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Pokhara, Beni and Kathmandu – Volunteering and the end

February 6, 2012
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Tim said goodbye and left to do the Annapurna Trekking route on his touring bike leaving most of his gear behind at the hotel, as the route offers plenty of accommodation and eating stops.  I occupied myself by taking Nepali lessons with a man called Chet in a bid to improve my communication before the charity placement began.  I managed to get up to a decent conversational level, albeit with only 6 lessons, but with most people speaking infinitely better English it was difficult to improve on the basics I had.

 

I visited a few of the projects operated by ICT’s Nepalese partner charity, Children’s Welfare Scheme and got a detailed schedule of what I would be doing in Beni where the ICT project was taking place.

 

I arrived in Beni a small town wedged in between mountains and the confluence of 2 rivers.  The market was a lot busier than I had imagined it would be and there was internet!  The small village I would stay in was a 20 minute walk alongside the river.  I would walk to and from Beni always tripping on the exposed rocks on the track, despite 2 months of practice I could never make the route without embarrassing myself, unlike the Nepali’s who would do it perfectly and in bare feet.

 

I was introduced to the team at the Rural Empowerment and Environment Centre (REEC), one of ICT’s benefactors.   Instantly I felt at home, Prakash, Raju, Krishna, Sabitri, Gauree, Dil Maya, Mahavir all made their absolute most to make me feel part of their family.  I spent Diwali with Krishnas family and received mala and tika (Necklace of flowers and red paste mark between the eyes) as an honourary member of the family.  We would watch the dancing exhibitions in the evening, keen children could be seen practicing in the weeks running up to the festival, it was a fantastic community atmosphere and I got involved and raised a few laughs with my dancing.

 

My main duties at the charity were to teach the employees basic English, play with the kids in the drop-in-centre and assist Krishna with overseeing the construction of a new drop-in centre just out of town.  Essentially the drop in centre functions as a fun/informal learning space with a small selection of toys and books run by a dedicated supervisor for young children who are forced into work by their parents.  I met a lot of the parents and their not evil, they live in very poor conditions and need all the income to sustain the low level they currently have.  Contrary to what I thought, many parents are happy to have the children take a few hours off work a day to come and muck around, shout and dance and generally act like kids.

 

I had so many great experiences in the drop in centre, all the kids come in various assortments of ill fitting filthy clothes their bodies full of marks and dirt yet they always have a smile plastered right across their faces.  In one session I taught them how to make paper boys and girls, I will never forget it, all of them fighting to use the limited scissors and pencils, I was in a state of panic for the duration hoping no one would lose an eye.  But the results were amazing and they proudly stuck them on the wall.

 

I’d also dance and sing with them, they were particularly fond of my dancing, mostly for laughing at but I enjoyed putting a smile on their faces.  One day many of the children didn’t show up and on subsequent days they weren’t there, I began to be concerned but later that day I found them in suitably ill-fitting school uniforms, they had been admitted to the local government school, a huge success.

 

Teaching English was also an adventure, talking English is one thing trying to teach it is another matter entirely.  Its natural to know where words go, irregular and regular verbs and little rules but trying to relay that to an audience that could not speak any English was a challenge for sure.  I developed simple ways of explaining things, always trying to ground what I was saying with Nepalese examples to try to help the understanding.  I mostly made up what I was going to teach, sometimes this worked really well other time it failed miserably, but it was all a learning curve for all parties involved.  I’ll never forget the feeling of satisfaction when it was obvious from peoples faces that they understood the concept.  I loved watching the students confidence and ability grow gradually.

 

The construction of the new drop-in -centre was of huge importance, the current building REEC occupied was crumbling and dark.  The new building designed for the purpose, bright and spacious and its where a lot of the donations you have given will go towards.  By the time I had left the first floor had been set, it will be a fair few months before the building is completed, I intend to go back to see everyone and see the new building in all its glory.

 

My great experiences didn’t end at REEC.  Throughout my time I camped in the grounds of a small hotel run by two brothers, most nights we’d sit and chat with each other, the eldest brother had attended cooking school and taught me how to cook some stonking dishes.

 

Towards the end of my time in Beni I embarked on the Annapurna circuit, renting a mountain bike from Pokhara and completing the entire circuit in 10days, a gruelling effort but breathtaking to see the mighty Annapurna range up close.

 

So it was of great sadness to me to leave all the great friends I had  made there, it had been a truly awesome experience, more than I could have hoped for.  But it was time for my rest to come to and end and mount the bike for the final furlong up to Kathmandu.

 

During my time in Beni I had made 3 separate trips to Kathmandu on a bus to get my rear wheel sorted out.  It was an international endeavour to get it to come together, I had to mail order a new rim from America, my parents had to buy spokes from a UK bike shop and courier them over and it all came together in a small bike workshop in Kathmandu.  So the ride there was a little monotonous and completely not as I had imagined it would be but I felt very happy to have achieved what I had set out to do 2 or so years ago.

 

So this is the end of this blog, man what a journey, we’re really glad you could join us on some of the adventures here.  I hope you have enjoyed it, we certainly enjoyed seeing it updated, possibly not the writing so much but it certainly worth it.

 

So go get that bike and go have yourself an adventure!

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One Comment leave one →
  1. Barbara Scott permalink
    February 6, 2012 12:56 pm

    noooooooooo – not the end of the blog! please start another one! I have truly loved reading all the posts and looking at the photos – they have given a real sense of your daily lives and the adventures you have had. hope all is well with you darling Julian and maybe see you in 2012……….. love Barbara xxx

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