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The Order of Nepal, the Gorkha Dakshin Bahu Medal
The Order of Nepal, the Gorkha Dakshin Bahu bestowed on Ralph Hoey by His Majesty the King of Nepal, for Humanitarian work on November 5th 2004.
The day began for me around 12 noon with my arrival at the Royal Palace in Kathmandu. I felt very honoured but also very humble in receiving the Order, as I believed the work that I do is what I am meant to be doing.
I was later informed that I was the first Australian ever to be awarded the Order of the Gorkha Dakshin Bahu.
The Order of the Gorkha Dakshin Bahu
As I walked through the main gates, the first thing I saw was a row of 60 very high flagpoles with Nepali flags fluttering in the wind. Below these stood 4 grey and 4 white mounted horses with the soldiers wearing red, gold and white uniforms. There was a huge circular drive that led to the steps of the Palace. There were many people invited to receive all types of medals this day but only three people from Western nations. One lady was from Japan and the other, a priest from America. All the recipients were seated by number around one side of the drive. Slowly the line made its way up to the marble steps of the Palace, which were lined with red carpet and black onyx figures of different types of animals. On each side of the steps stood a further six brown horses with their riders. As we waited, a 50 member band played the national anthem and other tunes.
The Nepali male recipients wore the traditional Nepali dress of white tight pants, black jackets and black hats while the women wore colourful saris. Security throughout this time was at its tightest, with check after check being made on all of us.
Prior to the ceremony, the King's Secretary, Mr Shah, had informed me of the procedure for the day. When my name was called, I had to bow, proceed to the King, bow while the King handed the medal to an assistant who then put it around my neck. Once this was done I was to raise my head, step back, bow again and then leave by another door.
On entering the room where the King was, as you can imagine I was bewildered by all that was happening. On the right side of the King, stood the Crown Prince and then about 12 photographers snapping photos. Mr Shah, the secretary had said to me, if you forget what to do, just follow the person in front of you. This was fine except it turned out he was blind. He did have a helper but was all over the place on his approach to the King so I let go of those instructions very quickly. The other thing on the day, all writing, communication and announcements were in Nepali so I had to guess when my name was being announced and then proceed.
I walked up to His Majesty the King, bowed and then raised my head to be in His presence. He smiled at me, held out his hand and shook mine and said, "It is finally good to meet you". I was aware this was not the policy and that he had not shaken the hand of any other recipient I had seen, so I felt especially honoured. It was now 3.30pm and even though the whole process took quite some time, I loved every minute of the day.
I had been informed earlier by Mr Shah that the Kings had granted permission for Ann (my wife) to attend the Queen's Tea Party later in that day, after receiving my personal letter. It was the first time in history that a partner of a recipient had been given permission to attend the event. Mr Shah had also told me that I would be seated in the number one tent reserved for the Royal Family. I didn't really know the significance of this at the time but I was soon to find out. All the other recipients were crowded into two tents across from the Royal tent and from where Ann, myself and the Japanese lady sat. It wasn't long before the music started again and the Crown Prince and Princes walked down the Palace steps followed by the King and Queen into the Royal tent. The Prime Minister and some other important dignitaries were there and us. It was truly amazing. After a short while the King stood up and along with his family proceeded to the back of the tent and outside to where a food tent had been set up. We were then instructed to follow the Royal Family and even had people like the Prime Minister waiting for us to go first. After five minutes the King came over and we talked for about 10 minutes. Being Australians, it made it very easy for us to be informal so we laughed and joked with him. I said I guess you could easily pick me out as I noticed, I was the only person who didn't have a hat on in his presence. He laughed and the ice was broken. Ann also joked with him, spoke about the children at out school and children's home and finally invited him to stay with us at our home at Victor Harbor, if he came to Australia. When we finished speaking with him he put his arms around the both of us and moved on to the Prime Minister and other Ministers.
The security around him was incredible. No more than a metre away was the first officer who remained at this distance wherever he went. Behind him was a triangle of other officers making sure no one got near him.
Before entering the main tent again he came up and shook both our hands again and wished us all the best with our work. From here he proceeded out into the main arena where he did a short walk, waved to all the other people and the event was over. From that moment on, we had so many people come up to us as they guessed we must have been very special to have the audience with His Majesty, that we did have.
That night there was different sections of Kathmandu lit up with lights in honour of the recipients of the medals. The one thing I noticed here is that to be awarded a medal in Nepal is such a special honour, unlike anything I have seen in Australia. People would constantly congratulate me and shake my hand. That night I was on the news on TV and the following week, both Ann and myself were interviewed for half an hour on a TV show which was shown on two different occasions during the week.
As special as it was receiving the Order of the Gorkha Dakshin Bahu from His Majesty, it wasn't complete until the following week when I was able to share the award with the people of World Youth International Nepal who had believed and trusted in my family and me over the previous seven years and then later with the children at our school. A special dinner was held in honour of Ann and myself where the Australian Ambassador, Keith Gardner attended as the Guest of Honour. The following day we then visited our school where we spoke to the children individually in each class, allowed them all to see and hold the medal and look at photos taken of His Majesty bestowing the Order on me.
(Image Left)Keith Gardner Australian Ambassador to Nepal
Ralph Hoey Recipient of the Order of Nepal, the Gorkha Dakshin Bahu
Late Buddha Pradhan Former President of WYI Nepal
I believed my completion was at the WYI school assembly when each child came forward and presented me with a flower. It was such an honour and would not have been possible without the support of many people both in Nepal and particularly in Australia.
Mr Ralph Hoey AM
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