When I boarded a flight from London I looked out the window to see grey skies. I was nervous, and kept flicking my hair to find that perfect look, for in my mind I was no longer on a plane. I was in Abu Dhabu airport, anxiously imagining meeting the people in Him A. They would walk down some obscure corridor like a group of pilots from Top Gun, but rather than dressed in Bombers, they were proudly displaying their Dragons shirts: they were a group of intelligent, engaged, interesting people who would take my breath away. When the wheels touched down in the heat of Abu Dhabi, those hair flicks grew more and more frequent. It was 7 hours until I met my group, time that I passed drinking cheap tea and wandering around the airport. When the flight to Kathmandu was called, I walked to the gate, but was interrupted three times by nervous sprints to the toilet. It was the moment I had been waiting for, imagining, and fretting about. What if they didn’t like me? What if we lost interest with each other in these three months? What if I left the trip feeling regret over my group? In reality, what happened when I met my group was anticlimactic. I introduced myself, we took a flight together, we picked up our bags and we began our trip. It has since been 3 months when I looked breathlessly around at the faces who would quickly become like my family, and I still laugh at my nervousness that day.
I should say though that my imagination was never wrong. Himalayan Studies Group A is special. Even though the people of our group are and will forever be ingrained in my mind, I still looked around during lunch, or on trek and wondered at how such an incredible group of people could exist. We are jokers, academics, artists, singers, fun-loving, and beyond the limits anyone can set for us. There was a time where I believed I would never truly fit in a group of people, but now that it has happened, I have happily discarded that idea. Even now as I write this I hear the others laughing downstairs. Whether or not the joke being told is funny doesn’t matter, more importantly it’s that everyone in that room has a smile on their face and feels like they are in their home away from home.
What has created that feeling, and the bond that reaches to each person in Him A is something very hard to put into words. I mean, how is it that a group of young adults in just three months become like a family? Is Dragons really that good? While I will certainly say they are, there’s just so much more to this trip and the people I have been fortunate enough to spend it with than the skills of the Dragons admission team. We were accepted, and were given our instructors, but past the set up of the program, Him A was on its own. Ultimately, I have decided that there is no one good answer to my question. Like we learned from the monks at Namo Buddha, no single part can be defined as the whole, so therefore it is the combination which must be the answer. The first of these parts is the instructor team. I don’t know if I can claim to say they are the best, but for us, they are. Never absent, always smiling, always supporting, probing, and engaging they created the foundation of the group and have guided us ever since with gentle hands. The second of these parts is the actual group. I have said enough about Him A, but only because of how special it is. The strides we all took in personal and group development were not easy at times, and yet they happened because we all felt the support of everyone behind us. The third and final part is Nepal. This is the toughest to explain, and already I know just how difficult it will be to describe the hectic energy of Kathmandu, the mud homes of Balamchaur, the humming of monks at Namo Buddha, and the might of Himalayas. Words do not come close, pictures get closer, but neither will capture the feeling of being there. But for Him A, Nepal has been our home. We have lived the rural village life, have choked down Kathmandu dust, have struggled not to nod off during meditation, and have felt the burning of legs relieved by the stunning power of a Himalayan Mountain. We have seen and lived so much, and we have done it all together. It has been the type of experience that I know I will carry with me for the rest of my life. But what I find incredible is that I will have no problem ringing up anyone from our group just to talk about it. For I know that the person on the other line will be there to listen, and then to reminisce as well.
I see these three parts as the whole. Alone they are very special. But when you put them together they represent the journey of Charis, Griffin, Olivia, Nick, Haven, Teo, Paula, John, Emma, Ben, Laura, Michael, Eva, Tcheten, Maxime, Aditya, and Nils in Nepal.
PICTURE to come tomorrow