So I made it back. I’ve been here for 1 week now, and have finally managed to secure an internet connection.
Where to begin? Well there was of course lots of excitement during my actual travel from Vancouver to London to Delhi to Kathmandu, as well as upon my arrival in Kathmandu, but I don’t really want this blog to simply describe all the things I do. I’m more interested in documenting what I learn, how I’ve learned it, and how I’m (hopefully) making a difference in Nepal.
So I’ll start with my Nepalese family. This year I’m staying in a new accommodation. Previously, I stayed with Bibendra, President of the Khokana Village Child Education Foundation [KVCEF] & one of my best friends, along with his family in his home. Staying in the village home was certainly a once in a lifetime experience, but since another friend of mine from Canada (Tyee) is joining me this year, I decided the room available in Bibendra’s sister’s home would be more suitable. It’s great. I feel as though I’ve been introduced as a member of their family. There are 4 kids in the home, and each morning and night they fill my room wanting to practice their english, or watch some movie on my computer. I’ve already had 1 sick day since I’ve been here, and I’ve realized that at least for me, it is an inevitability while living in Nepal. Although I really shouldn’t complain much, since I got to stay home, hang out with the kids, and watch Finding Nemo & Planet Earth throughout the morning (if you don’t know me that well, that is pretty much a perfect day for me).
What has struck me the most since getting re-introduced into the village is actually the familiarity I’ve felt, both my own familiarity with this place as well as the villagers’ familiarity with me. Maybe I expected things to be different, to have forgotten people’s names, or to have not been recognized by the people, but so far, it’s as if I never really left since last year, and fortunately I’m met with excited, smiling faces wherever I go. Even the barber yesterday hadn’t forgotten my face. Although our communication was limited, when he saw my face, he flashed me a welcoming smile and quickly called over a young guy while stating in proud but broken english, “this my son”. Once I left the barber’s shop, I jumped on a bus and there was a tiny old man sitting on one of the benches. It happened to be my friend’s father-in-law, who quickly patted the seat beside him, inviting me to sit with him. Once again, despite limited communication between us, I was quickly recognized, and just as quickly shown a warm welcome.
Although not everything I’m doing is a familiar experience. I started working at the Patan Academy of Health Sciences this week. I’ve met about 60 of the students so far, and with that comes a seemingly impossible list of names to learn. My placement here is to tutor the students in their basic science classes, give workshops to the students on study skills and medical terminology, and build relationships with them in order to help improve their english proficiency (since their medical education is conducted in english). This week I’ve had the opportunity to make some great connections with the students. Many have already taken us volunteers out to see some sights and just hang out, and we’ve also had a chance to practice our snooker-playing skills in this inconspicuous snooker lounge reached only by walking through a money-exchanger and restaurant.
Our placement at the medical school is really exciting, particularly because it was designed to be both a learning and cultural exchange, rather than your run-of-the-mill volunteer placement; which means the students here are just as excited in sharing some of our culture along with their own.
I am meeting the other board members of the Khokana Village Child Education Foundation this weekend, where we will decide upon either 6 or 7 new students to sponsor until the end of their secondary school education. I will provide updates about our decision in due time.
What I’ve come to realize this past week is that what I’m getting out of this journey is not some new, eye-opening, turn-the-world-upside-down experience, but a deeper & fuller understanding of this place and culture; which is proving to be nevertheless life-changing.