Kathmandu– “I know I am so blessed to have two places in the world that I am now lucky enough to call home. However, as blessed as I am, for me this comes with constant cultural struggles including a daily routine of reflecting, processing and understanding so much that is still so unfamiliar. My more recent experiences in Nepal have often resulted in tears on my part as I constantly battle with the discrepancies between my own cultural values, belief system and upbringing while maintaining respect and normality for my partner as we live in Nepal as a Nepali couple. On more than one occasion I have become absolutely pessimistic and disapproving of the country from where my future husband is from.“
I know that for those of you who have been to Nepal and experienced this amazing country, you may be scratching your head wondering how I could possibly feel this way – a visually spectacular country with amazing views and incredible sights every way you turn as well as the most hospitable and beautiful people you may ever meet. I agree. I absolutely do. However, for me it was the hidden cultural beliefs and the unexpected cultural challenges that I had not at all seen or predicted when I fell in love in mid-2014. The traditional subculture of Nepal challenges me on a daily basis.
“While I know I sometimes fail, I always try to appreciate that living in an environment with such diversity, when compared to my ‘norm’, and the ability to understand more than one culture is an incredibly unique opportunity.
I had always battled with the idea of living in Nepal with a Nepali family as the partner of a Nepali as an Australian. Recently one of my most special friends said to me, “If you lose sight of your culture, you also run the risk of losing sight of yourself.” This was something I needed to hear, and her kindness provided me with another avenue for processing my thoughts as I navigate this journey that is my life. Whether right or wrong, I had battled internal thoughts for so long.
“Is it okay to incorporate my own culture when I am living in a different country? Is it respectful? Will my cultural practices upset the people in Nepal who I care about and who care about me the most? Will people’s perceptions about me change because of what I want and what I need as an individual?“
One of my biggest philosophies in life is that there is an indescribable beauty derived when we learn from one another and viewing the world from a different perspective allows us to grow and become more open to ideas and concepts and as individuals. Each time this opportunity presents itself, it is a magnificent lesson in life and an absolutely awe-inspiring part of humanity!!
My Life Lessons in Nepal
I am an incredibly lucky person; I have had a great education, endless personal and professional opportunities and the absolute freedom to travel and visit new destinations. It is my perception that I live one of the most privileged lives imaginable and in my mind it is the best life I could have ever imagined – the highs the lows and everything in between. However, I was recently reminded that while some privilege is fact, other privilege is subjective. There are great things in my life that I feel are a privilege, but that others may not view as a privilege. Nonetheless, I still often find myself feeling guilty for the hand that I was dealt in this life. It is something I have found myself having to work through on a regular basis and is something that I still process and reflect on daily, at times so much so that it becomes exhausting.
I reflect on this in Nepal as I walk through the dusty streets filled with endless potholes, rubbish and stumbling individuals from alcohol overdoses because everything became too much. I reflect on this as I hear stories of people living day to day unsure of when the next pay cheque will arrive or loved ones gone missing abroad because that was the only way the family could see that they could survive. I reflect on this as I see beggars lining the streets, often with small children and babies, and I reflect on this when I see people sleeping in their rickshaws in the winter months and some with not much more than the clothes on their back.
My reflection process continues regularly when I am home in Australia. My heart breaks and I feel utter despair when I see people living on the streets, living in their cars, and struggling on a daily basis to meet the basic human physiological and safety needs in our “lucky country”. I am aware of the painful struggles experienced by many Australians and when I say this to people, I often get asked the question, “Then why do you travel to other countries when you witness such pain and struggle at your doorstep? “
Great question! Yes, absolutely there are incredible challenges within the context of Australia and my heart breaks the same way it does in Nepal each time I return and the same way it did every single day for the 6 months I lived in Sierra Leone, West Africa. However, I see the absolute beauty of our mate ship, kindness and generosity in Australia and it is my belief that our Australian government and the non-government bodies provide a solid infrastructure and ongoing support for its people that far outweighs what is provided in many other countries worldwide – that is why I have chosen to use my skills to provide healthcare to people in Nepal and in other developing countries around the globe.
There are layers and layers of complexities associated with every country around the world and with the hardships I have seen both in Australia and abroad, one of the biggest lessons – if not the biggest – I have learned in my life to date is, “Education is absolutely priceless and I beg of you never to take it for granted!”