Friday, 4 December 2015

Flinders return to Pokhara for another year

PROJECT: Teaching & Care Work
WRITTEN BY: Shannon Parsons

It was a long couple of months preparing and fundraising for this trip, but we finally made it to the beautiful country of Nepal.

The flights from Australia to Kathmandu felt like they took forever; seven hours for the first one and another four for the second, but it was worth every minute. It was Saturday evening when we landed in at the Kathmandu International airport.

The airport is pretty much a small and out-dated red brick building that has long walkways and very little security. I saw piles of uncollected luggage and postal packages along the walls. We made our way from the Tarmac to the bag collection point where fifteen of us waited very patiently (and nervously) for our bags. Then we were greeted and taken to the Eco Lodge hotel, a little place of serenity very deeply hidden in a side alley in Kathmandu. We were allocated rooms and we were sent off to bed to have a thorough nights sleep before starting our Nepalese adventure.

Sunday commenced with a buffet breakfast with a large selection of hot and cold foods, tea, coffee and juice. After breakfast we all hopped onto a tour bus that took us around to some of the temples – The Great Boudha Stupa and The Monkey Temple – and then we went to the Garden of Dreams. And dreamy it was! The Garden of Dreams filled our eyes with beautiful greenery and filled our ears with the sounds of harmony. The air was clear and fresh and felt like an escape from the busy streets. The group was lucky enough to score a lunch which accommodated for western cravings. This included Coke, chicken sandwiches and pasta - but of course there were also traditional options such as curries and momos.

The Sunday evening consisted of a group dinner at nice restaurant that was also rather secretive and tucked away. We sat outside in the garden – it was filled with fairy lights and other tourists. The menu had a huge variety of foods, mostly traditional Indian and Nepalese cuisine. The dinner was very enjoyable and we all had a great time celebrating new beginnings. After dinner we once again headed back to the Eco Lodge where we rested our heads, ready for a new day.

Monday was an early wake up call with the bus arriving to collect us at 7am. We were provided with pink plastic bags that contained some breakfast to have on the bus trip. Before we could head on our way, we had to wait on the side of the road for just under an hour to get some fuel. The fuel crisis in Nepal is making transport more difficult – some drivers are waiting up to three days at a time to get a small amount of fuel.

We were lucky enough to only wait the short time that we did. The bus drive was long and took about seven hours. The ride was fairly bumpy and had many windy roads but we made it. We made it to a small, conservative but very beautiful community known as Tashi Ling. We all got off the bus and were greeted by big smiles from our home-stay families. We were taken in pairs and small groups to our home-stay houses where we met the rest of our families and were given tea. After settling in we had a group meeting and then it was back home for some Tibetan dinner and bed.

On Tuesday we had a seminar to help us develop a small Nepalese vocabulary where we practiced some frequently used words and sentences. The spokesperson tested our knowledge and helped us with our pronunciation. Once we completed the seminar we walked to the lakeside of Pokhara. We went our separate ways and did a little bit of shopping, exploring and had some relaxation time accompanied by coffee and cake.

Wednesday and Thursday were our first two days of teaching at the schools. Some of the group were placed in schools fairly close to the community whereas others were placed a few kilometres away. The taxi ride was fun for us - four adult-sized people crammed into the back of a tiny hatchback car. After driving down a few streets, a few alleyways and past a few cows, Anthony and I finally made it to our school. Nilgiri English Boarding School is the name of it. It is about three stories high and is protected by a tall and moveable fence. We walked into the school and were greeted by the principle and other leaders and were gifted with traditional scarves. We were introduced at the school assembly and were then sent off to observe some classes.

The first two days of teaching went fast, but were also very tiring. We met the students and taught a variety of things to a number of classes. The schools here very much contrast from those in modern Australia. The children at Nilgiri School sit in rows and are separated into males and females. The students do not have a recess time, but they have an extended lunchtime at the middle of the day and do not finish school until 4pm. We have observed that the schools work by the textbook but we are here to help the students learn and grow using other styles of teaching. We are looking forward to developing with these students, learning from them and sharing our knowledge.

The weekend (Friday and Saturday) or as the Nepalese refer to it, 'holiday', was full of adventure. The group went bungee jumping, zip flying and paragliding. We were able to see the beautiful views that this place has to offer. We got a close look at the Himalaya Mountains and had stunning views of the Phewa Lake. Saturday afternoon was spent in rowboats on the lake at Damside.

This first week has been incredible. So far everyone loves this journey... time to start some lesson planning!

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