A Peek Inside My Personal Journal

I would like to share my final journal entry from my last day at the nunnery, because I think it reveals the true ways in which I’ve been touched by this experience. Or at least the feeling.

“It is my last day here at the nunnery. I woke up with the same feeling in my stomach as I have when I’m about to take an exam or perform on stage. Tight, anxious, anticipating. I can’t believe I’ve been here for two months. It really feels like just yesterday that I was slapping myself for wanting to go home because I knew that my time here would be over in a heartbeat. And now it is. Time is always moving forward, and it is amazing how quickly it does so.

The sadness is descending. Slowly and steadily. I am realizing how far away this place is from the rest of the world – nearly unreachable. I’m smiling because I’m an intrinsically happy person, and it’s almost impossible to be visibly upset in the presence of these sweet children and amazing women, but my heart is throbbing with a sentimental ache. I feel ready to leave, but readiness doesn’t mean that it won’t hurt to part with this place and these people. My new family, my new home.

I keep getting caught up in special little moments and my eyes fill with tears. I will miss the endless laughter, the jokes, the defined peaks that hug the valley, the girls running to embrace me, the constant flow of tea, and waking up alongside the breaking of sunrays over the valley. I will miss never having to worry about the state of my hair or the style of my clothes, the peace and quiet of a phone disconnected and untouched, folding dough for dinner, joking with the nuns about the holes in our socks (or windows, as we like to call them), and being warmed by Abi’s toothless grin. I will miss my girls welcoming me to class with a loud “Good morning, m’am!” I will miss the harmonic rhythm of the nuns’ chanting voices, and the damp wooden smell of the temple. I will miss it all.

Just as the nuns have been building new clay cottages on the hillside, so too has the spirit of the nunnery been building a home for the memories of this special place in the vast, open territories of my heart. All the beautiful moments I’ve experienced here exist in every beat – reverberating out into the universe. This place and the love that it fosters is now an undeniable part of me. A part that can never be washed away or burned, lost or borrowed, buried or destroyed. With the passing of time the memories might slip deeper into my subconscious, but they will never leave. They will never die.

This place has grown slowly and twistingly, like an ivy rope, through the blood in my veins, along the curve of my smile, and around the cage of ribs in my chest. I feel the spirit in me and around me, and when I’m gone I will carry it with me. I will spread the love I’ve known here with each footstep, handshake, and smile. When I first got to the nunnery, I doubted if this place would change me. I was closed off, and I thought I’d remain that way – resistant to the essential soul of the people and of the place because I was scared to be touched by something unfamiliar. But slowly slowly I’ve opened up like, the wild roses that bloom here in the summer, and I’ve let the sunshine inside me. I will never forget these moments and the way they’ve strengthened my heart. Although this physical space, this sacred place, is as far away as the moon, I can always return just by listening to the steady rhythm of my heart. There lies the spirit. There lies the love.”

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About Hanna Dougherty

Hanna is a sophomore with a major in International and Comparative Studies and a minor in Community Action and Social Change. After graduation, she is interested in pursuing a career in international humanitarian aid with a focus on educational development and youth engagement. Hanna will be spending 12 weeks in India volunteering with the Jaymang Foundation, an organization that dedicates itself to equal educational opportunities and literacy for indigenous girls and women in the Indian Himalayas. Hanna’s research project will focus on using in-depth community-based inquiry to explore native perspectives of the most pressing issues concerning education that exist in the region, and furthermore, how international humanitarian aid has helped or harmed the path to improvement of the educational sector. By focusing specifically on local perceptions of educational issues, Hanna hopes to re-emphasize the importance of empowerment from directly within communities that receive aid, and thereby push traditional notions of humanitarianism in a progressive direction.

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