A letter from Kasia

Pietro and I were only once in Mustang. Just once. It was all it took to fall in love with that place, its culture, the people…I would have never thought that exactly 8 years later I would have come back, alone with a doughter, to build a school!

It all started because of Pietro. One day he came home with an idea, one of his many crazy ideas, shouting “Let’s go to Nepal!”. I don’t know why, perhaps driven by curiosity, or maybe by reading a book or some article, or just by watching National Geographics where he lerned about the ancient Kingdom of Mustang and decided to take this trip.
This is who he was, pure instinct whith a child’s curiosity and a strong desire to do everything at once.

He even managed to find a person who had been there several times, had lived and worked there and talked about it with great enthusiasm. We got curious and wanted to meet him to have a better understanding of what he was talking about. This person is called Alberto and such encounter made him stay in our lives for a very long time.

We left not long after, it was the end of July. We had all the usefull adresses and contacts wth us of where to stay, what to visit, and what not to eat. Eight years ago Kathmandu was a place outside the world immersed into total caos. I have to say that it hasn’t changed a lot since then.

The traffic is messy, lots of people in the streets, cars moving in the city in a very caotic way, the car horn does not stop ringing for a second, monkeys and cows stand still at crossings, a mixture of strong smells like incense, flowers, gas, blood of animals slaughtered in the streets, butter candels…all in all a burst of sensations that can not be compared to anything I had seen or met before. All of this without ever forgetting to smile, and an inner peace noticeble at every corner. It’s hard to believe for those of us who come from a world where everything is somehow in order, under control, sterile.

Eightthousand meter tall giants, which is how the mountains surrounding the entire area are called. It is inevitable to feel such presence.

After a few days of adjusting we left for Mustang. Two planes and a night spent in Nochara (mandatory stop on the way). To enter the kingdom there are two roads. One from North Tibet, the other from South Nepal. I will never forget the arrival in Jomson. Each time i go there it is still my favourite part of the trip. A dip. A flight. The small plane that leads from Pochara to Jomson looks like a small hornet flying among giants. When the plane lands on the tiny track of Jomson you feel like you’re still flying. The sensation of flying never leaves you in Mustang, which is what I enjoy the most. Pietro was overwhelmed by the beuty of the mountains. I remember him sitting on a horse while spreading his arms and flapping them, pretending to have wings. At the time the only way to move from a place to another was by foot or on horseback. We obviously chose the second option. Tenzin, at the time nineteen years old, came to pick us up in Jomson. He had recently gotten married to Pema, a few years older than him. Tenzin and Pema where friends of Alberto, and over the years their home would become mine too, our doughters best friends, and through a special rite I would have become “sister in spirit” with Pema. We lost ourselves completely. It’s hard to explain, for an indefinite moment time stopped for us. We were completely intoxicated by the beuty of the scenary, the kindness of people, by mistic rites, by pure cheerfullness. But also by poverty. We spent nearly a month in Mustang staying at Tenzin and Pema’s home, who did not ask for a penny in return. I remember our farewell, early at dawn, when I gave Pema the only thing I had which was important to me, a small cross, nothing much but I saw tears fall on the face of my friend and I kew that she understood. I also knew that we would not see each other soon.
Pietro, who had been unusually silent over the last days, would not stop talking all the way to the airport of Jomson (this time by foot, 6 hours). He kept saying that we had to do something, that we where privileged for the work that we did, that mustangi culture is too precious and if it disappears it will be also our fault because we didn’t do anything to prevent it. He had thousands of ideas and we promised to return as soon as possible.
Life is strange. There are no accidents in my opinion and maybe this wasn’t the right time to “do something”.
I got pregnant shortly after, our baby was too little to come with us, work, our house, work again…and so our dreams stayed in Mustang.

But in the meantime news came from Terzin and Pema. We always kept in touch. A few weeks after the death of Pietro, Alberto called me, he was moved and told me that Tenzin had heard about Pietro’s death and had gone to Jomson to call me and let me know that the whole village had prayed for his spirit with a “Muggia” (a special preyer said by buddhist muncs which can last for a whole day).

This is when I understood that it was time to “do something”.

Eight years later, a daughter, a friend – Alberto, I went back to visit Tenzin and Pema strongly motivated but without a clear idea. I soon realized that our initial project to “do something” had turned into an emergency. I visited four other places and organized an expedition from La Mantang and even higher towards the border with China, with a group of medical acupuncturists to learn more about the culture, traditions and language of Mustang. I saw and I experienced in my own little way clearly, trying to look with my heart instead of being blinded by the search for “something”. After a year and a half I realized that the right thing to do was to build a school.

Ps. The project involves directly Alberto, Tenzin, Pema, all of Tenzin’s family, the entire community of the village of Ghemi, Kunzom (a Mustangi girl, who has been friends with Alberto for over 20 years, has lived for 10 years in America and has decided to come back and follow the project personaly), Shyam and Hari (Nepalese friends) and other friends of mine and mostly friends of Pietro’s who help me every day in making our deam come true.

Kasia Smutniak
Rome, February 20, 2012


    3 years ago Reply

    Decisamente interessante la scoperta di luoghi come questi, l’empatia dimostrata che ai tempi odierni è rara. Vivo a Milano, la città meglio organizzata, almeno tra le più grandi d’Italia, eppure non vedo empatia.
    persone dormono all’addiaccio e nessuno se ne prende cura.
    sono milanese e un po mi da fastidio che i miei concittadini siano dei perbenisti indifferenti.
    io ad esempio ho aiutato una ragazza rumena ad uscire da una storia di emarginazione cercandole lavoretti precari.
    quindi capisco tutto questo coinvolgimento, tanto più se ci si lascia trascinare da sensazioni di armonia e di pace che noi occidentali abbiamo da sempre trascurato fin dal medioevo all’insegna del potere e del denaro.
    Però la cosa che non capisco è perchè Kasia non approfitta di queste sue immagine nella mente, sensazioni, per porre la stesura di una bozza di una sceneggiatura, da ambientare in quei luoghi al fine di far conoscere una realtà a molti sconosciuta, un film che ci permetterebbe di far empaticamente nostre le emozioni da voi tutte vissute.
    col ricavato si potrebbe sovvenzionare il progetto onlus.
    Non so se riceverò mai risposta a questa mia, ma il consiglio che mi sento di dare è a fin di bene.

    un caro saluto


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