Expedition to the heart of a tradition

Nepalese filming
Nepalese filming

ST ANDREWS students who travelled to make a film in Nepal during the summer will be screening a special trailer later this month.

Back to the quiet and peaceful St Andrews. Back to our study routines and circles of friends. Back to being ordinary students. But have we told you what happened in that fateful June month that transformed every single one of us? Here is a piece of our story.

We landed in Delhi at noon of the first of June, barely sleeping through that transcontinental flight from London. We would have left India that night aboard a nine-hour third-class train to the Indian-Nepali border, then another 13-hour non-aircon bus ride to Kathmandu, Nepal’s capital.

That was the grand plan on paper - until we took three rickshaws to the train station! The station was huge with more than two entrances. Nadia, Adam, Kasia and I ended up at one entrance. Good. But my heart sank as I slowly realised that Tenzin and Stefan’s rickshaw would never arrive, and we would have to miss our train. Despite being unfamiliar with the labyrinth of a humid, dark and dusty station, I charged into the entrance trying to look for my two lost teammates. Kasia frantically called Tenzin’s phone, but to no avail. Once we found each other and discovering that they alighted at a different entrance, the train has departed... and so too did our idealism.


Tightly squeezed in a taxi that midnight, I argued to take the plane the next day. The rest disagreed, knowing fully well how this would further strain our limited budget. Tenzin incessantly dialled numbers to canvas guesthouses and prices of alternative transportations. In no time, we reached a cheap guesthouse recommended by Tenzin’s friend. Tired, lost and emotionally drained, we decided, with much hesitance on my part, to take the 48-hour bus ride to reach our destination.

The trip was a challenge, but a beautiful one for me and the rest. We passed by India’s hot grasslands, and Nepal’s misty gorges. At night, faint lights from gas lamps appeared on the mountain sides. I could not help but wonder how these people can spend their nights alone and isolated from the world.

Finally, we alighted in Kathmandu at three in the morning (the most eventful time we could have possibly arrived), all toasted (from the heat of the travel) and wilted. Soon, we found ourselves driving up the hills and entering the high gates of the nunnery. Massive flags tied on high poles, filled with prayers in Tibetan and blown incessantly by the winds, coloured our pathway up the main prayer hall. At the top, three nuns welcomed us and offered us drinks. I could only smile at everyone for keeping strong and reaching this far.

Surprisingly, many of the nuns know how to speak English, and they are more “modern” than I initially thought. Slowly, I discovered how many of my inherent assumptions about them were simply misinformed or plainly unfounded.’’

The team consisted of six students from the University of St Andrews, brought together by a common passion to understand first-hand the ways of a special group of people.


Alex added: ‘‘Bringing our skills and talents to the fore, we aim to produce a masterpiece that will hopefully serve as an inspiration for the generations to come.

‘‘As ‘St Andrews’ first ever feature-length documentary,’ the film will break new grounds - not only in our knowledge of Tibetan Buddhist nuns but, more importantly, in what passionate and determined students can collectively produce.

‘‘The film project is climbing new heights and all are warmly welcome to our trailer in the Town Hall.

‘‘Entry is free, and the night will be graced by vice-Principal Lorna Milne and Professor Mario Aguilar as guest speakers. It will also see some members of the team speaking about their experiences of the trip and then culminate in the premiere of the film trailer.

‘‘We are eternally grateful to our supervisors, Professor Mario Aguilar, Dr Mattia Fumanti and Dr Robert Burgoyne, and to our funders, the University of St Andrews, Carnegie Trust for the Universities of Scotland, The Spalding Trust UK, The Richardson Foundation, Rogue Productions and all other individual donors.’’