When I first decided to come to Nepal, I had no idea what to expect. From my health classes, I figured the water probably wouldn’t be safe to drink, and amenities would be problematic at best. I knew there would be a culture shock, and likely a big one at that. But that was it. I didn’t know to expect how crazy driving could be. Or how the powerlines overhead wouldn’t be just one thick cord, but rather 50 cords bundled together. Neither did I expect how much walking I would do or how many hills I would have to climb or just how packed in everything would be. All I truly knew is that it would be completely different from everything I had experienced before. Especially since this was not only my first time in a 3rd world country, but also my first time out of the states period. But if anything, that just made me more determined to come.
Ive had many crazy, zany experiences since arriving here. I’ve lain concrete down for an animal shelter, painted walls, created a pinata, and helped throw a Halloween party for young girls. I’ve also taken a night bus, gone paragliding, been hit on by more guys in 1 week than I had in a whole year, and seen things that I never imagined I would have the chance to see. I’ve visited 2 monkey temples, seen the Taj Mahal, and been blessed by a guru. Most of all, I found the answers to my problems. I’ve always been a steadfast believer that service truly does bring happiness. One of the greatest blessings I’ve had is the opportunity to work at a shelter for girls rescued from the streets and sexual abuse. If one did not know much about these girls, they might expect a lot of tears and sorrow. But that is not what I found. Now, I cannot speak for when these girls are on their own or in their room, but whenever I see them, it is with smiles on their faces and laughter in their eyes. They love and accept each other for who they are, no matter their background. And they are not the only ones I have found filled with such happiness. Many people all over Nepal seem genuinely happy and loving.
True, life is not perfect. Many don’t have hot water for showers or electricity running 24/7. And don’t get me wrong – not all Nepali people are so joyful and loving. But when I see those girls at the shelter, being happy despite their trials, I cannot help but be happy myself. And it is for that reason that I am so glad that I chose to serve here. Even if I knew what I was getting myself into, including certain foods that would be hard to swallow and buses packed so tight that I have long since given up on personal space, I would still choose to come here. I didn’t choose to do volunteer work for the perfect days and easy times. I chose to do it so I could get myself down into the nitty gritty details of development work. I chose to do it so I could lose myself in service for others. And ironically, I actually think I may have found myself. I found a greater strength and happiness. I found my determination and my resolve to push forward in life. I found a secret to happiness. And this secret doesn’t require nice phones and amenities. It simply requires a loving and accepting heart. I had heard these things all my life. But it is another thing entirely to experience it first-hand and let it into your heart and mind. And I don’t know if I would have found it anywhere else but in service to those in need.
If you are wondering, “is this worth it?”, “what if it’s too hard?”, or “do I really want to eat dal bhat every day?”, then please listen to what I have to say here. First of all, it is worth it. But you have to want it. This can’t just be a whim, and you have to be ready to do the hard work. As the saying goes, “if it was easy, it wouldn’t be worth it”. For me, it was worth every hard swallow, every step up that steep hill, and every unpleasant experience that I’ve had from day 1. There will be hard moments, and times where you wish for the comforts of home. But there will also be the times when you walk into a room full of smiling faces and you can’t help but smile back. There will be days when you will look back on what you did and feel that you made a real difference in somebody’s life, and that somebody’s fate has been changed for the better. And it will be because you chose to do the hard thing. To sacrifice your time and money. To get into the nitty gritty of development work. To give it everything you had, only to find that you have so much more to give. So don’t give up. Don’t think you can’t do it. Because there is a good chance that thought is the only thing stopping you. My first days weren’t easy. But the end result has more than paid off for everything I have gone through while here. Be prepared for the hard things, but also be ready to find things you never expected to find. If you’re ready to give it your all, you’ll be able to handle anything that comes your way.