A Locked Down Summer

Jesuit Community: Bill Robins, Lawrence Maniyar, Pankaj Kerketta, Samuel Simick, Ashish Ekka, David Ekka

As the year 2020 began, I quietly starting planning for our long yearly break, April through May.  I looked ahead to celebrating the Easter Triduum in Gyalthung, a village a few hours’ drive to the north-east of Kathmandu.  A dozen Catholic families, converted through the efforts of Krishna Nepali, would make up the congregation.  Krishna’s personal conversion can be the subject of another article!  Then I would attend a ten-day Vipassana meditation program

Photo courtesy of author: :The main school building where the school started 01 July 1951. The pool was a lily pond when the building was the Prime Minister’s summer home in the late 19th century.

Then I would attend a ten-day Vipassana meditation program.  I’d have time to hike a little before joining our Nepal Region eight-day retreat, based on the Universal Apostolic Preferences.  Meanwhile I had plenty to do, preparing grade 11 and 12 students for their final government examinations, and classes for the start of the new academic year in early June.

The plans ended mid-March, with a country-wide lockdown; no transport and no commerce!  The local towns were off limits, but the hillside forest, starting behind the school and rising to the Kathmandu Valley rim, provided deserted roads for walking.  Our library is well stocked, and our cook has stayed faithful to his duties.  Our Jesuit community life is most enjoyable.

The restrictions eased in mid-July, but classes are yet to begin.  I can meditate all I want, but not with encouragement from a group.  I made a personal eight-day retreat, but the CAD retreat material, Pilgrims Together, called me to deeper reflection  so am in the midst of a “retreat in daily life,” thirty-two prayer exercises through thirty-two days, following the booklet’s suggestions.  These reflections keep me focused on the meaning of this stage of life’s pilgrimage.  I look forward to getting back to classroom teaching, but meanwhile I’m enjoying the days of reflection.  As I write this, I’m half way through the retreat.

We are busy with on-line teaching, hopefully with some success.  I feel sorry for the grade twelve students who are struggling with the mysteries of electricity and magnetism, a difficult subject under the most ideal conditions.  Class notes and video clips help, but don’t replace face-to-face teaching.

Photo Courtesy of author. :The school compound from the hill to the west of the school.

I like to get to the city every week or two, to visit Jesuit friends and to bring the Sacraments to shut-ins.  Public transport was my normal mode of transport, but not now.  Crowded buses filled with coughing people are hardly sanitary.

My bicycle is my saviour.  I coast most of the way to town and can move here and there easily. The climb back to Godavari, of about three hundred meters over twelve kilometers, is getting to be a challenge, however.

I’m slowly learning to enjoy the present and put up with constraints, thanks to the virus and age!  Most days, I’m off for a couple of hours in the forest, walking on jeep tracks.  The trails are wonderful but not in this monsoon season.  The leeches own the underbrush!  It’s consoling to sit back and not worry about service I can’t do!

Bill Robins, SJ, is a Canadian Jesuit living at Godavari, our original school at the south-east edge of the Kathmandu Valley. He lives in a community of six Jesuits and teaches 11 and 12 English.

  • Gilbert Verrier
    Posted at 02:13h, 31 August Reply

    Good article, thanks you! Indeed It is consoling to sit back and not worry about service that cannot be done. 🙂

  • Sharon Walters
    Posted at 09:25h, 31 August Reply

    Thank you. Nice to hear about your daily life during these somewhat difficult times. God bless you.

  • Catherine von Zuben
    Posted at 16:31h, 06 September Reply

    Thank you for this very interesting reflection. I am curious to know how a Canadian Jesuit with a surname Robins ended up teaching in Nepal? My dear friend Mudki Suvadi and his family have returned from Toronto to Kathmandu where he oversees the building of homes – hundreds of them with Canadian donations. I hope you have met him – he was baptized just 2 years ago. Be well and you will be remembered daily in my prayers.

  • Chirendra Satyal
    Posted at 01:10h, 22 September Reply

    Good colorful update from one of the most beautiful hill corners in this world!

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