Posted by Vajra Vidya Foundation on Sunday, January 15, 2012 Under: SMD Boarding School
Once is never enough
Samantha Zaza Kathmandu Post January 13, 2012
As a young girl, I had dreamt of coming to Nepal. Himalaya was a magic word for me, and Tenzing Norgay and Sir Edmund Hillary were my heroes. I wanted to be them, climbing my bunk bed with a rope I crafted from my mother’s belts. I searched for photos of Nepal in National Geographics, and longed to taste butter tea. This pull inside me to see Nepal only intensified as I grew up, and the more I learned about Nepal, the more I wanted to do something beyond sightseeing. I wanted to give something, but the only thing I had to offer was my passion for art, and the skills I have as an artist. So when I heard of an opportunity to volunteer to teach at a school, I jumped at the chance. Soon, I found myself aboard a plane, peering out the window at the gleaming white facades of mountains, a sight which had, until that very moment, been only a dream.
I remember the very first time I met my students at Shree Mangal Dvip—a dozen pair of shy, yet curious eyes staring up at me in the afternoon light. With a thin stack of A4 copier paper, a handful of pencils and erasers, we began our journey. As the summer rolled on, I watched these delightful, talented kids grow in confidence and skill—and something unexpected happened within me, something I can only describe as an unfolding. I felt different. The students at SMD, and the people I had met in Nepal, were now woven into my life; they became a part of me, and as the time for my inevitable return to Istanbul approached, I felt an ache in my heart.
I was back in the air on my way home, staring at those white peaks above the clouds, thankful for happy accidents, thankful for whatever had been responsible for bringing me to Nepal in the first place. The monsoon’s drumming on rooftops, the gentle dance of the prayer flags, the melodious Om Mani Padme Hum, and the beautiful children I had been so lucky to have known, all remained at the forefront of my thoughts. It was then I knew I had to go back. I began to plan my return.
Some months later, gliding past the layers of rice paddies and the eruption of rectangular apartment buildings towards Tribhuvan International Airport a second time, my heart was pounding so hard in my chest that I had to remind myself to breathe. On the other side of the arrival doors, dearly missed friends were waiting, and they were about to take me home to my beloved kids, who I had waited anxiously for so long to see. A year feels endless when in the midst of it, but so very short when it is over—and I’ll never forget the three words uttered by one of my students: You came back!
Samantha is an artist based in Istanbul and has volunteered as an art teacher in Kathmandu in 2010 and 2011. She blogs at www.harikaszaza.blogspot.com
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