volunteering, traveling and trekking in Nepal

My journey to Nepal began on the 16th of August 2011 and lasted a month and a half. I had recently turned 30 and had quit my job with a merchant banking firm, deciding I had had enough of the rat-race.  I decided my travels were to be more than a vacation and they were to lay the foundation to a future I wished to have. Volunteering in Nepal for a month and spending the rest of my time there exploring and appreciating the country’s wonderful people and culture seemed to be the perfect solution.

I was drawn to Nepali Host Family as it seemed to offer everything from a challenging teaching experience, to cultural tours of Kathmandu, to momo-making lessons, to helping with making all the arrangements for the Everest Base Camp Trek I had in mind, and I have to say, Nepali Host Family far exceeded my expectations!

Here is a glimpse of my life in Nepal –

Teaching in Nepal threatened to be a daunting experience, but from the very first moment I stepped into “Compact English School” it was nothing less than an utterly enjoyable and an absolutely rewarding experience. The location of the school was in about 40 min. walk from the hostel was a perfect way to start the day. Walking through the bustle of the city woke you up to the reality of the wonderful world that is Nepal. The children at the school were absolutely adorable and I left school each day feeling such a sense of joy over having done something worthwhile. We played games that required all the students to interact with each other in English, pored over the world map for long, discussing the locations and cultures of different countries, went over the curriculum and had discussions over their class work, and on some days we would just take pictures, sing songs and dance to popular Nepali songs. The principal of the school is an amazing and dynamic lady who ran through the school attending to an unending list of responsibilities that kept her from being comfortable ensconced in her office, even for a moment. Aarti Mam would often share lesson plans with me and always made herself available to any of the necessities I might have had of the school. The local teachers were just as wonderful and any nervousness I might have felt initially was forgotten after day one.

Traveling and trekking in Nepal offered a thrill and excitement few other countries can match. The country presents such extremes as snow capped mountains, to the chaotic city life of Kathmandu, to pristine agrarian villages, and finally even forests. Most weekends I occupied myself with out-of-town trips, be it the lake-side adventures of Pokhara – hiking up to the World Peace Pagoda, boating in the Phewa lake, biking to the bat-caves, or just chilling at the Busy Bee with a chilled beer, or be it the exciting jungles of Chitwan offering jungle safaris, jungle walks, elephant bathing, bird-watching, etc. Then there were the sights within the city of Kathmandu such as Kathmandu Durbar Square, Patan Durbar Square, Swayambunath Temple, Pashupati Temple, Boudha Stupa, and the hour’s bus-ride to Bhaktapur, an ancient Newar town. These travels, of course, turned out to be an excellent way to bond with the rest of the volunteers when we first arrived and also a great way to see Nepal. The experience that topped it all for me was the Everest Base Camp (EBC) trek. It is hard to put into words the experience of that breathtaking walk through the heart of the Nepalese Himalaya. I wasn’t prepared for the beauty I witnessed; it was both awe-inspiring and magical at the same time. Apart from being the highest mountain in the world, Everest is also a true beauty. Staying in mountain guesthouses offered an excellent way of learning all about the culture and way of life up in the mountains, which is just as hard as it is beautiful. However, the warm hospitality at the mountain lodges is something you will not easily forget. Overall, it was a life-altering experience traveling through Nepal, something I would highly recommend.

Living in Nepal, in a country between two world super-powers, India and China, offers a diversity which in no way oppresses upon the national unity and pride of the Nepali people. More so even than India, ancient traditions and beliefs are endlessly expressed and respected. Living at the hostel was a great way to get immersed into the community and get involved with everything. Taking the micro-bus everywhere, or even just walking through the city makes you feel like so much more than just a tourist. The hospitality of everyone at the hostel and the warmth you experience at the hands of perfect strangers makes you forget all of your home-sickness. My journey might have come to an end but the memories and friendships I have made in Nepal will be something I will hold on to my entire life.

I have met some amazing volunteers through Nepali Host Family, all doing quality volunteer work in their respective placements. They were all, just like me, looking for a worthwhile experience and a unique way to plunge themselves into the immensely beautiful community and culture of Nepal. Thanks to Nepali Host Family, my trip has been a truly unforgettable one.

Aparna
India.

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