Sally Benton Post, November 19, 2010

As We Leave

When you leave, part of you stays. I told Mary the other day that I can’t help but become connected to those I’ve met here. Each time I have an encounter with someone, the experience remains with me. I’ve been writing in a journal, and that will help as the vivid images fade, as will the photos and videos.

We’ve accomplished much here, and of course, I feel we could have done so much more. But, that’s the practice for me…tolerance and patience. The people we are working with are generous and sincere, and their culture is not mine. I constantly remind myself that here is where I find myself, and I learn to move at their pace, not mine. I think one of my first blogs was about changing my pace. Looks like I’m still working on it.

We’ve visited 24 and orphanages and schools, and found 18 that can receive a water filter with little work. Went to a Rotary meeting, visited their outstanding projects, and had two meetings with the project director for the water filter project. We visited the Khandbari (Eastern Nepal) Himalayan Education Center hostel, and worked with the manager, Sunita, on a health curriculum and a volunteer handbook, and spent time in helping the girls practice their English by conversing and playing games. Walking 5 days up into the Arun Valley, we visited villages where we’ve placed libraries and toilets, delivered books, opened two libraries in schools, and celebrated with the people there.

We’ve spent time with Nepali shop owners in Kathmandu, missionaries, villagers and a disabled woman who wheelchaired her way 600 miles to raise awareness of the difficulties for handicapped people here. We met other people working in Nepal, such as surgeons and nurses from Hawaii on a medical mission, talked with Habitat for Humanity volunteers from all over the world who’d just built 50 homes in 9 days, got to know young Nepali women who want to become teachers, sang and talked with orphans, and became even better friends with those we’ve met on past visits. And spent early mornings in a monastery, at peace, listening to chants and prayers, and sharing salty Tibetan butter tea.

Just a few days ago we found a new filter that will work when the electricity is working in Kathmandu, and when they have no electricity, (sometimes for 16 hours a day during the winter months). What a find! We’ll bring one home to share with everyone at the celebration at Aspen Hall on December 12th.

And we’ve had our share of fun, trekking in various parts of this stunning country, eating traditional meals of rice and lentils, or dough (called dido) lentil soup.. We’ve shared rituals during festival times, going to people’s homes and receiving tikas and prayers. People have shown us their special places, and guided us to beautiful sights and celebrations. Opportunities to understand the Nepali people abound in this season of festivals. The richness of the culture and caring for each other is brought home to us again and again.

So, when I think of leaving, it brings tears to my eyes. I want to go home, be with my family, and return to my life in Oregon, but part of me is so sad to leave. I learn so much each time I’m here. I’m very much out of my comfort zone at times, but each time that happens, it’s followed by a sheltering and sharing that warms and comforts me. I could spend a lifetime traveling and experiencing this life that is so very different from my own, and learn something every day. I’m reminded how lucky I am to have been born in the US, and how fortunate I am to learn how rich another culture can be compared with my own.

I want to thank Mark and Rand for opening up my world in so many ways. I’m so grateful to be able to be a part of their vision.

It’s a great honor to be here.


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