Friday, December 4, 2009

Korea, Home, Surprise

Well I lived to make it home safe and sound. I just finished a really amazing race (it went by so quickly) through Korea with my Brother. Korea was an industrial shock, to say the least, after living in Nepal for two months, so it took me awhile to adjust to the bright lights and massive department stores. We spent most of our time exploring Busan (where Doug has lived on and off for a year now), and it was nice to have my own personal tour guide who was equipped with more information and opinions about Korea than I could get my brain around. We ate some interesting traditional dishes, some of which lit my mouth on fire with spice.

My favorite day of all was our last day in Seoul when we went to a place most children go called Lotte World. This place is the largest indoor amusement park in the world. It had everything from roller coasters, to safari rides, they even had fake hot air balloons which floated above the vast space. Needless to say Doug and I fulfilled our shared childhood fantasy of the most amazing and spectacular amusement park a child could dream of. In our excitement we even bought ears to wear, mine were pink and looked like they had been taken off a carebear's head, and Doug's were antlers, in honor of Christmas. It was such a perfect way to spend a rainy afternoon away from reality, it was a welcomed reality from the one I faced everyday in Nepal.

Seeing the way in which Korea has so quickly developed was an interesting contrast to seeing Nepal struggle to stay alive under the influence of developed countries such as China and India. I could not imagine a better way to "complete" my trip to Nepal than to visit a country which (as Doug has told me) looked similar to Nepal less than 60 years ago. However the difference is evident in the culture and traditions of both countries, which is why Korea has managed to develop and Nepal has not. With this in mind I came to appreciate the simple tendencies of Nepal and the people who live in it, and to be honest, I would rather live in Nepal over Korea any day!
After what seemed like only a short amount of time I was back on the plane again, this time heading home. This arrival was particularly special because back in October I decided to be sneaky and change my flight to 6 days earlier than originally booked. This was all very sneaky because I neglected to tell my Boyfriend who was expecting me a week from now. I really did want to give him the best surprise and what better way than to arrive a week before the person is expecting you to? He nearly feel over when he saw me, it was a great reaction after such a long time apart. I am very glad to be home and I am excited that Christmas is around the corner, what a nice time to arrive home, it seems like everybody is in a better mood at Christmas, or maybe that is the Jet Lag talking... who knows.
In the next couple days I hope to put more photos of Nepal (my favorites) up on the Blog. After that maybe I will have to change the name of my blog to fit my life, we will see.

Saturday, November 28, 2009

Namaste Nepal.....

So the final days of my time in Nepal came and went. Before I knew it I was attending my "Farewell Ceremony" at the school dressed in Traditional Newari clothing and literally covered in flowers.

Let me back up a little bit, back to the beginning of my last day at school (Thursday). Jodi (the new Volunteer at the school) and I arrived at the school slightly late due to traffic. I had been told the day before that I should bring my Sari to school because they wanted to see me in it. I had my bag packed full of Sari, and gifts for the children, as well as two cameras to capture my last time with the kids. The painting, I am happy to say, was finished just in time, and the kids and I started the day by putting the school back together and putting desks back in each classroom. It was a BIG job since there were many dirty benches which I encouraged the kids to wash before putting them back. Everyone helped out, from the youngest student bringing water to each class, to the Teachers putting together their new and clean office. There was an energy in the air of excitement and happiness. I could tell by the rush of students racing between rooms that they were excited to see their beautiful new blue and white walled classrooms. I got many "Thank Yous", mostly from the older students because they noticed and appreciated the change the most. Little did I know that the greatest Thank You of all was yet to come.

After much work of cleaning and arranging, I was herded into Class One by a local Newari woman and was told, basically, to take off my clothes. My friend Emily (another Volunteer) had told me of her experience with a similar situation, and she basically passed on the knowledge that Nepali people enjoy dressing Western people up in Traditional costumes. So with this in mind I did as I was told and let them dress me in a Newari Sari. It was very beautiful with many layers of fabric wound around me. When I was finished being dressed the children flooded into the classroom to see what I looked like. Most of them, especially the little ones, looked at me as though they didn't recognize me, and many of them clapped their hands and laughed at what they saw. At this point the women started doing my make-up, which made me look somewhat like a clown.

Jodi, who was my Hero that day for taking video and pictures, took many of my outfit before I was placed on a "stage" in front of all the students. There were 3 men I had never met before who were also on the "stage" sitting with me. They were members of the organization SEFU which runs the school, as well as the Chairman of the school and some other man. We were all sitting there with the children sitting on benches in front of us watching in awe of what was going to happen. Since I looked like a clown I am sure they expected me to start performing some strange act or something, instead I sat quietly as they began speaking in Nepali. One of the male teachers was the MC of sorts, who introduced each of the men sitting to my right and asked them to speak. All of them spoke in Nepali so naturally I did not understand the majority of it (I learned some Nepali while I was there but not lots), luckily Bibek (Nepali orientation leader) was there to translate. All of them thanked me very much for the time that I had dedicated to the school and the work that I had done while I was here. Once they had all spoken, one of the Class 5 students got up and spoke on behalf of the students, saying Thank you and telling me that they learned lots of English while I was there. Then there came flowers. The headmaster beckoned the students to present me with the garlands of marigolds that they had made at home. I kept back tears as almost each student lined up in front of me to present me with a garland by placing it around my neck. From the oldest student to my 5 year old students, each one had a garland to give me. I was astounded by all of these flowers that now sat like a mane around my neck. Then I was asked to give a speech, so I stood in front of my students and held strong while telling all of them that I would miss them with all of my heart and that I wanted them to remember that their education was the most important thing in their lives. I thanked them for welcoming me into their school and community and making me feel at home.

As is tradition in Nepali culture, whenever there is a celebration there is a meal, so all of the Teachers and guests went to Class One to eat. I lingered outside the class to spend some more time saying goodbye to some of the students. I could hardly eat while being so emotionally wound up, but I managed to eat my last traditional Nepali meal of beaten rice, cauliflower with curry, and beans. It was delicious.

I was hoping that when the eating was over I would be able to see the kids one last time, and I got worried when I could barely hear screaming or playing outside. We went to the yard to finish the meal with Tea and then came the tears. Surprisingly they were not from me, yet, but from a girl named Kalpana from Class Four. She was bawling to say the least and she ran from the field when she saw me and gave me a huge hug. I couldn't hold in my tears any longer once I saw her, and apparently 4 others were crying because I was leaving as well. I think this moment (excuse me while I be cheesy) is the moment I realized what a whirlwind this trip has been for me, and my students. During my time at the school, getting the painting ready and teaching everyday, I never really realized that it would end. And at that moment I realized that I would not be going back to school the next day, or the day after that, or ever again, and I started to cry harder because I didn't want to leave my students, who I had built such a relationship with. Nepali people do not tend to hug each other, but I could not resist hugging each student again as well as the Teachers. Even some of the older Teachers were crying a little, to my surprise.
I said goodbye one last time and waved to the kids and I walked away from the school. Bibek took me home on his motorcycle even though I was still wearing my full costume. I spent the rest of the ride home crying knowing that I would likely never see my students or Teachers again. And then I pulled myself together and went home showing everyone all the gifts I had received and the ceremony they threw in my honor.

I am currently in Seoul, Korea at a hostel awaiting Doug's arrival. I arrived yesterday night and spent the night in a very futuristic and cool Korean hotel. Today was exciting and fun as I learned how to ride the Metro by myself, and took the whole day exploring the city. I am spending about a week and a half with Doug in Busan before I head home. This place is so different from Nepal it is hard to get my mind around everything. I will really miss Nepal, there is no place like it and, I didn't think it would happen, but in two months it became like a home for me.

Friday, November 20, 2009

A Week To Go...

I am very sad to say that I will be leaving Nepal in exactly one week. I wanted to post some more pictures of my kids because I will miss them very much. I hope everyone has a great weekend! Enjoy the pictures, they make me happy, and I hope they make you happy too.

Class 1 Reading "Hattie the Hippo"
Fun with Bubbles
Me with my Kids

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Painting in Progress

I have exciting news! I had a meeting this morning with SEFU (Skill and Education for the Underprivileged) who help fund and support my school. I was meeting with the President and Headmaster of the school to give them feedback on my work and to talk to them about a project that the McMaster Family has decided to undertake, of funding the painting of the interior of the school. Both the President and Headmaster were very happy and pleased that we wanted to help the school in this way and they told me they would assist in getting things started. After the meeting, the Headmaster and I rode back to the school for the afternoon classes. In Nepal 'getting things started' usually means they will not happen for months on end. To my surprise while I was having lunch in the office of the school, the Headmaster returned to the school with a small man, a painter. They had devised a list of things that needed to be purchased and brought along many colour swatches. We all agreed that there should be about 5 feet of dark colour from the floor up, and then white on the ceiling and top walls. We choose a very nice dark blue, and I told the painting man I wanted an off white for the top half of each room. Since I only have two weeks left the man said he would begin painting the rooms tomorrow, and it will likely take about one week for everything to be finished. I cannot describe my excitement with this project.
I explained to the people at the meeting this morning that I felt the rooms of the school needed light. I told them that my purpose for wanting to paint the school was to instill a sense of pride and importance in the students for their school. At the moment the school looks like a prison, and to be honest, many of the students run around as though they are in prison. To me school should represent an appreciation for knowledge which comes from education. If I cannot continue teaching at this school, and if I have to leave, even though it will be hard, I want to leave knowing that I left behind a lesson. I want the children to look at their clean, bright walls and understand the their school is an important place that needs to be taken care of, just like their education.

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

My Nepali Family

(Mother and Brother)
Last night I was invited to dinner by one of the Teacher's at my school. When one of the Teacher's asked me to come over for dinner, all of the others insisted that I come to their houses as well, so this will be one of many Nepali Family dinners that I will join.
After school the Teacher and I were picked up by her husband in their new car! Now this caused great excitement for me because I haven't heard of any Nepali family owning a car, let alone a new one! Immediately I knew that this would not be an ordinary Nepali family dinner, but a look into the lives of a rich Nepali family. When we arrived at their home, not too far from the school, they asked me into their living room, which unlike most Nepali homes, had big couches and chairs. They even had a big screen TV and a fish tank with goldfish. I felt as though I had stepped into a parallel universe and that I was not in Nepal anymore. The family consists of 7 people living in one house. Although it is 5 levels and very big, there is a Mother, Father, Older sister, Brother, Little sister, and Grandmother, as well as their dog Nemo. After talking about Canada, Nepali politics, and traveling, they asked me to join them upstairs to see the view from their top deck. Although it was cloudy that day the view of mountains and the local neighborhood was great. Their house towers over most others in their neighborhood so we could see into everyone else's homes. I chatted with the eldest sister for awhile about Western cultures, and how it is customary for young girls to have Boyfriends. She was very interested about this aspect of our culture. She didn't really understand the concept of a boyfriend because, like many Nepali girls, she will have an arranged marriage. I told her that I thought Western people had boyfriends and girlfriends because we did not have arranged marriages, so we need to find our own life partners. She seemed completely content in knowing that soon (she was 23) she would be married to a complete stranger.
After our short chat, we were invited into the dining room (with a table and chairs) for dinner. Everyone was there, but not everyone ate dinner, because normally a Nepali family eats dinner at 9 pm. They wanted to feed me dinner early because they heard we eat dinner at around 6 in Canada. The Mother had prepared a large meal with both Western and Nepali foods. She made rice, chicken, curries, and vegetables, as well as bread and peanut butter for me. It was a very good dinner and I was glad not to have the traditional Dal Bhaat (lentil soup and rice) again, because we eat it VERY frequently here at Basecamp. Dinner was finished and we headed back down to the living room to chat and watch some Nepali TV. It was really interesting to watch Nepali TV and I thought it was very amusing to see what kind of TV they watch. There were many Hindi (Indian) Dramas, similar to Soup Operas back home. They also had MTV India where we saw the latest popular Hindi hits and music videos. After sitting around with the family for awhile, and taking pictures and swapping emails they drove me home.
Like many Nepali families that I have met, this family was very hospitable and kind to me and treated me very well. I think it is considered a great honor to have someone from the Western world come to your house and eat with your family, I felt very lucky that they chose me to bestow their kindness on.

(Father and Grandmother)

Saturday, November 7, 2009

And then there was a Computer...

On Friday I was at the school, thinking that it would be a normal day, when I was told by one of the other teacher's that Conserve Nepal, a group who helps children in Nepal, was coming today with a new Computer. After I had taught four of my usual five classes I went out to the school yard and saw a large group of children gathered around one of the small tables from Class 1. I was busy taking photos of different kids, most of them would come up to me and say "Miss, one photo, one photo", when the Headmaster called me over to take some pictures of the Ceremonial passing of the computer mouse and keyboard. I took many pictures of the man from Conserve Nepal shaking hands with the Headmaster and giving a short speech about how useful the computer will be to the development of the children's technical skills. After all of the speeches had been made we all piled into the Library to watch the men plug in the computer and set it up. The main issue with this seemingly simple task was that the school, which looks similar to a prison, did not have power that day.

I should describe the school to give a good idea of why this computer is probably one of the few things that the school does not need. Each of the five classrooms does not have proper windows, there are shutters and metal panes to keep the children from falling out of them. All of the classrooms are grey walled and concrete floor to ceiling. I have one blackboard and a piece of chalk in each room, and that is just about it. The Library however, is a different story. The Library is mostly locked up and the children are allowed into it once a week, and for how long I am not sure. There was a project to build and make the Library by some foundation in 2006, and there are many books, for all levels of readers, there are four coloured walls, and nice mats for the children to sit on. Walking into this Library is like walking into a different school altogether. You would never imagine that this school would have such a place, and I think it is amazing that is does.

My problem, or not problem but thing, with the computer is that I think the money that was spent purchasing the computer could have been put toward many other needed things. My students often, at least 5 children in each class, do not have pencils, or paper. They sit at the back of the class, usually, and do not say a word, they just sit and watch as the other children are writing and forming sentences and getting check marks. Often I will come to class with extra paper and pencils or make sure that the students are at least watching the board to see what to learn. It is so frustrating at times because it is such a simple thing to have pencils and paper to provide to the underprivileged children, and yet it is such a luxury that is not provided.
I spoke for awhile with the man from Conserve Nepal and he said that there were three schools which they felt needed the computer the most, ours was one of them. I told him how grateful everyone was that they received the computer, but I wish I could have asked him how many crayons, coloured paper or paint for the school walls this computer could have bought instead. I held my tongue, because it is not my place to dictate what the donations should be. I think while they were giving the speeches to introduce the new computer, the man spoke in English to me at one point to say that "the children will benefit so much from using this computer, it will enhance their English IT skills". I thought to myself that these children need to learn how to form proper sentences and be able to hold a conversation before their IT skills are honed.
I hope that in the coming weeks, while I am still here, I can help introduce more time with the books in the Library, and more time with the computer. I would love to start teaching the children how to use the computer to the best of my ability, and I think that is a positive way I can turn this situation around. On another note, I will also be taking steps (financial) to hire people to paint the walls of our school white, because at the very least the children deserve a space where they can imagine their bright futures and appreciate the education they receive within those walls.

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

The Greatest Picnic of All

On Sunday I was invited (begged) to attend an annual Picnic that the teachers put on for the students. This was an all day event, beginning at 10am, where the children pitch in as much money as they can, rent a bus and choose a local camp ground to have their picnic. I really had no expectations as to what would happen, because I have learned not to expect that a Nepali picnic will be anything like a North American picnic. As it turns out they are similar, except for the Hot Dog part!
I am so glad I went to this event because the children were beyond excited that a. I was attending with a camera, and b. they had a day off school and a school bus to pick them up and drop them off. Imadol (where the children and school are located) is in the country part of Kathmandu where there are fields and farms. I know that all of the children live within walking distance of the school and that they, for the most part, live on farms. The excitement that was caused by a bus just for them is indescribable. Actually the best way to describe it is to say that they had a mini dance party while screaming and singing the entire way to our destination.
Once we arrived at the picnic site, the teachers unpacked the cooking supplies, of which there were many, with food and snacks. The children unpacked themselves and as quickly as possible began running free of the bus and teachers to surrounding area. I wandered around, with a couple of cute friends, and watched as the children explored. The way I felt that day, seeing them galavanting around the picnic site, laughing, singing and being generally happy made me excessively happy. After having spent a couple weeks with the children I have come to know their daily difficulties, lack of food, lack of clean clothes, and lack of school supplies. Lets just say that these kids do not have the easy life. However, once a year the kids gear up and prepare themselves for utter excitement and joy, it is something they look forward to year round, and to us it is so simple. I can't even think of how many times I took Cam, Ben or Griff (Hanson Bros) to the park to have a mini picnic, and yes they were happy, but I am sure they didn't think about it for a year in advance. I am not suggesting that children in Canada are ungrateful of a visit to the park, but I am suggesting, as a comparison, that the children in Nepal were so happy and excited to do something we think of as normal.
After what seemed like forever, we all sat down to a traditional Nepali meal, of rice, chicken curry, potatoes, and a green stew. It was all delicious and the teachers had spent many hours preparing for this grand meal. The children were quieter than I had ever seen them eating contently, something which would not occur very frequently for them. After the meal I brought out a huge bag of candies and handed one to each, their eyes lit up at the sight of this huge bag, and, since it was recently Halloween, I tried to explain our tradition of going trick-or-treating, the concept was slightly beyond them (understandably). Another hour or two went by as we were singing and dancing in a circle, they all laughed when I started to dance like I was Nepali.
I feel as though, going to the picnic and experiencing their excitement and joy has made me want to spend more time in their world to bring me closer to my students.
(Pictures: Three of the Teachers making the feast, a little girl (about 6) on the bus, and two boys at the school, first boy and little girl are siblings)

Monday, October 26, 2009

Baktaphor, Changu Narayan and Nagrakot (now say that three times fast)

This weekend, as is beginning to become tradition, we travelled an hour and a half away from home to visit Baktapor, Changu Narayan and the mountain resort on the top of Nagrakot. We managed to visit all three places all in one day (saturday) and enjoyed the mountainous views that Nagrakot had to offer.
Baktapor is a small historical town, outside Kathmandu, famous for its Pots. They are simply terra cotta clay pots which are hand made and painted. I say simply, because they look fairly simple, but the work and effort which goes into making each pot is laborious and long. After walking through Durbar Square we stumbled upon the "Pottery Square" which is where they hide all the pots. At first I saw many rows of small packable pots which had two colours on each pot, black and terra cotta red. I had my eye set on one when a man came up to me and explained that these pots were sitting out to dry and I was not able to purchase one. I was a little disappointed because those pots were so beautiful, but then he took me into his shop and showed me an array of finished pots (all one colour), so I settled for one of those. After we were all done walking, taking pictures and browsing we all walked back to the bus to begin to make our way further up to the mountain toward Changu Narayan.
Changu Narayan is a small temple which is a common pilgrimage site for many devote Hidus. This site is also a World Heritage Site, and one of the temples is said to be built in 464 AD. Words cannot describe how incredible and serene the temple is, I loved how silent it was compared to the rest of Nepal, or compared to Kathmandu at least.
Our final stop of the day was winding up to the top of Nagrakot, which is 7200 ft. high. From this spot we were able to see (when the sun was out) all of the Himalayas range of Mountains, and on a very clear morning you can even see the tip of Everest. Our whole group woke up at 5 am to climb to the top of the hotel to look out and take pictures of the mountains. Unfortunately we did not have good visibility that morning so we couldn't see too many of the mountains, but later that day we were able to see the mountains from a higher lookout point.
All in all I felt very small looking at the mountains which tower over me, it is somewhat humbling to see them and their beauty far away in the distance. This is all in preparation for our much anticipated Mount Everest plane ride, which we will take at 6am on Friday morning. Cross your fingers for no clouds and perfect visibility! I will post more pics when I have them.

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Chitwan National Park and Elephant Riding!

I just got back from Chitwan, a National Park about 7 hours south of Kathmandu, and let me just say that I finally got to ride elephants!! We journeyed down there by private bus early on Saturday morning and arrived at around 1230pm just before lunch. We stayed at a resort called Chitwan Jungle Adventures which was right next to the river and across from the National park. Once we had settled in to our respective cabin's (ours was nothing more than servants quarters with a concrete bathroom and a cockroach friend :) we then headed on our first look at the resort and surrounding area. We were taken by our fantastic and enthusiastic guide to see where the elephants are kept and bred. Since it was later in the afternoon, at this point, we were able to view a baby (5 years old and huge) elephant eating, her name was Sweetie and I think I took about 20 pictures out of pure excitement. At this resort, like many others in the Chitwan area, they breed elephants because it is too dangerous to take wild elephants and use them for riding etc. We went over to the place where they keep most of the male elephants and there were about 15 full grown male Asian elephants chained to their respective shelters resting from a days work.
The next morning we woke up early and prepared to depart on our Jungle adventure. I was wearing my 'jungle outfit' with long sleeved cotton white shirt and army green capris when our guide told me to change because I might be charged by a Rhino. I had no idea that Rhino's didn't like the color white and I didn't bring another long sleeved shirt so I had to borrow Bri's purple one. Who knew Rhino's were colour orientated. Once that was all settled we got into boats and were taken across the river in the Jungle part of the National Park. When we first entered we saw some monkeys, the same ones that are at a Monkey Temple in Kathmandu. We walked for about 1 hour before we stopped at a small watering hole, typically visited by Rhino's. I realized then that I was being attacked by leeches in my shoes, which wasn't really all that pleasant, but I tore the ones I saw off me and continued walking. We hadn't seen a Rhino yet (as promised), so we carried on through the jungle. It was incredibly peaceful and green in the parts of Chitwan we adventured to. For most of the walk we were all silent attempting not to scare away the animals, however with 15 people tromping through the bush the animals could probably hear us coming and run away.
After the hike had finished we prepared for our next adventure, which was bathing elephants. We were late for our turn so our guide told us (myself and three other volunteers) to jump in the water and climb on a kneeling elephant. I don't think I had time to process what was about to happen but I climbed on the elephant's back and hoped for the best. It was such an amazing feeling to be on top of this huge 8 foot high creature. There were four of us on at one time and the elephant was told by his guide to shake from side to side in attempts to throw us off him. I was unaware of what was going on so I held on for dear life and screamed as I was finally thrown into the water. After I had regained my balance I was told to climb back on, as if I hadn't had enough the first time, and do it again. The elephant was so well trained and he did exactly what he was told, but if he got out of order, like some do, his trainer would yell and hit him with a large metal pole. That was an aspect of riding elephants that I didn't enjoy watching. It is really the only way that the trainers can gain full control over the elephant, even if it made the elephant bleed in some cases.
After everyone was nice and wet from the bathing we all dried off and got ready for our next elephant encounter, which was a Jungle ride on an elephant. We were grouped off into four and walked up a staircase to mount the elephant. Off we went into the Jungle along with about 15 other elephants carrying tourists. We were very lucky to come across three grazing Rhino's when we entered the park. It was amazing to see wild Rhino's, which honestly looked fake, just hanging out eating grass as about 20 elephants surrounded them while tourists took pictures. Our journey lasted about 2 hours and by the end I was sore from holding on so tightly.
The elephants were so peaceful and almost never acted out from what they are told to do. It was truly amazing to be on top of an elephant riding through the Jungle, and we were so lucky to have the opportunity to do so.
As a side note, I just realized that some people have been commenting on my posts and that I needed to 'publish' the comments to see them. I'm sorry if I didn't see them before, I know how to do it now and I will start responding. Thanks for reading :)

Tuesday, October 13, 2009


Yesterday was my first day visiting my placement. My journey there and back totals about 2 and a half hours, by bus, tuk tuk and on foot. I was a little weary about traveling that far everyday to teach English at a government primary school in the middle of no where, but now I understand why I am here.
When Bibek (my orientation manager) and I arrived at the school we were greeted by three little girls out on the road which led to the school. The three of them were wearing their uniforms, or a dirtier version of them, with big smiles and little marigolds in their hands. I greeted them with 'Namaste' and they giggled and ran toward the school. Once I entered the school I was overwhelmed with children who were poking their heads from out of their classrooms to look at the new English teacher.
The school is a small building with 6 rooms, one classroom for each of the 5 grades and a small library. Each classroom, to give you a sense of what it is like, contains no more than 6 tables and chairs, some children do not have chairs to sit on during class. In every room there is a piece of chalk and a black board, which will be my only teaching tool. It seemed as though when I arrived at 2pm I wasn't interrupting class time, because the children were running wild all over the school. At one point we had a mini staff meeting in the library with all of the teachers. I took a glance out the hallway and could hear someone screaming while loud talking and playing was going on in each of the rooms. I could not even imagine an Ontario school allowing children to run wild with no supervision, but here it happens every day.
Afterwards one of the teachers led me into each class and asked the children to stand and greet me with their name in English. Each child from grade 1 to grade 5 had a flower or two to give me when I entered their class; I was speechless. The school is no more than 120 students and 5 teachers. All of the children are from the local farming families and are too poor to attend Private school, which most children in Kathmandu attend. This means that the children I will be teaching are amongst the poorest in Kathmandu, without being street children. I thought that what I would be doing would be difficult, and at times thought I might regret signing up to work so far away from the other volunteers and our home. After having visited this school, if it can even be considered that, and seeing the faces of happy and grateful children I know that I am in the exact place I want to be and doing the exact thing I love most, which is helping children. I know that teaching English is not an easy task and I was worried that the kids wouldn't want to learn, but I know that after seeing the way they greeted me and chased me from class to class, they will learn what I have to teach and hopefully, in some way, it will help them in the future.
More funny teaching stories to come I am sure!

Saturday, October 10, 2009

A very Sari night out.

The last couple of days have been so packed full of events and adventures that I haven't had time to record them all. It is Thanksgiving Sunday here in Nepal and I am very thankful to be here. Although our 'Turkey' dinner will not be the same, mostly because we are having chicken, we are trying to make the best of our Thanksgiving. One of the volunteers has even decided to make a no-bake pumpkin pie from scratch. I applaud her efforts even though it might not taste the same as my Aunt Susan's.
Anyways I will back up a bit to my Friday, Amazing Race day and Sari night out. All Volunteers at the end of Orientation week in their respective countries is paired up and given an afternoon of racing around their city in search of items, pictures, and people to complete an Amazing Race. I am a huge fan of the show and so as you can imagine I got quite excited at the prospect of running my own Amazing Race. Our tasks involved going to places on our own that we had been earlier in the week. We were given an allowance which we used for paying for Rickshaw rides and bargaining with local Sauji (shopkeepers) for items on a list. The entire race we were required to use our Nepali language, and if we failed to do so we would be docked two points. It was so much fun running through the streets like crazy people asking for certain market items and getting pictures of certain landmarks. My roommate, Emily and I came in third place, which was disappointing, but not as disappointing as it would have been if we had lost 1 Million dollars.
Later that evening we all dressed up in our traditional Sari's. Since it was our last night of Orientation we were taken on a private bus, all dressed up, to a local traditional Nepali restaurant. We ate Dhal Bhaat and Tibetan MoMo's on the floor in our Sari's and drank rice wine, kind of like Sake. It was very fun to be dressed up and out, but I think my favorite part was when we danced to traditional music in the middle of the restaurant to about three large tables of Chinese tourists clapping. We even posed for a couple pictures.
Yesterday morning we went on a day trip to an outdoor adventure place called The Last Resort. My group (of 6) decided to Canyon down waterfalls, the highest of which was 42 meters high. It was definitely thrilling to be that high up on the side of a cliff knowing that you will soon scale down with a waterfall right next to you. We were all very sore afterwards but excited that we did the whole 4 hour route.
Tomorrow I am going to my placement for the first time with my Orientation leader. I will hopefully have some funny teaching stories soon!

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

Wild Ride

We are now on the fourth day of Orientation and I am feeling much more familiar with my surroundings and the things we are doing. Every morning this week we have language classes with a Nepali man named Sharma G. He looks a little bit like Santa Claus except that he is Nepali and wears a daka topi (a traditional Nepali hat). I am attempting to pick up the language before I begin my placement on Monday, which will be in a school about an hour away from Basecamp (Kathmandu). After our classes we sit down to a lunch made by our wonderful cook named Badri. Today we had traditional Nepali food which was spicy yet delicious. We had all finished lunch and set out on a wet but very educational journey to Pashu Pati, a place where local Nepali people have their dead people cremated within a public temple next to a river. This place was very spiritual because after the cremation it is traditional to push the ashes into the river to give the soul of the person back to the earth (in simplistic terms).

One of the coolest parts of the day was when we visited the largest Buddhist Stupa in the world in Bodha. Although that part was amazing the ride home was the real adventure. The local Nepali transit system is not well run or widespread, so as you can imagine there are a lot of people in a few large vans (not buses like we have). My group, including two leaders, has ten people total so we needed to split up into two vans, or as the locals call it 'microbus', in order to get home successfully. The first ride was fairly predictable, four people to a two person seat, a small Nepali man next to me was really surprised when I practically squished him as I sat down. There were probably about 20 people in a 10 person van and that was not even the worst of it. We got out of the first microbus to transfer to the next when we realized that all of the transfer microbuses were full. Our leader, who at this point didn't know exactly how to get home, told us to get into a rickshaw, a small three wheeled bike with a two person seat on the back. There were three of us attempting to fit on a two person seat so I, being the smallest, sat on the other two girls. I was practically launched on to our driver a couple times due to huge pot holes in the road, plus it was raining so every time we went over a hole I was splashed with brown water. Anyways to my enjoyment I tried to stop thinking I was going to die and start enjoying the ride, like a roller coaster. It was truly an adventure but I know that my group was very glad to finally get home. More adventures to come I am sure!

Sunday, October 4, 2009

This is my Group (well the new people at least). We are in Kumari's (the living goddess of Kathmandu) courtyard on our walking tour of Durbar square this afternoon. Kumari is a young girl who is chosen based on 70 qualifications to be the living goddess of Kathmandu, which means she blesses the people of Kat during religious holidays. Kumari is a 4 year old girl and when she reaches puberty she will be replaced with another Kumari.

Friday, October 2, 2009

I made it! I am sitting right now at Basecamp in Nepal. So I arrived yesterday in the afternoon, Nepal time. After my pick up from the Airport, my organizer and I got in a local cab and flew through the city of Kathmandu at an incredible speed. The best way to describe the ride was hectic. If you know how hectic driving downtown Toronto at 8am on a Monday can be, imagine that in addition to having your ride disturbed by cows, honking scooters with death wishes, and an absence of street rules and signage. It is crazy to say the least. At one point diving through Thamel (the small tourist city where our Basecamp is located) a man with a large machine to pave the road walked out in the middle of traffic to begin construction. Cars were honking, people were walking everywhere, children were playing in the middle of the road, and I am sitting in the back seat in utter shock anticipating the journey I have now just begun. After arriving at Basecamp and meeting my fellow volunteers (9 girls and 2 boys) I felt exhausted and lay down for a nap. Every evening all of the volunteers sit around a couple coffee tables on mats for dinner made by Baudri, our resident cook. Last night to my astonishment we had a simple spaghetti with tomato sauce. Some of the girls who have been at Basecamp for about a month suggested that we travel into Thamel to get sizzling brownie for dessert. We took the walk through completely dark streets because the power had been turned off, which is one of the local treats we enjoy randomly because the city needs to conserve energy. We went to a very nice small restaurant which was very tourist and enjoyed the hot brownie and ice cream. I really did not image on my first day in Nepal to eat spaghetti and brownie, so much for dieting while I'm here! Afterwards three of us 'newbies' went back home while the rest continued the night partying at a Western type bar called Tom and Jerry's. Today is Orientation and we will be taking a tour of Thamel to see the sights. I will update more when I have more stories and will post pictures when the rain subsides.

Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Namaste Nepal and Liz

So I have decided to go to Nepal. Why? Because Nepal appears to be culturally diverse and rich in religion. To mix things up I have decided to immerse myself by participating in a Volunteer Abroad Canada program situated in Kathmandu Nepal. I hope with Blogging I am able to share some stories and pictures of my new adventure. I take off tonight at midnight for two and a half months, and I am scared yet excited!