On September 19th, the fearless Alpha Dragons group ambled over to a nearby Tibetan monastery. After a brief meditative walk through the outskirts of Pharping, we entered an immense monastic complex, surrounded by beautiful landscaping and intricately carved statues. I was personally in awe, especially considering the section of the village we had traveled through seemed fairly mundane. In the inner sanctum of the monastery, however, I felt as if I had been transported to another planet. All of my senses were simultaneously stimulated — colorful depictions of Buddhist demons, gods, and goddesses adorned the walls, the smell of burning incense wafted through the air, and an assembly of monks performed their daily ritual. Sitting in separate pews and scribbling in our journals, we were silent observers to the monks.
This undeniably felt a little awkward. We were, for the most part, ignorant and therefore out of place. Who were we to enter a sacred space, presumably uninvited, and experience a ceremony that we hardly understood? These thoughts rambled around in my mind for several minutes until something truly incredible happened. While watching the ritual from afar, I made direct eye contact with a monk that couldn’t have been more than eight years old. Expecting to be quickly dismissed as an outsider, someone who didn’t belong, I was pleasantly surprised when the young boy smiled and bowed in my direction. Not only did he acknowledge my presence, it almost seemed as if he appreciated it. After smiling and giving a soft bow back, I truly felt welcome for the first time. Not only did I feel more welcome in the monastery, I began to realize how easy it was to feel welcomed in Nepal.
Having taken a ‘leap of faith’ and traveling more than halfway across the world in order to be here, I initially felt apprehension towards entering a society and culture that were, quite literally, completely foreign to my own.
Even though I’ve now only been in Nepal for five days, I’ve already been able to throw a Frisbee with a few Nepali boys, begin to learn the Nepali language, and enjoy the country’s authentic cuisine. With an extended homestay coming up, I can only imagine all of the possibilities to truly connect with the locals and better understand Nepal’s unique culture. Overall, I’m very excited for what’s to come, and more will be expressed in future yaks.