Mid-way Reflection

 Posted by Kristin Schutz at 8:01 pm  Nepal
Jan 112015

Just one month ago, this cafe was packed with trekkers, artists (local and expat), vactioners, soul-seekers, and hip Nepalis.  Just one month ago, four young women from the US and Australia sat at this cafe for hours, reading, writing, chatting away about this new and strange place. They sat with their legs crossed on floral-patterned floor cushins around low tables scattered with coffee mugs and vegetarian food. They listened to indie rock playing on the speakers. They gazed at the graffiti-style murals on the walls. They met fellow adventurers.

Now this cafe, confusingly called Places, is nearly empty.  The indie rock still plays across the murals, but the busy season is over. Kathmandu has been returned to the locals, the long-term visitors, and the occaisional off-season traveler. It’s both a peaceful kind of solitude and an eerie memorial to livelier times.

I stopped coming here for a while. I’m here now, and it’s like returning to my childhood home. The building is the same, but the essence is different because the very people who made it a home are gone.

Earlier this month, the emotional and physical excitment of such a new experience had ebbed and made way for a quieter time of familiarity and lonliness. I suddently found myself very comfortable going to and from school, taking the bus around the Ring Road, negotiating with taxi drivers, brushing off the stares from people on the street. With that comfort came boredom and sadness.

I had spent five weeks branching out, taking risks, meeting new people, going to new places, planning fun games and activities for the women.  All because I had a cadre of young, adventurous women to do it with.  Suddenly I was left to my own devices, to my own thoughts alone at the homestay. To be truthful it as incredibly upsetting. I wanted to go home. I wanted the other volunteers to come back. I spent a week feeling sorry for myself. But the Universe, as it usually does, stepped in and helped me find my way again. A friend here told me something incredibly powerful: Olim Meminisse Juvabit. It’s from Virgil’s Aeneid. It essentially means “someday it will be pleasing to remember even these things.”  In the midst of my self-pity, these words came back to me. I caught myself. How could I be sad and lonely in such a beautiful and crazy place? There was so much still to see and experience.  I should be grateful for the people I met and the experiences we had together even though they are passed. With this epiphany I set out to seek new ones.

The timing was quite perfect, actually. The students had a week of exams followed immediately by a week of winter vacation (so there wasn’t any teaching for me to do). I had two weeks to expand my horizon.

After meeting with some organizations here, it became clear that there is a need for skilled training. Not just volunteers coming over to teach and then leaving. But volunteers to share their unique skills so that when they leave there is a lasting impact. One such organization that expressed the need for professional training is Maiti Nepal (www.maitinepal.org). It focuses on ending sex-trafficking in Nepal by both rescuing and rehabilitating girls as well as educating the community to stop new girls from entering the system. It is run by Nepali people and has an astounding track record of success. I offered my services to help them with marketing. Just a few days later I was in the Maiti Nepal offices talking with two energetic, young people about newsletters, blogs, and social media. After the meeting I was on fire! Nishant and Laurisa were keen to learn and were already pushing Maiti Nepal into the digital age. I felt I could actually make a lasting impact there using my education and work experience.  We’ve since continued to meet and are working on a few projects that I will announce when they are ready. It’s exciting stuff!

In the same vein, I offered to help VSN manage the Facebook page. As is usually the case, the folks at VSN wear many hats and there is more work than staff! I’m helping VSN beef up the Facebook page so that the staff members can focus on rebuilding the website and looking after the programs and new volunteers.

A craving for being around English speakers motivated me to join the Himalayan Hash House Harriers. Sue, the VSN volunteer  coordinator, introduced me to the group. It’s a gathering of expats and locals who run and walk around the valley, and then drink beer after. I’ve been twice now and every time has been energizing. Being outside, seeing a new part of the valley, exercising, and learning from new people has completely changed my experience here. I’ll be going again next Saturday!

When the school opens up again next week I will return to teaching, but will also continue to work with Maiti Nepal and VSN.

Overall, I think the lesson here is that each day is what we make of it. Struggle is inevitable, pain is going to happen no matter what. But we have the power and means to move on, make ourselves happy, and be productive. We might need to winge for a bit first, just to get it out of our systems. We might need our friends and family to kindly listen and then snap us back into reality. But we have more control over our lives than we often believe.


Carrying on,



The ladies taking exams:


Walking with the Himalayan Hash House Harriers:


A Krishna temple along one of the Hash walks:



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