As I've often said, I find my greatest joy in connecting with people of different cultures and in different countries. I'm amazed at how much we as part of the human family have in common, regardless of our different circumstances. And how much we can communicate love and care to each other with and without words.
Today, more than six years since my trek in the lower Himalayan Annapurna mountains in Nepal, I'm feeling a connection with Jyoti, one of the village women who sold jewelry to those who passed through the area. She and her friend set up at our first day's end destination, and I bought some bracelets, one of which I wear to this day. A beautifully intricate design reminiscent of the lotus flower, it reminds me that I deserve to be happy.
It also reminds me of Jyoti, whom I met again the a last night of the trek.
She and her friend had set up, and some of the trekkers prepared to haggle for prices. I, having made many purchases at stops during our trek (people would come from nearby villages, and from those miles away in the hill mountains to sell their wares), was torn. I really had more than I needed for gifts for loved ones back home, yet this was Jyoti's livelihood.
Then something really cool happened.
I became the haggle mediator. Having learned the art of bargaining, I helped my friend and fellow trekker Mary negotiate a price for a beautiful and not inexpensive necklace she really wanted.
Mary was thrilled. Jyoti was thrilled. I was thrilled.
I spent a bit of time talking with Jyoti that evening, her command of English allowing conversation. She shared that they had missed the last bus down the mountainside to their village and that they would spend the night in the tiny village near the campsite.
The next morning, arising from the relative comfort of my tent, and accepting the tea offered to me, I wandered over to the village. There, in a three sided structure sat a number of adults, including Jyoti, on wooden benches at a wooden table. Children played nearby. "Namaste " followed "Namaste" as we greeted each other with smiles, hands pressed together in the traditional way. Handing out little heart shaped stickers, I learned that Jyoti had slept on the floor. As she scurried to set up for one last sales opportunity, I learned she had not had dinner the night before or any breakfast. I offered her the can of almonds I'd been carrying, humbled. Deeply humbled.
And then she said something to me.
After thanking me again for helping her with her sales, she told me that even though she would return down the mountainside to her home today, never seeing me again, she would always remember me. That every day she would think of me, because we had become friends. She gave me a lovely little necklace as a token of her appreciation and friendship.
I've never forgotten that experience, or her, and every day I think of her with gratitude. I hope she is well and happy.
Because we are friends.