2016 was one of the best years of my life, and I can’t just point out a single highlight from it. Let me tell you about the major highlights of my 2016.
• Scuba Diving in Puerto Princesa, Philippines (January)
As a little girl, my dad, who scuba-dived as part of his work, amazed me with bedtime stories of his adventures under the sea. Years later, I saw those stories come to life as I plunged into the ocean when I went through the PADI Introduction to Scuba Diving.
• TGIF (February)
I volunteered as a core team member of TGIF (Thank God It’s Friday), our church’s new youth service. I wore many hats as a graphic designer, music team leader, social media head, host, and even the featured speaker.
Before, I was terrified of having to speak in front of a crowd, because I wasn’t used to it, plus I was scared of stuttering or forgetting what to say. Hosting and speaking for TGIF helped me overcome my stage fright and approach the audience with preparedness and confidence.
• South Africa’s Explore 2016 (March and April)
I also fell in love with a bunch of South Africans. Their team of 12 traveled to 11 countries in Asia and Africa this year. Nepal was their 2nd stop. They inspired me for a number of reasons. One of which is that, back in Pretoria, South Africa, they were working professionals, but they sacrificed a year of their lives and the comfort of home for the sake of serving and experiencing the cultures of the people who looked differently and lived differently from them.
In their 3-week stay, I was quick to form bonds with most of their members, and was won over by their:
2. Beautiful eyes + hair
3. Amazing life stories
4. Love for God
5. (Really being honest with y’all) Handsome guys huhuWAHAHA
6. Crazy good dancing!!!!1!!1
7. And did I mention their ACCENT???
• The Art Market (January-April)
The Art Market is a monthly art fair in Kathmandu which inspired me enough that I came up with an idea that I, a mere 15 year-old, could sell my own art there – in the arena of multinational and professional artists and businesses.
After four months of experimenting and creating my designs, hours of mentorship from StrengthsFinder coach, business, and artist friends, multiple letters to ask for advice and assistance from friends, and even getting rejected by the organisers – by the grace of God, I made it to the Art Market on April 9, a Saturday.
The best things out of that day were #1, my greeting cards and postcards made so many people smile, #2, I made so many friends, and #3, I learned so many new things and ways I could’ve improved on.
• Trek to Gosaikunda Lake (April-May)
I didn’t behold the extent of Nepal’s beauty until I visited its majestic mountain ranges, which boast 8 out of 11 highest peaks in the world. I trekked the Gosaikunda trail in the Langtang mountain range, which brought me to 4,380m above sea level.
It was physically the hardest thing I did in my life: I trekked a maximum of six hours a day without prior training. Our total distance was 28 kilometres, with a total ascent of 2500m.
We also had to live with poor mountain lodge facilities. For example, I wasn’t able to take a bath for almost five days! One time I got so worried because I got a headache – a symptom of altitude sickness. Thank God, it was only because I was dehydrated.
But it was all worth the climb, because I trekked through Lord-of-the-Rings-esque views, saw awe-inspiring high altitude flora and fauna, the starriest night sky I’ve ever seen, and the magnificent, snow-crowned mountains. I made friends with fellow Israeli, Russian, French, English, Korean, and Tamang trekkers.
It was an experience of a lifetime which taught me that anyone, even a young girl like me, can climb mountains.
• Trip to Armenia (June)
I’ll be moving to Armenia in March, but we first visited it last year. I loved it there! Here are some cool stuff we did:
1. Almost saw the Pope when he paid a visit.
2. Watched the fabulous National Philharmonic Orchestra! A classical music fangirl dream come true.
3. Saw Mt. Ararat, the mountain where Noah’s Ark historically landed, from our window.
4. Visited the Armenian National Genocide Museum and Memorial and felt the country’s sorrow.
5. Ate lots of lavash.
6. Kept up with the Armenians. (Kudos if you know Kim Kardashian is half-Armenian. TBH the rest of the Armenians look like models!!!!)
I’m excited to move there already HAHAHA
• My 16th Birthday (September)
My 16th birthday was one of the best birthdays ever! I was overwhelmed by everyone’s appreciative greetings because I realised how much of an impact I was making in other people’s lives. I was even surprised twice in my own house, with cakes and song numbers. One of them was rainbow cake! BEST CAKE EVER!
• Leaving Nepal (November)
This is a bittersweet highlight. My family and I had to say goodbye to this second home we’d lived in for almost six years. As I walked around Kathmandu, I lingered and cherished the city as I saw it. I tried to look at the places as if I saw them for the first time. A friend told me, “Don’t do that. You have to learn how to move on.” But I did it anyway.
I miss my friends, who cried when they heard the news, and still miss me so much. I miss the dust of the city and the blue skies. The spicy food. The small Labim Mall. The fun third-world lifestyle. The mountains.
As Clara Benin sang it: My heart is aching to be in two places at once.
• Winning Matthew Mole’s contest (November and December)
When we arrived in the Philippines last November – fresh from Nepal, I was distracted from crying about Nepal, because I found out that I won a contest by Matthew Mole – a South African singer.
Entrants of the contest had to creatively spell out the title of his new single “Holding On” with all sorts of objects. I used the fists of my good friends in Nepal, and captioned it with a story about how it felt like leaving Nepal and what I learned from it. I think it was the caption that made Matt take notice and pick me.
The prize is a vinyl record and CD of his new album (I need a turntable, someone pls), plus some merch. I’m still waiting for it to arrive/discreetly checking our apartment’s lobby everyday (so maybe the receptionists think I’m weird) to see if there’s a parcel.
Before, I believed that I would become friends with this amazing artist, and we are now, online, at least.
• Baguio Wedding (December)
I cried for the first time because of a beautiful wedding when my friends from church, Rodnel and Siena, tied the knot.
In the morning, the ceremony was held in a beautiful garden surrounded by the pristine, pine-clad mountainside of Baguio Country Club. In the evening, the reception was in a forest clearing illuminated by hanging light bulbs, with a program that included a BBQ party, #LIT hosts, and music numbers. At the open mic sessions, my sister and I sang “The Wedding Song” by Matthew Mole, accompanied by a genius guitarist we just met.
We also had mini-adventures around Baguio with good friends, and the trip made me love my own country more. It prepared me to end the year gratefully.
So those were the 10 highlights of my 2016. What about yours? I’d love to hear all about your 2016 in the comments!
I hope you’ll have an awesome 2017. Take heart and be courageous, friend!