“Guests Are Like God”

Emily Fabiano, 2019 Humanitarian Mission and Cultural Exchange

While my friends were out partying and midnight struck, the plane I was on became filled with clapping and cheering. It was now 2019 and my Emirates flight was departing for my third humanitarian mission and cultural exchange in Nepal. I was excited to see my friends in Nepal again, but I had doubt about whether it would be worth it to travel to the same place for the third time this year, especially after getting food poisoning during my previous visit. I was unsure if the experience doing projects in Nepal would impact me as much as it did the first time I took part in this mission. Did I make the right decision to go to Nepal again? Myself and five other students from NJ have checked 300 pounds of donations for schools and orphanages, and our adventure started on New Year’s Eve.

After about 40 hours of traveling, 8,000 miles from home,I was reunited with my friends in Nepal and we picked up right where we left off. I remember our first day in Kathmandu, we were jumping from program to program, and ultimately, I think we met with five different Rotaract clubs in just the first day when normally, we meet with one or two. This showed how much our friends wanted to see us again now that we were back in their country, and how excited the new clubs were to meet us. I made a lot of new friends in these clubs, as every club met us with warm welcomes and we could see how appreciative they were to have us in their country. This is true for every village we traveled to, and every new club we met with. The Nepali have a phrase “Guests are Like God,” and this is extremely evident in the way the Nepali host us. I remember one of the Rotaractors that hosts us everytime we come to Nepal, Narendra, made a comment that stuck with us while we were there. He told us “You guys are not tourists to me, you’re my friends,” which was very comforting for all of us to hear. Despite Nepal being on of the world’s poorest countries, this country has the most generous people I have ever been surrounded by, and this is what brings me back to this country time after time.

For the first few days I remember having a hard time adjusting. I was not used to sleeping without heat, taking cold showers (if we even had access to a shower), or hiking to the top of a “mountain” to where I will sleep for a night. These experiences are what make the trip meaningful and memorable, and taught us to appreciate many of the things we take for granted. In these moments it is hard to keep a positive attitude, but looking back I am grateful for living a very different way of life for two weeks. To experience the lifestyle of one of the world’s poorest countries has shaped my character immensely, and has changed my outlook on life and what I want to do in life. After being exposed to how kids live in Nepal, it makes me feel like I have no right to complain about my daily problems, because unfortunately most of my daily challenges/complaints are nothing compared to the way people live in Nepal.

At every school and orphanage we went to, the kids melted my heart and I wanted to take them all home with me. We could not walk through a school without all the classes looking at us, clapping and cheering, overwhelmed with excitement, as if we are celebrities; these kids had the biggest smiles on their faces the second they saw us. It is times like these when I am reminded that this trip is worth it. It was interesting to find that kids would touch my hair because they have never seen blonde hair before, or to be amazed that they are seeing identical twins (I am a twin).The way that the schools and orphanages welcome us each time made us all feel greatly appreciated for what we came to Nepal to do. Everytime we went somewhere we were welcomed with scarves, hot tea, and biscuits. Seeing the circumstances of where some of the kids go to school is not always easy, but we are there to help the students in any way we can by providing them tools they need, such as notebooks, pencils, rulers, and even socks sometimes. I remember a little girl at a school in Pokhara, she did not have any socks or shoes on, and she just sat in my arms so content. Seeing this girl, and the way she responded to receiving a pencil we gave her was really touching to me. Another great moment was when we brought some blankets to an orphanage that we had stuffed in our checked luggage. The owner of the orphanage told us the kids were sharing beds because the orphanage did not have enough bed sheets. I remember thinking that there was no way I could pack these blankets in my suitcases, but I am really glad that I decided to squeeze them in when I heard the owner of the orphanage tell us this. It is always difficult to say goodbye to the kids when we finish a program and must leave. The kids always stand in a group waving goodbye to us. Although I only briefly meet and interact with the kids, saying goodbye to them feels like I am saying goodbye to my closest family and friends. Even when we went to schools with deaf and mute students, there was still an unspoken connection with these kids, which was really meaningful to me.

Our itinerary was packed from day to day, but the busy schedule was worth it to get the most out of our time there. While we did many projects at schools and orphanages, we also had a cultural exchange taking place, and attended a number of Rotaract meetings. For example, myself and the other club members from the USA had a recipe exchange with the Lalitpur Rotaract Club. This was a lot of fun because we (the Americans) got to help the Lalitpur Club make MoMo, an iconic food of Nepal, while us Americans made nachos for the Nepali club. Although nachos are not a true “American” food, the Lalitpur club loved them and thought the combination of food was interesting, but really tasty. The various clubs that hosted us took us hiking and sightseeing to many places including the World Peace Pagoda, Swayambhunath, Boudhanath Stupa, and so much more. For me, simply walking from one place to another is “sightseeing” because the country is so different from where I come from; everything is new and intriguing to me.

Although conditions were very rough at times on the trip, we all kept a positive attitude and made every situation enjoyable as we learned to become more innovative. For example, we did not have a warm shower in a village, so we used heating rods in a bucket of water to heat the water. Our “shower” for that night was a bucket of warm water to bathe. At another guest house, we did not have warm showers, but we did have hot water boilers designed to boil water for tea. So, we all combined and had a total of three hot water boilers, providing enough water for one person to “shower.” I am studying engineering in school, so I enjoyed having these opportunities to be innovative. Our mottos for the trip became “You have to adjust,” and “It’s fine we can manage.”

While pretty much everything is different in Nepal one thing that stands out is the transportation. Many times, a group of us would be travelling and we would need to take a bus to get somewhere. A COMPLETELY FULL bus would pull up, and our hosts would tell us that this is the bus we are taking. A lot of the time I would be thinking “Are we seriously getting on that?” and everytime the answer was “yes.” I remember being on one of these buses and it got stuck in a large hole in the dirt road in the middle of a lot of traffic. I was squished between people so it was hard to see, but the bus was rocking back and forth and there were so many fumes from the driver trying to get the bus out of the ditch. After burning rubber, and many people getting off the bus and standing in traffic, the bus was moving again! Another time, we were on a small bus going to a school and I was thinking back to last year when we went to this same school…we walked a chunk of the way. The bus got to where a lot of water was flowing across the dusty dirt road, under a footbridge and down the cliff. At this point I continued to wonder why we were not getting out and walking like we did last year; clearly this was not designed for vehicles to drive through, and the footbridge is there for a reason. But the driver continued, and we got stuck in the water. The bus was not moving, so a bunch of people had to get out and push the bus through the water, up the hill. Although these situations do not sound appealing, they are entertaining for people like me, and again, times like these make the trip memorable and exciting. Traveling from place to place was always an adventure in itself, as you never know what could happen in Nepal. Another thing I really love about Nepal is the breathtaking scenery. Seeing pictures of the Himalayan mountain range, and the tip of Everest is one thing, but to see them in real life is surreal. Where I live in American I cannot wake up every morning, and go outside and sip tea with a view of the Himalayan mountain range.

In the end, it was worth it.

It was worth it to travel 40 hours and it was worth it to bring donations that weighed more than me.

A huge thank you to all the clubs in Nepal that hosted us, and a special thank you to my friends Jyoti and Narendra who traveled to all the villages with us, I do not know how they handled being with us six Americans for fifteen days, 24/7. While I have summarized my experience here, putting my experience and satisfaction from doing the projects into words does not do justice. The only way to know how amazing it is to be a part of this mission is to actually go to Nepal and experience it for yourself. I am really glad that all the friends I make in Nepal stay in contact with me, and I am excited for future projects with the clubs in Nepal.

To all my friends in Nepal, see you soon. NAMASTE

Nepal, You’re Too Good to Me

By Abby Fabiano

People always say “third time’s a charm”, which as a kid I used to believe was true. Now that I have just returned home from my third humanitarian mission to Nepal, I can say this is not true because I am already so eager to go back. Most people would get bored of going to the same place or doing the same thing multiple times, which is understandable because repetition tends to be a bore. When I was getting ready to go to Nepal for my second and third time, all my friends and family kept asking why I kept wanting to go back to a third world country, after they heard my complaints about lack of heat and hot water. The answer is simple; the humanitarian fulfillment I experience in Nepal, and the experiences I have with all the friends I have gone on the trips with and my friends in Nepal outweigh the lows of the trip.

Choosing my favorite moment of the trip is one hundred percent impossible. Taking part in this trip through Rotary International and in support of the ASHA Project, we are busy on average from 7am-10pm everyday we spend in Nepal, visiting schools and orphanages, going to club meetings, or even just sightseeing. If I had to pick my best moment, I guess the only way to sum it up would have to be the moment our flight took off from Kathmandu airport when we were returning home. It was about 9:30 pm in Nepal and all six of us on that trip were sitting together on the plane. I just remember first looking over at the group, and every single one of us was asleep before the plane even took off because it was a long and tiring two weeks away from home. Then as we took off, I looked out the window and said my last good-bye (for now) to the dusty and chaotic city of Kathmandu. This was the most impactful moment of the trip because it is saying “see you later” to all my friends there that took care of us, all the students at the schools and orphanages we visited, and now made all the experiences we had just a part of our past as we move onto the next chapter.

Not knowing when myself or any of us will return is what makes leaving Nepal difficult, but I have been fortunate enough to be able to stay in touch all year with some of our friends there. It was also very hard knowing it was time to leave this amazing country knowing that we helped as much as we could while there, but knowing that there is so much more that can and still needs to be done. As much as I complain while I am in Nepal, I miss the hectic environment of having to do things like boil water with two coil rods or having to use tea kettles in order to have a hot shower; or even freaking out every-time we would drive somewhere with our luggage, hoping that our suitcases do not fall off the top of the vehicle and roll down the mountain.

Words can’t describe what it is like visiting the schools and orphanages in Nepal, and the pictures do it no justice, but I can sincerely say taking part in these experiences first-hand are unlike any other. Some schools we hiked up a mountain to, or took 3+ hour bumpy bus rides to get to, and some schools we took a vehicle to and rolled backwards down the hill multiple times before our vehicle finally made it. The schools have no lights or heat, many of them are just small buildings with a couple tiny rooms and bleachers for the students. We handed out supplies; such as pencils, pens, notebooks to the students; and it is incredible to see how ecstatic one pencil makes a kid. Most of the kids would be very excited to see us, as many students would even come up behind me and touch my hair because they have never seen blond hair before. The motto of Nepal is “Guests are Gods”, and those experiences are what really proved to me that this is absolutely true. The students and school faculty treated us with nothing but open, warm hearts and waving good-bye to them after our programs were finished was a feeling very surreal.

I could sit here now and write a book about all that I have learned in Nepal from taking part in this mission, all the experiences I had, and how this trip changes my outlook on certain things in life. I remember one night when we had a joint dinner with three Rotaract Clubs in Nepal, and for some reason all the other American students in my group had left to go back to the guest house already, but I was still at the dinner. I was standing there talking to everyone, telling them about my experiences so far, and then all of a sudden I was getting ready to also head back to the guest house and they started saying stuff in Nepalese. So my friend translated for me and said they were fighting over who wanted to take me back to the hotel. The generosity of the people in Nepal is astounding, and that is another reason that I am so anxious to want to go back and continue to help their community.

I think my biggest takeaway from participating in this trip multiple times is that it has made me start to realize what I want to do with my life once I graduate with my Bachelors in Chemical Engineering. I want to continue to work in underdeveloped nations doing both humanitarian work, as well as over time learning how to implement more engineering projects in these countries to give me the opportunity to also put the skills I have learned into use. To conclude, I plan on traveling back to Nepal by January 2020 at the latest, and until then, I will be wishing everyday that I could be back there sooner! NAMASTE

2019 Rotaract Friendship Exchange Trip to Nepal

Six Rotary District 7475 Rotaract members recently had a life-changing experience when they traveled to Nepal to distribute donated school supplies and engage in community projects.

The students, Jeremy (Hightstown), Aiden and Collin Nodoro (Martinsville), Abby and Emily Fabiano (Somervillen), and Manuel Ramirez (Bound Brook), are all members of the Rotary District 7475 Rotaract members. They traveled to Nepal, January 2- 14, 2019 carrying 300 pounds of school supplies, which they donated to various schools in the region.

The supplies had been collected through fundraising efforts at the College in conjunction with the The Asha Project and members of the community.
While in Nepal, the students participated in Rotaract community projects that included painting benches and walls. In conjunction with the ASHA (Nepali word for “Hope”) project, the students also visited many schools and community people in handing our sweaters and blankets.

As part of the trip, the Rotaractg members attended club meetings and projects in Pokhara, Patan, Kathmandu, Gorkha and Lamjung. They also met with representatives of Rotaract Nepal and other community groups; toured temples, schools and hiked the region.
Rotaract member Abby Fabiano recalls many memorable moments in this trip, especially seeing little kid’s big smiles. “Imagine that a simple pencil and a notebook can bring such a wonderful smile”, said Abby. Despite the language barriers, Abby said “Giving a small gift to children was one of the most impactful experiences, just being able to communicate human to human.”

As members of the Rotary District 7475 Rotaract Club, students are given the opportunity to serve the community and learn about leadership, civic engagement and responsible citizenship. For additional information about Rotaract District, contact Nemanja (Nik) Nikitovic, Nemanja.Nikitovic@raritanval.edu.
If you are interested in traveling contact RotaryDistrict7475@gmail.com or visit http://www.theashaproject.org

Mission of humanity

Traveling to Nepal for Daniel was a mission of humanity. The language spoken there differed from his own. He had to adjust to eating the Nepalese food, so different from what he was used to in America. To a foreigner’s mind, the notion of an exotic locale at the top of the world incited mystery. Seeing the cracks in the roads, encountering the dust, walking among the ancient architecture in a completely different culture could have been very uncomfortable for Daniel. But that was not the case. The Nepalese culture did not shock, and any discomfort from a long journey was washed away by the love and gratitude of the people.

Any of those differences were superficial in light of the welcome in Nepal. In fact, Daniel reported not noticing the differences till returning home. For example, most of the food in America is processed while what he ate in Nepal was mostly grown locally and prepared by those most likely to eat it. The Nepali life struck him as more wholesome after he came home.

RVCC Rotaract

While there Daniel delivered school supplies to students. Those supplies did improve conditions for students but, more importantly, were a gesture that made ripples through the community. His acts of kindness forged connections with people and benefited people more than with tangible goods.

As Daniel said, “At the school for blind, I befriended a particular group of kids. We hung out and they played on my guitar. All along I couldn’t help wondering what it will be like to meet them again in a few years time. Its true I have many new friends, and they all have brought me wisdom, but above all, there was one who has impacted me in ways that cannot simply be put in words. I will not give his name, so I will call him the ‘man on the moon.’ Like a brother who I have never had. Humble as a man can be. Any lick of avarice, if present, was covered by a pure gratitude and welcomeness for life. If I could give one phrase to describe his air, it would be, ‘hard work in silence, success is your noise.’ I feel that the seed we, the Rotaract clubs and other friends, have planted, will provide a fruitful future.”

Daniel’s life was touched by his service in Nepal, just as he touched the lives of so many with his generosity of time and effort. If you would like to experience joy of meeting someone in an exotic land, and helping others, please contact the Friends of Nepal – New Jersey’s The Asha Project.