The way you perceive the world depends on who you are within, on how open you are to the world, and on accepting its diversity. Things we would like to experience, what we expect – is not always true to our ideas and that is why it is so inspiring.
During my travel, I had quite some unique experiences, many important ones, which is why I cannot describe those memories in a dozen or so sentences. My journey across this magical country was one deep within myself in a geographical way, in a spiritual way.
Coming to Nepal, I had absolutely no plans most of the time, yet I had some important goals. The plan was only to visit several tourist attractions in Kathmandu and two trekking with a friend and my husband, who joined me at various stages of my local endeavors, as a result, our plans together were changing like in a kaleidoscope, which made my trip even more fascinating. One of the major objectives was to meet children from an orphanage run by a Swiss organization, Rokpa International, which I hosted in my home in Poland. My other objective was to enrich myself in the power of the Himalayas, the most paramount cliffs in the world.
Tibetan Buddhism and various regions of South Asia have always fascinated me, hence, I did not give in to the stereotypes that exist in Europe about Nepal. I knew that my knowledge about culture and the region is much larger than that of the average tourist, which gives me an advantage of conscious experience of a contact with indigenous people, culture and traditions.
Nepal, as I see it, is a country of powerful, amazing Himalayan ranges, of wonderfully helpful and open people with inspiring stories. A country of contrasts, colors, amazing flavors, fragrances, and diversity of life.
I was dreaming of resting, meditating, celebrating my free time alone but it was not always the case because s o m e o n e j o i n e d , s o m e o n e t a l k e d , s o m e o n e sat down to drink a cup of coffee. Many of my friends near and far asked me about my plans. I was answering. I will follow the crowd, w h a t e v e r happens, will be accepted, a d m i r e d, a b s o r b e d with all of me and this is the best idea for spending time.
Isn’t it a wonderful feeling – to sit on a barely standing stool in the heat, dust, drinking coffee with other people, who do not communicate in my language?
Isn’t it amazing to listen to the sounds of hanging around wonderful prayer mills? Isn’t it a wonderful experience to listen to the prayers of the monks or even to participate in their music rehearsals?
Isn’t it wonderful to sense a tradition that is happening around, more or less, fantastic customs, dances, singing, ceremonies – something that is surprising about the moment, the color, the smell?
Isn’t it admirable to sit in a restaurant where the waiter and the cook sit next to you and celebrate with a dinner, where you feel like home?
Isn’t it magical to follow the scent of incense hitting each other together in a magical place, isn’t it?
It is the smell, sound, and the colors that leads to inspiring places worth discovering. That is how it was with me. I have many adventures – interesting, inspiring, and worth sharing. Where do I start, when I have so many thoughts in my head? My journey continues up to this day in my heart and my heart has taken me to places that impressed me most.
Sometimes it is worth getting lost, being carried away by the road, only then you meet people who become your guides, you spend time with them, you inspire yourself, and touch something you have not even dreamt about.
Once I went for a walk, my goal was a mere “something” indefinitely looming in the hill. I did not know what it was, what it was called, I could not effectively locate this place on the map – I was on the spot only for a few days. That is how one of the most enchanted days in my magical trip to Nepal begun.
Early in the morning, as usual with a bottle of water and a camera, I headed towards a direction unknown to me. I decided to follow my heart and wander off wherever my mind took me. Going off regular tourist routes, you suddenly find yourself in fantastically inspiring places, small shops where no one can communicate in English, where it took me half an hour to explain what cola in a can is, how I was thirsty, and how I want my cola from the fridge.
Oh, it was fun. For us as tourists, it seems that they all speak English, but it is not so simple or straightforward. Even in big cities, people do not speak foreign languages and that has its own charm because you are trying to use The Mesmerizing Colors of Nepal 44 April, 2018 Travel your innate and hidden talents to express what you need.
On my way, I came across a big truck decorated beautifully. One might say it was a masterpiece on wheels. I also passed by small tuktuks, many monks, and a bunch of wonderful, small figures in school uniform. That fabulous view
The fabulous view when you walk past children and young people in uniform—some properly ironed, some dirty and shabby. And the smiles and good humor never left Nepali students, very unlike our Polish schoolchildren.
I feel that despite difficult conditions of life, these ones are very happy and proud of being students. With the desire to establish contact with tourists, they sometimes point the way of course incorrectly, but that is unimportant – still they wanted to help, or so it appears. Kids had fun when they showed me the way even though I had to choose among four variations!
On my journey uphill, I came across great heat, dust, colorful people, lazy dogs prowling around, hiding from heat. I am going and going and the slower I move, I ask for the route, some people tell me to go straight, others – left and right again. I carry on and as my destination nears, as I get a glimpse of it from far way, I become excited – as happy as a child because the monastery looks wonderful, bewitching, and mysterious. Soon it disappears from my view. I carry on.
At some point, I begin to observe the silence around me, the stillness. There are less dogs barking, pedestrians are no longer visible. I realize that I passed the last property some 20 minutes ago. Slowly, I begin to worry. As I am encircled by the peaceful ambience around me and the inner peace within me blossoms, I wonder whether I should return. It is getting dark and the trees around begin to blanket me.
Common sense suggests that I should turn back, but the desire to experience the calm awaiting me is unstoppable. Well, probably for someone it will not be a novelty, nor an attraction – to experience in such a way, but for me what I felt there and at this point is indescribable. I do not have words to describe the experience or explain it. It feels too real, too intimate.
After a while, my eyes suddenly flutter along the thousand, perhaps millions, of Tibetan prayer flags, which I have never seen anywhere in such quantity—amazingly colorful, flapping in the wind, and effusing magical sounds that can only be felt, not expounded. I lived this mystical experience for nearly a kilometer until I reached the hilltop with a wonderful view of Kathmandu. Wow!
The magic and mystery of this place made me feel so blissful. It does even to this day and I cannot wake up from this surreal dream.
Standing on a hill, I was wondering where to go next – what place might have been chosen as my next stop. I started going back down, there was a young monk on the road who seemed like he appeared out of nowhere. Seeing the surprised look on my face, he asked if everything is okay. So I replied that on my way nobody could guide me to my dream place.
Thanks to his hospitality, I was able to visit a school where young monks studied (maybe 5 to 10 years old). We spent some time together, went for a walk in a garden where monks meditate and rest – and together with my guide I experienced the magic of Kopan Monastery.
Of course, as my wild curiosity could not stop me from asking how it happened – how he’d become a monk, if his family decided it or was it his decision. I barraged him with other questions – where he came from, what he does every day, why does he live in this place, and why he was not nervous when I asked him questions that probably every tourist asks.
To my surprise, he replied that I was the first tourist he had spoken to as he rarely converses with strangers. He simply focuses on meditation and his own spiritual development. That was another ‘wow’ moment for me.
I honestly did not know how to thank him. We talked about peace, people, the world, traditions, magical places. And I hope to meet him again in Kathmandu. As he appeared from nowhere, in the same way he suddenly bid me farewell, and cordially invited me to visit all places of worship important for Buddhists in Kathmandu. I would like to recall his name but I cannot. It is a pity. My guide from the Nepali sky.
Nepal has enchanted me. It will forever and I will be back soon.
What happened next – a trip to a traditional village, visits to children in schools, orphanages, and trekking.
I invite you to join me in the next episode.
Iwona Cichowicz is a social activist, project coordinator, and career coach – an inspirer of positive changes. She is actively working for migrants and disadvantaged groups. Co-worker with nongovernmental organization with support refugees, migrants and socially excluded people. She contributes to educational, artistic, social and development projects. She is a photographer of everyday life, a traveler in love with the Caucasus and the Himalayas. She is interested in the theatre of movement (performer in the Experimental Group “Szersze”) and Tibetan Buddhism. She values an active lifestyle, travel literature and reportage. With curiosity, she discovers and explores other cultures, finding in their diversity inspiration and the opportunity to meet people.