When Kim and I were in Nepal, and before we began hiking in the Annapurna region, we visited Chitwan National Park in Southern Nepal. We visited the park for the same reason that many other tourists visit the park: for the chance to see the wildlife.
Chitwan was the first national park in Nepal and is home to a variety of wildlife: Asian elephants, leopards, sloth bears, crocodiles, rhinoceros, and Bengal tigers all call the park home. And those are just the large animals – there is a plethora of smaller yet still dangerous wildlife in the park, like wild boar, honey badgers, and flying squirrels.
With so many animals that could potentially kill us, we decided that the best course of action would be to spend two days walking through the park. (You can read Kim’s account of the experience here.)
After our first day of successfully navigating the park without being eaten/mauled/gored, we stayed at a small guesthouse that was on the edge of the park. The guesthouse was run by a family who had two children, one boy and one girl. They were really sweet kids, and we chatted with them for a few hours as we enjoyed our continued existence over a beer.
The little boy in particular was chatty and curious. He was younger than his sister, and was loving telling us about everything he learned in school while practicing his English with us (which was probably better than mine). After he ran out of school lessons to tell us about, we began asking him questions about himself. We found out all kinds of things: he had many relatives living in the village, his favorite thing was watching TV (American wrestling being his favorite TV show), and when he grew up he wanted to be a teacher – but not be like the group of 8 teachers who were getting drunk a few tables down from us.
As is common in that region of the world, the discussion turned to religion. He asked us about the religions in the United States. We did our best to explain to him that there are many religions in the U.S., and that the majority of people are Christians. I then asked him if he was a Hindi. He said no, that he was a Hindu.
What’s the difference? I asked, not realizing what was coming out of my mouth.
One is a language and one is a religion. he answered.
Sheepishly, I nodded, not wanting to admit to myself the level of ignorance that I just displayed. In my defense, I had spent the entire day avoiding being mauled/eaten/gored by rhinos, elephants, crocodiles, bears, and tigers (oh my!).
But, on the other hand, there’s nothing to make you realize how ignorant you can be of the small things in life – like talking to children who will point out that, even though the difference between the words is only one letter, that little difference carries a lot of meaning.