Sitting around our breakfast table on our last day in Panauti, we gave our student group 3 prompts to reflect on. Here are a selection of their answers (anonymous, and in a random order):
‘’I’ve never been somewhere where religious is as engrained into culture and life as in Panauti. It was a privilege to both observe and partake in this lifestyle, even if for just a week. It may have been a bit of a cultural shock to leap into life on a new side of the world, but through patience and time I found myself realizing that enjoying life is far more than just access to luxuries. It’s about the bonds you make, the love you share, both on the giving and receiving end. It’s about keeping your heart open to new thoughts and experiences listening to stories and understanding that it is a luxury in itself to live. You don’t need to think about tomorrow, where you will be or what you will do, instead you just need a circle full of smiles and laughter that is a place that I feel I can call home, even if for just a moment’’.
“Panauti is lively and colorful. Days start early and people are at work before the sun is up maximizing their day. Food seems an important part of daily ritual and is made fresh for each meal with no food wasted’’.
“Panauti seems like a very tight knit community. It was amazing to get a little slice of family life in such a special city. At first, it took some getting used to but I love how open everyone is with each other, and I will always associate my host fail with love, warmth and joyfulness. One of my favourite things to do was to just sit and listen to the sounds of the city- the birds chirping, the funky sing-song of Nepali car horns, shopkeepers chanting with each other, all while the strong smell of freshly fried snacks wafted in through the windows’’.
‘’I am looking forward to slowing down and staying in one place for a substantial amount of time. I am excited to breathe fresh air and see beautiful landscapes, but I am most excited for the temples and leaning more about Buddhism and how it relates to the Bhutanese way of life’’.
‘’Bhutan will be full of new opportunities, adventures and growth. Although I hope to find hot baths, I will only expect what I found here- bucket showers and an occasional hot showers. I hope our trek in Bhutan is beautiful and not too difficult’’.
“Going into Bhutan, I have this anticipation of it being more like the old part of Panauti, with more green space and less dusty air. Additionally, Bhutan is an entirely different religion of Buddhism, which has values rooted more in peace and happiness compared to Hinduism, which could signify a cultural change moving from Nepal to Bhutan, but I don’t know. Regardless, for the last week and a half in Nepal, I’ve grown to appreciate being in the present of living among our group, homestay families, chirping birds and pigeons perched outside my window and nature’’.
‘’ Life is beautiful and here’s why. We wake up each day, and so does the world. We feel the sun on our skin, the wind against our face, and we know that we are alive. We can hear, smell, see the world around us, and it is there for our enjoyment. Life is beautiful, and so are you, so go explore, see the world and be a part of the world, and help make life beautiful’’.
‘’ I stressed a lot at the start of this trip, but I’m seeing the beauty in this trip as I am already seeing myself grow. There is so much beauty even in the hard times we’ve endured and I’m sure it is only going to get better from here’’.
‘’I was so scared coming into homestays. After living with a family, I have grown a new appreciation for life in Nepal. It was hard to adjust at first but after a few days of learning to live in Nepal, way I began to realize that life is truly beautiful. My homestay mom has been so kind and loving, always making sure I was ok. My sisters helped me learn more about their way of life. My homestay dad was caring and always made me smile. It makes me warm when I think about the generosity that my family holds. They took in someone they didn’t know or could barely communicate with and still made me feel loved and cared for. This whole experience has helped me realize and understand the true beauty of life and human nature’’.