My Nepali Host Family
Perhaps the best indicator of a good trip is the traveller's inability to stop reminiscing about it afterwards. I have been home from Nepal four months now and I just can't stop talking about what an incredible, eye-opening experience it was. I mean it was just fantastic. I was placed in a home about 45 minutes outside of Kathmandu, in the quiet and picturesque village of Bungamati.
My host mother's name was Serala, and she was absolutely the sweetest, most thoughtful and interesting person I have ever met. It was rice drying season in Nepal (November) and she taught me how to shift through the rice with my feet, allowing it to dry as my feet churned up new portions of the rice. She taught me about Nepali music, Nepali film and politics, Nepali dance, and the changes in environment and culture in the past century. She took me grocery shopping, to a fortuneteller, and to her friend's house to plan her son's wedding. She also taught me how to do "pooja", the daily Hindu prayers and offering to the gods.
When I left, she gave me a miniature Ganesh, so that I could perform my own pooja at home. I still do it now and then, back here in America, when I need extra support and a reminder of the incredible life I lived for six weeks in Nepal. It connects me to the people I met there, not only in my host family but also at the school placement, as well as the other volunteers, and the random fascinating people I met in Tamil, downtown Kathmandu on the weekends.
My host family helped me to live the Nepal life, to accept it and to push myself to understand it and to experience it first hand. My parents, who travelled briefly in Nepal as well at the same time, came away with completely different observations of the culture. I really do feel like I now know the real Nepal, and understand it in depth far beyond that of a tourist. If you want to really get to know a country and a culture and a people, home-stay with Projects Abroad is the way to go.
My Teaching Placement
Perhaps my most fulfilling time was spent working at the school with the kids. The academic ability varied greatly, and the kids were always, I mean always game for some fun and learning. I had never taught a class before in my life, barely babysat before, and at first when I was thrown into a classroom I was terrified. But I soon realised that even I had something to offer, just by virtue of being a representative of another world. I left the school each day not necessarily feeling like I had fixed a problem, but feeling that I had made a good start in helping to educate these children, and let’s face it, that is a huge accomplishment in itself.
One of my fondest memories is when before dinner one evening, three other volunteers and I (girls from all over the world who to this day I remain in touch with and consider some of my best friends) took a deck of cards out to the tiny community garden near the temple in the centre of the village. We began playing rummy, and before long some of our Nepali students who we recognised from the school approached us and offered us tea, and we invited them to play. We played cards and sang songs that we'd learned in school that day. I knew then that those kids were making a difference in my life, and I in theirs.
The older kids generally wanted to learn Justin Bieber lyrics, some pop star I had barely heard of before. So I taught them the words to this pop music, music that any elementary school teacher in the US would frown upon, but music from which these Nepali children furthered their English speaking and comprehension skills, memorisation, musical skills, etc. It was a joy to be able to improvise in the classroom, to teach things that the students clearly craved and enjoyed, and to be able to offer a type of education different from that of the local teachers.
I left my placement in Bungamati, Nepal with an intense love and respect for children, an increased appreciation for humanity and culture, and a renewed lust for life and living. I recommend a trip to Nepal with Projects Abroad for anyone craving a challenge or for those who wants their mind opened to the beauty, cultural difference, and reality of this earth. Nepal, I will return.