October 2012 Trek
By Eitan Shaked (Israeli Childhood Development Therapist & Educator), October 2013 Eco-Trek Participant
I am happy to share with the readers the powerful and empowering experience that was my trip to Nepal – certainly one of the most important experiences of my life.
Meeting the other travelers was a very significant experience for me:
Some were younger than me and some were older, men and women from Israel and the U.S., of diverse professions and fields of interest. The differences between us, however, were precisely the force that drew us together, toward the intimate knowledge of each other's personal story. Being together for 15 days created a feeling in me that our shared journey was so natural and obvious, and as far as I was concerned, it could have continued much longer: Eating our meals together, sharing our delights and the challenges along the way, communicating our personal stories, riding elephants, visiting the schools and the other institutions of ELA (Everest Learning Academy), and the long drives turned us into a family of sort, rich with diversity and variety yet without "generation gaps." I remember the final ride from Chitwan District back to Kathmandu, a long drive on a bumpy road. The conversations that arose in the minibus achieved new depths and intimacy. We wanted to deepen our acquaintance even further, before saying final goodbye. During that bumpy ride, we laughed at jokes that had become part of our collective life as a group.
The other travelers in this group are very dear to me. They are all mirrors of myself, of parts inside me. I learned something about myself from each of them.
The scenery of Nepal touched me to the point of tears. I remember the first morning of the trek, when suddenly we saw, peeking over the clouds, the summits of the snow-capped, magical Himalayas - this was an extremely rare sight to encounter from our vantage point, like no other; the soft landscapes of terraced rice fields adorning the mountain slopes; the enchanting forest in which every ancient tree trunk is a work of art; the special rocks of Nepal representing every shade of the rainbow and even more, for there were rocks in shades of gold and silver; the peaceful villages, where I could feel and experience real life - the simple, ancient and wise balance of man and nature that has existed for generations and eons - still exists here with fragile survival, confronting the dangers that Western culture brings.
I loved the meetings with the villagers and those who crossed our way, their simplicity and warm greeting, placing their palms together before their chests in hearty welcome – NAMASTE – children and adults, young and old alike.
I am a person who looks for a meaning in every action. For me, this trek was the fulfillment of a fundamental and important wish - to tour wonderful Nepal and, while doing so, to take part in significant humanitarian work of the highest order. This is what made the trip an unforgettable, watershed event for me. While visiting the schools, community centers and orphanages established by Dr. Tel-Oren, I felt that something really big was taking place there, and that I was a partner to it. It is indeed an unusual experience – to enter a school and be received by the entire community with bouquets of flowers and tremendous love.
My personal story is linked to my belief that people can create their own life's reality. The trip, however, taught me an additional, important layer; that ONE person can create positive change in many communities, even in an entire society. I felt the momentum of Dr. T's work and sense of purpose, within the understanding that now is the time to save as many children as possible, to save a society and a heritage. The opportunity to restore communities to their roots, to the beauty already present within them -- before their pursuit of the illusions of the West accelerates to the point of no return, leaving a rural society torn and polluted by artificial food and plastic wrappers that soil the amazing, virginal landscape.
When Dr. Adiel Tel-Oren arrived here years ago, the processes of social destruction were already advancing. The rural society has been weakening, and has been loosing thousands of children who are kidnapped every year and sold into slavery and prostitution in India. Dr. Tel-Oren believes that it is possible to put a stop to the destruction, to kindle a light in the lives of the people, and to empower the traditional communities and the unity of the families. After two and a half weeks with him, I have become a big believer. I have seen the results.
I was very happy to bring to Nepal something of myself, an approach that integrates with the educational work. With Dr. Tel-Oren's participation, I have developed Earth-Toys as an educational-therapeutic approach that blends well with his educational-communal-ecological vision, and I am happy and thankful for the privilege of being integrated into his work. For me, the creative Earth-Toys workshop at the orphanage in Chitwan was a significant learning experience, professionally and personally, as an educator and therapist.
I was nearly 48 years old when I came to Nepal. I thought that the aches and pains in my knee were a normal part of my aging process, and that therefore my body's loss of vitality was to be expected at my age. I was amazed to discover that precisely the challenges along the trek have given me a sense of renewed youth. I'm sitting at my home now, just two days after the trip to Nepal, feeling young, full of energy and completely free of pain.
I am grateful for all the learning I've done during the trip: Learning about our ability to bring about change; learning about myself and about my strengths at any given moment; learning about Dr. Tel-Oren's medical approach, about his fascinating explanations regarding our condition as human beings. Dr. Tel-Oren speaks and explains at eyes' level, with frankness and personal warmth.
Dr. Tel-Oren, dear and enchanting man, my learning experiences on the trip with you were highly significant ones, in fact they're a basis for the rest of my life.
The most touching memories that I will treasure in my heart forever were the moments when you treated villagers who required medical care, two adults and a child. I saw you touching each person gently, and with your touch and gaze you’re instilling serenity, abundant in warmth and love, sharing, and caressing.
Thank you with all my heart!
Eitan Shaked, October 26, 2013