Day 11. Forest of Joy
It was almost as if I was sprouting wings as we drove out of the Kathmandu valley. The smog and incessant honking was wearing me down to where I could hardly breathe. Buildings began to crowd in less and color and people began to appear through the ever widening gaps between them. Each sari-clad wife washing clothes, each child at play, each little rice terrace garden was a breath of fresh air as we flew to the hills and forests.
Clatter and bump our little minibus goes around the looping dirt road, dodging oversize trucks with messages like “Slow Drive – Long Life” painted on their bumpers. Between sailing through white dust-clouds we get a glimpse of gardens, houses, and people below. Our minibus lands right at the foot of a stone staircase. We are here to visit a Leprosy Hospital that we are told is at the top of these steps. I feel my thighs burn and breath is short but I push on urgently; we are an hour and a half late for our appointment and they should be closing in just a half hour. My fears are allayed when at the top we are greeted warmly and told we will be able to film anything we would like. I wonder what we will find. The face of Jesus, I hope.
“Where can we meet some of the leprosy affected people?” I ask after touring the kitchen and bio-gas producing facility.
“Yes, next we can visit the mens’ ward.” our guide offers.
We enter into a sanctuary of sorts where men can gain dignity and heath. The fatherly faces that greet us lay aside every ting of fear or reservation. They have purpose and the future is bright. Toothy grins and greetings of “Namaste” find us there as we touch the face of Jesus. “Tell me, how long are the patients usually here?” I ask.
“Maybe six months; it depends on how severe the case. They are able to stay free of charge and receive all the necessary medications and therapy. Some times they return here because their sores come back.” I am told, “Now maybe we can visit the womens’ ward.”
Entering the womens’ ward was warm and filled with smiles, shy wrinkles and laughter! Pain exists but holiness prevails. Mothers and grandmothers knit with beautiful gnarled hands and chat back and forth. Kate, an American girl working here with United Mission to Nepal who is traveling with us for the
day, connects well with the women. She speaks in Nepalese asking the women their names. I just smile and absorb theirs. In each person a hope of wholeness exists that leaves me more full and whole through interaction with it. Pain exists but hope and holiness prevail.
As we prepare to leave I notice a large sign in Nepalese script and ask our guide what it means.
“It means, ‘Forest of Joy’” he replies, “That is the name of our facility here.”
They could not have picked a better name.
Even though I will descend back into the Kathmandu valley, I will keep my eyes on the hills and always remember the faces, joy and hope that I encountered there.
I will remember that pain exists but, hope and holiness prevail.