“Anyone coming out for Brownies? Cinnamon roll is good too. Or we could go for rice pudding” Somebody said after our first dinner. I was pleasantly surprised to learn that Nepal could cater for our Western weaknesses! Earlier in the day I had discovered that I could get a cappuccino or cafe latte at the many coffee houses in Pokhara so life to me was looking good!
Never say Never
I had enrolled on the Women’s Empowerment Project, teaching English either in groups or 1-1s. After teaching English last year to Novice Buddhist Monks and young adults in Laos I found that this required a more relaxed approach, homing in to what each woman wanted out of learning English. The more mature women are not necessarily going on to take exams or make a career. Although I am one to say ‘never say never’ ! The ladies have many other reasons for learning our language. Some are wanting to keep up with their children who learn it at school or may have moved to an English speaking country. Others may have businesses such as small cafes and need to communicate withe the tourists. Some women just want to socialise with their friends so coming to class is a chance to catch up on gossip and learning is a welcome distraction from routine home life. I found the ladies wonderfully good natured, quick to smile and laugh. It was a real joy to teach them. I am sure that many of the volunteers would agree with this as they too formed strong bonds with their ladies and departing at the end of their volunteering period could be quite emotional. On the Women’s Empowerment Project I also got a chance to help with Arts and Crafts with children and found my inner child enthusiastically leaping forth from its dormant state!
Not just about project work
But its not all about the teaching or the project. One thing the volunteers would look forward to each day was if it were sunny we’d get a good view of snow capped Machhapuchhre (or Fishtail Mountain). More views of the stunning Annapurna range could be seen on our walks or taxi drives to our teaching places. This never failed to lift the spirits and for me, being near the mountains evokes a wonderful spiritual feeling. At the weekends we had a chance to go on the many treks offered with guides enjoying the different species of trees, shrubs and birds. We experienced breath-taking sunrises and sunsets when the mountain tops bathe in brilliant hues of gold and ruby pink. There are over 300 different species of birds in the Himalayas and flocks of eagles could be seen daily over Lakeside, our favourite ‘Go to’ place for relaxation. If you needed more of an adrenaline boost you could always paraglide from the top of Sarangkot with very experienced, reassuring pilots!
The biggest highlight for me was the joy, care, support,encouragement, openness and fun I had with the volunteers. As an older person I was particularly impressed by the kindness of the younger volunteers who were keen to include me in their outside-project activities. It was an honour to work for the same cause alongside Americans, Australians and Brits all with different backgrounds and situations and evidence showed that we formed strong teams within each project. We had so much fun laughing over our differences, for instance there was much discussion over whose spelling is correct – US or UK! GVI brings us all together to show us that there are more important fundamental things in life that need our attention and that by working together we can make positive changes for the better.