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Photo by Catherine Von Holt, Nepal Semester.

Scavenger Hunt

Determined to win this game, we set down the dirt road armed with only two hours of Nepali language lessons, a list of tasks to accomplish, and 2.5 bottles of piushed water.

Until this day, our Nepalese worldview consisted only of of the picturesque resort we were taken to from the airport. We didn’t know how far away the nearest town was, or what it looked like. We stumbled into the first pharmacy we saw and immediately felt a general sense of friendliness. Instead of demanding money like your typical American exchange, the shopkeeper was much more interested in conversation. After 20 minutes of questions, we finally bought something from him but we didn’t have enough change to pay. He then told us not to worry and to just get it to him whenever we could.

This encounter (and also our first real impression of Nepal) was a relief from the American ideal of business and time being money and we would later learn that everyone in the town of Dhulikhel was freeing in the same way.

About 20 minutes down the road (an hour including stops for pictures), a young looking boy shouted “Hi!” to us. He told us that he was our age and that he was about to start his studies for business. We were surprised to find a fluent English speaker and our conversation with him helped us realize just how much chance was involved in deciding our fates. It was at this time that the game started to become less important. The list and cameras went away, and winning was the last thing on our mind.

Nearing 3:30 we made our way back to home base. After a long day in town we ran into one of the men we were to find as part of our scavenger hunt—Ben Ji. He owns a store in Dhulikhel  alongside his 75 year old mother. He told us that even after two heart attacks, she still walks two hours to the store each morning because for her, being confined to her bed would be worse than death. And this is when we realized the power of the Sangha—the Nepalese word for community. Because for the people in Nepal (who everyone could learn from) – interacting with each other everyday, holding onto familial values and traditions, and staying active – that is the key to a full life.  And on the way home, we stopped back at the first store we visited and paid off our five rupee tab, because that is sangha.