My Nepal story began the day after I graduated from my secondary school. To be honest, I was not fully aware where I would be going – I did not read guide books or browse the internet looking for Nepali tourist attractions or places that are worth visiting. The reason I decided to go there was simply because it sounded very exotic and not many people had ever had an opportunity to go there. I knew it is located near India, on the border of China and next to Mount Everest.
On the 28th of June 2013 as I was taking off from Heathrow to New Delhi with a final destination in Kathmandu. I felt a bit anxious and excited at the same time. The flight went smoothly and while landing in the Nepalese capital I could see a picturesque view of the Himalayas. I soon started to realise that my journey would be something completely different to other things I have done in the past.
I joined a Teaching placement in Conventry English Boarding School in Jorpati – an outer but still busy borough of Kathmandu where the famous Bouddanath is located. My first impression of the school was mixed as the main building differs a lot from western schools – the classrooms were quite small and poorly equipped and for most of the day there was no electricity.
However it did not seem to be a problem after I was warmly welcomed by the staff and children who were extremely enthusiastic and keen to learn new things. The atmosphere there was amazing and very relaxed – I was given a free hand in choosing what I would like to do in class or I could easily take some days off for travelling.
There were orphans living in the school and I would sometimes take care of them after class– I was giving tuition in English as well as playing different games with all of the children.
On the next day after my arrival I took a taxi from my hotel straight to my placement where I was given an induction. There I met the founder of the Conventry English Boarding School in Jorpati, Kathmandu where I was teaching. She showed me around the school and talked about my duties and school routine. We soon became good friends - I remember one day she invited me for a special meal when she cooked a traditional Tibetan dish that was very tasty and something I had never eaten before.
My typical day at the Teaching placement started at 9.30am until 3pm. Every morning pupils have an assembly in front of the school where they pray and sing the national anthem. Then I conducted lessons with all grades from 1 to 7. At 1pm I usually had lunch in the dining hall with the orphans that are boarding at the school. In general food in Nepal is a bit spicy as they always use chilies but that made me enjoy it so much!
In class I usually taught English or sometimes helped with other subjects such as geography or computing. With younger kids I did a lot of drawing and singing which I am guessing they enjoyed a lot. From time to time Projects Abroad organised workshops for teaching volunteers in a school outside Kathmandu which were really helpful. We were shown new games and exercises that I used at my placement.
For the teachers’ day which took place 3 weeks after my arrival, I organised a dance show for the whole school – I taught some dances that I made up with some classes. It still felt fresh after being a part of Footloose at my previous school so probably that was the reason why I decided to create my own performance. Undoubtedly it was a huge success – we even had some people crowding outside our school trying to see us!
I can easily say now that I have a second family in Nepal that I can always visit and turn to when I need help or good advice.
My Nepali Host Family
My host family and I lived in a house on the outskirts of Kathmandu called Narayantar, 10 minutes’ walk from my placement. In the neighbourhood there were many small shops and temples as well as the famous Bouddanath – an ancient stupa temple of a Buddha that has been a world heritage site and reportedly is one of the biggest temples of this kind. Almost every day I was wandering around the temple and occasionally did some shopping and eating out in the neighbourhood.
The first shock when I arrived there was when I saw our squat toilet – it was just a hole in the ground. In addition we had no washing machine, hot water, internet, TV or even a fridge! Generally once a week we had to hand wash our clothes in a huge bowl on top of the roof.
Due to the fact that Nepali people use their left hands to clean instead of toilet paper, we had to take care there was an ample supply in the bathroom as well. Electricity cut-offs were very frequent – around 5/6 hours a day however it was a minor problem as we only had a few electric devices. Whenever I needed internet, I would go to my school or an internet cafe next to my house where it cost 15 rupees (10p) per hour.
My host parents were both university graduates and therefore had a very good command of English. We got along with each other extremely well from my first day there. They have been accommodating other volunteers for many years now and so are very aware and respectful of cultural differences between us.
They were both very interested in Poland and the UK hence we had long discussions about politics and culture. Their family was very traditional and I could see them praying every day at 7am and lighting candles around the house.
Travelling around Kathmandu
I have visited many interesting places in Nepal however I feel 2 months was still not enough to see everything I wanted! One of these trips was a 3 day excursion to the Chitwan National Park which was located on the border with India, around 6 hours’ drive from Kathmandu Valley.
There we had a chance to swim with crocodiles or have marvellous strolls in the jungle. It was very hot there – around 43 degrees Celsius which after living for 2 years in Scotland was a nice change! The trip was organised by Projects Abroad so I had an opportunity to meet other volunteers doing other projects as well. I made some good friends there whom I am planning to meet soon in the UK.
I also really enjoyed trekking therefore we decided to walk to Nagarkot – a resort near the highest point in the Kathmandu Valley. It took us 10 hours to reach the peak from which we could see the Himalayan Mountains. In the distance there was Tibet and also we could clearly spot Mount Everest. It is almost impossible to describe those picturesque views and mountains extending to the horizon.
My trip to Nepal was one of a kind, awesome, unique and exotic. I cannot believe that I spent 2 months there – I was so busy and so many things were going on all the time that I feel I had run out of time! I certainly regret not having stayed for longer but obviously all good things have to come to an end at some point. I have already made plans to return to Nepal in 2015. My advice for any future volunteers is the longer you stay here the better experience you are going to get!