I have been to Nepal before, so I had an idea of what to expect. My sister, Diane, had not ever been off the continent of North America so she fortunately, did not. I have been involved with an NGO, Canadian Charity IWEN Canada for most of the past 10 years. IWEN is a group committed to rescuing girls from slavery and getting them into school. Now evolved into a charity that supports girls and women, educating them to a place of beautiful empowerment.
But back to my sister Diane and I… We had this idea to create beautiful throw pillow covers from recycled sari fabrics infused with merino wool, which is called felting, to create the most beautiful vibrant fabric.
I knew the flight alone to get to Nepal (30 hours of flights and layovers) would be tough on both of us, and I knew the 13-hour drive out to South Western Nepal (The Dang Region) would be interesting, and I knew from past experience that accommodations may be a bit of a stretch for us “Princesses” who love a good thread count. I hope you are getting my drift.
We booked our tickets, started to plan, and created an agenda so we could see and experience as much of Nepal as possible. We wanted to spend time with our Sewing Moms who we have helped create an industry for themselves sewing beautiful UNAKO products from the small slice of the planet where we have been doing our work.
So I propose to my big sister (Didi in Nepalese) “Hey, if were already in Nepal, we should do a short trek. I mean, when will you ever get back here? And the Himalayas are right there.” I should also point out my Didi only started a walking routine about three months prior to our trip, in Edmonton (flat). But it never crossed my mind that she/we couldn’t do this. She bought herself a NEW pair of hiking boots, I got her a back pack, walking poles, sleeping bag good for -20 degrees, and a trekker’s waterproof duffle bag.
Visitor Visas: Check
Sleeping bags good for cold weather: Check
Hiking Poles: Check
Hiking boots: (mine have seen 1000 kms, hers about 100 kms)
Hiking pants, shirts, jacket etc: Check
More medications than any woman our age needs: Check
Sample pillow covers sewn at home: Check
And a good amount of American cash: The world runs on it.
Life Lessons Learned from Nepal
1. Its good to get out of your comfort zone – Literally! We take our standard of clean for granted and I found that being uncomfortable was good for my soul, my nerves and my disposition. I only feel gratitude coming home to my creature comforts. But it’s not how 80% of the planet lives.
2. Grace and Humility are beautiful leadership qualities. Even with 40 years in a corporate leadership position, we can all buckle under pressure. Just stay calm and be humble. This kind of experience will keep you open to your next challenge.
3. Is it really that Urgent? Productivity happens in Nepal — it just happens on it’s own timeline. The one thing that you can count on in Nepal is the unpredictability of it all. I have always said, there are no rules in Nepal, there are not even suggestions.
4. Collaboration is the Way of this Nation. Everything gets done in a collaborative way. Except they don’t call it that — they just live that way.
4. Don’t let bad communication get in the way of getting things done. We knew no Nepalese and most of them knew very little, if any, English. Simple instructions, open willingness to learn, milk tea on the floor with your colleagues and everyone’s happy.
5. Patience is a rewarded virtue. Don’t be impatient and try and rush to get to your destination. Especially for trekkers who want to hike in the Himalayas, impatience is what makes you sick, literally. Hiking in 9,000 to 18,000 feet of altitude takes acclimation and that takes patience and most North Americans just want to get it done, take the photo and get to the closest hot shower. And no matter how fit you are, the Himalayas will push back and we hikers usually loose in this battle of egos. Diane’s learnings, or rather curiosities about her trip to Nepal, was about the culture and spirituality.
She asked a lot of questions while trekking alongside of Pema Wangchuk, our guide. Her curiosity was about the many flags and prayer wheels that we passed by and their meaning. Understanding their religious culture allowed me to understand more deeply about Nepal and its people. “I wished I would have been connected to this before I arrived in Nepal. Next time….”, she added.
Each flag stimulates peace, harmony, compassion and wisdom. The energy of the prayers and sacred mantras are blown by the wind on the flags and this motion brings Joy, Happiness and Good Health to all who see them. To see these flags moving across the sky does bring Joy and happiness.
The prayer flag colors are repetitious patterns of five colors, each representing the elements of:
- Blue – sky or space
- White – water
- Red – fire
- Green – air or wind
- Yellow – earth
When all five elements are in balance, then all is in health and harmony. The Tibetan word for prayer flag is Lung Ta, which literally means ‘wind horse.’ As the flags fade in the sun and wind the prayers become a permanent part of the universe.
These elaborately carved barrel-shaped drums made in all sizes rotate on a stick and the faithful are called to walk clockwise around the base of the stupa, spinning the wheels as they go.
Reciting the sacred mantra, OM MANI PADME HUM, it is said that anyone who recites this mantra while spinning the wheel is equal in splendor to a thousand Buddhas.
The traditional Tibetan prayer wheel practice beliefs are to visualize pure white light rays being emanated out from the spinning prayer wheel. This pure light comes from the millions of mantras inside the prayer wheel and goes out to ourselves and all sentient beings, purifying, healing, completely illuminating everyone. As the light rays spread throughout the whole vast universe, we all instantly become awakened and realize the Four Immeasurables of Love, Compassion, Joy and Equanimity.
Check out info on the project here: Nepal Project