I’m writing this final article in Nepal, sitting at Pappaz Bakery in Dhapasi, one of my favorite hang-outs in Kathmandu, a place where I’ve thoroughly enjoyed the apple pie, veg burgers and momos and more recently mint lemonade. After almost 4.5 years in Nepal and three years in India, today I’m leaving this part of the world. I do know that I will come back to Nepal because I want to do more with wheelchair basketball. Fortunately, the Himalayan Times is allowing me to continue to write occasional articles discussing partnerships that I come across in the US. I’ll be coaching (assistant) women’s wheelchair basketball at the University of Arizona and working with farmers’ markets in Tucson, Arizona.
I’ve been thinking a lot about how I’ve gotten to this place, where I can live my passions on a more regular basis. I’ve learned so very much while living in this part of the world during my 50’s.
I’ve learned a lot about love as I’ve been very fortunate in having a few relationships with women from a variety of cultures. This has broadened me in many ways and has hopefully helped me to be a more caring and sensitive person. I’ve also had many friendships with people from many nationalities, helping me to understand a bit more and become a world citizen. And I’ve developed friendships with others that will last my lifetime.
I’ve learned a lot more about patience and kindness that things don’t have to be done in a certain way, that the world has an abundance of grey. I’ve received kindness from others on a daily basis, the frequent motorcycle rides from strangers who go out of their way, the guy who let me walk with him under his umbrella when it was raining, the meals and tea that total strangers invite me to share in their homes, the people who playfully tease me about what I’ve purchased at the local market, the guys who’ve repaired my shoes innumerable times charging me very little, the mom, dad and two daughters who always give me a little extra at their fruit and vegetable shop.
I’ve developed an incredible passion for playing and coaching (wheelchair) basketball. This started in New Delhi when my “date” on Saturday nights was with a number of children (and some of their parents) coaching them at the YMCA. This carried through when I met a number of people working for the National Basketball Association (NBA) at the YMCA. I then combined basketball with my VSO assignment with the National Trust-Government of India in the field of development disabilities, leading to learning and coaching wheelchair basketball. This led to projects with Wheelchair Athletes Worldwide (WAW) in both New Delhi and Kathmandu and co-coaching the Nepal Army Wheelchair Basketball Team with the best wheelchair basketball coach in Nepal. I also helped to coach a number of young Nepalis in wheelchair basketball. This culminated with acting as Commissioner for the recently completed Turkish Airlines ENGAGE Empowering (wheelchair basketball) League. Through this work I believe that I’m playing a small role in creating further opportunities for persons with disability and helping to create greater awareness, one day leading to more societal inclusion.
I’ve learned a lot about and have been able to hang out with a variety of children in both Kathamndu and Karjanha, Siraha where we established a library at Phul Kumari Mahato Memorial Hospital. The children never cared how old I was and always saw me as a playmate. I will forever remember all of these children calling me “Mike uncle”.
While living in Nepal and India, I’ve also been able to eat well and generally maintain my health. My vegetarianism has gotten stronger as I eat a lot of fruits and vegetables. I’ve also been able to exercise, playing basketball on a fairly regular basis and even started doing some yoga.
I’ve learned about being as non-polluting as possible, not owning/driving a car and washing my clothes by hand. I’ve learned to sit in a circle with others when discussing issues, something I want to bring back to the US.
I leave Nepal knowing that mostly I’ve tried my best to make a difference, to look at and value different perspectives, that mostly I really don’t know, but can offer suggestions. I will miss the smiles on people’s faces when I’ve spoken ali, ali nepali barsha. My life in India and Nepal has changed me in innumerable ways, many of which I might not realize but will further understand by my new life in the US.
I’ve already made connections with the Nepali community in Tucson through the Nepalis and Friends Association in Arizona (http://www.nafausa.org/) and hope to celebrate Deshain with them. Although I have physically left the country, Nepal will always be in my heart. My room in America will be decorated with items from Nepal and also India. I’ve come to understand that life really is a journey and the more that we flow with it, the more understanding and happiness we can have. My heart is heavy as I leave, but I will always, until my last breath this time around, be connected to Nepal.