I am humbled to have the opportunity to serve as one of your course instructors for our springtime journey to Nepal and Bhutan. Sonam Losar (Lunar New Year) is being celebrated here in Nepal, with crisp cool weather and visiting with family and friends. It is the most important festival for many of Nepal’s mountain communities. We are also busy making preparations for your arrival. We are excited for our time together, and so should you be!
As for me, I am from a small city in Central Louisiana, and enjoyed youth in ways common in the South: scouts, sports, band, church, reading, playing in the woods. Feeling for a radical difference, I traveled to Nepal in 2003 for a year college study abroad – much like you are embarking on – an experience that changed my life. Since then I have spent half my time in Asia to deepen an understanding of mountain environments, their relationship to the peoples that call them home, and their living culture of spiritual life. I am now based in Kathmandu, with my wife and our toddler son.
Hurricane Katrina in 2005 also changed my life. My father’s family hails from New Orleans, and I dedicate a portion of my energy each year to recovery work and endless home renovations! I have passion for the Himalayas, but my perspective remains deeply rooted in Louisiana, home to our family for generations.
I am pleased to have the opportunity to continue exploring the greater Himalayas with you all. Though my role is that of your “instructor”, I am really just another student participating alongside you, though a bit older, also learning and having fun. We expect us all to be open to new insights and awarenesses, willing to put aside our prejudices and beliefs – or disbeliefs – to experience new truths. And of course, following your sense of adventure and curiosity will be your golden key on this pilgrimage. As instructors, we facilitate learning conditions for and with our students, but we are not the cause of student learning and growth. That cause naturally rests in your hands, as seeds within you. Your attitude, compassion, and perseverance.
I am sure that you are excited and may be apprehensive as you prepare for your journey, but don’t stress out! You are on the way to meet a great group of experienced and fun people that truly care about their work with you, and most anything you forget to pack you can get in Kathmandu!
Best of luck! Looking forward to meeting soon. Yours,
Michael D Smith, MSW MPH