Monday, April 15, 2013

A Northener in Nepal

With Purnay, one of the Street Children from a center PoD works with

Celebrating Holi festival
After travelling for more then 24 hours without sleep, enduring flight delays, cancellations, lost luggage and having virtually no sleep, the first thing that hits you when you arrive in Kathmandu is the sheer craziness and mayhem of the place. Bikes, taxis and busses, with luggage and people piled high on there roofs and spewing out of their doors, all jostle for position on the city's dusty and dilapidated dirt-track roads. It's fair to say that even the most experienced traveller gets that "what was I thinking?" feeling when contemplating the prospect of spending three months in this crazy country. The ironic thing however is that, the one thing that unsettled me most when I arrived in Nepal, that being the total mayhem and disorganisation of the place, is now the thing I love most about this wonderful country. The hilarious willingness to close schools the week before exams because of strikes and hour long waits for drinks in bars only add to your admiration of the Nepalese people and the way they embrace life by taking things, (and indeed themselves,) a little less seriously.

Any feelings of doubt whatsoever disappear the next day when you leave Kathmandu for the calm of Pokara and within a week, thanks to Bindu and the girls along with Chrissy and Phil, you are not only settled into your new home but well on the way forging long lasting relationships that will allow you to make a real difference during your time volunteering in Nepal.

The bridge I cross every morning to get to Balam
Teaching at Shree Bhalam primary school, PoD's furthest placement from lakeside, means taking an hour long bus ride the outskirts of Pokhara and then crossing a huge suspension bridge to get to work. The bus ride is probably one of my favourite part of the day as, despite being groped, given Nepalese kids to hold and travelling with boobs in your face, it is a real chance to see how the real Nepal works and how its wonderful inhabitants interact with each other. At school I spend my time teaching English to kids across the school. When I arrived in school I was given a timetable for my classes and now plan and teach my classes completely independently; PoD placements allow us all to be as independent as we like so you feel although you are really making a difference where you are and are being appreciated by both your students and teaching colleagues alike.

There is a great network of support here in Nepal, whether this be from the PoD team or the other volunteers here; there is always someone to discuss your day with and we all enjoy sharing ideas and techniques with each other at the end of the day. The social scene in Lakeside is also amazing, along with some great nights out, the central location of Pokhara means we have been able to enjoy trips to Chitwan national park, Lumbini (Buddha's birthplace,) weekends rafting and weeks in Kathmandu. One of the highlights has definitely been watching the sunrise over the Himalaya during one of our treks!

Living at Bindu's is amazing; Bindu, Janice and Julia welcome you into their home from your first day and are always on hand with a wealth of local information and funny stories! There home is the perfect balance between hotel and home-stay; you are welcomed into their family, eat and socialise with them, however are still given the freedom to come and go as we please. Bindu is always on hand to deal with whatever Nepal can throw at you, be this water and electricity shortages to bringing you soup when you are ill.

Top of Poon Hill, a three day trek I did with a friend
In short, my time in Nepal has been awesome, having made some amazing friends and met some amazing people; it will be a shame to leave. I feel I have made long lasting relationships, not only with the other volunteers here, but also with the teachers and students I have worked with every day. I really feel I can leave Nepal having made a positive impact on the people I have worked with; this has only been made possible because of the wonderful people of PoD, (Gemma and Chrissy in particular,) their meticulous organisation, support and friendliness mean my whole trip has been hassle free from start to finish. I know its a cliché but, forget any worries you have about coming to Nepal, when you arrive throw yourself into the culture and you'll never forget it; I cant wait to return! 

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