After traveling the world for five months, several odd emotions of anxiety began flooding my eyes as I faced going home. Travel alerts had been issued for Americans traveling outside of the country, BBC news was reporting speculation after speculation, people were celebrating, people were debating, it was and still is a media frenzy on Television and throughout the whispers inside airports. I found myself continually going back to my experience in Nepal and how it was already affecting my future destination, home.
During a series of interviews with humanitarian and Magsaysay Award winner, Mahabir Pun for our independent documentary The Himalayan Gap, more specifically, during the final interviews that took place on a rainy afternoon along a much familiar path. One of which the man grew up on (in the foothills of the Himalayan Mountains). We sat on the cold ground, holding the DSLR steady and doing our best to ignore the raindrops plopping down on our foreheads. We were discussing the manâ€™s personal life, the back-story per se. The commentary was dry, all of us were tired, and the distractions of fascinated children, goats and sullen weather put a damper on our attitudes and motivation.
And so, without warning, my partner Michael Nyffeler mentioned the word Apollo. Mahabir uttered out a slight chuckle, followed by a secretive grin and a soft sigh. He knew what we were referencingâ€”a piece of paper a close friend of his had mentioned to us as the birth of Mahabirâ€™s destiny. Apollo written in big block letters across the top.
Mahabir surrendered to our inquiry, letting the walls down and guards quit their stubborn jobs. In what seemed to be fast forward moments in time, the man who hated talking of himself, “as it’s a waste of time, we should be talking about things that matter and doing the things that need to be done,” he genuinely described the story of Apollo.
Upon completing secondary level schooling, Mahabir took one piece of notebook paper, and began drawing out a mission that would be his future, all of the stages, of how he would bring better education to rural Nepal. He named it Apollo. It was really quite simple. In Apollo, you reach for the moon. â€œI wanted to bring education to a place that didnâ€™t have it. I wanted to do something more,â€ he explained. In Apollo you have tiers of goals and objectives. You have to keep climbing; you must keep achieving in order to achieve something so great, such as reaching the moon.
This letter, his mission, was sent to a friend. But, it was sent years before Mahabir even left Nepal to attend University in the US to begin his mission, before he actually brought education to rural schools in Nepal without any government support, let alone rigging wireless Internet routers throughout the unforgiving mountainous terrain. He knew beforehand. He already knew what he wanted to do, and to this day, he’s done so much more. Heâ€™ll barely admit it, which is what makes the man so special. Heâ€™s a doer, not a talker. Heâ€™s a worker for humanity.
In Nepal, I saw firsthand how education created community development, improved health, and job opportunity in the Myagdi District of the Himalayan Mountains. Solving the worldâ€™s problems begins with a simple step. Consider it the first step you take to lift off the ground. For now, the first step is education. Even though the conclusion looks like a moon away. Once, near impossible, foreign and unexplainable. Now, landed, observed and full of information. Getting there was not simple or easy. Scientists, engineers and everyday people worked together day in and day out. At times it must have been thrilling but stressful, challenging but exciting. I am sure some days it looked like everything they had done seemed like a total waste.
It was far from.
Mahabir’s inspirational story and my time in Nepal made me realize itâ€™s not that Iâ€™m going to have greatnessâ€”what many people view as fame and fortune. I already have all that I need and I donâ€™t need something materialist and fleeting to contradict it. It is that Iâ€™m destined to do something great. I see it. Itâ€™s far, far away like the moon. It looks impossible to get there but I can see it.