Monday, August 1, 2016

Blog of the Week ~ Brian Miller, On Life in Nepal

Today, my friends, I am thrilled to bring you a guest article by Brian Miller, of Waystation One, recently returned from his time in Nepal. I woke up one morning thinking what a good idea this would be, and he kindly agreed, busy though he is. I know you are going to drink in each word as deeply as I did. For this magical trip, I wanted to get completely out of the way, so I asked Brian to just tell us what is in his mind and heart about his time there, what stands out for him, and what all of this did for his soul. 

Let us prepare ourselves. The sun is rising over the Himalayas, yak bells tinkle as the big beasts amble past, the ancients sitting on benches in the morning sun watch us with wry, twinkly, knowing eyes, cautioning us to calm our haste and centre our hearts for our very first visit to Nepal.


*   *   *   *   *



Brian Miller and buddy in Nepal


Waking up in a new place – the light is different as it filters through the window drawing squares on the concrete. Maybe it is softer. Maybe it is brighter. Maybe this is the illusion of the hopes we have for where we find ourselves. And perhaps we just have not been there long enough for the shadows to gain enough mass for you to notice.

Nepal chose me – I was just willing.


The most logical starting point is when I met Jaime. Things were already at work prior to our meeting, but that moment is a lens that focuses the rest of the story. Jaime is scruffy, but sharp, arms covered with tattoos,  strong, but humble. He is married with kids and several years ago, he packed everything up and moved to Costa Rica – to start a church.

I listened to his story without much thought, only knowing that I was very interested in what he was saying. It was not easy. They had been robbed, had been afraid, but trusted. It was one of those talks that sticks with you, that digs into you without you even noticing, until later --- when it erupts out of your chest.

“I have this summer – and I am willing to do whatever you need.”

“Have you ever thought about Nepal.”

The actual words have been lost to time, but this is the essence of the beginning and from that moment on, I started telling people I was going to Nepal – I just had to figure out how to get there.

~~~~~~~~~~~

To get to Nepal, you can go either West across the ocean to Dubai or East across the ocean to Germany or the Netherlands then to Delhi. From there you fly into Kathmandu (which reminds me of an old Bob Seger song). Everything is relatively normal to this point. If you have been in an airport, you know the basic scene – only the people are different, and what they sell at the shops.

I met a man in Delhi who sold Mercedes airplane engines. He was traveling to Nepal to meet with a group out of the international airport. He had tried to teach his daughter math, knew the difficulty of it – and was very interested in my being a teacher. Brian Tracy was his favorite speaker/author. He would be flying to go to one of his seminars soon.




Arriving in Kathmandu, everything you expect changes a bit. The baggage area is chaotic, and in what feels like a cross between a basement and a dungeon. It is all stone and brick, there is a mixture of doors and arched openings. It is rather dimly lit, as if the edges of your view are fading into unconsciousness. Everyone is sweating. As much as they want to seem organized, bags arrive at different times and on various belts.

After 40 minutes of watching people on the plane with me take their luggage and disappear, listening to the grumbling of those still waiting and realizing I am the only one that speaks English regularly – I find a porter and explain in a series of small words and hand signals that I need my luggage. I promise him a tip if he can help me. It takes 10 minutes, and passing him $5 he takes me through customs, letting them know I am okay – and them believing him and passing me through the line and releasing me into the country.

The light is blinding stepping out of baggage. There are hundreds of people; waiting for people to arrive, ready to carry your bags, to give you a ride. If you are an American, you are rich – this is a reality, even if you are not. It is all about perspective and what you compare yourself to. I will come to learn this later.

The heat is oppressive. It hugs your body immediately, not just the exposed skin but everywhere, and you thought you were sweating before but that was only foreshadowing. Everyone is talking, asking – say No again and again.

To get from the International terminal to the domestic terminal in Kathmandu, you have to jump a fence and take a jungle path.

~~~~~~~~~


trekkingtours.nepal.com

Seeing the Himalayas from the air is a humbling experience. Seeing the ribbon of snow peeling off of Everest is humbling. 



en.m.wikipedia.org


Seeing their massiveness rise up through the clouds – you feel so small. Dharan is  huddled in the foothills of these giants.

Every place has a smell. Dharan’s is a mixture of the open sewers in the streets, the wide range of animals (which are everywhere), the sweat that coats everyone and the unwashed. Water is collected at each house in a 1000 litre tub on the roof, which feeds the spigots and showers. There is no water heater. The toilet is a “squatty” – which is little more than a hole in the ground. Toilet paper is limited – and if it is used, is not put into the toilet – it is placed in a pail for burning. There is a bucket of water in the corner to wash your left hand after wiping. When clothes are washed, they still carry the scent of sweat. Butchers slaughter animals on the roadside and sell large sections of the pig or chicken. And there is incense from all the idols. Trash is often just thrown out – there is trash everywhere. All of these things come together to form the scent of Dharan. After 24 hours, you will no longer smell it – you will be it.




Brian Miller photo



There are many reasons you would not go to Dharan, but once you get beyond yourself and your comfort, they are beautiful people. Everyone stares at foreigners. They will watch everything you do. If you make eye contact or greet them by templing your fingers and saying Namaste or Jamisee, they will want to talk to you.

They will invite you to have tea with them. You will accept, because otherwise you are drinking lukewarm water out of your bottle that you ran through a sterilizer, boiled and then put under UV light to kill anything in it. (Side note: when you shower, you keep your mouth and eyes closed so that you do not take in any contaminated water). They will invite you into their home or shop and offer you popcorn, which is a snack that looks nothing like the popcorn you are used to – it is more like over roasted corn. And while you can’t always communicate with words – you will learn to use small words and hand signals.

Every day I met new people, who introduced me to new people. If they knew any English it usually was “What is your name?”, “How are you?” or “Why you are here?” At the beginning of my journey, I told God that whoever he put in front of me, I would talk with – so I did, and ended up in many homes, in cars with strangers and ate food that I had been warned against eating, for fear of disease and sickness. I trusted that I would be kept safe and healthy – and I was.



Brian Miller photo


There is a much more natural rhythm to life in Nepal. They rise with the sun every day (usually around 4 am) and go to bed with the sun (at 8 pm). The power usually is out at bedtime, so the fan in the room will not run until the middle of the night. When it does come on you are in a puddle of sweat so it is freezing, so you cover up with blankets – even though it is in the 90s.

Walking or scootering is the typical mode of transportation. There are many trucks and buses, but very few personal vehicles. The taxis are a mix of a motor bike and a rickshaw. I walked 5.7 miles to get to the school where I taught, and then the same back home each night. Occasionally, I would get a motorbike ride. Some of the route was roads of broken asphalt and stones – the rest was a trail through the jungle. Halfway through the jungle there was a river to ford – 40-50 feet wide and depending on the monsoon rains, anywhere from 6 inches deep to several feet. People wash their bodies and their clothes in the waters of the river. It is not clean water. People die each year caught in the currents.



Brian Miller photo



My day began at 4:30 am by walking 1.5 miles to the shop of a man that was a new Christian. I discipled him and another man for 30 minutes before walking the rest of the way to the school. The school where I taught was in a village at the base of the mountains. The school building had walls made of bamboo and a roof of corrugated metal. The school grows its own rice and corn, which they use to make lunches for the students. I learned how to put in rice beds – it is not easy work.
Lunch and dinner mainly consisted of rice with dahl (bean soup/sauce) and a leafy vegetable. I had meat only 3 times over the month I was there. Occasionally, we would eat ramen noodles with chickpea and fresh onion, just to mix it up.

From 7-9 am I taught a seminary class to a group of pastoral students. From 10 am-3 pm, I taught English/Phonics to children in kindergarten, first and second grade. 



Brian Miller photo


On Saturdays, I taught in the local churches. The church where I spent most of my time was among the river people. The river people are of the lowest caste and considered to be “unclean” and the undesireables to the rest of society. The river people live along the river in shanty houses and during monsoon season, when the river rises, it can flood and destroy their whole “town” -- killing many.

~~~~~~~~~

Within days of my arrival, twelve Christians were jailed because it is illegal to share your faith in public. I never felt like I was in any real danger while I was in Nepal – even with going into people’s houses, accepting rides from strangers and telling people about Christ.



Brian Miller photo


Nepal schools are similar to American schools in that they go up to 12th grade. Kindergarten is split into Upper Kindergarten (UKG) and lower Kindergarten (LKG). Kindergarteners are usually 4 or 5. School is not free in Nepal and the quality of the school can be dictated by the amount of money that you can pay. The school where I taught cost $5 a month per child. While this may not seem like much, remember that the average annual family income in Nepal is $720. If you can't afford school, attendance is not compulsory. Many of the poorer families may train their child to be a laborer at an early age - or have them help out on the family farm instead of going to school.

Another expense is that children are required to wear a uniform. The less expensive schools have utilitarian browns that can more easily be washed and rinsed, or that do not show dirt. Boys wear a button up shirt and slacks (some schools require a tie), and girls wear a blouse and skirt (some schools require a sash). Extras are added to the ensemble for the more extravagant schools. Haircuts are limited to conservative lengths - which made my Mohawk the talk of the town.


Brian Miller photo


The children generally walk to school down jungle trails, paths that are little more than dry creek beds or the upraised walls of the rice beds. They gather into groups as they pass one another and travel together, often without parents. Even the four and five year olds. Distances travelled to get to school vary in the number of miles. Some students may have to take a public bus, or walk for several hours, depending on how far up in the mountains they live.

The behavioral expectations on schoolchildren is very high. Corporal punishment is culturally accepted and it is typical to see spankings handed out each day, in front of the class, or students are made to stand on their desk to receive their punishment. This was extremely disturbing to me - and I worked to affect change at the school where I was teaching.

One day, a teacher was ten minutes late  arriving at class after lunch. The kindergarten students were running around in the classroom having fun - because there was no one providing supervision or to tell them otherwise. The teacher made the entire class stand on the seats of their desks as she went around spanking each of them several times, lecturing them on obedience.

I was so angry, I went to the administrator and had him pull the teacher from the classroom. I told him I wanted to go into the classroom and spank the teacher in front of the class - like I said, I was rather angry. I did not spank her - but I did confront her on being late to class and how that affects student behavior, and how it was not acceptable to punish students for the teacher's misdeeds. (My blood pressure is up, replaying this moment in my mind. Ha.) 


Brian Miller photo

Students can purchase lunch for a nickel. It generally consists of some kind of noodle, either ramen or chow mein, with a fresh vegetable chopped in the bowl with it. Many students bring their own food, a tube of crackers or biscuits (which are like tea cookies), or uncooked ramen they crush and eat raw.

The academic expectations are not very high for the students. In order to pass a grade, the students must pass the final exam - the passing grade has to be above 38%. This is considerably low in relation to the United States, and accounts in part for the 65% illiteracy rate for Nepal.

Classes at the school are from 10 a.m. - 3 p.m. Students take Math, Science, English, Nepal, Social Studies, Character and Computer. I took five laptops to the school - until that time, the school had one laptop (no internet connection), and students learned basic keyboarding on dry erase boards.

The school would like to start a physical education program, but does not have the funding to put in a playground or to get the necessary equipment. They do have a field where after school the students will often play soccer with a few of the teachers.

Students regularly do not have school supplies, or the supplies they have are leftovers from a job, or scavenged. Pencils will be broken into thirds, so they can be shared. Notebooks are kept until every page is used. I collected pencil shards that were left around and kept them in my pocket to give to students that did not have their own.

Toys are few and far between in the village where I taught. Cheap plastic cars can be purchased but are not a priority in such a suppressed economy. Balls are a toy that many of them have, as they learn football (soccer), and play various games with balls. Old bike tires and a stick are hours of enjoyment. Children scavenge trash from the river to dismantle and build play radios, or walls of a fort.




Brian Miller photo
 

It is the children I miss the most. They love to talk, even if we cannot understand each other. They found it humorous that I did not know what they were saying, but were eager to learn to communicate in English. Every morning I met them at the gate to the school to say "Namaste" or "Jamisee", and "Good Morning" - telling them to "have a goo day" and showing them that I was excited for them to be there. This was very different from what they are used to.

The Nepal culture is not very physically affectionate. But I taught a few of them that it was okay to give hugs. The first day I was there, I picked the biggest, manliest man on campus and gave him a hug. It made him completely uncomfortable, but every day he accepted my hugs with laughter. I had two little boys that would run to me every morning screaming "good morning" as they ran into my arms for a hug. It was one of the highlights of my day, each day.

~~~~~~~~

Odd ball story:

It took one and a half to two hours each day to walk to the school from where I stayed. There are no public bathrooms along the way - so you have to be sure to use the facilities before you start your hike. Or keep a wash cloth with you - or make sure you use the jungle near the river so you can rinse your hands afterward. Do not lean against a tree either, as the insects can be unforgiving.

~~~~~~~

The greatest challenge I had was coming home from Nepal. I took a bus for an hour to Biratnagar, which is the closest air field. It is relatively small; the largest plane out of there is a 20 seater. I flew from there to the domestic terminal at Kathmandu, jumped the fence and walked the jungle path to the international terminal.






At the airport, security is tight -- you have to have a printed itinerary and ID to get into the building. So I get in, wait in line...there are no kiosks by airline, it is all a mess of lines...and if you leave 6 inches in front of you, someone will cut in line...as they think that is what you are saying by leaving space...so you just about have to hug the guy in front of you.

After 90 minutes I get through the line and they tell me they can not let me go to India because I do not have a sufficient visa. I tell them I am a transfer passenger and don’t need a visa...but my travel agent screwed up and gave me a 26 hour layover in India - transfer is only good for 24 hours.

They put me on the next flight - 22 hours later. I have to buy a new ticket – because the ticket I had is non-transferable.

I tell the lady that I will just sleep in the airport, as I am in a foreign country and no one speaks my language.  All the printers in the entire airport were out so they could not print me a new itinerary, so I really can not leave the airport. She says this is fine.

Luckily, one kiosk that sells soda and candy bars takes credit card, because I spent all my money so I would not take any home with me.

At 11 pm, the military clears the airport -- decked out with their machine guns etc. They tell me I have to leave. I still don’t have an itinerary to get back in and there is a monsoon outside. But they tell me I must go. I ask them what I am supposed to do for shelter. They say they don’t care, I just can’t stay there.

I go outside, and get under a concrete column, with all my luggage, and figure I will stay there for the next 7 hours. At least I have a little shelter from the storm…kinda.

Twenty minutes later the military is back. I can not stay under the column and must leave airport property. I am escorted out into the rain and they close the gate behind me. I am in the rain, with all my luggage, in a foreign country, in the middle of the night, and no one speaks my language.

A car pulls up, similar to a Ford Escort and this guy that can barely speak English rolls down his window and says. "Twenty dollars, i give you ride and place to stay."

Ok, at this point he is either from God, or I am about to die...so I get in the car with my luggage and he takes off down the back alleys of Kathmandu, which are not really roads and have no streetlights. After a few minutes, he stops in a dark alley and says, "This is where you get out." HEADLINE:  Dead American found in back alley of Kathmandu.

The driver gets out of the car and goes over to a metal door in the alley. He bangs on the door and begins yelling in Nepali. Remember it is the middle of the night...

A man comes out -- dressed in pink HELLO KITTY pajamas (I cannot make this stuff up, it’s too bizarre) and the driver says, "This is the man you will stay with." I have watched way too many movies about having friendly cellmates in jail because my imagination is running away at this point.

They carry my luggage into the house, to a back room and put me in there. I close the door, put the luggage against it, and lay on the bed and watch reruns of Euro 2016 matches...(the first tv i have watched in over a month)...but i am not going to sleep.

Believe it or not, the guy showed back up at 6 am to take me to the airport.

The rest of the way home was relatively smooth sailing, no delays. A little sickness in Delhi after eating at a McDonald’s – ha, after all I ate in Nepal, it’s McDonald’s that gets me.

~~~~~~~~~

After a month away from home, I cried when I took my first hot shower. I cried when I saw my family. I almost cried getting to sleep on a mattress, but I fell asleep too fast for that to happen.

The hardest transitions home were the noise level and consumerism. In Nepal, there were very few people with whom I could actually have a conversation. Much of my time there I had broken conversations and then those I had with God. There was a lot of silence. It was quite lonely because of this, but it was also very refreshing.

The Nepali people are quite poor, economically. The average household income is $720 a year. The teachers, at the school where I worked, made $30 a month. The shops sell necessities. There are very few toys or frivolities. Walking into a Walmart, after coming home, it is overwhelming to see all the things people buy – and perhaps feel a little guilt at my own spending.

The school had no playground, because they could not afford the expense. One of the things that my family is considering is purchasing playground equipment for them as a Christmas gift – or hiring a local to build a playground, which will be even less expensive and support the local economy.

Next summer, I plan on returning to Nepal. I am writing curriculum to do a teacher training program over a 6 week period. In Nepal, the teachers do not have to have a certification to teach below 5th grade, so many of them have never been taught how to teach.
IN WORDS, ABSENCE OF LIFE


"Uaha vanhole,"

the old man says from the front porch,
a couple hundred feet set-back
behind a copse of trees.

"What?"

"Faithful. You are faithful."

(This is the neighbor that hides hind the trunks
to catch those whose speed-o-meters trip just a bit
too high - through the hood.)

I give him a thumbs up,
& keep moving -

He is referring to my walking, 1.7 miles every morning, 
to usher the sun up,
3.4 every evening, to tuck it in -- & fluff its pillows
Is this the extent of my belief?

One foot in front of the next, an ever forward movement,
a discipline, a habit which can fit on a bumper sticker -
21 days to each new atonement

Too many habits, I might as well be a nunnery,
& I wonder do they see - God
more for giving up the feeling of warmth beneath the weight
of your love-making.

In Nepal I did 5.7 miles each way from where I slept
to the school where I taught & then again
when I returned each evening.

This is less

Keesor. Naran. Prakash.
Ramesh. Rasu. Saman. Dahn. Srijan.
Manu.

A month later and I have already forgotten most of the names
that rang like the bells of the Hindus each morning at 4:30 
to wake up their gods - themselves

I don't know, I can only go by what the streetvendor told me
as we stood listening for the sun to come over the mountain,
"Does your god believe in you?"

Are you more than what you do, in relation to
the story you tell, with lips less than 12 inches from a heart
that beats a wild rumpus for something else - beyond this...

existence...

tell me what love is

more or less

let me hear, the song of your steps, a whisper of breath-less
wonder in the iris, the expanding or contracting pupil, ever learning to adjust
to the light//the dark//the shadows in between

that look like trees
but are people - you just haven't had a chance
to meet

yet.

"I am faithful."

I laugh. I cry. I learn to love my enemy - myself,
that always seems to get in the way,
of the promise of belief.

~~~~~~~~~


There is so much I could share about my trip, but this is just a snapshot of my summer in Nepal. If you have any questions, please leave them in the comments below and I will do my best to respond to them.

-----------

Sherry: Wow, Brian, I feel like I was right there with you. Especially under the bit of roof in the monsoon, and then in the dark alley. LOL. I was riveted by every word. What a glorious, soul-expanding experience.

The children break my heart. You must have wanted to take a few home with you.

I love the idea of a playground for Christmas. Maybe some of us can contribute towards that fund? At Poets United and dVerse, anyone who feels so moved? I will, for certain. Put the call out, when you are ready to begin, okay? We will spread the word.

Brian: That sounds really good. Anyone who wants to donate can contact me and we can take it from there.

Sherry: Thank you, good pilgrim, for sharing your amazing journey with us. And thank you for being the kind of man who wants to do meaningful work with your life, who treks to Nepal to help teachers and children, to share your  faith and your good heart. I hope you will write a book of your continuing journeys there. For now, I am very grateful you took the time to share your journey with us. We are so happy to have you back!

Sigh. Wasn't this just THE BEST, kids? I knew it would be. I felt the same re-entry discomfort , leaving the mountains of Nepal and the tinkling yak bells to re-enter our loud consumer society. But there are good hearts here, too, and we just listened to one of them. 

Do come back and see who we talk to next. We will be looking at three poems about Looking Back, always a poignant topic to contemplate. 



95 comments:

  1. Wow!!! A true life is this! You are very courageous Brian. It’s so important to get out of the routine bound life sometimes and listen to the inner calling. It is rewarding and humbling. To be in the world of silence and that too in the Himalayas was a great gift of life to you. A real morale booster to Faith and Trust and adventure is an added bonus (with all its pros and cons). Such an enjoyable read! Sherry, Kudos, once again.

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    1. this trip meant a lot to me sumana - it stretched me in new ways. i have done plenty of humanitarian and missions work but it had all been in the Americas. It def changed me in many ways.

      Being among them for over a month, my heart aches for the connections we shared. I was telling Sherry yesterday that the village I was in, was over run by the river this week -- over 42 houses wiped out, 4-500 without homes & at least 9 dead.

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    2. This is so very sad. During Monsoon this happens almost every year. Life is hard for the majority of people whether in Nepal or in India. Suffering is there. sometimes opulence brings it about and sometimes poverty.

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    3. It is very sad to contemplate those who were already struggling to survive , now so devastated, and some of them no longer here. I am wondering if our playground fund might need to change to more immediately urgent needs?

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    4. it is a very hard life, for many. being poor can perpetuate things - i was reading an article on the river people and how they will mine from the river to make a little money, to live - and yet that contributes to the flooding - and more dying.

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  2. A fascinating read of your summer in Nepal Brian. I am familiar with the poor and sad conditions of where you were, including the chaotic airport. You, with your hair & American race, would have stood out in the place where education, and basic comforts that we enjoyed here, are luxuries. But I bet you, some of them are happy in their simple ways, without the burden of commercialism. The smiles of the children are precious.

    It would be a wonderful project to help them out. Thanks for the feature Sherry.

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    1. oh, i would be happy in their simple ways - trust me. ha. the rhythm of their life - the sleeping with the sunset and rising with the sun - i loved it. and i did not feel the need to spend a whole lot of money - every day was a trusting for the necessities.

      i think once you get beyond your own comforts, you can really begin to see the beauty of the world.

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    2. I agree. One time, we spent an overnight on an island (you get there via small boat) and there was only a few bamboo houses (walls and beds). There was no tv or radio but you sleep to the roar of the waves, and wake up to the rooster or animals sounds. It is a different kind of lifestyle, smiles.

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  3. Trying to find an appropriate adjective for this, but that only seems to trivialize it, Brian. You are a light bearer. Thank you for being one of those who are the part of humanity that can be admired, and justifies our existence on this planet, instead of, you know, the other kind we see too much of. We all can learn lessons from the simplicity of the lives of those in your village, who live a very full existence on so little--so sorry to hear about the flooding.

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    1. thank you joy. good to see you.
      it is what it is. and i guess i am what i am. smiles. i look forward to going back next year, and also putting some time in down in costa rica. these are things i wanted to do but never really had the ooportunity. and so much to learn from these places as well. humbling, considering how i have at times in my past felt poor and yet...

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    2. Joy, I am so happy you stopped by, with your caring heart. Yes, I LOVE the good-hearted of the world, whom we need so badly to outshine the darker goings-on.

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  4. If ever I wondered about the goodness of mankind ~ I never will again. I am humbled. Thank you Sherry and Brian.

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    1. You know, I took away much more than I ever gave while I was there. I can not wait to return to the friends that I made.

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  5. "After 24 hours, you will no longer smell it – you will be it." ... Wow. That is powerful. Still reading, but I wanted to quote that and it's hard to go back and forth on my phone. (I know. I know. "Kite-people problems.")

    Psst. Don't forget to tell them the story you left out ... about what happened in the jungle. :)

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    1. Ha. I alluded to the story in the PSA on making sure you had wash cloths and to make sure you poop before leaving home --- but yeah, I had to poop in the jungle cause the other option was to poop myself. I was an hour from the nearest toilet and I was on the jungle path. And there were people still walking the path on the other side of the trees. Lol. It could have been traumatizing for all of us, but luckily I only disturbed the ants...and maybe a monkey.

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    2. LOL. You left out the - um - juiciest parts!!!!

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    3. ha. that might have been intentional. after a steady diet of rice and dahl...its probably best i left some details out.

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  6. I love the pictures of the sweet babies you were teaching! That little girl in braids, sitting by herself, is gorgeous.

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    1. She is a mountain girl - rescued from a tribe that abandoned her (i think)...she was very malnourished when they first found her and very weak. She is now able to eat most of the traditional nepali diet and even handle a little chicken. She and I connected through smiles - and I shared a meal with her adoptive family -- and saw her several times a week.

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    2. I want her to come live with me. :(

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  7. The part that made me cry was that the kids don't have a playground, but that you and Tara (and hopefully some extended family) might try to remedy that.

    I still love the story about the Hello Kitty PJs. Such a surreal, humorous moment. :)

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    1. They will have a playground soon, one way or another. already working in that regard, but it will probably have to wait until the flooding passes.

      surreal indeed. ha. surreal is def the right word for it. i kept in contact with some guys back home on a sat phone during it, and i think it blew their minds as well.

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    2. I am planning to contribute and am hoping that some of the poets might be moved to contribute to this cause as well. Anyone who is so moved, please contact Brian and he will tell us the how's and when's. Smiles. The thought of those children playing on some cool equipment makes me happy. Brian, I like your idea of hiring some locals to build it, thus helping them doubly.

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  8. A life of deprivation very different from the urbanized life that we understand it. Funny enough it is still typical of the kind of life found in many rural areas in many countries. To be there in person will make one realize how fortunate we are to have facilities at the ready, available when desired - even as simple as internet connection that we take for granted.Thanks for sharing Brian and a grand choice Sherry!

    Hank

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    1. We are def fortunate, and insulated from a lot of the the things that I saw. I have seen extreme poverty in America, particularly in the abandoned coal towns in KY -- but it is very different. And regardless, the people in Nepal were beautiful and kind.

      Lack of communication was difficult, mainly because of family. The time difference made it difficult to talk on the sat phone, but i did get to speak to them every day.

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  9. I cried throughout most of this reading. Joy and sadness are such a mix. Thank you Brian for your generosity and courage. Mostly, I think you give love and function from its core. What you've shared opens my heart to you and to those you met on your stay in Nepal. What a blessing to know you.
    Sherry, thank you too for being so astute as to know that we all can benefit from Brian's trip. At this moment, I feel proud to be human thanks to Brian and thanks to you.

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    1. Thank you Myrna. We are in an odd time as a country and even a world. We are seeing more nationalist and isolationalist tendencies. Look at Trumps desire to build a wall and all the support he got from the idea.

      I understand the fear, but we can not let that keep us from touching our world.

      I had dinner with a friend after returning home, and his father challenged why i had to overseas to do this - why i could not do it at home. it is def needed. and i do give a lot here, but it def gives you a much different appreciation seeing the expanded world.

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  10. A truly wonderful read! My experience of Nepal was rather different. We stayed several weeks with old friends in Kathmandu – and made new friends too. It's a big city, of course, rather than a little village. I did a lot of walking around it, and loved it, and the people were lovely there too. It grieves me now to know how badly affected they were by the recent earthquakes. Apparently Dharan was far enough away to escape that destruction?

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    1. Ah, but reading back through the comments I see that it was wiped out by flood since your visit – a frequent experience by your account. Sad! And how resilient must those villagers be!

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    2. there is def evidence of the earthquake damage around. i would liked to have seen more of kathmandu, but it ws mostly coming and going.

      sunsari, which is near dharan, was hit pretty heavy with the flooding. i spent a good bit of time among the river people. because of their location, they are def prone to the flooding from monsoon. its not an easy life, for sure.

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  11. What a cool interview, with a very interesting and talented writer. Always enjoyed my visits to your (Brian Miller) site when I turn down the right road.
    ZQ :-)

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    1. Thank you good sir. I will try to put up better street signs in the future. smiles.

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  12. In the midst of so much chaos in our newsfeeds I am really happy for this sip of Brian's shinning light. Thanks Sherry for sharing his Nepal stories with us. First encountered Brian at Poetry Jam link up

    much love...

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    1. Yeah, you know I dropped into PJ the other day, because i mistyped the PU website. ha. I def appreciate Sherry reaching out to me to share a bit more of this trip.

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    2. My privilege and pleasure, kind sir. In these times, we need every good news story we can find, need to remember there are more good people than not, so many trying to do what they can in whatever way calls to them. Brian, you are one of my heroes.

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  13. Wow, this interview was riveting. I'll tell you it pulled at my heartstrings. It is a "real" story that makes you feel so many emotions. Your vivid account took me right there with you on the journey. While, I was reading I thought about how accustomed we are to modern conveniences. Your journey is one that will stay with you as it is now a part of you, the land and the people embedded into the fiber of your being. My heart ached at the children being spanked, it brought tears to my eyes. A glimpse of life in Nepal through your lens(eyes). I imagine it was all so humbling. I think it is a marvelous idea to start a playground fund.

    Sherry, I knew you would try to get an interview and I'm so glad Brian accepted the invitation to share his experience.
    You are a new aged Shepard Brian, no doubt about it.

    may your light always burn :)

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    1. new age shepherd...oo...i may have to change my moniker. ha.

      oo, the spanking really got to me. the school i taught at has reinforced a policy of no spanking since then - of which i am very happy.

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    2. New age shepherd suits you! totally messed that one up, but you knew what I meant :)

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  14. Wonderful interview! I was about to start supper when I remembered I hadn't checked out Monday's Poets United post - and was totally lured into reading the whole piece after just a few sentences. Fascinating! And now ... onto supper. (I'll chop fast.) Smiles!

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    1. haha. i hope you have a great dinner wendy...and apologize to anyone made to wait because of me...smiles.

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  15. To get out of our comfort zones and find it in our hearts to reach out to those most in need.. what a wonderful way to live our lives! Great interview Sherry and Brian. Love the poem.

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    1. I think that getting out of our comfort zone gives us a great opportunity for growth --- if we embrace it. thank you.

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  16. Brian, thank you for sharing with us your journey in Nepal. i am so moved and humbled by your work with the children there. we coming from the developed world have taken certain things like clean water and modern sanitation for granted. you have opened our eyes to a world where we may have no opportunity to experience first hand.
    your exploits at the airport and with the guy in the car shook me up. i don't think i would dare to get into that car. :)
    and i absolutely loved that first photo of this article. you in your mohawk and the little guy (your buddy), staring into the camera. such camaraderie!

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    1. he was a beautiful little one, the boy in the picture with me. i would go out every morning and greet the children as they came in (parents too)...and he would go out with me and hang out with me. his mother and father ran the kitchen at the school. he and i had some fun times.

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  18. Fascinating and well written account of your time in Nepal, Brian. I was enthralled enough to read it twice and I am so pleased you invited your blogging friends to learn of your 'adventures' and the people therein. I am soooo pleased you had a go at that teacher.

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    1. Thanks valerie. I wrote over 100 pages of journals while i was there. little odds and ends each day of the experience. i am still typing them up, but this is a little bit.

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  19. Oh wow...thank you Sherry and Brian....what a delight, and I sorely needed this... coming along on your amazing journey Brian!

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    1. thanks for journey-ing along. it was quite the adventure, and i so look forward to going again.

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  20. What an amazing journey, Brian. We've had a few from our church leave to teach in another country for awhile and they say it changes you. No surprise you miss the students. Or that we live in excess beyond many people's imagination.

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    1. its definitely changes and challenges you, in ways you could never suspect - and connects you to a people that you never would have thought of.

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  21. It is so good to remember that millions live without even the basics. And even better to do what one can to help, as you do, Brian. My thoughts are much with the people there, since learning of the flooding.

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    1. They are putting in new "dams" around the village today. They use something like chicken wire to bind together large groups of rocks to make these huge barriers.

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  22. I loved each word you shared. I can see it was difficult, and wonderful all mixed together and what a meal you served to us! Thank Sherry.

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    1. It was definitely a mixed feeling at times. It was hard to be without my family for so long, as I really do draw strength from them. What an amazing people though.

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  23. I lived seven years on an island in the Pacific that had electricity and running water a good portion of the time, but my rain barrel was essential. I lived for two years in Indonesia in a nice concrete house with a rain catchment on the roof and three full time servants. Both of these experiences were very similar to yours in the culture shock and the mental strength needed to participate where you live.

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    1. The world is an amazing place - so much to explore. That is pretty cool on where you lived. The rain barrel was def essential, for showers, washing, even to boil for drinking water.

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  24. Great respect and admiration for you. Unbelievably moving... hope your trip back works out.

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    1. Thank you debi - already planning it and met with a guy today to talk about it. Would def be cool to go back and see some of the same people and reestablish those relationships.

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  25. A life-changing experience Brian wow

    I was enthralled, I learned more from this then I ever would from a travel guide. I felt like I was there with you, such is the power of your story-telling. I remember being spanked in school, being smacked with rulers and such up until I was in middle school corporeal punishment was still acceptable in NC. It's terrible. Amazing journey I am so glad you shared it with us

    mlm

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    1. I lived through corporal punishment in school. had a principal that always jerked on your clavicle. i think relationship goes a lot further.

      thanks mlm, i imagine we will be seeing how life changing soon enough.

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  26. this is very moving - great to see how you touched people's lives - i really have high respect for what you've done - your Yes and willingness to go - takes quite some braveness and trust - bows and shakes your Right! hand...smiles

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    1. ha. i will give you my right hand. sometime i will tell you what they do if they really like you. ha.i do what i do because i can.

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  27. I got lost in this amazing narrative yesterday but when I tried to comment on my smart phone it wouldn't let me. I feel so blessed to have encountered you along the poetry path, Brian--am proud of/grateful for you, your faith and your ability to put love into action. Wonderful writing, too. When you get to be my age, that is where your ministry will be, perhaps.

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    1. you know, i had the same problem with my SMARTphone yesterday, but figured it was all part of the day i was having. ha. i am just as blessed to have met you V. we all have stories to tell that change each other. maybe - you never know what the future might hold. smiles.

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  28. It's a fascinating blend of travel narrative and profound teaching experience!This interview proves that we all need 'oasis of calm in a world of storm'...no matter what era we are living in. With an open mind, patience and the essentials, life is always easier and have more meaning. :))
    Kudos Brian...Your enthusiasm, courage and energy must have surely made your teaching in Nepal a highly rewarding experience. But, you are brave, no doubt! Smiles...
    Thanks so much, Sherry for this lively, engaging and exciting interview. Truly enriching!!

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    1. it was hard to try and boil down all the experiences into a bit...and still i feared it was a bit long. we all def have to find our peace - because i fear our world has gone a bit crazy. we dont need much, but what we allow our needs to guide us. smiles.

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  29. What a wonderful experience for you, and for us as you so brilliant relayed your story to us. I felt I was there and could see and smell the days and the hours. How sad for the children with so little- how sad for us with so much. We are so sheltered and unaware of the world. Thank you so much for sharing. p.s. I will never look at Hello Kitty PJs the same way again...bkm

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    1. haha. me either on the hello kitty pjs...i admit i was a little freaked out at that point...but was along for the ride...

      we are definitely unaware of our world...thanks bk...been good to see you around more...

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  30. lmao good you didn't end up Some American killed in a back alley. Blah to the toilet paper in a bucket though. Gives me a whole new appreciation for scooping the litter box.

    That was really stupid of the teacher. All do as I say not as I do. Of course spanking might have been considered kinky, so best to avoid that.

    Sure sounds like quite the wonderful experience overall, and $5 isn't bad to get through the airport mess.

    My ocd is telling me it would give me a nervous breakdown though if I ever had to live like that haha

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    1. i think your ocd just might be setting new heights,
      as there were def many smells and cultural habits
      that might make your twitches swell, it was a blast,
      and quite fast i will head back, and be carrying my life in a sack on my back.

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  31. I felt I was right with you in Nepal. What a life-changing experience!

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    1. hopefully not right there, as the showers were quick so you did not freeze and so I probably smelled a bit. ha. it was definitely a life changing experience.

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  32. Am humbled Brian and full of awe and admiration for your venturing to Nepal as well as your gift of teaching and the the foundations of your faith - your words speak volumes because they are not tarnished with the trite
    p.s. Sherry - enjoyed the way you let Brian tell his story

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    1. thank you ma'am. i just do what i can with what i am given wherever i am placed, you know. i love teaching and i love people, so it makes sense to me. smiles.

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  33. You never fail to impress me Brian with your humanity, kindness, ability to relate to all whom you meet with such understanding. Thank you so much!

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    1. it definitely came in handy, being dropped in a country where very few could speak my language and you learn to relate in new ways. good to see you denise.

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  34. I'm totally speechless...and in tears.

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    1. it is all a bit overwelming in the whole. the last couple days, in light of the flooding and destruction and loss of life, i have been a bit overwelmed with it all myself. but all the more reason to look ahead. smiles.

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  35. Great feature, Sherry; and wonderful to catch up with your journey, Brian. I am sure that your summer was a life-changer both for you and those you worked with. I enjoyed every bit of your story. Sorry I had not commented earlier, Sherry & Brian. I was out of country & am just now back home to see what I have missed.

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    1. hello mary. i heard you were taking a much needed break, which i can understand considering i have taken a rather long break myself. ha.

      so where were you out of country? that sounds like it would be a fun story to hear as well. smiles.

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    2. Yay! you're home. We missed you! Looking forward to photos in the Pantry!!!!!

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    3. Really so missed you Mary...feeling happy now :)

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  36. Oooohhhhh, Brian. How good to see you again, to hear your adventures in teaching and faith and limited water supplies and great children! Love is always more, you know--more than we can handle and take and give-- love is more and like God, everywhere. At least that is my hope--peel away a layer of alone-ness or of evil and history and poverty--and there it is. You are Love, Brian.

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    1. there is definitely much to peel away from the world. i was telling someone it is like a dance. when we stop and are still we tend to focus on ourselves - but as long as we are moving in and around others we dont have the time to. smiles.

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  37. An adventurous trip! But being with family is the greatest adventure.

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    1. oh i agree, it makes it worth it. smiles.

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  38. So enjoyed, Brian. I was in Nepal for a month in 1983. I imagine big changes. Thanks for the stories. K.

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  39. An amazing story. Thank you for sharing this with us.

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  40. What a journey you took us on! You are a good person, Brian, and I'm glad you're back safe.

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  41. That is one incredible journey. The aspects of moving, living abroad regardless of the term of stay is a life changing event. Particularly in areas as challenging as Nepal. It is a particular joy that you have shared this experience so we can a least learn a bit from it.

    Your poetry is also fantastic, I've enjoyed reading some of your examples and look forward to reading more.

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  42. That is one incredible journey. The aspects of moving, living abroad regardless of the term of stay is a life changing event. Particularly in areas as challenging as Nepal. It is a particular joy that you have shared this experience so we can a least learn a bit from it.

    Your poetry is also fantastic, I've enjoyed reading some of your examples and look forward to reading more.

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  43. Really enjoyed reading more about your trip, Brian. I so admire your fearlessness in ministering to others. Frankly, I cannot imagine voluntarily placing myself in conditions like the ones you describe, and I am undoubtedly the poorer for it. But I guess we all serve in our own way, where the Lord leads us. Thanks for the vicarious experience. I will not soon forget it. You are a good man, my friend.

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