I remember back in April 2015, when I was starting my thru hike of the Pacific Crest Trail, I got the news that there had been a terrible earth quake in Nepal. I cannot remember their names, but there were several other thru hikers (a “thru hiker” is someone who attempts to hike an entire long distance trail in less than 12 months) who had decided to forego their thru hike and instead go help with earthquake relief in Nepal.
At 43 years old, I didn’t think it a good idea to give up on my thru hike (because I am certainly not getting any younger). I did, however, see an Instagram post by Trek to Teach, and became interested in teaching (and hiking) in Nepal after my thru hike of the PCT.
I had been to Nepal before (back in 1994) and have studied Nepali and Sanskrit. In addition, I have taught English in China and have a CELTA certificate to teach English. So, with that in mind, I contacted Trek to Teach and made plans to come to Nepal in April of 2016.
Upon arrival, me and the two other volunteer teachers enjoyed sight seeing in Kathmandu and attending the Newari festival Bisket Yatra (a very colorful celebration of the Nepali new year which falls during the gregorian month of April). I really enjoyed the festival and seeing places in Kathmandu that I had visited 22 years ago.
Our group then traveled to Pokhara, where we visited Fewa Lake and went swimming. Pokhara is a lovely town and I enjoyed the many restaurants and lakeside. Subsequently, after I wrecked my phone in a jungle rain storm, my home stay brother helped me get my iPhone fixed (for about 20.00 USD) at a small shop there.
Our group trekked up to Poon Hill and the. Through the truly magnificent Rhododendron bloom between Ghorepani and Ghandruk. We stopped at the hot springs at Jinnhu (which are also a temple to the Gurung deity Meshram Bara).
I then came to the village of Kliu (which is about an hour walk to Gah drunk). The family I live with consists of 4 people (and myriad other more distant relatives of a seemingly endless array of familial distinctions). Our gust house is located on an organic farm, so all of the vegetables (and rice and beans and chicken) is prepared fresh and grown within view of my door.
The meals are typically Dhal Bhat Tarkari (which consists of cooked rice, lentil soup and cooked vegetables). This is served with achar (curry or chutney) and often curried goat or chicken. I have had a variety of local dishes, and have never been disappointed by the food.
There are no pesticides used in the Annapurna Conservation area, so there are tons of insects (oddly no mosquitos). I have enjoyed the countless different species of butterfly’s that I see along the walking paths.
Bird life is also pretty amazing. Just listening to the many bird calls is different than the silence one often finds in American or EuropeN forests. On one walk of about 2 hours, I counted over a dozen different species of birds. From raptors to fly catchers to jungle chicken to warblers, this area is extremely rich in bird species.
I was fortunate to be taken on a hike to a temple up on a mountain top about 4 hours from Ghandruk. The temple is not on a trekking route, so it is very difficult to find. I was amazed to see old growth Rhododendron trees that are hundreds and hundreds of years old. Up there I also glimpsed the Gray Langur (a very large monkey with black face and gray fur) as well as a fisher cat that no one can give me a good name for. The temple (to the Gurung Protector God Meshram Bara) is considered to be a small lake on top of a mountain that reflects the peak of Machapuchre on clear days.
My host family are Buddhist and I was very fortunate to be a part of the Nyingmapa Buddhist Puja called Jordan. A monk and Lama visited our guest house and performed the Puja to help cleanse evil and help people feel better. The ritual lasted until 2 AM and ended after we walked down to the nearby river (30 minutes away) in order to retrieve a piece of someone’s soul that had been stolen by a witch.
So far, I have not even mentioned teaching (which is what I do from Sunday to Friday). I teach class 6, 7, 8, and 9 (about ages 11 to 17). I have tried to vary my lessons and try to keep students interested by playing games once a week. The students are all very polite.
I found that my experience teaching English has been very helpful. My school, however, has no computer printer, and a copier that doesn’t work properly. As a consequence, I have to plan for lessons with no handouts. It has been challenging to teach here, but I have enjoyed it a great deal.
I am lucky that one of my host family speaks very good English. He has helped to show me around, and I would probably not have gone to Meshram Bara and the old growth rain forest without his help.
Nepal is very different from the USA. People work extremely hard here. They are very happy to share their culture and enjoy telling you about why and how they do things.