My phone rang.
Deep in an ocean of sleep, I had half a heart to ignore the call but I found my hands searching furiously under my blankets for the phone, strongly programmed to pick it up.
The guests had arrived and I was supposed to pick them up and take them to their hotel rooms. I waded through the dark street, bleary-eyed in a sleep/state and waited for their bus to arrive.
It didn’t take long though and there they were, wide eyed and excited despite the continuous 22-hour long flight and 6-hour drive from Kathmandu to Pokhara. I perked up immediately out of embarrassment and that remained my impression of our new friends; always filled with buoyant enthusiasm and cheerful faces, all through good times and the toughest adversity.
At Kusma, the adorably chubby Nishu skipped to me and asked ‘Didi, hamilai kina maya garnu vako waha haru le? ‘
Timi haru lai ramro sanga padnu parcha vanni sikauna ko lagi ‘ I replied. Thrilled, she hopped back to play with her new American friends Jenna and Amanda as I sat observing their excitement.
The shy kids were watching her play with them with envy from the corner, clutching the school supplies they’d just received tight and I could imagine Nishu’s heroic gossip at school the next day.
Thousands of miles away from home, it was on our shoulders to make their stay special and productive whilst we hardly knew them. Our club members marshalled all the energy and support imaginable to plan their stay and show them a good time. Looking back now, we don’t have much of a clue to how much it moved them but when you’re in charge of someone, you just really want to make them feel special and here’s what our Rotaract Club of NewRoad did to make each nine day of the ‘Inter Club Youth Exchange Program’ count:
Day One: Welcome program to our Guests and attendance at the 9th Rotaract District Conference.
Day Two: Attendance at the District Conference and a historic joint International Meeting between 4 Rotaract Clubs.
Day Three: Visit to the Shivapuri Primary School, Puranchaur, Kaski.
Day Four: Sightseeing around the Pokhara Valley.
Day Five: Initiation of hope, welfare and environment conservation by decorating Asha Pokhari and hiking to Stupa.
Day Six: Visit to Prativa Higher Secondary School and the Parbat District for helping disabled school children.
Day Seven: Promotion of Tourism at Kusma, Parbat, visit to Gandaki Boarding School and campfire at Pumdikot.
Day Eight: Stationary distribution ar Maheshowri Secondary School, Pumdi-Bhumdi and a parewell program to our guests.
Day Nine: Bon voyage with promises to meet again.
Having the exchange program helped us cultivate more meaningful, life-long relationships unlike hanging out with friends only when they’re in the mood. The endless programs and traveling, waking up early when no one wants to be cheerful, eating dinner together after an exhausting day, and everything in between was in stark contrast to today’s texting among ‘friends’ whose experiences often remain superficial. I thought it helped us become better communicators and more cooperative, assertive, flexible, resilient, patient, grateful, compassionate and forgiving adults and yes, we are Facebook friends! We took many pictures together and it struck me the way our active cameras offered a lens on the value of our culture and the way we live our lives. And yes, it also caused some of us to smile more.
Rtr.Pratima Sharma, Rotaract Club of Newroad Pokhara.