Also, Kathmandu is dusty, asthmatics beware! Between the dust of Kathmandu and the trek, my inhaler got more action than it’s had in years. After a few days of orientation, we went on a seven hour bus ride to Pokhara, which was an adventure in itself. Pokhara is Nepal’s second largest city, it is still chaotic but seems like a tranquil paradise compared to Kathmandu. As tranquil as Pokhara seemed it was nothing compared to the villages in the Himalayas. When you have a stunning panorama of the mountains every day, you can’t be entirely stressed out.
While it wasn’t a breeze every single day, teaching did gradually became easier. The more time I spent with the kids, the more I figured out what worked for them and what didn’t. An activity that required more individualized attention from me might have worked for my group of eleven Class 5 students, but was not going to work for my group of sixteen Class 4 students. The time I spent talking with kids outside of class while walking to school or having them try to teach me the games they played was just as valuable for their English language skills as the activities I would try in the classroom. One thing I know for sure they improved on while I was there was when to use “morning” and “afternoon”. At first, they would greet me in the morning by saying, “Good morning Miss”. They then would say that same greeting every time they saw me, even if it was 2:00 PM. I would just reply with “Good afternoon”. By the end of my time teaching they would say, “Good morning Miss” only in the mornings and “Good afternoon Miss” in the afternoon. Even though I felt at times like I wasn’t making an impact, I was, even if it was something small. Kids are perceptive, they learn by watching and imitating. Now, there may be a generation of Nepali children who say, “Thank you” in a weird sing-song voice because for some reason that’s how I said it whenever they would hand their papers to me.
Flexibility was essential to not going insane in the classroom, and it made for great memories outside of it. Some of the best experiences I had in Nepal came from when I decided to go with the flow. I ended up doing things that I never would have done back home. Dancing in public where there most certainly is a cell phone recording your every uncoordinated move? Yeah! Tip: If you dance once in public, word will get around and your students will bring it up often and frequently ask you to dance in class. Walking through the jungle for three hours to visit my friend, Nicole in her village? Sure. Eating a bowl of soup with an obvious goat jaw bone in it? Why not? It was delicious. Ride on the back of a scooter? Cool. Ride a horse? Even cooler! Have to kill a huge spider in the squat toilet? No, someone else can deal with that one. The most memorable experiences I had in Nepal came from leaving my comfort zone a little bit.
When there are games, a dance party, food, and laughter, things like language barrier are overlooked. Every day I am grateful to my family and the people of Dhampus who treated me like one of their own, who let me see Nepal and its people. Through these activities I was able to have a better understanding of Nepali culture, or at least a small segment of Nepali culture. In a country with over 100 ethnic groups, there isn’t really a definitive “Nepali” culture.