacceptable. Marriages are not always “arranged” per se, however, the entire courtship process in Nepal is much different than it is in the States. Prospective brides are usually picked out from the village or a neighboring village and are of the same caste. The prospective groom meets with the young woman and talks to see if there is any interest in a union. Love marriages happen but are not that common. Dating before marriage is still something that isn’t really done.
As for the male and female’s role in Nepal, women do not have anywhere near as many freedoms and rights as women do in other countries. Women are expected to work very hard, raising the children, keeping the house, cooking the meals, and working in the fields. It is the male that holds the most esteem, respect and responsibility in the family structure. The oldest son is responsible for caring for his parents as they grow old and often returns to the village to help out with the harvesting, and is involved in important religious ceremonies and holidays. Due to lack of opportunities and poverty, many women end up in prostitution, either by choice or not. It is a sad reality that needs to be addressed.
Hari, as a twentysomething, modern young Nepali man with a bright future, hopes that Nepal can move ahead economically and socially soon. However, change is slow and the government is very corrupt. There is a lot of opportunity in Nepal yet no real infrastructure or jobs. Hari hopes someday Nepal can follow the path of other neighboring stars such as India and South Korea while retaining their rich cultural heritage and importance of family. It is a mixed bag that is for sure. For one thing, the people in Nepal are lovely people and their culture is absolutely amazing. Yet they are much too poor overall and lack education and opportunities (ranked 142 out of 177 countries on the UN Human Development Index; 82% Nepalis live on less than $2 a day; Literacy rate of 48.6%—-facts from Lonely Planet Nepal 8th edition). It is a tragedy however hopefully bright stars like Hari and Rajan, through their work, will help move Nepal slowly forward, one step at a time.
We left Nepal early the next morning, headed for our final leg of the trip, a few days in India. It was a bittersweet feeling boarding the plane. As we lifted off, we passed above the vibrant green rice terraces, stacked up towards the sky and over and beyond the magnificent snow-capped mighty Himalayas. I felt that I had experienced a lifetime in only two weeks. It was a peculiar feeling. I was very sad to be leaving but I knew deep down in my heart, that I would be back.
Our final night out during the continuation of The Festival of Lights, in Kathmandu Nepal: