Learning to live more in the present

Ms Caroline Wong met her husband Wilson Shrestha while on a volunteering trip in Nepal in 2010.
Ms Caroline Wong met her husband Wilson Shrestha while on a volunteering trip in Nepal in 2010. ST PHOTO: LIM YI HAN

After the Nepal earthquake on April 25, Singaporean Caroline Wong's parents wanted her to move back home to Singapore.

However, the teacher - who has been living in Nepal since 2012 and is married to local businessman Wilson Shrestha - said no.

The 36-year-old told The Straits Times: "My parents saw the pictures of destruction, so they were worried. But I also have family here (in Nepal), and you don't leave family behind." Ms Wong stayed on and helped in the relief efforts.

Most recently, she tied up with the YMCA of Singapore and introduced volunteers to Living Hope Nepal, a non-governmental organisation founded by her father-in- law, Mr Surya Lal Shrestha, 72.

For a week, they built shelters in a village affected by the quake.

What she likes most about Nepal is the community spirit of its "very hospitable" people, she said.

"In Singapore, I feel that we don't really build relationships with our neighbours. But here, you really get to know people around you."

She first visited Nepal on a mission trip in 2010, and volunteered at a children's home where she met her husband, whose church had hosted the volunteers.

The pair kept in touch after she returned home. Love blossomed, and she decided to move to Nepal after they married in November 2012.

Ms Wong misses her family and friends in Singapore and visits twice a year.

She and her husband converse in a mixture of English and Nepali but admit that cross-cultural marriage is hard work. "Of course, there are a lot of things that we have to sometimes compromise on," said Mr Shrestha, 31, who is the director of Living Hope Nepal. "We have been learning after the marriage, like how to respect cultures and how to understand each other."

Ms Wong added: "We are from different backgrounds, we grew up in different environments, we understand and we see the world quite differently.

"For Singaporeans, we are always rushing and very task-oriented. We ask a lot of questions but it's very different in Nepal.

"In Nepal... I learn to live more in the present than always worrying about the future, because things always change."

Lim Yi Han

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on December 07, 2015, with the headline 'Learning to live more in the present'. Print Edition | Subscribe