I’ve come from the heat of South Asia to a September heat wave in New England. I heard a meteorologist remark on TV tonight that the grass could really use some rain, and it sounded so strange to me. How could I ever explain that to some of the people I met in India and Nepal, where growing a “crop” of grass that would never be eaten would seem absolutely absurd? This was just one of many moments that have reminded me of the strange world I’ve returned to.
I’ve been home for just two weeks, but it feels like much longer. I’m already a week into classes and have begun teaching my first graduate course at the University of New Haven. It has been great to see my family and friends, meet my new students (and see some old ones), and to enjoy the comforts of home, but I do think about my trip constantly. Here are the things I miss the most, in no particular order.
- “Namaste!” This greeting, given with a slight bow and palms touching in front of the chest, was warm and sincere (as long as I was outside of the tourist areas). There are many interpretations of this word, though there is no direct translation. One meaning is: “The spirit within me honors and respects the spirit within you.” I heard it everywhere in Nepal, from both young and old, from strangers and from people I knew. It was always said with a smile, with eye contact, and in a relaxed and warm manner. It was never rushed, never said while walking past someone, never said without stopping and looking at the person – unlike many of the greetings I’ve heard (and given) now that I’m home. I miss Namaste.
- Time. I realize I was technically on vacation during this trip, but the pace of life seemed slower for everyone, at least in Nepal. I didn’t feel stressed. It seemed that the people in Nepal and India were not focused on getting as much done as possible every day. I found myself explaining the concept of “time is money” to someone I met in Nepal, and it was not easy to do. Nepalis value time with family and friends. That’s not to say that many people don’t work hard jobs for long hours, but it doesn’t seem that money is the ultimate goal.
- Walking. I walked everywhere, and it felt good, even in the heat. I enjoyed walking through the
neighborhoods of Kathmandu and the crowded streets of India. I feel so dependent on my car here. Walking has become something extra I need to schedule a time for, whereas overseas it was just a part of my day.
- Males who aren’t afraid to show affection. Yes, it sounds strange, but I do miss seeing grown men walking through crowded streets arm in arm or holding hands. It was a very common sight. I think it is ironic that, in societies where homosexuality is not accepted, affection between men is not at all unusual or associated with being gay. In the U.S., where gays are becoming more respected and accepted, it is almost taboo for two straight men to hold hands. Boys in India and Nepal (and in many other places I’ve traveled) would never be taunted for walking arm in arm; it’s just a natural way of showing their friendship. Why does this seem so strange to Americans?
- I also miss that fact that I didn’t watch TV for a month. There is absolutely nothing I feel like watching now, but I know I’ll get sucked into it again. The TV conversations in the teachers’ room have already started.
- Of course, I miss the people I met, especially the children and staff at the Social Development Center. I will stay in touch with them, and hope someday to return to Nepal.
I hope this is not the end of this blog. I plan on updating it from time to time. I still have thousands of pictures to go through, which will no doubt lead to more reflection. In the meantime, thanks to everyone who has been reading. I’ve heard from so many people, even those who I never expected to read this, that they enjoyed following my journey. Check back every now and then for an update!