Discomfort and Euphoria

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There are two things we take for granted everyday: electricity and water. In Nepal, these essential systems are erratic.

As someone from an affluent nation enters a less economically-well-off region, there is an immediate reduction in comfort. But with discomfort comes an unexpected upsurge of euphoria.

This week, I arrived in Nepal to study Himalayan and Tibetan Peoples with SIT World Learning. After a bumpy, awe-inspiring bus ride up the foothills of the Himalayas, we arrived in Pharping, Nepal. Pharping is home to many ancient temples and monasteries. Guru Rimpoche, one of the holiest figures in Tibetan Buddhism, is said to have spent seven years, seven months, seven days and seven hours here meditating in a cave where he achieved enlightenment.

In Nepal, as in a large part of the world, there are two general problems with water: supply and quality. Needless to say my pampered United States stomach was not ready for the microorganisms present in this area.

Within the short four-day-period of our incredible orientation, 14 out of 20 students fell sick. I was the second to go. After an adventure around the temples and a cup of milk tea in a small hut, my tummy began to grumble. I walked back as quickly as possible to our lodging-place where the bodily discomfort took hold.

I will spare you the details, but imagine loosing all of your bodies nutrients, rapidly, in an unpleasant variety of ways. My roommate came into the room a few hours later, suddenly sick as well, and we spent the night taking turns in the bathroom. Twelve hours were spent in a shiver, moving from a firm, wooden bed, to a wet, pungent bathroom. I must have lost ten pounds that night.

Twenty four hours later, I could not feel more alive. Sickness makes you appreciate health. Discomfort precedes euphoria.

As my Tibetan friend and teacher, Phurwa, put it; “Everyone could use a cleanse.”

I am currently living with my Tibetan host family in Boudha. Boudha is the Buddhist and Tibetan hub of Kathmandu—the capital city of Nepal. The kind, gentle couple and their two-year-old son, Tenzin—meaning holiness—have welcomed me into their home. I am honored and grateful.

The bathroom in my new home is typical of most Kathmandu apartments. There is no toilet, but rather a hole in the ground. There is no shower, but rather a large basin for washing. Water flow in inconsistent, so we must cherish it when we have it.

Electricity is similarly spotty. Sometimes the lights will turn on, sometimes they will not. Sometimes I can use the outlet to charge my laptop and do my homework, other times I cannot.

In Nepal, bureaucracy constrains the supply chain. Though rivers flow in abundance from the Himalayas, hydropower and potable water remain elusive.

A wise Nepali man named Anil Chitrakr gave a lecture to our group on the present state of Nepal.

“Imagine two large, hot cups of water with a small cup of cold water in between: eventually the small glass will heat up,” Chitrakr explained.

China and India are the first and third largest economies in the world, respectively. Nepal is a geographically small country (though it has the 20th largest population in the world) nestled between two giants. Nepal is cold, but soon it will become warm.

With economic growth comes comfort: water and electricity. But for now I will enjoy my discomfort and the euphoria that it brings.

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A mineral must endure millions of years of heat and pressure, but one day it will become a mountain.