By Brooke AMEN
Brooke was a Trek to Teacher in 2018 in the small village of Tolka, Nepal. She continues to share the beauty of the Himalayas and the Nepali people while managing the Trek to Teach Instagram page.
“What are you running from?” Out of context, it sounds like a line out of a cheesy rom-com or a horror movie. Add the image of an American girl going for a jog through a small village in the Himalayas and it begins to make sense. I never thought that working out could qualify as a cultural exchange, but I quickly learned that burning calories intentionally was not a part of the norm in Tolka, Nepal.
When I traveled to Nepal, I knew I was going to be living a very different lifestyle than the one that I had come to love at home in the USA. I usually spent most of my free time in Wyoming fly fishing and skiing obsessively. Turns out, there isn’t a ski lift or fly shop to be found in the Annapurna region, so I had to make some adjustments. I had to figure out what I loved so much about the hobbies I was obsessed with and discover how to reap the same benefits in a very different environment. I found that I primarily loved fly fishing for the peace of mind that it gave me and skiing for the muscle-building and cardiovascular health that it provided. These hobbies quickly translated into journaling and running/hiking.
A Time for Reflection
Every day, I would sit on a wall at my guesthouse that had a perfect view of Annapurna South and write. I mostly wrote about my experiences, but more importantly, I wrote about what I learned from them. This habit helped me to notice trends in my thinking and track my personal growth during my time in Nepal. Often times, my students or guesthouse family members would come and watch me write. However, as soon as I was finished they would grab my hand and take me on an adventure.
Boredom is for Boring People
The best part about getting bored in a small village was that you were never bored for long. Creativity is universal and the children of Tolka had simple entertainment down to a science. Some of my favorite afternoons were spent flying handmade kites into hydropower lines, retrieving frisbees off of rooftops, and chasing monkeys through the caterpillar-filled jungles. In the evenings I would sit around a fire with my host family. We would play guitar and laugh and sing songs in Nepali and English. As it turns out, dancing is a universal form of communication and was one that we relied on frequently. I quickly learned that only boring people get bored and that entertainment was usually close by if I went looking for it.
Forrest Gump Friendships
Whenever I am asked what my favorite memory is from Nepal, there is one that stands out above all the others. My afternoon runs quickly became conventional and my sweaty, breathless appearance became a part of the village’s daily existence. One day, a couple of children emerged from their houses as I ran past. They were young and didn't speak much English, but they started running alongside me. I appreciated the company and when we returned back to the village, they took me inside their house where their mother handed me her smallest child and a cup of tea. We only communicated in smiles, but I couldn’t have been more content. The trend spread and little Nepali boys and girls would flood from their houses as I ran through the village and join in the adventure. We would play in the river and share Coconut Biscuits until everyone was completely exhausted. The older kids would help me carry the little ones back up the hill to the village where everyone would disperse for dinner. During these runs, very few words were spoken, but I made friends that I will treasure for a lifetime.
Free time is a precious gift and there is an excess of it in small Himalayan villages. For some, this can lead to boredom and homesickness, but for me, it led to a path of friendship, healthy habits, and self-discovery. Today I continue to make time to journal, run, and reminisce on the adventures that changed my life in Nepal. I hope that others are able to experience the true serenity that comes from creating a lifestyle at the base of the greatest mountain range on earth.
By Laura Shaw
Laura is a former high school teacher and coach from Canada who went to Nepal with Trek to Teach in 2019 and now volunteers with the organization to train future teachers.
In Nepal, volleyball is much more than just a game; it's a community and a way of life. As you trek through the rural villages of the Annapurna Region in Nepal, you would be hard pressed not to come across a makeshift volleyball court or two somewhere along the way. Most of these courts have lines hand carved with a stick and the nets are often tangled messes of string, supported by wood posts hammered into the uneven ground. Some courts barely fit on the terraced fields, but are clearly spaces dedicated to the game. They might not look like much, yet with the backdrop of the Himalayas, these courts suggest there’s a lot more than just a game played here.
By: Laura Shaw
As contradictory as it may sound, I felt as though I knew what I was getting myself into coming to Nepal, yet had no idea what to expect. I was confident I had sufficiently prepared myself mentally and physically for my time here: to trek my way through the mountains, be living in relative isolation, and have limited access to resources. However, you never really know how prepared you are until you arrive. One thing I could not have predicted was how different each of the four teachers' experiences would be while in our villages. The four of us (Andrew, Zoe, Katie and myself) had met in Kathmandu, spent the week together for orientation then trekked together for four days to our villages. After a group hug in the garden of the Trekker's Inn Guesthouse in Ghandruk, we parted ways and settled into our villages. In Ghandruk, Katie has experienced an ever changing and revolving door of trekkers, guides, and porters every night and at times has even helped serve dal bhat. In Tolka, Andrew was welcomed like a brother by the staff at a lively guesthouse and but is further removed from the rest of us being on the other side of the valley. In Kliyu, Zoe has been adopted as "my daughter" to her host family at a quiet guesthouse, but has her fill of excitement during busy days at school. And here, in Kimche, my life is significantly different than all the rest, but in all the ways I could have hoped for.