The home stretch

Sunday 11/02/18: Eeekk! There are only nine more sleeps until we leave our rural community and head back to Kathmandu for two weeks’ debriefing; report writing; R and R; and the thing I’m looking forward to most, a hot shower. All of a sudden, my position has changed from, “We’ve still got xx days” to “Eeekk, we’ve only got x days!”. It’s amazing how a single digit can change your perspective.

Before the big D-day arrives, there’s a flurry of excitement as we cram as much activity in to nine days as possible; two Community Action Days (big-scale, big-budget, big-impact events); a group picnic with all the host families; an Action Learner Day (peer education focusing on the UN’s sustainable development goals); a team meeting day; a handful of last minute projects; 1:1s with the team; a day’s celebration for one of our birthdays; and I’ve got to fit in a day-trip to Kathmandu to extend my visa. Yikes! Suddenly, after endless days in community, we seem to be running short of time.

There have been moments over the last week or so when I’ve been feeling a bit under the weather. It’s been a lot tougher mentally than I expected and I’d started to let the differences and challenges get on top of me. It had become about just trying to get through it, as though these three months were some sort of endurance test. “Surviving rather than thriving” were one friend’s accurate words; shameless plagiarism of Bear Grylls notwithstanding, the point remains true.

Now, however, with the end in sight and with feeling physically better again (doesn’t take a genius to make a link between the two), I find myself actually relaxing despite our busy schedule.

Once again, I have the head-space to remember how lucky I am to be here and the realisation that these experiences and challenges are all part of something bigger. I remind myself to be present in the moment. I stop and watch in awe at the countless Steppe eagles that soar overhead and marvel at the snow capped mountains in the distance.

I am again filled with wonder at the beautiful strangeness of Nepal. The green parrots chattering in the trees or the pristinely white cattle-egret that loiters wherever soil is being tilled in the hope that a tasty something is uncovered.

These are the things I want to recall when I get home – an appreciation of the every day.

The sound of goats punctuating the air with their bleats and yells like a panicked disjointed chorus. Huge, prehistoric-looking buffalo tethered alongside docile milk cows. Packs of dogs wandering with intent on unknown adventures or sunbathing unconcernedly by the side of the road.

Yesterday, two large yellow-throated martens (like otters on steroids) exploded from a bush, scuffling and dashing in front of me – this is what they look like when you’re too slow to get your camera out:

Yeah, I can’t see them either but there’s a tail chasing another somewhere off in that lush landscape.

And the people! I love the bright clothes and cheerful welcome of the locals with their gentle mocking of my ridiculously inept Nepalese. They make this country rich in ways not measured by GDP.

Most of all, I appreciate my Nepalese and UK volunteers; their passion, talent and resiliency has been truly inspirational and will stay with me for a long time after I’ve returned to Scotland. Who knew the yoof of today could be so impressive?! (Jokes)

I woke up this morning to a stunning sky, it’s been a lot warmer these last couple of days after a bit of a cold snap, and I felt a restorative peace and calm. As I scored off my countdown calendar and saw that only single-digit days remain, I realised that while I’m really excited about getting home, there’s a lot of stuff here that I’m definitely going to miss too.

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