Hi Reader Friends,
I’ve made it through the first leg of my trip and am here in Qatar for a six hour layover. There have been quite a lot of thoughts on my mind during this week of preparation, of goodbyes, of leaving, and now of traveling. As I sit here, I am reminded of Paulo Coelho’s book, The Alchemist. In particular, I am thinking about the passage in which Coelho writes, “You must understand that love never keeps a man from pursuing his destiny.” Saying goodbye to my friends and my family, I felt an outpouring of love directed toward me; this love is what I will keep with me as I embark on this adventure. Love does not hold us back; love gives us the strength to dream. It is this love that I will carry with me as I pursue this journey, this destiny.
As I think about beginning my journey into Nepal, my thoughts focus on the current situation within the country. I will arrive at a time when the country is facing some internal political problems. I would like to share with you what I have gathered as the situation at present. My perspective is gathered from several news sources, Nepali friends living in America, Nepali friends living in Nepal, and American friends with vested interest in the country.
September 20, 2015 marked the day that Nepal adopted its new constitution; for many years prior to this date, the country operated under a political system in which no constitution was in existence. Nepal finds itself in a landlocked position–a tiny country surrounded by two world powers, India and China. Due to this geographical position, the politics of Nepal are very susceptible to the balance of power it finds itself residing in within the larger region. From my understanding of the situation, the constitution was met with a majority celebrating this political feat; however many of the minority ethnic groups within the country felt that they had been underrepresented.
Nepal, although a very small country, is comprised of a very large amount of ethnic groups–many with their own culture and language. One of these groups, largely residing in the southern “Terai” or plain region, is called the Madehesis. This ethnic minority group of Nepali citizens historically has ties to India, giving reason to why they reside in the southern area of the country as this border is shared with India. Due to the underrepresentation in the September 20 Constitution, this group began to speak out and demand more rights. These demonstrations are largely non-violent; however, they have caught the attention of neighboring India.
The country of Nepal, in addition to being geographically small, is economically weak. This means that the country is largely dependent on imports from larger countries surrounding it, especially for petroleum, as it has not been able to become self sufficient. In India’s awareness of this power it holds over Nepal, it has begun to “unofficially” utilize this power in support of the Madhesi ethnic group. According to the International Monetary Fund, India makes up 63 percent of all of Nepal’s imports. For over 20 days now, India’s imports of petroleum into Nepal has been halted.
I mentioned before that this was “unofficial”. India will not admit to creating an official blockade on the Nepal-India border as this would bring up international questions of state sovereignty. As of now, India officially tells sources that truck drivers are not entering the country due to fear of the protests that are occurring in the southern region of Nepal. However, Nepal believes that this is a cover up–they believe that this “unofficial” blockade is a political move showing support for the Madhesi people and urging the Nepal government to amend its newly adopted constitution.
Nepal is facing a petroleum scarcity. I have been told by friends residing in the Kathmandu Valley, the capital of Nepal, that these people are very reliant on petroleum not only for transportation, but also for cooking. These people are facing an internal crisis that has virtually stopped the thriving city of Kathmandu and has many worried in terms of food for the near future.
I have been worried in the previous weeks, wondering if this situation will change my plans. Ironically, I had written my last post about the awareness that my plans will change as this is characteristic of life itself. And so, I am embracing the situation. I have been assured and reassured of my safety and I know that I am entering the country with many good people awaiting my arrival. This is a situation of geopolitics, of state sovereignty and independence. Today is the day that I will lay eyes on the country in person for the first time; I will carry with me the love of those I have said goodbye to and I will be reassured by the love I will receive as I enter Nepal.
I would like to end this post with some words found in a parting gift from my mom to me. She wrote a list of things for me to “not forget” while I am away. The list is beautiful. “Don’t forget: your manners, to be kind, be open to love, keep in contact with friends, say your prayers, be grateful, be humble, eat well, eat candy, drink tea, be strong, take good care of yourself, remember all those who love you, dance, hum, keep in touch with your family, smile, brush your teeth, laugh, and know how much I love you!” So, here I go on my new adventure; many things to remember and many new things to learn. I hope you all will keep up with me as I continue to share my perspective on Nepal as I will continue to keep in touch with all of you.
Thank you. Next time you hear from me, I will be writing from Nepal!