IF you want me to tell you how many minutes have to tick by before I climb aboard the big silver bird and return to Nepal, then I can.
If you want me to express my feelings about this return – then it becomes a little difficult. Let me explain.
It is almost four years since a tearful me was given the send-off of a life time by the children and staff of Samata School in Kathmandu. The experience was like saying goodbye to more than 3,000 extra grandchildren, children I had learned to love in one short month, children who had lavished love and affection on me.
No wonder I was in tears.
Over the years between, the children and teachers have sent e-mails telling me of their progress and saying they missed me. This would send me to my Samata bag, a rather splendid leather shoulder bag bought in Thamel and containing the letters, cards and gifts the children had given me. A real treasure chest.
No wonder that month in late 2008 is still fresh in my memory, an experience I have recounted to scores of people – sometimes to the point of boredom !
So what is difficult about the return?
I was always advised never to return to a former ‘life’, be it with places or people. Treasure the memories of the past and look forward to the future and something new. Good advice.
Would the return not live up to my expectations – whatever they are – or would time have made changes that tarnish the memories of the past?
Of course there are constants in Samata. The school’s founder, the never-tiring Uttam, with his inspirational enthusiasm and vision; his deputy, the cool Binod, whose administrative abilities (and bartering powers) are legendary; the teachers trying to give the kids an education in such challenging circumstances; the school itself and the children…
And here is the worry. Many of the older children (and teachers) will have left, children who honoured me by telling me of their hopes and dreams. The younger ones will be older (hardly an intellectual conclusion on my part); will they remember the fun we had? Or will Grandfather Peter have become an anachronism?
Will the little girl who gave me her treasured possession – a small, glass marble – remember me? Will Pooja, the tiny girl who ‘adopted’ me, still be at the school? Will those small boys who met me each morning with a high-fives or a thumbs up, followed by “Namaste, Grandfather Peter”, still feel happy to afford me this greeting now they are ‘big boys’? Will the new pupils respond to my approach?
I can only hope.
What I do know is that for six weeks I will do my best to help both children and teachers. If they accept me – great! If not, I’ll still try.
It isn’t everyone who is given the chance to visit Shangri La twice, and believe me Nepal and Samata combine to make it Shangri La.
Come to think of it, I’m feeling more positive already.
Watch this space to see if my hopes and dreams materialise.