There are around 50 different countries in Asia, all unique and interesting in their own way. As it is relatively easy to find ways to travel inexpensively within the United States or the America’s generally, Asia often promises the same. Living in Indonesia is especially convenient for travel, as there are around 18,000 islands within close distance, each with a unique spin, and all incredibly affordable, although it can also be easy to find cheap flights to other countries in Asia.
Recently, I went to Nepal with my family to trek through the Lang Tang National Park, near the Tibetan border. The program we went with was called the Dolma Fund, which is a trekking organization where 30% of the cost amount goes to something called the Dolma fund. This fund aims to sponsor Nepalese children to receive a sufficient high school education, and often a further education as well. We were in the mountains for 10 days, hiking for 4-5 hours each day. I was able to spend some quality time in a village called Briddim, which acted as a kind of base camp throughout our trip, and was the home of our guide Tsering. Because of this, we were able to make connections with the people there and learn a lot about the culture on a more personal level. The Nepalese people are some of the nicest, most accepting, friendly and generous people I have ever met. Many people that go to Nepal come back and say, “You think you’re going for the mountains, but you later realize it’s for the people”; it is the people that make Nepal so beautiful. Although trekking was the primary purpose of our trip, we ended up experiencing so much more.
The Engagement drama
The thing I admire about Nepal (especially in the mountains) is that they have continued to stick to their traditions and have not conformed to modern society. I was lucky enough to experience one of these traditions. In Nepal, when a man wishes to ask for a woman’s hand in marriage, even in this day in age, he must still approach her father and family to request their permission. Due to Nepal’s mountainous landscape, it is most definitely an effort to travel and make this request, making it even more amazing that people still do this. Once in the mountains, one can usually only travel by foot, and villages are at least 3 hours apart, again showing the effort needed to carry out this tradition.
When we had already been in the mountains for a night or two, our guide received a call from his brother, who confessed to proposing before asking permission. However, as the tradition goes, her parent’s permission still needed to be given, and the brother had made this acceptance harder for himself, as the parents were now frustrated. On top of that, the brother was unable to make it himself, as he lived in Kathmandu and was unable to make it up into the mountains in time. The burden then fell on our guide, as their father had passed away, and he was the next directly related family member; it had to be a male.
Because of this last minute drama, we slightly altered our trekking schedule, to make time to go to the fiancé’s village and ask for her parent’s permission. Her village was about four hours away, and ended up being one of the hardest hike’s we did throughout the trip. Before we left, Tsering had to organize a group of people from the village to go with him and help persuade the parents to agree to the marriage. Traditionally, the family members bring food, gifts, and Ara: a Nepalese brewed alcohol, to win over the parents.
Once we arrived at the village, we camped in tents on the fiancé’s parent’s property, mostly observing the situation, as we could not understand the language. The small room we entered, to take refuge from the cold filled with laughter, anger and frustration, as the village members became progressively drunk. The discussion went on all night. At one point, 4 of the villagers were forced to walk to the next village to retrieve the mother, who had left earlier that day due to a fight with her husband. This brought about more conflict and irritation, and after a whole night of reasoning, the wife demanded they continue in the morning. So they did. Eventually the parents agreed to the marriage.
The reality that Nepal has kept this tradition alive is so amazing and such a relief, as I see so many countries that have lost, or are beginning to lose these traditions that feed their uniqueness. These traditions are what make each country so distinct and exquisite, they tell its story and act as a guideline to life. To see modern society impose on these countries in such a way that they begin to lose this core saddens me greatly. Bali is like Nepal, in the sense that is has held on to many of it’s traditional and cultural aspects. However, I am beginning to see certain development throughout the island as it’s popularity increases, and this worries me. For it is the presence of beauty and cultural strength within these countries that make them so precious and extraordinary.
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