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Abe Lloyd, an American and MSC instructor who teaches Botany and Ecology at Western Washington University at Washington, has a deeper connection with Nepal. He was connected with the ‘Study Abroad’ program under which he would always bring some students to learn something from Nepal.
Abe had joined the Peace Corps in Nepal in September 2003 when he filled up an application form for volunteerism and then waited for an assignment to serve anywhere in the world. He was lucky that he was assigned to serve as a volunteer for Nepal.
It was Peace Corps run by the US government that provided information about Nepal to the US nationals. Abe stayed in Nepal for three months in the early periods to learn about Nepali language and cultures. He had a basic orientation about Nepal in Butwal for nearly five weeks.
Then, he was assigned to work in Langtang National Park along with few partners from Langtang Park as the staff who supported him in the navigation of the park. It was a two-year program. He served only for one year. It was a Maoist insurgency time. He was here from 2003 to 2004.
Peace Corps has been in Nepal for the last 40 years. In the initial years of civil war in Nepal, there was no problem for US volunteers from Maoists. But when the US government started to support the Nepal army, Maoist started resenting the American presence in Nepal.
He came to Nepal for the second time in 2009 and volunteered for the Botanical garden to research climate change. He went on a research expedition to Gosainkunda in 2009 and studied plants and their effect on climate. It was for three weeks.
He came to Nepal for the third time after the last earthquake in 2015. In August-September 2017, he came by himself to act as the guest speaker and explore the parts of the trails that he had been before.
Abe spent two weeks here. He came to Nepal alone. In the first week of October, he came with 13 students under the student program in Nepal for seven weeks.
He said that he had found a homely family in Nepal as he had started liking nature, culture, and lifestyle of the people here. When he was a Peace Corps volunteer, he had stayed with a Nepali family. “It was wonderful to stay with my family. Now after the earthquake I met them again and felt happy,” said he.
“It takes a lot of time to teach about plants and animals. I could not go to Thailand to do the same thing. I have studied plants and animals here in Nepal. It is almost the same thing learning about plants and animals like ferns in the national parks. The plants are from the same family and the same species,” says Abe.
The national flower of Nepal is rhododendron. This flower is very beautiful. In Washington also the same type of rhododendron is found said he.
Talking about the education system Abe said, “I think the students learned a lot about plants and animals. In Nepal, the children have to support their parents in domestic chores. But in the US, the children have more time to play.”
“So, when my students come to Nepal they learn how to take care of their needs and learn to remain happy with what they have. The biggest lesson they get is personal growth, he said.
Narrating about the comforts in the US and Nepal Abe says that in the US the people have good houses, cars and a lot of money to enjoy life. But in Nepal, they still learn to be happy with whatever they have.
“I appreciate the local cultures of Nepal. I speak a little bit about the Nepali language. I know the Nepali people are hosting us in their homes. So, it is not just the study of plants and animals. This is a very important program as the program makes you how to be a respectful visitor in another country,” he said.
Abe had learned to speak a little bit of Nepali when he was a Peace Corps volunteer. He also observed and realized how concerned the people of Nepal were about the safety of foreigners.
“Even if they are not concerned about our safety I feel that I am very safe in Nepal. I have never had anything stolen from me. My concern is that the streets are very dirty, the traffic is terrible.” But he also admitted that the quality of water has improved here after 16 years.
Describing the contaminated water during his days in Nepal Abe commented, “Two of my volunteers were sick of water and food. And when I was a volunteer I used to get sick once in a month. Now everybody has a toilet in Nepal. 16 years ago nobody had toilets in the mountain. Now they have toilets. The air quality is also much better now,” he opined.
During his many times, visits to Nepal Abe have been to Butwal, Lumbini and Kathmandu had he has gone to Everest base camp and Annapurna too. Abe returned to Langtang because he loved the people there because he had a family there. Moreover, the local people are developing homestays around Lang tang. He adds, “Once you develop a relationship with the people you have the urge to return and meet them again.”
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