Reflections on Chhulemu

If you go on one of the three HDF Volunteer Treks to Rebuild Chhulemu, you will experience everything from unimaginable earthquake devastation to equally unimaginable hospitality and warmth from the villagers.

It’s an agricultural village, with each family farming its plot of land for sustenance throughout the year. They are Sherpa people, humble by nature and live in the Buddhist tradition of welcoming visitors among their midst.

Though they have little to give, they give it freely and with an open heart. You will find yourself out walking in the village when a woman tending her crops will spot you and ask you in for tea. Of course you will say yes. It would be bad manners to refuse her offer. Accompanying the tea might be an offering of food. Most likely, that offer will be local delicacies of hard boiled eggs and boiled potatoes. The potatoes might be served with a spicy homemade condiment. Daily life is simple and with your hosts setting a slower pace that’s palpable, it’s easy to relax and really feel at home.

Children will come up to you, and with ease they will greet you with “Namaste” while holding their hands in prayer position. They all learn English in school and once they get over their embarrassment of speaking in our tongue, most will gladly engage you in conversation. They are eager to speak to trekkers and learn about the world outside their village. If you take the time to play, they will demonstrate their skills at soccer and other games. They are deeply loved and cared for not only by their immediate families, but the entire village.

Villagers love to party and celebrate. They love draping the necks of visitors and special guests with long flowing “thank you” and “best wishes for a safe journey” white satin scarves and handmade wreathes of freshly picked marigolds. When the work is done, often they will gather at a neighbor’s house and celebrate in traditional Sherpa dance wearing ceremonial costumes. Host-made Sherpa food is always center stage and Roxi, a locally made brew, flows readily.

Your days will be filled with hard work and a satisfaction for the impact you are having on one tiny village and its inhabitants. You will experience firsthand what your volunteering means to them and of the lasting influence your time and effort will have on them. They will thank you profusely, maybe to the point of your embarrassment. Let your guard down, and your hearts will touch in love and compassion, only known by two souls mingling in humility, and you’ll never be the same.

Reentry from time spent in Chhulemu may be difficult and you may experience a feeling of longing. You will have been away from phone calls, texting, emails, and the internet, working to rebuild a community and the lives of the people within it. The everyday thorns in your side will be removed when you board a plane for Kathmandu and while you are gone you will be able to concentrate on settling into an easier way of life and focus on the mission of your trek.

The simple, rhythmic life of harvesting and drying beans and corn from ancient terraced fields is both idyllic and soothing to the soul. You will love the pace and the easy nature of the tea culture, one neighbor to another, and you’ll want to go back.