Himalayan routine – being a volunteer
Exciting journey, amazing adventures and breathtaking scenery were just an added bonus. My primary purpose was the internship in the most incredible place I could just imagine. How is like to be a volunteer in Nepal? First of all it’s not entirely legal since you shouldn’t work here (even for free) on tourist visa. However, in reality no one seems to bother but of course sometimes it’s better not to say everything .
I would lie if I told you that doing this was a piece of cake. Definitely it was not. All in all teaching young kids or sharing room with the group of adolescent boys appeared to be a bit challenging. On the other hand it was wonderful experience which I never forget. Of course having no privacy drove me crazy sometimes but simultaneously it became a great lesson of patience and great wake-up call. For the first time I didn’t have to set the alarm clock since I was awake anyhow. Sometimes it was the sound of Tibetan incantations or a pile of books falling straight on my head (boys were keeping their student’s book just over my bed) and some other time it was just an old-school cock-a-doodle-doo.
Our extraordinary school was located in ordinary house. There were no typical classrooms and normally we were studying on the roof. Can you imagine something more unreal than doing maths and in the meantime catching a glimpse of Himalayan summits? To be specific it was what they call a winter school. All the kids come from Mustang District what means that most of them used to live in really isolated villages. To gain an education, they moved to Jharkot (3550m above sea level) However, during long severe Himalayan winters the old school building is not suitable place for kids to live and study. That’s why every year in the end of autumn they go down to Pokhara where they spend next few months away from their families.
All the students (from the age of six to fifteen) seemed to be quite mature for their own age. Of course they did everything what normal kids do what means they had a lot of crazy ideas. However, at the same time they were really caring for each other. What is even more, they took all their responsibilities really seriously – and that’s what impressed me the most. Basically all the housework like cleaning or washing the dishes was done by them.
Although they’ve already got used to being visited by European volunteers, every new person was perceived as a quite exotic specimen. The very first day of my internship I faced many hilarious questions and gestures. Kids constantly asked me why I was so white and why I had such hairy legs. Without embarrassment, sometimes even instinctively, they touched my face, nose and ears trying to understand all the differences between us. As the volunteer my job wasn’t just teaching but hanging out with the kids in the first place. International company enables them to gain knowledge about distant countries and moreover it helps to improve their language skills as well.
The life I had a chance to experience in Nepal was really a simple one. For example instead of taking a morning shower, I had to settled for a bucket of cold water. Besides, at least once a week we had to carry it because we didn’t even have a well just a common reservoir. Since electricity was something we couldn’t take for granted either I tried to wake up as early as possible and go sleep just after the sunset. After almost a month of eating nothing but rice and seasonal vegetables I started to have dreams about Polish cuisine. Anyway, I could see those people struggle every single day just to satisfy their basic needs. And yet, despite all these difficulties they never stopped smiling. To be honest I’ve never met happier people in my life.
*** POSTSCRIPT ***
There are plenty of things you can do while being a voluteer in Nepal. One day my students came to me and asked whether we could make some movie. Not just a random movie, of course. They wanted to be a part of the horror movie with (surprise, surpirse) a lot of fight scenes, blood and dead bodies… Well, we couldn’t go ahead with that, obviously, but after very productive brainstorm I came up with a great and more suitable idea. The Wicked Witch with some supernatural powers 😛