As a young liaison officer at the Peace Corps directorate in Kathmandu, I was assigned to the second group of 39 volunteers in 1963.
The last reunion was in 2008 when we met for the 45th anniversary in Washington state which ended with the volunteers singing Nepali folk songs from 50 years ago. It was this experience that led me to the idea that the 50th anniversary should be marked by a musical get together.
I travelled to the United States in September for the 50th Peace Corps Reunion, accompanied by guitarists Anil Shahi and Gaurav Basnyat. Since the last reunion, 10 volunteers had passed away. Yet, it was a nostalgic get together in which the most surprising was that volunteers remembered the lyrics and melodies of golden oldies like 'Ke Bho Ke Bo Hijo Aja', 'Balaju ko Baise Dhara', 'Nakkali lai Bhagai Lagyo Jhilke le'.
At a reception hosted by Nepal's ambassador to the US, Shankar Sharma, 100 former volunteers gathered at the embassy in the presence of Finance Minister Barsha Man Pun who joined the group to sing Dharma Raj Thapa's 1960s hit: 'Nepali Lai Maya Maryo Bari Lai'. One volunteer even sang a solo of 'Tada Bata Bola Ko Timilai Nai Ho Maile'.
The American Peace Corps Nepal Reunion Newsletter wrote, "The group sing along of Nepali folk songs was accompanied by a motley crew of volunteers. They actually remembered the words. No comment about their singing."
Taking his cue from Terence Bech whose collection of Nepali folk songs was donated to Madan Puraskar Pustakalaya in Kathmandu (see Nepali Times, #582), a former volunteer Stu Ullman has sent back his collection of the lyrics to 40 songs he used to listen to on Radio Nepal in 1963.
The happiest news for many of us at the reunion was that the Peace Corps is returning to Nepal in 2012. The Peace Corps helped with education and development in rural Nepal 50 years ago, but it is also worth remembering that it continues to serve as a cultural bridge between Nepal and the United States.
Singha Bahadur Basnyat was Nepal's ambassador to UK in 1997-2003 and served five years in Washington.
Barry aka Bir Bahadur, ROSHAN SAWA in ILAM
Barry Bialek still considers himself a Nepali at heart