Last weekend saw me heading up to Birmingham to a VSO returning volunteers weekend, almost 6 months after arriving back in the UK. Last time I’d been to Harborne Hall was back in February 2010 as part of the pre departure training, where Jason Donovan had featured large in my blog entry! Check here if you don’t believe me…..
The chance to meet up with others who have to a greater or lesser degree ‘reintegrated’ back into their former lives was something I’d been looking forward to. The countries may have been different, the roles too, but there was a remarkable similarity in many of our experiences. The chaotic and overcrowded bus systems, the variable electric and water supplies and the ubiquitous mobile phone being three that spring to mind, and which I know featured in this blog at some time or other. Similarly, the ‘culture shock in reverse’ experienced as we once again settle back into a substantially more affluent society.
Anyway….”just one thing”….
We were each asked to bring one item to the weekend which provided a link to the country where we volunteered, and by way of an introduction, talk about it. I brought a small seed pod, which was given to me by the man in the picture above. The seed pod, which currently sits on my mantlepiece isn’t in truth all that photogenic…but its a constant reminder of the story.
Here’s what I said back in January 2011, talking about some travelling I did with another volunteer, (now a very good friend).
“After about 15 minutes of walking we pass a small, low structure outside of which is stood a man clad only in a loin cloth, gazing at the Himalayas. We exchange a few words, including the inevitable कहँ जाने ? (Where are you going…?). He’s a yogi, and when he discovers that we are heading for Gorkha by foot, he expresses concern that we haven’t enough food for the journey, and offers to prepare us a meal, make us tea and share his chillum with us…! We figure that a few minutes would be fine, and some 2½ hours later…
I’ve said this elsewhere, but it really is humbling when a fellow human being who has little in the way of material possessions perpetrates such an act of random kindness. Ginger, onion, potatoes and chilli, with roti has seldom tasted better. Making just enough for three, he divides it into separate containers and offers us two pieces of fresh, warm roti as accompaniment. Poor, but rich in spirit indeed”.
As we set off after our meal, we were each given a seed pod as a token of good luck….a seed pod which can still bring me back to why, despite all of its difficulties, Nepal has left an indelible mark on my soul.