Friday, November 12, 2010

Week 6 - Trekking!

Arriving in Pokhara
Early Sunday morning (11/7) we began our journey by taking a flight from Kathmandu to Pokhara - a beautiful lakeside city near the Annapurna range of the Himalayas. The flight was amazing as we flew parallel to the countless mountains belonging to the majestic Himalayas! Our first day was a day of sight seeing around Pokhara. It also was an important day of Tihar, Bhai Tika day - where sisters worship their brothers. This meant that the city streets were pretty quiet during the day, but in the evening it became very busy! There was cultural dancing in the streets and we had the opportunity to see a cultural program during dinner, which included tons of music, dancing and drama. Even during this vacation part of my practicum, I was able to continue my cultural research! 
The next day (Monday) we again awoke early to catch a van ride to the starting point of our trek, Nayapul. We arrived, had tea and took advantage of the last toilet... well, squatty potty. We began walking at 9:00am, periodically resting to rehydrate, take pictures, catch our breath and eat, then arrived to Ghandruk at 4:00pm - right on schedule! 

Tom & I having tea :) 
Mom & I enjoying the amazing scenery before we started

Beginning the trek - with walking sticks in hand! 

We encountered many surprises on our trek! 
  1. It was MUCH warmer than we all anticipated - the temperature + 7 hours of elevated heart rates = massive sweating! 
  2. We shared the narrow trekking paths with many visitors - other trekkers, as well as donkeys, goats, oxen and cows! 
  3. The climb of more than 12 miles upward was MUCH more difficult than we imagined! We misinterpreted the phrase “easiest of the treks” for “easy trek” - let me tell you, they are NOT synonymous! Haha :) 
  4. Expected most of the trek to be windy paths with gradual inclines - the majority of the hiking was done on steep grades of stone steps. 
  5. Water seemed to be in abundance as it freely flowed in multiple waterfalls we crossed and in the pipe systems - while there is a proclaimed water shortage in Kathmandu. 
  6. Our trekking guide, Tin, was not only awesome, but also a Christian - a total unexpected blessing! 
Climbing those steep steps! 
Some of the visitors I mentioned! 
Although it was harder than any of us thought it would be, we completed the trek in the average amount of time! Being dirty, sore and tired, we checked into our simple hotel, showered, ate dinner, played a little bit of hearts and went to bed early. 

At the top - DONE!
A typical Gurung village home
Tuesday we shared breakfast outside surrounded by the gorgeous scenery of Ghandruk. We spent the day walking through the village areas, witnessing the Gurung (the people group/cast of Ghandruk) way of life - farming and harvesting. We even visited a small museum full of artifacts - current and historical. We learned some of the vast differences between Nepali village life versus Nepali city life by truly getting to experience some of both! The houses in the village area were more developed than I had pictured - made of brick and cement and were actually larger than I imagined them to be. Of course these observations are relative and subjective to the comparisons I was making in my own mind, having visited other developing countries. Even considering such observations, the living conditions were vastly different from my own. The simplest things, such as transportation or cooking a meal, require much more work and effort than I have ever had to put forth in my life at home. I am sure this teaches them to appreciate and value the product of such tasks more than I could ever comprehend. Observing their hard work has further led me to admire Nepali culture. After our day of more walking, we returned to our hotel and enjoyed a wonderful evening of togetherness - eating, discussing what we’ve seen and learned, drinking multiple pots of tea, playing cards and laughing a lot (mostly about me teaching them all how to be a pro at using the squatty potty)! 

Family pic :) 

One of our sunrise photos!
On Wednesday morning my mom, Brenden and I watched the sunrise on the Annapurna range that was easily visible from the roof of our hotel - it was undeniably one of the most memorable and beautiful sights I’ve ever seen. After enjoying this and taking multiple pictures, we packed up our things, ate breakfast and prepared to trek back to Nayapul. This day of trekking was significantly easier than Monday’s trek because we were simply taking the same route back, which was almost 100% downhill. I found that I was able to enjoy the scenery more this time, having to focus less on my physical endurance. The level of difficulty aided in the duration of our trek this time - we began at 8:00am and had already made it to the bottom of the mountain by 12:15pm where we had lunch! After lunch we only had about a half hour left of walking, which was mostly flat. Once we reached Nayapul it felt like such a huge accomplishment to have completely finished a true Nepal trek - even if it was the “easiest of the treks.” For not having any trekking training or experience, we each did quite well. Praise the Lord for no injuries or sickness! We again had a van ride back to Pokhara, where we rested and got massages to help with the soreness we all felt :) It was honestly one of the best massages I’ve ever had, as well as the cheapest - double score! 
Trekking back down
Group picture with our two guides at the very end - we did it!
Thursday we took a flight back to Kathmandu, rested for the afternoon and then had dinner with the same missionary family I met a couple weeks ago. It was a blessing to get to introduce them to my family since I hope to get to serve with them in the future. This was also their last full day here in Nepal - I seriously could not believe it! Their time here has flown by, but we’ve savored every moment and memory together. This morning, Friday, they packed and I took them to the airport in the afternoon. My mom, Tom and Brenden are actually in the air currently on their way back to the states! Prayer for their safety is welcomed and appreciated :) It is a long journey back home. Mine and Brenden’s goodbye was much less tearful this time knowing that I will see him again in only ten days! In comparison to the beginning of my trip, this next week and a half apart will be a breeze ;) I am also really looking forward to wrapping up my research to complete my time here in Nepal - praying for diligence in my writing, reading and concluding cultural experiences! 

Our last pic all together in Nepal!
Derai derai dhanyabad (“thank you very much”) to all who have kept us in their prayers as we’ve been away from internet access, unable to post updates as often as before. I have been continually in awe of God’s provision and hand in my time here, bringing together so many connections and blessings. He who is worshipped in Nepal, even among a small number of surrendered hearts and He who will be worshipped by every tribe, tongue and nation - remembering who He is and His care for me is ever humbling. 

Week 5 - sharing the gospel of God, and ourselves

Brenden & I with a map of Nepal
“...we were ready to share with you not only the gospel of God but also our own selves, because you had become very dear to us.” (1 Thessalonians 1:8)        

This week has been FULL! Full of family, happiness, busy-ness, ministry, sight-seeing and of course, full of learning. Continuing from the weekend before, the pastors conference (also called “Covenant School of Ministry” sponsored by Reach The Nation of Nepal Ministries in partnership with Kent Covenant Church) lasted through Wednesday. Each day about 90 Nepali pastors and leaders from all over Nepal gathered to hear teaching sessions and testimonies, as well as for worship and fellowship with one another. Each day my mom, Tom, Brenden, Harvey (the Seattle pastor) and I attended/taught the sessions prior to lunch. Pastor Harvey spoke two sessions in the morning and then one of us from the team each took a session in the late morning. My mom and Tom each shared their testimonies one day and my mom also taught about health concerns and answered many questions. Another day I had the opportunity to teach about Biblical worship and how music fits into corporate worship. During this time I also encouraged them to continue using music styles from their own culture to worship Jesus, even providing some methods for group composition of new songs of worship. I also got to sing an example of an originally composed Nepali song written from Psalm 103 by my Nepali friend, Karuna. It was a good experience that taught me a lot, as well as stretched me. Although nerves were present, it reminded me that I do enjoy speaking and sharing, especially from Scripture. I hope to be afforded many more opportunities such as this!

In the afternoons we left the conference since the rest was in Nepali or Hindi and was not translated for those of us who don't speak either of these languages. During these times, our hosts scheduled some city tours for our group. Some destinations were repeats for me, but it was awesome to get to experience and see such things with my family, who have different eyes, ears and thoughts than I do. Because of this it was definitely still a time of learning for me. Also in the afternoons, when a tour was not scheduled for us, it gave me the opportunity to display my “Nepali-ness.” I was quite proud to be able to navigate around and take them places safely and without getting lost! I still feel like a beginner when I speak Nepali, but even with the little I know, I am usually able to communicate simply and Nepali people are enthralled by my attempts! We went on some adventures in the evenings looking for restaurants we had heard about, which included a Nepali Jazz Club and a restaurant called New Orleans! 
Our group on a tour of Bhaktapur -
an ancient royal city area in Kathmandu

Brenden looking very Nepali,
wearing a traditional mens cap -

Throughout the conference, Pastor Harvey spoke on First Thessalonians and the title I gave this entry is how I’ve come to feel about the Nepalis I’ve met and befriended here. I think I can safely say that my parents, as well as Brenden, definitely felt the same. We can relate with Paul’s feelings as he wrote these words to the new believers in Thessalonica. All Nepali Christians need prayer and support from fellow followers of Christ so that their faith may be sustained and continue to grow in order to share with all of Nepal who the One True God really is! It was a blessing to get to be a part of an event with this goal in mind, which truly is the purpose of the global Church - to equip the saints and reach the lost! 
Further watching and participating in Nepali worship through music this week has confirmed in my heart that there is not one Christian worship music form or style! I have long believed this, but every time I get to witness and experience Christian worship in a different context it solidifies my conviction and propels me to continue to be a catalyst for encouraging contextualized worship. It is so beautiful to see Christian worship lived out in culturally appropriate and authentic ways. I wish for every American Christian to seek to understand this about worship - for too long the Western church has been blind and ignorant in their thoughts about worship through music. It is a deep heart prayer of mine to see Christians come to the realization that the only universal form required for Christian worship is our unified 
object of worship - JESUS. 

Here are all the attendees of the conference! 
 Mero Ama ("my mother" in Nepali) and I

The second half of our week included me taking them to new parts of Kathmandu, shopping, trying new foods and resting up. At this point in the trip, Pastor Harvey left to go back home to the states. It was great getting to know and serve with him, but it was truly a blessing for my mom, Tom, Brenden and I to spend some quality family time together. This weekend, Thursday through Sunday (11/4 - 7), was another Hindu festival called Tihar also known as Diwali, the festival of lights! Each night many candles were lit all of the city, mostly around the entrance of homes and businesses - signifying the welcome and ushering in of the goddess Laxmi, the goddess of wealth. Nepali Hindus worship her, animals (crow, dog, cow and oxen) and their brothers during this festival. During this time they pray for blessing and fortune from Laxmi as well as pray to the Hindu god of death, Yam Raj, to give long lives to their brothers. It is a time of celebration among families in their homes, so we got to minimally experiencing the celebration that happens publicly such as the candle lightings, fireworks and Tihar songs! Another tradition of Tihar, which I was especially interested in, is a type of carol singing. Small groups of girls and boys travel from house to house or shop to shop singing songs about Tihar - some are worship songs to Laxmi and some are alms songs, where they ask for money.

Walking through the markets...
At one of our many delicious dinners

Toward the end of the week, we readied ourselves for our trek from Pokhara to Ghandruk! We had no idea what was in store :) 

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Week 4 - One month!

My update has come late this week due to less internet access and the packed schedule with my family and the team from the states being here! Their arrival of course has a huge highlight of my week!  Brenden and I had been apart one day shy of 4 weeks - 27 days to be exact! It is such a relief for us to get to be together - we both feel home again even though we’re thousands of miles from our physical home. We are looking forward to what the next two weeks together will hold! I could not have planned for a more perfect time for him to arrive - I was just starting to feel pretty homesick, but that seems to matter much less now that he is here! I am overjoyed for my family to get to experience coming to Nepal, since it is Brenden’s and my mom’s first time to a developing country. I am convinced that one cannot leave another country unchanged, especially one dynamically different than their own. Having them here has helped remind me that I have learned a lot about Nepali culture and I am, in fact, pretty acclimated even though it still does not feel like it at times! 
This past week I’ve gotten to see and experience even more Nepali music - Christian and non-Christian traditional folk music! I went to a concert of a well-known Nepali folk band, Katumba, and I also got to sit in on one of their rehearsals - what an incredible experience! The guys in the band are true musicians and it was not only amazing to watch them perform, but also to watch them practice and interact with one another. I learned a lot about Nepali folk musical form and compositional styles that day - both are quite reflective of Nepali culture in general. I also got to visit a Christian music school and interview one of the founders. This was very interesting and helpful to my research while here in Kathmandu. Another thing I had the opportunity to do this past week was to visit and attend two other Christian churches. One was an English service and the other was Nepali. I actually had the amazing opportunity to share the message at the Nepali church Saturday morning. I also enjoyed getting to accompany my friend Shanti to work one day. She works for a local NGO called Tewa. This means “support” in Nepali and they work for equitable justice among Nepali women - raising funds for grant programs that teach women a marketable skill in order to support themselves, among other things. It was a privilege to see how an indigenous organization functions. It definitely  confirmed in my heart, the desire I have to hopefully someday work for an organization that is truly bringing about transformational development and change in the lives of the less fortunate. 

Earlier in the week, I was reflecting on the fact that while I am here in Nepal, I am in my Fall quarter at Fuller - ha! It doesn’t feel like class, but in many ways it feels like a typical quarter...when midterms come around is usually just about the time I’ve adjusted to the class format and such, and by the time finals come I feel as though I have so much more to learn (I will forever stand by the fact that the quarter system is significantly more difficult than the semester system)! I just know that that is how I am going to feel when I’m stepping on the plane to go home. It truly is very humbling to be in a new context - completely dependent on others for the simplest of things and being continually unsure of how their cultural system functions. Although this is true overall, this week I have finally begun to feel like I know a thing or two! :) My language skills are improving and I am finally familiar enough with major landmarks that I can make my way around. Being more adjusted in these ways, it is now more safe for me to be able to travel alone during the day time. Praise the Lord! So for the first time this week, I went out alone - walked through the markets, went on a Temple tour, caught public transportation and made it safely home all by myself! I was quite proud that day! The experience of it all - being alone, speaking Nepali, asking where the right microbus was and not getting lost - boosted my confidence level and diminished my fears. I am looking forward to the flexibility this will give me during the remainder of my trip! 

The start of my fifth week here in country has been wonderful and I look forward to getting to write about all that has taken place! 

(Sorry - no pictures this time. The internet connection is not strong enough.)