Journal Highlights: Roads I Have Traveled ... Excerpt #2 October 1997

I am delighted to be sharing with you the origins of our friendship with the people of Nepal in these Travel Journal excerpts. Since these 1997 and 2002 excerpts Project C.U.R.E. has delivered nearly $12 million dollars worth of donated medical goods to Nepal. Here is a wonderful miracle that took place regarding the recent devastating earthquake: Just the day before the quake hit Nepal Project C.U.R.E. had a 40' ocean going cargo container jam-packed full of desperately needed medical goods arrive in Kathmandu, Nepal and clear customs. One of the UNICEF disaster tents was dismantled at the epicenter of the quake so that Project C.U.R.E.'s container could be strategically placed and medical personnel started using the supplies and pieces of equipment from the container immediately saving many lives on the spot.
Additionally, hundreds of thousands of dollars worth of supplies were carried into the quake area in "Project C.U.R.E. Kits." Right now another 40' cargo container with nearly $400,000 worth of medical goods is on the water from our Tempe, Arizona facility and will be arriving soon. These early seeds planted nearly 20 years ago are now producing a wonderful and fruitful harvest in Nepal and the other 130 countries around the world.

NEPAL October 1997 (cont) Narayan arranged for me to meet at 7:00 a.m. with J. N. Khanal, the former prime minister of Nepal. His coalition government has just been restructured, which restructured him right out of his job as prime minister. However, Mr. Khanal is still perhaps the most influential politician in Kathmandu. Democracy and the parliamentary system of government are still very new in Nepal, and my guess is that Mr. Khanal will remain a vital part of Nepalese politics for a long time to come. 

As soon as Narayan introduced me to the prime minister, he was called out for some emergency situation, which left the prime minister and me alone to discuss many things. He was very intrigued with Project C.U.R.E. and asked if we would be willing to work with him in the future as well. I assured him we would. He asked if we only deal in medical equipment, or if we could partnership in other areas. He told me that the country is very desperate for additional hydroelectric facilities. “We have lots of water in the rivers, but not enough hydro plants to generate electricity for our people.”

We went on to talk about the agricultural industry. He explained that there is a good opportunity for increasing the production of tea and improving on the packaging process and distribution. “We grow excellent tea here in Nepal, but no one can afford to plant the crop and wait for the first five years to harvest it.” 

I explained our intentions to come alongside Ethiopia and help them become a net exporter of foodstuffs in the next ten years. The prime minister went on to tell me they also grow good apples and other fruit, but as is the case with nearly all the crops, they have to use water buffalo and oxen to plow the fields. 

I asked him about the educational needs of Nepal, and he told me they really need everything. I shared with him how Project C.U.R.E. has been involved in Kenya, Russia, and the Ukraine sending reference books to the schools. I pledged that we will not try to export any of our culture by sending novels, US history books, or social materials, but rather if we send books, they will be limited to encyclopedias, dictionaries, medical books, science and math books, and other reference books. He really appreciated my sensitivity regarding the cultural issues. 

I guess I have tried quite hard to respect and value the dignity and background culture of the people I have met in the countries I visit. I’m not sure how to explain it, but I have found inside of me not just a fascination or curiosity with the people and their traditions but feelings of deep love and admiration for them as well. I am a little surprised at myself when I take inventory and find that some of the people I really care about and have considered some of my dearest friends are people I have met outside my traditional sphere of influence. I think of Vilmar Thrombeta and Drs. Paulo and Lorena Velho and their entire family in Brazil. I think of Ambassador Kim Jong Su and many others from North Korea. I think of Don Osman and his family in Nairobi, and many others, and I realize that somewhere along the line God did some radical changing of the motherboard of my computer—at the very citadel of my being. 

I am learning quickly about some of the customs of the Nepalese people. When they want to honor someone, they place a necklace of flowers over their heads called a mala. The most common greeting is “Namaste.” It is passed on as the Nepalese people place their palms together with their fingers up to their faces and dip their heads slightly with respect. Only westernized folks reach out to shake hands.

There are no locks on the doors of Nepalese homes outside the busy city, and I was invited to come in for tea continuously. Of course, as is the tradition throughout Asia, you always take off your shoes before entering a home. Chopsticks are not used in Nepal, but more like Mongolia, you lay your left hand beside your leg or on your lap and use your fingers on your right hand to mix and stir together everything on your plate and then serve it into your mouth. The left hand is never used even to present a business card to someone. That’s because the left hand is utilized in the excrement process and is therefore considered defiled. 

In Nepal it is rude to put your hand on someone’s head or shoulder, and as is the custom in Eastern Europe and all of Asia, men and women never touch or show affection to each other in public. However, those same cultures approve of members of the same sex walking down the street arm in arm or holding hands. It is strictly taboo to ever point the bottom of one’s foot toward another person. You shouldn’t touch another person or even a cow with your foot. If you want to motion for someone to come to you, you don’t curl your index finger at the person or motion with a circular movement of your hand pointing up. Rather, you motion to the person with your hand extended and your fingers pointing down. Well, so much for cultural hints when you travel to Kathmandu.

Next Week: Trekking in Nepal

© Dr. James W. Jackson

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