BY DARIAN FINLEY-GARCIA
Darian experienced the Trek to Teach program from September-December of 2014. He currently works with youth and families in Portland, Oregon, helping to provide community and mental health services.
“The world is round and continues to spin. Because it is a circle with no ending, we are bound to see each other again.” This little adage was shared with me by my host brother on my last day teaching in Nepal and it has been engraved in my brain ever since. But then again, Nepal had a way of doing that: taking seemingly simple concepts and turning them into robust beautiful life lessons.
It has been almost 6 years since I stepped out of my village of Chhomrong, Nepal. It’s been almost 2200 days, and I am just now feeling able to slightly articulate what the experience did for my life. For the first half of my senior year in college, I decided to pursue an internship abroad through Trek to Teach. The internship sent me to Nepal, into a rural Himalayan community for almost 4 months. My purpose while I was there was to teach English and serve as a cultural bridge for primary school students (grades K-6) in a beautiful mountain community. My living arrangements were in a family-run guesthouse, where I was expected to take on household responsibilities such as cleaning, cooking, and keeping up after guests.
Between teaching 3-6 classes per day, housework, and doing my best to dive headfirst into the Nepali culture, I rarely had a second to reflect on the experience I was having. I knew what I was doing was going to profoundly effect my life and mindset, I just didn’t quite understand how yet.
Reflecting on this experience has proven to be extremely challenging for me simply because my time in Nepal was so overwhelming (in a good way). There was so much for my mind, body, and soul to process through: from living joyfully to questioning if I actually made a difference in these kid’s lives. Even six years removed from the adventure, I still find myself debriefing and gaining insight into ways the trip changed me for the better.
Being able to connect two totally different worlds, with the joint purpose of bettering the lives and educational outcomes of youth, is something that cannot be seen, but rather must be felt. It is nourishment for the soul. About halfway through my time in Nepal I found myself in an internal struggle. Was I actually doing things to help these kids and was I actually making a difference in these lives? Here I was, a privileged white individual, dropped into their world for a 4-month snapshot of time, just so I could garner experience and complete an internship. This presents troubling possibilities if not addressed mindfully. I understood quickly that I was just a piece in a puzzle much bigger than myself and that it was up to me to decide what sort of impact I wanted to leave once my four months were done. I was there to teach English but I was not there just to teach English. I was there to inspire, to give these bright youth an opportunity to learn through a different perspective and world lens. I was there to provide a creative approach to meeting educational outcome goals. I was there to help in whatever ways I was able. But most of all, I was there to be the person that each individual youth needed me to be day in and day out.
Trekking and teaching don’t appear to have a lot in common on the surface. It takes 4 months of trial and error in the classroom and almost 6 years of growth and reflection to understand the nuanced connection between the two. But if you get the chance to trek and teach, you too will understand the life-changing and meaningful experience that can come from mixing the two.
The experience that Nepal and the Nepali people gave me has and will continue to guide my worldview. Taking the life lessons that my host family and my students taught me through my time there, and applying them to my everyday life even half a decade later is a blessing that I will forever hold close to my heart.