Every time that I travel to Kathmandu, Nepal I travel for the same reason, to apply for a new Indian visa, and this time was no different. I had actually been avoiding Nepal as much as I could. I've been there way too many times and I always stay way too long, but if you are in North India then this is the nearest and easiest place to reach to apply for a new visa.
I wanted to return to Rishikesh
Last October, as I mentioned in "Letting Life Lead Me in the Right Direction," I started a three years yoga study program in Rishikesh, at the Swami Rama Sadhaka Grama Ashram.
It was going really well. I was feeling very happy cause I was learning a lot, specially the Bhagavad Gita, a text that I've been wanting to study for many years. My meditation practice was also going really well, this ashram is the best place for meditation, but by the end of February I had to leave India to get a new visa.
I wanted to return to Rishikesh right away. I was eager to come back and continue with the program, I even left many of my things in my room at the ashram. But I knew there were some risks. In my last Indian visa they wrote "Next Visa From Country of Origin."
I tried but my mind didn't collaborate
I did whatever I could to make sure I would get the visa, I even got a new passport. Unfortunately it didn't work out. The funny thing was that as soon as they told me that I couldn't apply for a new visa from Nepal my mind was like, "Ok, what's next?" I was not very affected. I didn't feel down or depressed. I wasn't upset or angry. I was just like, "Ok, let's move on."
Still, I told myself that I shouldn't give up so easily so I went back to the visa service center a few more times to try to convince them to let me apply. I sent emails, I made phone calls but nothing worked. I considered mailing my passport back to my country but it was too risky and they actually told me that I couldn't do so.
As usual I also tried to visualize a positive outcome. I tried to see in my mind the new visa stamped in my passport, as I've done many times before, but somehow now I couldn't do it. I tried and tried but I just couldn't do it. My mind refused too cooperate, I could hardly picture the new visa in my mind.
I realized I needed to focus on something else
This, I believe, was the real reason why the visa didn't work out. Not because of the stamp in my previous visa but because unconsciously a part of me wanted to move in another direction.
At the ashram I was too busy to think about anything (that's exactly what an ashram is for) but as soon as I left I started to think about the things that I want to do next and the things that I need to do now to continue living the life of my dreams, while at the same time consulting with my heart to make sure that I'm doing what I love no matter what. Eventually I was able to see the "light at the end of the tunnel," sort to speak.
Life at the ashram was also quite challenging. Nothing that I couldn't handle though but there was one thing that was really frustrating me. I lost my weight, my strength and my vitality. The diet didn't feel right for my body and the hatha yoga was way too gentle for my body needs.
I had been physically very active for a whole year. I practiced asthanga yoga in Mysore for six months and then I surf in Sri Lanka for three months, plus one extra month of ashtanga in September. My body was feeling great but at the ashram everything changed. I felt as if I was hardly moving. Instead of becoming more flexible my body became stiffer than ever, like if I had never practiced yoga before. And the cold winter in Rishikesh didn't help at all.
So I decided to stay in Nepal
So after making sure that I did everything that I could to get a visa, at least at an external level, I decided to stay in Kathmandu for a while to focus on my practice, to recover my strength and vitality (still long way to go), and to work on a new blog project, a yoga products review article (and here it is! Yoga Gift Idea: 10 Hand Made Yoga Mat Bags on Etsy). I wanted to stay maximum till the first week of May. I thought that by then I would be finished updating my blog.
|The beautiful Great Stupa of Boudhanath, the area where I always stay in Kathmandu. I took this picture ten days before the earthquake. The stupa suffered some minor damages and today it is being repaired.|
But then something unexpected happened
Everything was working well. I was very focused on my sadhana, I was making some good progress on my blog and I even resumed my Bhagavad Gita studies by myself, although not with the same intensity as before. But one afternoon while I was sitting in a restaurant working on this yoga review article something unexpected happened. The earth started shaking.
At the beginning I thought there was a big truck passing by but soon after it was obvious that it was an earthquake. I could hear the people's screams and I could see through the window people running in all directions. I stayed underneath the restaurant's door frame and when it felt as it had stopped I move to an open space. The earth was actually still shaking. Even when I returned to my guesthouse I could feel the earth trembling. Half an hour and one hour later we had two strong aftershocks.
But I was very lucky, Boudhanath, the area where I was staying, was not seriously affected by the earthquake. It was difficult to tell there was an earthquake. Every building was still standing, and my guesthouse, Tharlam Gueshouse, was in pretty good conditions. I never had to camp outside. But we didn't have electricity (not so unusual in Nepal) and the wifi was worst than ever. On top of that every single restaurant and business closed for several days. I couldn't work on my blog anymore.
And I was given the opportunity to help
I continued with my daily yoga practice but after two or three days I decided to get out of the Boudhanath bubble where nothing was going on and visited one of the affected areas nearby to see if I could offer my help. I first went to Kathmandu's Durbar Square, just 20 minutes by bus from Boudhanath. There was not much that I could do there so I walked towards the hospital and luckily I was able to spend the next two days volunteering and helping in whichever way I could.
|Kathmandu Durbar Square. |
Although the images are devastating notice that it was mainly the historical buildings that were affected. The newer buildings remained fairly intact.
After helping at the hospital I had the opportunity to go on a four days rescue mission to the villages in the mountains with a group of volunteers from a monastery in Boudhanath. It was tough to see all the destruction and the hopeless families but it was one of the most meaningful things I've ever done. It was gratifying to be able to be there and provide some help to those who needed it the most.
This experience reminded me of the 2012 Yoga Poornima celebration while I was doing the four months course at the Bihar School of Yoga. This is a major event at that ashram where people from all around the world work tirelessly to help the inhabitants of Rikhia. This is the ashram where I learned the value of seva, selfless service. The logistics at the monastery in Boudha to bring aid to the villages reminded of the logistics at the ashram to distribute the prasad to the villagers of Rikhia.
I shared the story to raise awareness and help raise money
When we returned from the mission I felt that instead of going out for another mission I needed to help spread the word about the amazing work that these Buddhist monks and foreign students were doing to help the victims in Nepal. So I shared the story in How Buddhist Monks Are Helping the Victims of the Earthquake in Nepal. To my surprise it work remarkably well. Somehow that article reached almost 2,000 Facebook likes! That's really a lot.
Then a few days later I realized that I could also help my neighbor Shane Basse who was working independently to help one of the victims of the earthquake, a lovely little girl called Khendrol (Angel in Tibetan) who lost her mother and her sister. So after visiting Angel's village with Shane and some other friends I wrote another blog to share their story, "Helping a Little Angel Rebuild Her Life After Earthquake in Nepal." It reached more than 500 likes! Not as much as the previous article but still quite a lot for my blog (my previous highest liked article was probably around 300 likes) and I know that it did help to raise some money.
By the way you can still help Angel by visiting www.gofundme.com/tibetanangel. Don't miss this great opportunity to give!
And I returned to my daily routine
After making this little contribution to help the victims of the earthquake, by being in the field and by sharing the stories, I decided that it was time to move on. I needed to continue working on myself and on my projects.
To some of my friends it seems that I've been working really hard helping in Nepal, almost non stop, but to be honest that's not the case. I did help but I offered my help for only two weeks.
I feel a bit guilty cause I know that I could have continued serving in different ways, even till today, and I really would have love to do so, but I also felt that I need to continue with my path. If I would've volunteered again I would've probably stayed there forever, and like I said before, I wanted to leave Nepal pretty much since I arrived.
At the end I stayed longer than I expected
So I returned to my practice and my blog but the earthquake kind of slow down everything. I wanted to leave Nepal maximum by the first week of May but I ended up staying till mid June. Almost four months in total! When I left India thought that I would need to stay for just a couple of weeks.
The only reason why I stayed so long was that some packages for the article that I was writing got delayed so I had to wait. But just three days ago I decided that it was enough and I booked a ticket to Sri Lanka.
The good thing is that I had enough time to complete two other important articles for this blog that I've been wanting to write for ages. Most of the people who visit my blog wants advice to travel to India so the next two articles will be:
- What to Pack for Your Next Travel and Yoga Adventure to India, and
- Should I Travel India With a Laptop, a Tablet or a Smartphone?
Don't forget to subscribe by mail here to make sure you wont miss these blog updates that I'll be publishing in the next two weeks. The yoga products review will hopefully come soon after that.
Living through the earthquake in Nepal
So this was my life in Nepal. Living through the earthquake was quite an experience and I'm grateful to have had such a wonderful opportunity to help. I wish I could have done more, and I know I could have but I also know that I did my part.
|Oil lamps offerings right in front of the Great Stupa|
Believe it or not the tremors continued even till my last week in Nepal and I think they will still continue for a while. It was a bit annoying cause it felt as if the earth was trembling all the time.
|A special evening puja (ritual) for the victims of the earthquake. Everybody is facing the Great Stupa.|
Now I'm back in Arugam Bay, Sri Lanka. I think a bit of surfing, the extreme heat and some fresh fish in my diet will be good for my body. Unfortunately my daypack with all my valuables (including my laptop and my passport) was stolen during the night bus from Colombo to Arugam Bay. Yeah, that really sucks. I'll tell you more about that soon. Luckily I was able to finish this blog post before my bag was stolen.