You will hear this word countless times every day while visiting Nepal. Everyone from small children to elderly women and men greet strangers with a friendly hello followed by putting their hands together in a prayer while nodding their head. It’s the most respectful way I have ever been greeted by another human being that I do not know.
The first time I ever heard this word I was sitting in a cultural anthropology college classroom. I remember my teacher explaining that “namaste” means, “I see the light in you” in some cultures. This small word instantly struck a chord with me and it wasn’t until years later that I have been able to experience a culture that uses this word.
Although I encounter many friendly people while traveling, the Nepali people are by far some of the kindest people I have ever met. They will go out of their way to make you feel comfortable. I’ve experienced this with hotel staff as well as people I met while walking along the street.
During my time in Nepal, I visited the mountain town of Dhading where the local people still live a very primitive lifestyle. Our guide is extremely active in helping the poor people of Nepal. He helps to build health care centers, daycare centers, orphanages, provides medical schooling to select locals, and helps communities to build a self-sustaining system of growing cash crops in order to provide some sort of income for the community.
The only foreigners in this place are volunteers who come to Nepal for months at a time. Some are nurses who monitor each of the 6 healthcare posts in Dhading, giving suggestions on how to make things better such as limiting the amount of antibiotics that are given to patients who may not need it. Antibiotics are readily available in Nepal and therefore many people have built up immunity to them.
They have a group of gynecologists who come to these communities to give surgeries to women in need. A large percentage of Nepali women who have had many babies begin to experience their uterus dropping (uterine prolapse) and it can be very painful if not surgically corrected.
Other volunteers have the job of teaching English to the local children. Their work has only just begun since the people in these communities speak very little English.
We walked through several villages and met many local people. It amazed me how they welcomed us with open arms into their homes. It felt a little odd at first to be walking through their yards and homes. They told our guide in Nepalese that it was frustrating for them because they really wanted to talk with us but we don’t understand each other’s languages. They were always happy to see us and we were greeted with a friendly and welcoming, “Namaste.”
To the people of Nepal, “I see the light in you!”