It was with a whole lot of excitement that I boarded my flight for the Mugu district in Nepal on 8 September 2015 where the Comparative Studies in Sustainable Development module was to be presented. I expected a relaxing time in the Himalayas mountain range but boy was I wrong because this life-changing experience was infused with embracing the unknown, getting along with a dynamic group of independent thinkers and most importantly affording me time and space to rediscover the God (greatness) in others and myself.
The hiking and culinary aspects of this experience were most probably the easiest part of the trip. Our journey started in Tulcha, a small village 3000m above sea level. Some of the footpaths were hair-raisingly narrow and steep but the breath-taking midmorning views, as well as the effortless manner in which local people (young and very old) mastered these paths, were all the pressure I needed to push on. The presence of at least one of the facilitators (Jess or Rosie) at the tail end of our walking group also gave an inexperienced hiker like me great comfort. The early morning walks were truly amazing but the sights, scenes and sounds that I experienced on our sunset walk from Birabagad were unforgettable. Families chatting on the stoep, boys playing board games and children cleaning dishes at the village tap in preparation for dinner were some of the memorable pictures that gave me insight into the traditional village life in Mugu. In this district many families grow their own food and livestock so we had access to fresh produce most of the time. We had various versions of omelettes, noodles and Dal Bhat (a popular vegetarian Nepalese dish) for many breakfasts, lunches and dinners. My culinary highlight was the endless supply of fresh chillies that were available at all guesthouses and restaurants.
Much of my time was spend interacting, teaching and learning from school going children during cultural exchange sessions and solo expeditions. Seeing how these children were so comfortable with trying to understand the ‘unexplained phenomena’ (myself) gave me the confidence to express and share some of the conundrums in my life with my group. The interactions with the kids contained little if any words but was filled with magnetising laser focused gazes which helped me reach a level of comfort to introspect and rediscover the ‘God’ within me. However, the general defeatist attitude amongst the youth that I spoke to was very disturbing and reminded me of the South African psyche. This made me give impromptu motivational talks to remind the youth that expressed the ‘I-am-not-good-enough’ attitude that their seeds of greatness should never be equated to the size of their bank balances or the level of Nepal’s prosperity. I pray and hope that my few words and gestures will make them recognise the greatness within them.