What Volunteer Teaching in Nepal has meant to me
I came to Nepal having visited twice for treks on Machhapuchare and Everest. I had visited Thimi and the school and when Surendra, the headmaster asked me to teach as a volunteer I happily agreed. I had never lived in Asia before and was immediately fascinated by the hustle and bustle of everyday life, the mass of good being sold in the street and the architecture of the houses, especially the beautiful wooden carved windows in Thimi.
Thimi itself is renowned for its mask making and pottery. Wherever you go there are pots drying in the sun, mounds of clay waiting to be used and often a huge pile of pottery covered with straw and ask in the centre of a street gently smoldering by which process pots are fired. Dogs sit round the warm tiles warming their bodies.
Thimi is a large village which seems to extend in all directions into the countryside, where vegetables, rice and wheat are grown for the Kathmandu market. The sellers will pick their produce and sort and bundle it for the market the next day. They will get up at down to get the early bus to get to the market. The vegetables which are cultivated are potatoes, onions, spinach, carrots, radish, yam and sweet potatoes. Crops such as rice, wheat, maize, millet, corn and rice are grown in raised beds and every corner of land is used to cultivate something, not a corner is wasted. Other crafts such as weaving, spinning, making handmade paper and carpet and pashmina production are undertaken in this thriving village. Women will spin and weave on ancient family looms the craft being passed on from generation to generation; the speed in which they work is fascinating to observe.
The Vinayak Shiksha Niketan English School was started 15 years ago by Surendra Prajapati because he felt there was a need for an English School in the area which would accept students from the local area and he was determined that they should be able to study in an environment which did not have a political bias. The team of 33 teachers is friendly and supportive, dedicated to their job and interested in learning news skills and ideas. Not only is teaching in a foreign country challenge it is also great fun as you can try out new methods
Of teaching without too many constraints but learning how to translate some of the students’ pronunciation is fascinating. Teaching them new skills such as role playing and miming, music and drama has been an eye-opener for me. The ability to “think of your feet” and adapt a planned lesson when this is not appropriate is something that has held me in good stead.
Staying with a Nepalese extended family is a wonderful experience. Not only do you have the opportunity to participate in family life, learn local customs and celebrate the many Nepalese Feast days but you are able to pick up a few words of the language. Helen, an Australian volunteer and I have been accepted as members of the family, learnt how to cook Nepalese national dishes and become part of the local community rather than tourists in a foreign country. After a week in Thimi children were calling out “Namaste, Miss Joanna” to me as a got lost in the many small intertwined little alley ways. When I did get really lost there was always someone to invite me into their home and send me in the direction; Nepalese hospitality has to be experienced to be believed.
In the evenings we had had many laughs over a competitive game of Scrabble or a Nepalese card game. We have been taken to many temples and other wonderful sites and mountain areas to experience the stunning scenery of the area. Baktapur and Patan, two ancient cities within a few miles of Thimi are on the local bus route and a day wondering round the little stalls, visiting Temples and eating out for about 2 pounds on the roof of an old building before catching the bus home is an excellent was to spend a day off school. We are observed goats, motor bikes, clay pots and of course people being transported along the bumpy lanes on top of the rickety local buses.
Having our own large bedroom has given us privacy but at the same time meant that we have been able to relax in a Nepalese home; a great pleasure and honour for any visitor.