They Don’t Call it Reverse Culture Shock for Nothing (Goodbye, Nepal part 2)

As I began to disembark the plane, I found myself barking “MOVE” through gritted teeth at those in front of me, only to realize, I’m not in Nepal anymore and any amount of anger or impatience would not necessarily solve my issues now, in a land where people understand me and I’m not always needing to aggressively assert myself.  When I arrived home, my dog jumped and barked excitedly and I was afraid t0 touch her, or even go near her after 6 weeks of avoiding rapid dogs on the streets.  I soon drove with my mom to pick up sushi.  Throughout the drive, there were a few stop signs and one traffic light.  No one was walking around on the streets, as is typical with suburbia, but still……

Last winter, I talked non stop about my summer plans, until it looked as if it wasn’t going to happen, but even then, I was going to Nepal.  I had a feeling.  I usually know when I am right about things.  Weeks ago I said to myself, “I’m having sushi as my first meal when I get home.”  And I did.  I had my sushi and I went to Nepal.  As I stare at my bag, half full of gifts, thinking about how I got away with its heaviness without paying extra fees, thinking about what I’ll tell people as I distribute gifts, thinking about if people will care, especially care that some of my best memories weren’t all emotionally intense cultural experiences nor beatnik earth-embracing base camp treks.  I’m thinking about what they’ll say when I tell them that I am changed in the best way possible, that I’ve met individuals, Americans and Nepalis alike, who helped me to better realize what I want and don’t want out of life, that some of my best memories weren’t ones where I sat in solitude, celibate from spending money, but rather times when I took a break from whatever else seemed chaotic around me and spent a little money here and there on meals out, day trips, 4 green tea smoothies throughout an entire day spent at a cafe with a friend, mostly in silence, but still in one another’s presence.  Maybe I’ll tell people that one of the best parts of my days was coming home to blog about it, because certain days, it almost didn’t feel right just keeping it to myself.  I had to share.

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Nepal will most likely go down in the history of my life as the strangest place I’ve ever been.  Never will a place repulse me so much, yet give me so much to feel good about.  And I’m not talking strictly city versus country, although the country does win by quite a bit.  What I mean is the sense of empowerment I gained from learning to be fully myself in a house full of volunteers, in an office full of Nepalis, and walking around on a street full of maniac drivers and oftentimes creepy pedestrians.  Sometimes being fully myself meant yelling, “Oh, you think you can charge me this much because of my white skin!?  I want Nepali price, not white price!”  And sometimes it just meant freeing all the awkwardities that amount to myself rather than trying to put a cap on all those qualities and tendencies that make me the truest version of me.

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Self discovery also took place during interviews with teachers and young children.  I’ll never forget one brave teacher who told me that just because she is a counselor and teacher to child domestic workers and teaches them to voice their fears and concerns and sorrows aloud, just because she encourages openness and future-oriented minds,  because she encourages the children to have goals, because of this she fears that she will be persecuted. She is afraid to walk down the streets at times, fearing that people will see her as the revolutionary teacher who is untraditional in her methods.  As she said this, I remember thinking that every view I took would be stronger and stronger from this point on in.  Every risk I took would be more intentional.  Thank you to CWISH and my general work as an intern for allowing me the opportunity to think and feel and be inspired in these ways.

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Even for all the times I lied about myself, i.e.: I am 27, 25, 24, married, work for the government, study law, am married to a congressman, getting my PhD, work in human, own and operate an NGO here, am from Ireland, I still managed to feel more myself in the end.  I believe it happens most always when one gets out of where he or she is from, but there was something stronger about Nepal that pushed me to break away from feeling enclosed, quiet, nervous.  Whether I go back or not, I’d like to think that I’ll have a new adventure soon enough, and I’ll feel more confident, more excited, more ready to engage, serve, understand.

I’m not finished blogging, although some may be bored by blogs simply about life and not life in South Asia, but I have to keep going because one day, I will find the words and they will be simple.  But for now, I leave you again with these words:

“Travel is like love, mostly because it’s a heightened state of awareness, in which we are mindful, receptive, undimmed by familiarity and ready to be transformed.  That is why the best trips, like the best love affairs, never really end.” -Pico Iyer

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Namaste, Nepal

& Dhanyabad, & also, Dhanyabad to you guys:

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Love,

LR

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One thought on “They Don’t Call it Reverse Culture Shock for Nothing (Goodbye, Nepal part 2)

  1. Leah,
    Thanks for sharing your experience in Nepal and what it has been like to be back. For those travelers who truly immerse themselves in a culture, it is inevitable that they will be changed by their experience.

    If you’re interested in sharing your experience with others, please check out my online magazine (www.nativeforeignermag.com). It is specifically for those travelers such as yourself who are returning from a long-term trip abroad.

    I personally know how difficult it is to return to your homeland after spending time in another country. Native Foreigner is a place to connect with others and to share your experience with a community of travelers that “get it.”

    Best of luck with your transition home!
    Lindsay

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