A quiet village at the foot of the Annapurna. Rice fields dominating the landscape. Farmers populating the valley. Dogs are bark, birds are sing, cicadas chirp, all melting into a symphony of nature. The surrounding hills show different shapes and corridors each unfolding with different lighting, weather and time. I could spend hours just starring at those mountains, discovering different faces everyday. In fact, that’s what I did.
When I first came to Ghachok, in September 2019, this place was heaven on earth. I just started my trip around the world with Nepal as the first destination and finished a 21 day trek in the mountains around the Annapurna. Before I went on the Trek, I met a men from Australia looking for an architect to help building a yoga center in a village named Ghachok.
The construction went slow, but my attachment to the place grew fast. I fell in love with those every changing green hills, the wild dogs, the view on the Annapurna every morning, the due rising from the blade of glas with the first light, the ever screaming children and the colorful culture. The Dahal family welcomed me with open arms. When it was time to leave, I was already part of the family, the project and the village.
This magical experience left me in tears, for days and days, and before I even left Nepal I booked my flight to come back here to relive the whole heaven in Ghachok experience.
So I came back, 4 months after that were spent in Mexico, Costa Rica and Namibia, to continue with the construction of the first house of our Yoga center. Expecting the same magical experience, I became the complete opposite. When Covid 19 hit the world, we where locked down in the village. There where days without any gas to cook and nothing but rice to eat. There was no way we could get windows in the Lockdown times, but the Monsun was coming fast. The structure was not ready, and so where we. In the second lockdown month the grandmother of the family pushed a bunch of red bangles over my wrist. First grateful for the gift I found out fast that she wanted me and my partner to appear as married people because it put shame on the family. From there on, I started to notice the subtle signs of sexism, over powering male dominated society and how little women’s opinion meant here. Not even mentioning the cast system, but this is a topic for another post.
With Bruno, the dog I rescued from a chicken farm, I went on a usual morning walk when I was attacked by a Nepali men with a knife in the jungle who obviously had dark sexual intentions. I made it back to the village with just a few cuts and bruises just to be told that walking in shorts like this I don’t have to wonder that something like this happens. I was told to keep quiet about this, and not make a scene.
I called the police and we had the guy hunted down. It was not the first time he did this, in fact, he apparently raped multiple women before. I was lucky I had the dog with me and that I am surely not the submissive type of women so nothing serious happened. My body wasn’t harmed but my mind surely was. In the process of going through the legalities with the police, I wasn’t heard at all. All the questions, matters and decisions where directed to my partner, who directed them back to me. No one listened when I talked, everything needed to be repeated by him to be heard. There where men supporting us regardless, but there where many who clearly expressed that I was over dramatizing the situation. Was I? I don’t think so.
The feminine doesn’t have a position of power in Nepal. The women of the village came to me and talked about their experiences. Domestic violence and rape is a normal thing and even accepted if both parties are married. Not to mention the daily violence against animals, especially dogs, that made me cause a lot of trouble in the village. I can’t accept animals being beaten.
With that situation, lockdown, attack of the guy, his family being around, the dog beating and the constant tension I left Nepal in Lockdown month 5 with no intention to come back here.
Now, 2 years later, I can call it Ghachok 3.0. Heaven turned out to be hell where I spent more time in the place and this time around we came back to finally finish the structure. The hills are still the same, the people are still the same, nature is still the same. I can’t see the beauty I saw almost 3 years ago. Is it gone? No. The village didn’t change – I did. I see so much male domination at every corner that honestly triggers the shit out of me. People stare, people talk, people judge. People act the way they act because they never ever get a glimpse on the world outside of the family unions they are born in. Domestic violence is a learned trait, as dog beating is. The people just don’t know any better.
What else can I do than standing there in silently set a different example? Planting seeds that might lead to change? Talking to the kids in order to make them realize that there is a different world out there?
I surely first have to overcome my own triggers and my own ego, start facing injustice with wisdom instead of full feminist power explosions, start asking critical questions instead of screaming “fuck you” and leave, start to celebrate the small changes instead of demonizing a whole culture. It’s my personal evolution manifesting on the outside. Ghachok, after all, is neutral.
Nepal is a beautiful country with so much potential stuck in a believe system ruled by religion and outdated views on justice, equality and love. I can’t change much here, but I can change tiny things eventually building up an momentum.