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“I was in Nepal for ten days in March of 2004. At that time it was already very unstable politically, with several one-day national strikes that left the whole country paralyzed. Even Nepal’s capital, Kathmandu would seem more like a ghost town. At first, I almost didn’t go, but after reading the US consulate’s website I decided to continue. Three days after my arrival, however, I came very close to leaving immediately because of another strike.

Draped in ancient splendor, the Kingdom of Nepal is a land decorated in exotic colors and a myriad of cultural treasures. With forests of elaborate, pagoda-style temples, exquisite stupas and monasteries, Nepal makes great effort to preserve their sacred shrines.

Bodhnath Stupa is one of the largest stupas in South Asia, located a few miles outside Kathmandu. Cascading strings of brightly-colored prayer flags all point to the painted eyes of a watchful Buddha above an enormous white, dome-like mound of stone. Dating as far back as the fourteenth century, it is not known for sure what remains inside this stupa because it is locked up, but many believe it houses extraordinary religious relics. Pans of special amber-colored water are dutifully offered in thanks at Bodhnath Stupa; artfully splashed by hand against the white dome in a perfect pattern of arches.
Adding to the country’s sacred ambience are the red-robed monks and nuns that fill the many monasteries of Nepal. Smiles abound in the monasteries, even during their most holy of rituals. Like the monks, the Nepalese live with an equal mix of reverence and joyfulness. They are motivated by tourism, which is the main revenue for the Nepalese. They are hardworking people, especially the women, whose self-sufficiency is a result of a cheerful appreciation of their own country.

The culture of Nepal is rich in complexity. As captivating as it may be, however, Nepal is still a fragile country. Tensions between the King and the Maoist rebels sometimes result in sudden strikes and dramatic public demonstrations that shake the country into turmoil. Yet, despite it all, Nepal always manages to find the power to persevere. Perhaps it draws its strength from the majestic range of surrounding mountains known as the Himalayas. Inspiring grandeur unfolds at the sight of these soaring mountains. Their towering presence often seems more connected to the sky than the earth, as its snow-capped peaks dazzle just as brightly in moonlight as they do under the sun.”