Through Work Away, I found a host family/ farm in a village near Sitapalia, a suburb of Kathmandu known for the Monkey Temple (Swayambhunath).
Because it is monsoon season and there is not much work to do and the graciousness of my host family, I have had ample time to explore the surrounding area. The day after I arrived, the other volunteers and I went out for a walk down the road to see if we could reach a nearby monastery on the top of a hill. The afternoon rain came almost as soon as we started and we contemplated turning back. I will be forever grateful that we didn’t. The sun soon cleared and we got some spectacular views of Kathmandu valley and the sprawling city. As well as the foothills that surround it.
We followed the road until it turned into someones garden and we could go no further so we turned back around. On the way home we heard a loud celebration, chanting and music coming from what looked to be a decrepit brick building. We joked about going to join the party, at first, then we decided hey lets go check it out and see what’s happening. We followed the sound to find a group of people gathered in a temple both inside and out. Inside was a small band playing with a pipe and sitar and wild drumbeats. Everyone packed inside was clapping and chanting along. Some of those outside as well. They stared at us bewildered of how some tourists wandered into their small temple, and invited us to sit with wide smiles and encouraging nods. My companions stuffed inside near the music and I went to explore a little bit.
I followed a path that lead to a large painted boulder. Three men were standing around it, I really wanted to see it but was nervous to approach three men essentially in the forest alone. I took a deep breath smiled and said namaste as I approached. Two of them were my age and one elder. They looked at me surprised at first but the two younger ones spoke English and we began to talk. They didn’t ask why or how I had gotten there but immediately started explaining to me about the rock. They explained that this was a Hindu temple and every Monday of the month they celebrate for Shiva’s birthday. The rock was a symbol of Shiva and his wife Parvati. The elder, (the old man with them) felt inspired by god one night and came up to the temple to paint the rock. And now they were praying to Shiva and Parvati. And that’s when he said;
“Many people come here to find god”
“God is everywhere here”
“So, which god do you pray to?”
“I don’t know, all of them”
“Yes, god is god.”
I smiled, so much said in such a simple sentence. I said goodbye and went to join the others. When I went back they were inside and there was no room for me so I squeezed myself between two women sitting outside. Luckily one of them was a young student who just started university and we began to talk. While we were talking a few elder women in elaborate saris began to dance. One set her eyes upon me and pulled my to my feet. Soon it was just me and this woman dancing in a crowd of people, having no idea what to do I tried to mimic her movements the best I could. I tried to forget how embarrassing it was and remember I literally didn’t know anyone there and was never going to see them again. I relieved myself from the dancing and the music soon ended. Everyone poured out of the temple and they started to pass out rolls of newspaper filled with over-fried treats and cups of milk tea.
It was one of those moments when you think; this can’t be real life. But this, this is real life.
And only one of the fantastic experiences I had during my stay at Sunrise Farm.
Having my own personalized cooking lessons (mamma dictating to me exactly what spices to add to the curry, how to make dhal, and chopping a lottttttt of vegetables), we learned how to make momos from scratch my first night and spent an entire day in the kitchen rolling out dough for puri to celebrate puja for the new house.
Hiking around to the surrounding monasteries and getting to see the entire Kathmandu valley.
But, most importantly, being a part of a community. A family that is so unbelievably welcoming I never felt out of place since the moment I stepped in the door, and fellow volunteers that renewed my faith that there are people committed to changing this world for the better.