Inter Nepal Geo Tours Pvt. Ltd.

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News Letter - Jan - Feb 2010

A group of 15 volunteers were to arrive on 1st and 2nd of January, 2010. 15 students from Deakin University of Australia. The groups were welcomed by Kshitiz and Asim. There was a strike on 1st of January so the volunteers had to be transferred to Thamel (the tourist place) in a tourist bus under the protection of Police. That was somewhat uncomfortable but a valuable experience to have for the volunteers. They were accommodated at Hotel Cosmic. After a brief touring of Thamel, we went for dinner where we got to know the volunteers better and get along with them very well. The volunteer were young and very friendly. All of them were Australian but with different national background. Some of them were from Turkey, India, Italian and Ghanaian. There was a lot to learn about the different cultures and way of living.
The next few days were busy in Language Orientation where the volunteers were given the insight of the Nepali language and the culture. The culture was quiet new to them but they were curious to experience it. They went to different places for sightseeing like Monkey Temple (Swayambhunath), Boudhanath, Pashupatinath and Durbar Square. After 3 days of orientation the volunteers went off to Pokhara. The group stayed in Grand Holiday Hotel overnight. The group was divided into 2 groups of 8 and 7 which were further divided into 3 and 4 sub-groups. One of the group stayed in the city doing orphanage and teaching placement while the other group went into the villages where the construction project was scheduled. The construction project consisted of 2 basketball courts in two schools of two villages.. The groups were planned to swap the placement at the end of 2 weeks. There were two villages where the 8 volunteers were divided - 4 in each village and 2 in each host family. It was quiet difficult to find them the host family but thanks to the people in Pame village and Thulakhet village. The villages were 40 minutes walk from each other. The people there were excited and happy to have the foreign people in their houses living like a family. The people in the village always showed interest to help the volunteers in every way possible. Volunteers say they felt the place like a 'home away from home'.
    The volunteers in city were placed in 3 different orphanages: Street Children Home(3 volunteers), Destitute Children Home(2 volunteers) and Innocent Children Home(2 volunteers). They were placed in 3 different host families near the main city. The job of the volunteers was to teach the children English and help them learn new things. They would play with the kids. Everyone has their own way of approach to the children. Our volunteers coped well with the children and were attached to them. They were happy to be there. But in some of the orphanages, there was not enough work to do as the examination of the children were near, children were busy doing there preparation. Two volunteers wished to be moved to village after 1 weeks as there was not enough work for them to do there. And we decided to move them to the village. They moved to Pame village to join the 4 volunteers who were already there.
    At the same time in the village, the volunteers were feeling happy and were excited about the construction of the basketball court in a school in Thulakhet. The culture of Nepal being completely different than the culture in the western countries, the volunteers needed sometime to cope with the new culture but they were fast to learn and adapt to the new culture and dissolve in it. They enjoyed the new culture and traditions. They were in the host families who introduced them to the experience which they found rewarding. “Its completely new experience and I would love to learn more about it. It’s amazing how different the way of living can be!” - one of the volunteers remarked. They started off with the construction with limited tools and a German volunteer who is an engineer. The construction included levelling of the ground, digging, peaking and shovelling. Volunteers had fun doing what they did. It was hard work with no machineries available. We had to get on with our hand as the modern machines were almost an impossibility in the village away from the facilities of the city. They had some problems about the tools as they are not used to Nepali way of construction. No wheel barrow, no machines and limited tools. But that was some experience to be had at least once in a lifetime. The way of working was completely different! But nevertheless the project went smooth. Volunteers laughed over the problems.The first week was spent on levelling the ground which was 28m long and 15m wide. At the weekend, we went to the city and got together with the other volunteers from the city. We stayed in Grand Holiday Hotel, went for dinner and shared our experiences. Volunteers placed in village seemed more happier than the city ones. 2 of the volunteers wished to change the placement earlier than planned which after talking to the organization was carried out the next day. The 2 volunteers in orphanage moved to Pame village where they taught in a local English school in the morning and help in the construction project in the afternoon. Some volunteers went paragliding and we also went for rafting! Sunday 17th Jan, there was a local strike which was carried out only in the way from the city to the village. The public bus was not allowed operate. So some volunteers took a taxi to the village and some stayed back in the city. The same day, the basketball pole was to be delivered to the construction site. So we took a hike in the delivery truck to the village. That was some adventure of its own! So there we were, 4 volunteers and myself under the poles on the bumpy road. But nevertheless, we enjoyed the ride. "If any of my friend back home had told me I would be travelling like this at some point in my life, I would never have believed him!" said one of the volunteer who shared the epic trip to the village.
    The next week in the village, we put on some gravel on the ground to make it ready to lay the concrete on top of it. Everything went smooth except for the problem about the tools. There were not enough tools. But we bought some new tools from the city and everything was alright again. The next week, when the swapping of placement was to be done, the volunteers in the village showed a keen desire to stay in the village as they feared the construction would not be finished in time with the lack in manpower. So it was at the end that the two villages had to accommodate 16 volunteers between them - 10 in Thulakhet and 6 in Pame. All the volunteers got into the construction with all their efforts while experiencing the village life at the same time. One would never be able to think that the people from western countries - where every facilities are just inches away - would love the experience in village – where everything is just the opposite of the place they come from. No internet, no phones, no western toilets (NO TOILET PAPERS!!), no TV, no big shops, not much vehicles, one bus per hour, only 12 hours electricity per day. But that didn’t seem to affect the affection the volunteers seemed to have for the village and the people there. The volunteers completely loved the place! They stayed in the family as the part of the families. They addressed their host family as father, mother, sisters and brothers. They loved the way everyone who passed them would greet them 'Namaste', and offer them every help possible. The peoples’ friendliness stole the heart of the volunteers. The week flew swiftly and smoothly as erected the basketball poles and laid the concrete. The week was hard but most important. There was no time for rest. In the free time, we would play Australian football and soccer with the village kids and play cards in the evening with our headlamp as there was seldom any electricity during the evenings.
    There was only less than a week for the another construction project to finish which was another basketball court (less than half the size of the other) in Pame village in Sunrise Preparatory School. The work was not much there as the court would not be of concrete and there was only one pole to be erected. So 4 of the volunteers in Thulakhet decided to go to the city to experience the orphanage placement. We bought the school two portable football posts in addition to the court. The ground was levelled so all we had to do was pick out the small stones. After having that done, we got some good dirt (soil) to smoothen the ground and then compressed it so that the ball would bounce. The students and the staff faculties helped a lot in the construction. After all that done, the basketball ground was ready in 3 days. So the project was finished by 3rd of February when the farewell program was organised by both the schools where the volunteers were honoured with the certificates and colours all over the face! Then we bid the final goodbyes to all the villagers and the school. The volunteers were sad to leave them but happy at the same time for they made a lot of difference and they were going to be remembered forever. They made a deep impression in the hearts of the people in the village that will last forever.
    The 4 volunteers who left for the city for some new experience in the orphanage were placed in Himalayan Child Care Home. Its a child care home run by a Tibetan Lama, and has 36 children, not necessarily orphans. They are the deprived children from the villages up in the mountains where good education and good life is an impossibility. They are brought to the orphanage in hope of finding themselves a good way of living. The children there are very disciplined and attentive. They are keen to learn new things and always listen what the volunteers or the others have to say. The volunteers there had a fabulous time with the children for which they couldn't stop thanking us. After being there for some days, they left for Kathmandu.
We came back to Kathmandu on 5th January and the volunteers were given the farewell dinner.


Tim  Cochrane - NZ - Feb 2010

I was staying at Lumbini for just over two weeks with another volunteer – Philipp (a German). When we arrived we were fortunate that a previous volunteer was still there, because she explained most of the things I’ll write below. I’ll deal with what to bring, what to teach, the general accommodation and other points, in turn. 
What to bring – I brought with me some basic English children’s books, of varying difficulties: the most advanced was Puss in Boots, the least advanced was learning to count (e.g. One Ball… Eight Trees, with pictures of each). Fortunately the previous volunteer had also brought some things which came in handy. Assume that there will be nothing there when you arrive. For teaching, I recommend taking: colouring pencils, spare writing pencils, basic to advanced books, from early childhood to young adult, any books on teaching English to foreigners, bluetac (or cellotape – just something to stick things to walls with), flash cards that can be used to teach English, some prizes (like chocolates or hats) for when you leave, blank math books (with squares instead of lines) and anything else you think would come in handy in a classroom that has no materials. You could also bring some spare blank books for the children, but they seemed to manage. 
In terms of what you’ll need outside of teaching, I’d recommend taking a sleeping bag (the beds we had had nothing on them), mosquito repellent (there are many in Lumbini, even in winter), sun screen, a camera and things to entertain yourself with (e.g. many, many books). It’s also easier to wear jandals/sandals around the monastery and no one minds. T-shirts or short shirts are fine also, but I think that pants are a must (and no skirts for girls). For the first half of our stay here, the mornings were very cold, so having thermals/jacket/warm socks is also necessary if you intending going to prayer in the morning. In terms of spending money, aside from donating to various monasteries, buying bottled water and spare food and using the internet, there’s nothing to spend money on in Lumbini. You could get away with spending less than 1000 NR a week easily.
 What to teach – We taught five different classes: nursery, class 1, class 2, class 3 and advanced (the senior monks). It’s tough to know what to do with nursery – some children in the class (of around five) don’t seem to understand much, while some understand a lot. We used flashcards and had them copy out writing, read out loud and answer basic questions. A lot of time was spent drawing.
 Class 1 is much easier in this regard – you can set them basic work, such as: “write down the following questions ‘How are you?’ ‘What is your name?’ ‘Where are you from?’ and then write down answers” and the children, with prompting, are able to do this.
 Classes 2 and 3 are more advanced again and with these classes we did some basic math (multiplication/division/BEDMAS). Class 3 can also be taught just using Question and Answer: the students can ask the teacher(s) questions and understand the answers and vice versa.
 We taught the advanced students for just a week and, again, had them ask and answer Questions and tried teaching them some grammar (apostrophes and colon and semicolon). This class, if you teach it, could be quite self-directed.
 In general, try asking the students what they want to learn – the older students, at least, will help you out. Letting them to drawing at least once a week is nice, since it gives you a break and they love doing it. Try preparing for classes – one idea we copied off the previous volunteer is to photocopy (available quite cheaply in Lumbini) word puzzles, or a paragraph with letters missing and get the students to solve or fill these in. Even the youngest students attempted doing the word searches we created.
 Accommodation – for the first two nights we were in the guesthouse, but then we were moved into the English teacher’s office/bedroom in the main building. This was a reasonably nice room and had room for two beds which were comfortable (although had no blankets, just a pillow). There was a desk in the room also. My roommate complained about mice a lot, but I wasn’t worried. The bathroom was very dirty and the sink leaked – we would instead use one of the showers in the bathroom on the ground floor of the guest house, which was usually hot.
 The food at the monastery is fantastic: lunch and dinner was usually either daalbhatt or noodle soup. Vegetarian or meat options were often available, you could always have more and many chillis were consumed. Occasionally we would have special dinners also. The water the monks drank at meals seemed to be clean also – we drank it with no problems. To get breakfast we had to go to prayer. This lasted from 5.30 am to 7.15 am (we sat on the left side, close to the door) and at around 6.30 am a monk would give us butter tea and either a bread roll or a piece of Tibetan bread. Butter or sweet tea was also provided at morning and afternoon tea, along with some biscuits.
 Other things – There is not much to do around Lumbini, aside from visit many monasteries, Buddha’s birthplace and the Peace Pagoda. The town is one street, with a variety of internet cafes where the owners overcharge you for very slow internet. Power problems when we were there meant that it was always a gamble as to whether power would be on in town, but some internet places would turn on a generator and charge double. Power is not a problem at the monastery – in the evenings the generator is switched on (although we could only get the plug in the bathroom to work).
 The only point of concern about this placement is that we had no clear guidance as to what to do. Hopefully this information helps. The senior monk at the monastery never talked to us, except when I queried him about what time classes were. This was quite strange, but we made do. Also note that class times may be changed at the last minute without warning – you may find out when a young monk tells you that one or another event has come up at the last minute, but no one has thought to tell you.
 All up though this is a very good placement. It was nice to be in a routine of being up at 5.30 am everyday, teaching throughout the day, visiting monasteries and then being so exhausted I’d be in bed by 9 pm and asleep not long after.


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