Saturday, July 9, 2011

Nepal, Close to the Heavens and Close to the Stars

Nepal. This South Asian country is landlocked by China in the north and India in the east, south and west. Found in the Himalayas, Nepal boasts of the highest point in the world, the Mount Everest. Eight of the tallest mountains on Earth are located in Nepal. The geography is diverse as it is breathtaking. With such rich geography, one can only expect a rich culture as well. The country is home to different races, tribes and ethnic groups, a veritable melting pot of cultures, traditions and language. Although Nepali is the official language, there are many other languages spoken in the country.

In the past many years, Nepal has been visited by a number of Hollywood stars for a variety of reasons and causes. The most popular visitor to Nepal is Richard Gere, the star of such films as Officer and A Gentleman, American Gigolo and Pretty Woman. When he first visited Nepal in 1978, Gere’s interest in Buddhism started. He has since made several other visits to Nepal raising awareness and lending his voice and popularity to causes close to both Nepal and Tibet. His latest visit was in 2010, the year before the country was set to kick off Nepal Tourism Year 2011. The Prime Minister of Nepal seriously took into consideration Gere’s tips on how to get more tourists into Nepal and even offered Gere to become the tourism ambassador of the country. True to his beliefs, Gere declined and said that he was there “to seek out people and their warmth, since in the west, men had turned into machines.” Today, he continues to practice Buddhism and remains an avid supporter and friend of the Dalai Lama as well as the Nepalese people.

Lead star of Ghost, G.I. Jane and Indecent Proposal Demi Moore visited Nepal in April 2011 where she filmed a CNN documentary on the subject of sex trafficking. While in Nepal she visited the Maiti Nepal organisation founded by 2010’s CNN Hero of the Year, Anuradha Koirala. The organisation’s goal is to protect the Nepalese women and young girls from sex trafficking and other related crimes.

Leonardo DiCaprio found himself in Nepal last 2010 on a hush-hush visit for the World Wildlife Fund (WWF). Part of his advocacy is to save the different endangered species of the world. The Titanic star, together with the WWF, launched a global campaign to rescue tigers and hopefully double the tiger population which continues to dwindle each passing year. DiCaprio was said to have gone to one of the tiger reserves while in the country, the Bardiyan National Park located in western Nepal.

Rocker Bryan Adams was also in Nepal in 2010. His is the first band to ever play in Nepal. The concert was an important one for Nepal, as the government wanted to show the world that Nepal was ready to welcome more artists and tourists. The legendary Cher visited the Tibetan refugees in Nepal. Geri Halliwell, one time Spice Girl, also found herself in Nepal to “promote maternal healthcare.” Even Hollywood goddesses Cameron Diaz and Eva Mendes visited Nepal to film an MTV reality show called Trippin. This was part of a WWF campaign. Orlando Bloom of The Lord of the Rings fame flew to Nepal in 2008 in his capacity as UNICEF ambassador. At one point in time, Sting found himself in Kathmandu, inside a jazz bar and decided to jam with the local band.

With all these visits of international celebrities and musicians to Nepal, the Nepalese must be careful not to get caught up with all the hype. The Nepalese people have a beautiful culture and a rich language that must remain true to their roots. They must learn to balance their excitement for Western culture with protecting their own heritage and their own language. No one will want to see a westernized Nepal.

No comments: