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Nepal Semester Student's Catherine Von Holt's photograph of the Boudhanath Stupa in Kathmandu.

Coming Home

Dear Parents,

Many of your children are safely aboard their international flights. Others will be boarding soon. And some of them will continue their adventure in Nepal and Asia for a few weeks. We would like to take a moment to express our gratitude for entrusting us with the well-being of your loved ones for the past fifteen weeks. Our Sangha has grown very close while exploring Nepal together. We have lived in close quarters, through the thick and thin, and ups and downs of intense travel and cross-cultural exchange, a bonding process accelerated and deepened by the challenges, growth, and learning experienced.

Like the evolutionary theory of punctuated equilibrium, learning and growth is not always a standardly gradual process. Sometimes things are easy and we are on cruise control and we don’t learn much. Other times we feel that if we looked closely we could actually see our own growth happening in real time, just like a fast growing mushroom or bamboo stalk makes its growth known to the careful observer.

We feel confident that our students– your loved ones– are returning home with a deeper awareness of the world and themselves; that they are re-inspired to engage with the world and learn. We also know that the transition back home will take time and require patience as each of them have been through a unique experience that does not necessarily lend itself to easy summaries. Please be patient with them as their stories unfold organically.

Tenzin Norbu, a well-known ethnic Tibetan artist from Dolpa in Nepal, said to our group that we “need to experience a little hardship in order to learn well.” Although he hails from one of the most remote areas of the world, where even today it takes many days or weeks to travel there from Kathmandu, he has now become a bit of a celebrity and travels all over the world. He says that sometimes “it is harder to find the old ways in the U.S., though they are all around you in Nepal.”

We have witnessed the tensions between heritage/tradition and development/modernity here in Nepal. Jason Shah, a young Nepali entrepreneur and traveler, likes to say that “the heritage here is thousands of years old, but the people here are young.” It has been a pleasure to spend time teaching, mentoring, and traveling with young people who are willing to ask the hard questions and not resign themselves to complacency or easy answers. We joked that there would be a cheat sheet of answers to these complex questions at the end of the trip, but the truth is that we are left with more questions than answers, and sometimes, more uncertainty than ever.

With love and gratitude,

Sharon and Parker