Tuesday, 3 June 2014

namaste


नमस्ते

It's been a week since we last came back home to Singapore but I haven't stopped thinking about Nepal since. I never expected how life-changing and eye-opening the trip was going to be. I went there with the objective to educate and empower Nepal youths through theatre but instead I feel like I had gained and learnt so much more than I have imparted.  

The air there was thick with dust and the water was dirt-brown and most of the team fell extremely ill. However, we would still go back there without hesitation because there is something to be said about the culture of Nepal. Everyone, stranger or friend, is so friendly and would always grace us with a smile. 


Pre-Production
It all began in a colourful activity room at Prisoner's Assistance Nepal. The team, Abiral Arts Group volunteers and the PAN kids were all split up into different groups. In these small groups was how we conducted theatre exercises. I was part of the Curriculum Planning group and it was surprisingly fun to teach theatre. I had the best co-facilitator Afiqah who has the knack of turning complicated instructions into simplified ones for those who weren't as good in English. Group A also had the most enthusiastic Singaporean participants. Kenneth, Caro and especially Novell would always initiate and volunteer to go first which helped the rest of the group open up. One of the most memorable things that happened was that during an exercise when they were told to imitate/act out a superhero or someone they admire, Susila acted as me. I was caught by surprise that she looks up to me because she is an inspiration to me. She's only 18 and she takes care of everyone's well-being and is extremely mature and independent. 

There was a day where I fell too ill and the entire Group A made me this get-well-soon video and card. I was beyond touched by their thoughtfulness. The next day when I went back, everyone (including the quiet ones) literally yelled my name and flew over to hug me. It's such a small thing but I appreciate their love so much. 



Sakhu Village
Sakhu is where most of them are from so we decided to pay a visit to their village just to take a look. It's away from the city area so the air's a lot cleaner and it's quite a beautiful place. They have a primary school there but as they get older, they have to walk 5 hours to the city for further education. The PAN kids were so excited to show us around and they even brought us to see their goat farm. 





Production Week
Production Week was really tough!!! We literally had 4 days to churn out and devise an entire performance at Hotel Vajra. Tickets were all sold out so we definitely had to put up a good show worth watching. Sleepless nights awaited Xuan Xuan, Ian and I as we built content drawn from and inspired by their own culture and life stories. The entire team managed to pull off a site-specific performance - a first of its kind in Nepal! We even had an actual cow as part of the performance. The cast really threw themselves into it and took it very seriously. The finale of the performance culminated into everyone gathering and writing their hopes and dreams onto paper lanterns and letting them go at the rooftop. It really was such a beautiful moment watching the lanterns go as all of us sung Nepali songs. 

The end of the performance also meant that we finished what we initially set out to accomplish. It was so bittersweet for all of us because we became so close to these kids and it was hard to say goodbye. We knew we couldn't be too emotionally invested but a lot of us - the team and the participants, cried so much. We changed their lives and in a way they changed ours. 

Before Susila left, she gave me a beaded bracelet as my birthday gift and its something that I treasure very much. 







R&R
Most of the team went back once the production ended but I decided to extend my trip alongside Ian, Kyla, Novell, Sean and Caro. With the aid of Mei and Indira, we managed to visit the Nepali central prison where most of the parents of the PAN kids are. When we were inside the prison, we were just plain astounded. We didn't know what to say or do because some of them truly don't deserve living this way. I met Susila's Mom and I tried to introduce myself to her. She doesn't really know English but she just kept smiling at me. I was at a loss of words.

Prajool took us to Nagakort where we climbed the gravity tower and Changu to see historic sites. We also managed to sneak into Bhaktupur Old City (heehee) We wanted to go paragliding but it seems that the rainy weather has descended upon Nepal so we couldn't. On the bright side, we managed to wrangle a free road trip to the top of the take-off point to view the mountains. 



So much has happened within the 17 days in Nepal its hard to sum it up in one blog post.
All I know is that I'm incredible grateful and thankful to God for all that has happened; truly this OCIP was a blessing and too many things fell into place to be simply called a coincidence. 
I miss the little crazy things of our team - the drunken antics of Hui Er while sober, Sean yelling "you look stunning" at the top of his voice, the SGxNepal lookbook with Kim and Novell, Kenneth and his fan choy, Sofi's macik laughter etc. 
But just as how I told the group during the last day - don't be sad it ended, be glad it happened. I was upset for a long while and this trip gave me the reprieve to settle the jumbled mess in my mind. I feel like I've seen a whole new side of the world I've never seen before. 
In these 17 days, I have been irrevocably changed.

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