Written by: Oliver Johnson
It was an evening to remember. The light above the dark clouds which illuminated the valley an ominous grey, was slowly becoming extinguished. The previous 2 days and that morning and early afternoon had been spent slogging it up and up and up… but now we were here! In Annapurna Base Camp! That day from Deurali was spent passing huge boulders, jagged - almost polygonal - hills to your left and right, and brownish grassland reminiscent of the Scottish Highlands.
After a long lull of checking our phones and twiddling our thumbs, a small break in the clouds encouraged myself and several others to drag ourselves from the comfort and warmth of the dining room.
ABC is surrounded by large hills and even larger mountains, the very peaks of the latter however we couldn't see because of the aforementioned clouds. Personally however, I saw - and heard - enough for my imagination to do the rest.
Notice how I said 'heard'? I may not have been able to see everything but I think I heard everything. By the moraine next to base camp, which sheerly drops into the rock strewn glacier below, one can hear from the distant mountains - every 10 or so seconds - the loud crack of splitting glaciers and the low thud of falling boulders. Their echoes reached you like the fading crack of distant thunder. A warning perhaps. A warning to anyone with the childish temerity to dare attempt one of Annapurna's peaks.
It just added to the epicness of this place.
Exploring the boulder strewn grassland just beyond ABC, I was pointed towards the cloudy peak of a snowy hill. At the top, I saw two silhouetted figures standing triumphant at the top of the hill. A wave of excitement reverberated through my entire being. They gazed across the valley like triumphant conquerors, surveying all that was theirs.
I spent the rest of the evening in the dining room, basking in the camaraderie gained amongst those who have completed a difficult task together. For most of my trip up to ABC, I had hung out with a mountaineering group, mostly consisting of Sherpas. For them, this trek was only just the beginning. The next day, they were to begin their first steps towards an attempted summit of Mount Singu Chuli. All of them wore broad smiles, all content in one another's company.
I went to bed that night happy. And, unbeknownst to me at the time, a seed had been planted within my mind. I woke up the next morning, and started to think about climbing a mountain. I told a woman I met about it that very morning. She told me it's quite something that I'd still want to do something like that with how the conditions are right here, right now - that is, very bloody cold.
I believe they call this strange, seemingly counterintuitive phenomenon the spirit of adventure.
I believe that this spirit - a desire to teach, trek and now maybe even climb in far away locales, in spite of the soaking rain and the sucking leeches, the drilling sun and the freezing cold - is what drove me to Trek To Teach in the first place. It's a desire to achieve, and a desire to explore - to paraphrase my parent's favorite show - 'where few men have gone before!'
Written by: Oliver Johnson
The word Annapurna is derived from the Sanskrit word Annapūrṇa, literally meaning to be filled with or possessed with food. The name Annapurna is a manifestation of the goddess Parvati, the wife of Lord Shiva - god of gods. Parvati is the goddess of many things, but within her manifestation as Annapurna, her specialities are that of food and nourishment.
From the Annapurna Mountain Range, a great many rivers, both big and small, flow from the melted ice and snow of her glorious peaks. One such river - known as the Modi Khola - cuts a linear line from the East Annapurna Glacier to its tributary at the Gandaki River. Along the way, she provides greenery and life for the many hills that border her waters; for the people who live on these hills, she gives them sustenance and a way of life.
To her west, above Birethanti, below Chomrong and Ghandruk, and almost adjacent to Tolka, sits the village of Kimche. This village (and specifically the 'Kimche Guesthouse and Restaurant', the place where I stay) has provided me with food, shelter and a base of operations for the past 4 months.
Around me, one is surrounded by terraced fields, hacked out from the jungles and forests which make up another significant feature of these hills. The way the fields are layered upon one another - with each new field receding further and further back up the hill - gives the impression, almost, of that of a cake: layer topped upon delicious layer.
At night, all the greenery and jungle is enveloped within a black cloak. Stitched into its cloth are small clusters of lights, with each clump representing one of the many villages that inhabit the other side of the valley. As I get ready for bed in the evening, each cluster is arranged in such a way as to make it appear like a constellation. Perhaps it's Annapurna again, showing off the fruits of her creation via the very people she feeds daily.
Living in a guesthouse - as well as visiting many other Guesthouses during my treks - is a surprisingly odd yet decidedly interesting experience. I am exposed to a kind of living that was either on my periphery within the UK (although usually in a different form, principally farming and business) or is completely new to me.
One sees more of the logistics and realities of the running of - and living in - a Nepali guesthouse, surely the veins through which the economic lifeblood of this small nation trek, climb and observe in awe. I see how one supplies such an outpost (including those even further afield than Kimche), as well as who does what and why. There is the boredom and disappointment of having no customers, and then there is the satisfaction and excitement of having lots of them.
For me, the latter has been one of the most interesting aspects of my stay here - the customers.
While I must admit to being somewhat inexperienced in solo travel abroad (I've only traveled to Kenya before this), I must also tell you that I come from rural Suffolk, in the East of England. My village back in the UK is nestled between the terminus of two great rivers; once you get beyond
the houses of the village, one is met with ever rolling farmland, hedgerows and forests. It's beautiful country, and a wonderful place to grow up, however its location guarantees a level of diversity that is well below any of the major cities, or what I would call 'London' levels of diversity.
In Nepal however, I've met, on a regular basis, people from around the globe: Argentinians, Brazilians, Americans, Germans, French, Fins, Vietnamese, Filipinos, South Koreans, Australians... to name but a few.
You very rarely meet another who you might describe as boring: innovative designer at Lego, a drug dealer going legal, Buddhists, Mountaineers, ex-military, and much more.
With such a vast canvas of characters and backgrounds you might not expect the vast majority to get along, yet they do. Talking to random strangers you meet in guesthouses (and maybe even banding together) is utterly normal; many will offer to help you if you're in need; they are quite open to new experiences.
This meeting of kindred spirits, often within the confines of the guesthouse on the trail, is one of the most incredible things about Nepal. This country - in many ways - is the world's great unifier, taking in those from all nations and binding them together through those great welders of all human relationships: a common purpose, a common interest. The views, the mountains, the yoga, the hiking, the spirituality... There's always something for everyone.
Between the final ringing of the bell at school, to the time I go to bed, Kimche is, if nothing else, a decidedly quiet place.
During my first few days of living here, this quiet was what struck me the most. No constant stream of cars close by, very few people. If any type of machine moves around here, or if anyone shouts, it is the predominant sound in the entire area, with maybe two or three much, much quieter contenders.
I found that for a while I would try to fill this silence with something, often with music, or YouTube videos. In modern life (or at least in my home), we are so utterly unused to the quiet - with our loud speakers, TVs and headphones booming out their voices, rhythms and gunshots.
I am used to the sensory overload that comes from browsing the internet and staring at a digital screen for the majority of my day. Adverts beckon for our attention, whilst a constant stream of bright and garish images sear our eyes to fatigue; the violence, the (mis)information, the sexually explicit. Anything you desire - or anything the machines cleverly guess you desire - all at the press of a finger.
So, when silence comes, one is confused by it, almost afraid of it.
Sometimes, when you're sitting by the table - completing a lesson plan or reading a book - all you can hear is the distant sound of a waterfall seemingly caressing the Modi Khola below, its violent crashing being soothed and pacified by the passing of distance.
Yet this quiet, this break from the constant distractions and sensory overload that were part and parcel for my life back home, has actually helped me immensely. It has helped me in my attempts to bring a greater degree of order to my life. Habits I'd been meaning to implement, such as waking up early, writing and a few others are beginning to mesh a little more seamlessly with other habits I already have - exercise, reading, etc.
The quiet for me is an opportunity: to be more productive, to think, to spend more time on myself, and ultimately… to thrive.
Part 2 of Life and Observations in Kimche and Nepal will be posted soon!
Written By: Laura Shaw and Regina Rudder
Most Trek to Teach teachers spend at least 10 weeks in a rural village in the Annapurna region, where they have the opportunity to explore all that Nepal’s Kaski district has to offer. Packing for a big trek is often daunting enough; however, packing for multiple treks and living in a mountain village is a whole other feat within itself. The packing list will undoubtedly be lengthy, but sorting out what to buy at home and pack in your luggage versus the gear you could buy in Nepal to avoid baggage fees is something a lot of people wish they had known prior to arriving. Rest assured that teachers will have time in Kathmandu and Pokhara to acquire any last minute gear or supplies they may need or want in the village before leaving on the Poon Hill Trek. Teachers will have to decide what gear to carry with them for the 4-5 day trek, what belongings to send to their village by jeep, and, ultimately, what to leave behind. Based on the experiences of former TTT teachers’ packing struggles and regrets, here are our suggestions!
By Regina Rudder
Regina went to Nepal in 2018 with Trek to Teach and spent 3 months teaching in Kliu, loving it so much that she decided to join the Peace Corps. After returning to Nepal to teach in Dhading for one year, she stayed on with TTT to help prep incoming teachers for their own journeys in Nepal.
They say variety is the spice of life and Nepali food has both variety and spice! The staple meal in Nepal is daal bhaat, which literally translates to “lentils and rice”; however, it is so much more than that. Daal bhaat is a large meal consisting of white rice (bhaat), lentil soup (daal), curried vegetables (tarkari), and spiced chutney (acchaar). It is usually eaten twice a day, once in the late morning and once in the evening. The most common dish in Nepal, it has become so popular among trekkers that it inspired the slogan “Daal Bhaat power 24 hours.”
Written by: Ashley Mathews
This time last year we were in the midst of rebuilding a Nepali school that had been destroyed in the 2015 earthquake. Our partnered school in Kliyu became unrecognizable, with a fallen building and large boulder rocks piled high where there used to be an outdoor play area.
With the generous help of MyTefl, we raised funds to finish building a multi - purpose hall used by both the local community and students alike. It's been a blessing over the past three months to partner with the headmaster's to use the schools as the host site for food and hygiene kit distributions for students. With understandable travel restrictions during the pandemic, certain food items have been limited for remote regions in Nepal. It’s also been difficult for our student’s families to find work which has affected their regular income during the pandemic. While we recognize that our efforts are a single, small action in the larger scope of the difficulties Nepali communities are currently facing, we hope that the meals will give families the space they need to continue focusing on maintaining their livelihood during the global pandemic.
Our operations director, Sarala Shrestha coordinated with a vendor in Pokhara and Nayapol, near the beginning of the Poon Hill trek in order to transport food and hygiene supplies up to the mountain schools. We also hired donkeys to transport the goods to the village of Chrommong, a mere two days from Annapurna Base Camp.
So far we've donated kits to 181 families which includes the following:
Trek to Teach Kits
Sugar - 1kg
Lentils - 2 kg
Onion - 1kg
Salt- 1pac.of half kg
Beaten rice - 2kg
Soyabeans - 2kg
Soap - 1pcs
Toothbrush - 4pk
Toothpaste - 1pk