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What Volunteer Teaching in Nepal has meant to me
If I had come to Nepal and just trekked I would be a very happy person with dreams of returning some day to do some more trekking in those beautiful mountains. But following up my treks with volunteer teaching has added a dimension and joy to my life that I find hard to describe.
I was only been in Nepal for 11 weeks and at the school for 7 weeks, and it was not long enough. I felt I was just getting in to the swing of things and all too soon I had to go back to Australia. 12 weeks would have been better, especially as my teaching time was ‘interrupted’ during 2 weeks of exams. There is so much more I would have liked to have contributed.
The teachers and students made me welcome every day, and they appreciated every small thing I was able to do for them. They gave me so many good memories to take home with me. The welcoming posy they made me on my first day at the school; the teaching experience I have gained in the classrooms from kinder to grade 10; conversations and games I have had with so many students, both in the school grounds and near their homes; preparing and conducting English listening and speaking exams; after class roof top conversations with the teachers and a few students; being invited to join past graduates and teachers on my first Nepali picnic; visiting some of the school families’ homes; the Eco club activity to visit the goats and the rally with class 4’s for Special needs Day. These are the memories I will take back to Australia with me and treasure in years to come – until I can return!
I have learnt a lot from the teachers and students too – how to be more resourceful, how material possessions have little value, and the importance of sharing what little you have. I have also learnt a lot about cultural differences, a couple of which I found confronting and challenging. And I even learnt a little Nepali, although my accent will never be as good as their English! The principal treated me like a father – protective, caring and kind. In spite of his very busy schedule, he always had time to listen, and he valued my opinions.
The best part of my time in Nepal was, without a doubt, being part of the lives of my host family. They made me feel so welcome. Not once did I feel a stranger yet their lives are so different from mine. The day I arrived was during Tihar, and I was invited to participate in the family celebration of preparing the decorations on the floor, then worshipping the brothers, and then sitting down with them to a delicious feast. What a privilege!
In the family home I had a spacious bedroom which I shared with another volunteer, Joanna. Besides comfortable beds there was a desk, a table, lounge furniture and a tape/CD player, and it was most comfortable. Meals were freshly prepared, plentiful and delicious! I was able to taste lots of different foods and see how they were prepared. I even saw rice wine being made. We had access to all the conveniences I needed including a computer. In the evenings we often played scrabble or cards with the family, or watched TV.
I was taken on outings to many of the nearby towns and temples that I was hoping to visit during my stay in Nepal. I rode on local buses, and was shown the real art of bargaining, and the best places to shop. Shopkeepers were friendly and helpful, and sign language always worked where words didn’t convey what I wanted. I was shown local industries and factories, and I was able to buy some local quality Thimi products to take home, like pashminas, a small carpet and hand-made paper products.
Home stay meant that we were able to see how others in the community went able their daily lives. Without being intrusive we were able to watch the process of clay being prepared for making pots, watch the pots being shaped and dried in the street, loaded into the fires and finally taken away to be sold. We saw people weaving on looms in semi-darkness from daylight until dusk, with a rhythmical clackety clack sound. We saw people tending their fields at harvest time and planting time, and we watched the rice crops being harvested, threshed, cleaned, bagged and traded. We saw lush fresh vegetables being grown, picked, bound with hay and taken in baskets and trays to be sold in the streets and at local markets or in Kathmandu. We saw hawkers selling their wares from bicycles or with their goods laden over their body, moving up and down the narrow alleys and streets. I loved my early morning walks when I watched the townsfolk start their daily chores, often to a friendly “Hello” or “Namaste”, and on the soccer field I watched soldiers train their dogs if the football teams weren’t practicing, often in bare feet.
I would not have experienced any of this if I hadn’t been in home stay. I will never be able to repay the hospitality of my home stay family.
Thank you to you all for allowing me into your lives. I truly appreciate it!