The Trek to Teach Program

Your Trek, Stay, Teaching, and Why it Matters

Video

Watch this short video to see and hear the amazing Trek to Teach experiences our teachers have had in Nepal.

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Your Trek

FAST FACTS:

  • 4-5 days
  • 6-8 hours/day
  • Cold, leeches, heat, monsoon rains
  • Tens of thousands of uneven stone steps
  • The best views you’ll ever see of the Himalayas
  • The greatest feeling of accomplishment you can imagine

What to Expect:

What You’ll Trek Through

Strenuous yet indescribably beautiful, your trek will lead you through amazing Himalayan foothills to a new home and host family.

You and your fellow Trek to Teachers will trek, always with a Trek to Teach guide, through the foothills of the Himalayas to each of your villages. You’ll be dropped off at your village along a portion of the Annapurna Circuit Trek’s well marked trails. Because each of our partner villages is located on a world class trekking route, they are often bursting with the life and diversity of hikers from all over the globe, while still holding onto the local culture of the Gurung people of Nepal.

Each step of the way, you’ll be welcomed with open arms to various “tea houses” or “guest houses” (think a cross between motels and hostels) where you’ll be able to stop for lunch and grab a nap in sheltered rooms. Though accommodations are basic, you won’t have to worry about packing in meals or sleeping bags.

The trek will be four to five days, and consist of uphill hiking. Though there is no technical climbing to get to your villages, please keep in mind that the hike is six to eight hours a day, considered quite strenuous, and will largely consist of walking up one to three thousand stone steps each day.

Because teachers are needed in these regions year round, teachers should be prepared for cold in the winters, monsoon rains, leeches, and heat in the spring and summer months.

That being said, the experience of hiking through lush Himalayan jungles beneath monkeys and rhododendron in the spring, and through the beautiful clear autumnal skies, is unimaginable. Incredible mountains tower over the forests before you, peeking out of the clouds. Because of the isolated nature of this area of Nepal, you’ll be trekking on a “living trail” where goods are sent between the cities and rural villages by horseback and manpower alone. You’ll trek past lush rice fields, beside wild animals, below monkeys swinging through the jungle above you, through small stone-pathed villages and past many Nepali locals showing you their bright smiles. The feeling of being so deeply immersed in a culture so foreign, and yet so welcoming, is something indescribable.

Where You’ll Trek to

Your Village

Each village we send our teachers to is in, or very near to, the Annapurna Conservation Area. Most are directly off the Annapurna Circuit, a popular trekking route for foreigners, and a route of commerce for locals. Each of these villages has a school, located within walking distance of your guesthouse. Villages have a number of guest houses, as well as personal homes. Some include small shops and businesses where you can get basic amenities such as laundry detergent, soap, toilet paper, and snacks although your guest house will be able to provide many of these items as well. All villages are well-established, with running hot water, wifi and electricity, although these amenities can often become unavailable for days at a time due to power outages and weather conditions.

Each step of the way, you’ll be welcomed with open arms to various “tea houses” or “guest houses” (think a cross between motels and hostels) where you’ll be able to stop for lunch and grab a nap in sheltered rooms. Though accommodations are basic, you won’t have to worry about packing in meals or sleeping bags.

The trek will be four to five days, and consist of uphill hiking. Though there is no technical climbing to get to your villages, please keep in mind that the hike is six to eight hours a day, considered quite strenuous, and will largely consist of walking up one to three thousand stone steps each day.

Because teachers are needed in these regions year round, teachers should be prepared for cold in the winters, monsoon rains, leeches, and heat in the spring and summer months.

That being said, the experience of hiking through lush Himalayan jungles beneath monkeys and rhododendron in the spring, and through the beautiful clear autumnal skies, is unimaginable. Incredible mountains tower over the forests before you, peeking out of the clouds. Because of the isolated nature of this area of Nepal, you’ll be trekking on a “living trail” where goods are sent between the cities and rural villages by horseback and manpower alone. You’ll trek past lush rice fields, beside wild animals, below monkeys swinging through the jungle above you, through small stone-pathed villages and past many Nepali locals showing you their bright smiles. The feeling of being so deeply immersed in a culture so foreign, and yet so welcoming, is something indescribable.

You can expect to be known by not only your guest house and school community, but by your village as a whole. Trekking around and between villages, you can expect to see familiar faces and be greeted by affectionate nicknames.

Keep in mind that there are no banks or ATMs in the Annapurna Conservation area, and that at a certain altitude, plastic water bottles are not sold for disposal reasons.

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Local Culture

The People

The people of Nepal are jovial and welcoming. Good natured and giving, Nepali people treat guests highly. As teachers become more familiar with their host families, levels of formality tend to fall and host families speak more candidly and affectionately with their guest teachers. Some host families speak English better than others, and some not at all, but motivated teachers have been able to navigate these language barriers by learning bits of Nepali and communicating through a mutual love of food and laughter. These small communities foster a strong sense of friendship and kindness which often takes the form of food shared seated around the kitchen table and rice wine split into tin cups.

Traditions and Festivals

Nepali people have a strong sense of gratitude and giving towards guests of all sorts. They welcome guests with flowers, silk scarves and tika placed on foreheads.

The Nepali and Gurung people celebrate many festivals throughout the year. Tihar (the festival of lights), and Dashain (festival of family and community) are just two examples of the many local festivals celebrated, often with drums, dancing and food.

One of our teachers, Taylor, described her experience at a festival in Dhampus:


The village of Dhampus, welcoming me into the arms of their culture and village, invited me to dress in a beautiful sari, dance traditionally, and play familiar games with the women at the celebration for International Women’s Day. Being able to participate in an important event that was meaningful to the women of Dhampus allowed me, despite the language barrier, to better connect with these amazing women and see all that they have accomplished.


Read the full post here.

Other Exploration Opportunities

Near our partner villages are hot springs, gorgeous trekking paths through forests and river valleys and trekking to Annapurna Base Camp and around the Annapurna Circuit. Other, farther adventures within Nepal include journeys to Everest Base Camp, Chitwan National Park, and Kathmandu’s Monkey Temple (Swayambhunath), which you can easily travel to before or after your time teaching.

THE BEST PARTS OF NEPAL (ACCORDING TO PAST TEACHERS):

“I loved working with the children – all of them, no matter how young and boisterous, were eager to learn every day.”


“The entire experience was amazing and unforgettable. I think the best part, however, was that I was allowed to completely take on the Nepali culture and was fully emerged by my host family. Being accepted and considered a member of their community allowed me to change my perspective in life which, of course, I only realized when I had returned back home.”


“I loved being a part of a village of people who didn’t speak the same language as me. Finding my place in Kliu was initially challenging but once I adjusted I had a community of support, love, and wisdom like I have never known before. I learned how little you need to say to get your point across…”

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Where You’ll Stay

FAST FACTS:

  • You will have a host family
  • You’ll live walking distance from your school
  • There will be many other trekkers nearby

Welcome to Your Guest House in Nepal

Your guest house will be similar to some of the places you’ll stay along your trek to your village. Most have open hallways or courtyards leading between a dozen or so private rooms. You will have your own private room, furnished with a bed, sheets, a pillow, quilt, and possibly a small table. Teachers should expect to share a bathroom with other guests. The guest house will have a kitchen and dining area that will likely be where you spend most of your time as there may be people from all over the world visiting and it can be very lively throughout the day and evening.

Host Family

Your host family will be the owners of the guesthouse you will live in. They will provide all of your meals, and be your support system in your village. Most teachers grow quite close to their host families during their time in Nepal, and often eat meals with them in the kitchen rather than eating in the dining hall with other guests. As the host family and teacher become more acquainted, teachers sometimes offer to do various chores around the guesthouse, and learn more about Nepali life along the way, welcomed, truly, as a member of the family. Many teachers refer to the members of their host family at “Aama and Buwa” or “Mother and Father.”

Amenities

Expect only limited internet access and cellphone service in your village. Some days, you may be able to video chat across the world, while other days you may not even be able to place a clear call to villages down the valley. That’s just life in Nepal. All Guesthouses are equipped with wifi, electricity, and running water. They do not have heat or air conditioning. Hot water tends to be available although if you are last in a long line of people who need to shower, you may be out of luck. While all guest houses theoretically have hot running water, like the majority of amenities, it can be sporadic. Some guest houses have propane hot water heaters, and some are solar heated. In very rainy times, the solar heated water may not heat, and in times of propane shortage, there may not be hot water. The key here is to know the system your guesthouse uses and be aware of condition changes.

Electricity and wifi can also go out in stormy times, or in times when the weather has been perfect for weeks. Teachers should have low expectations for the consistency of these luxuries.

Laundry facilities are available in some villages. In other villages, your host family will teach you the best ways to do laundry by hand.

Guesthouses tend to have purified water, but Trek to Teach encourages teachers to double filter “filtered” water, even at their own guesthouse.

Some villages have medical facilities within a reasonable walking distance. Some do not. Most do not have mail facilities. Trek to Teach suggests that all Trek to Teach-er’s pick up a map in Kathmandu or Pokhara which will tell them exactly how to get from village to village, and what amenities each village has to offer.

Amenities

Yes!

  • Private room
  • Bed
  • Sheets
  • Quilt
  • Shared bathroom
  • Meals
  • Trekking
  • Dal Bhat Power 24 Hour

Usually

  • Wifi
  • Running water
  • Hot water
  • Western Toilets
  • Basic necessities
  • Sanitary items
  • Filtered water
  • Shops

Maybe…

  • Small table
  • Laundry facilities
  • Jeep road
  • Medical facilities
  • Postal facilities
  • Regular access to fresh fruits and vegetables

Nope…

  • A/C
  • Heat
  • ATMs
  • Public Transport

Food

As a teacher, all of your meals will be provided by your guest house. Guest houses tend to have menus and operate their dining rooms similarly to a restaurant for guests. These menus tend to have a variety of Asian dishes, sometimes expanding from traditional Nepali food to Korean or Chinese food. Most guest houses also make endearing attempts to carry foods travellers may be craving such as ”french toast,” “spaghetti and tomato sauce” or “chicken fingers.” These interpretations are often incredibly creative given the extremely limited number of supplies imported to these villages.

While teachers are free to order anything off of the menu, many teachers choose, instead of eating as a guest, to eat with their host family. Most host families eat simply, with eggs, porridge, or soup for breakfast; roti and fried rice or soup for lunch, and dal bhat (a traditional meal of rice and lentils) for dinner. Some Nepali families eat dal bhat for every meal. While this may sound tiring, most teachers and travellers look very fondly at the experience of enjoying dal bhat and all of its variations over the course of their time in Nepal.

Because of the isolated nature of these villages, imported food can be scarce, and often, in higher regions, nearly everything is imported. While potatoes, rice, lentils and garlic tend to be plentiful, fresh fruits and vegetables and meat are often not.

Despite this sense of scarcity, Nepali people are exceptionally giving with the food that they do have. Food is used as a means of cross-cultural connection between locals and visiting teachers.

Here we’d like to include an excerpt from a blog* written by Hailey, one of our teachers, on this topic:


Lesson one: Food is more than food, always.
Growing up in a West Coast mountain town, I learned what I thought were the golden rules of eating: ill your plate with colors and vegetables, and the moment your aren’t hungry, stop eating. In Nepal, meal time etiquette has only one simple rule: eat until there is nothing left to eat. Being full, sick, or tired is irrelevant, because when food is served, people come together. I wish I had understood earlier how important the act of eating together is to the Nepali, and more importantly, how precious a gesture the offering of food can be. Not until my second week of teaching, when a student offered me a bundle of green (not close to ripe) plums, did the lesson kick in. This student was only nine, but from generations upon generations of relatives setting the example for hospitality and generosity, my young student was able to give me the second lesson of Nepali gift giving: When you offer nourishment, you are building the foundations of friendship. Food is so much more than just fuel. It is a reason to gather, a way to celebrate and creates an ability to interact when interactions seems intimidating. In the case of Pooja, my darling class four student, it was initiating a friendship.


Read the full post here.

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Teaching

FAST FACTS:

  • WHO: Dedicated students from isolated regions of rural Himalayan Nepal.
  • WHAT: English (and maybe other subjects based on need)
  • WHERE: Schools made of basic materials, sometimes a long walk for your students, but close to your guest house.

What to Expect:

Who You’ll Teach

Dedicated students from isolated rural villages will journey to you to be taught English. These determined children come from your village and neighboring villages. They range in age from about four years old to 18. Villages in the Annapurna Region tend to have high populations of Gurung and Magar people, a just two of the many subcultures of Nepal. Because of these subcultures, and the isolated nature of our partner villages, your students’ first language may not even be Nepali. Most teachers teach younger students (age 13 and under) but some teach older students. This mostly depends on the school’s needs and is decided by the headmaster at the time of your arrival at the school.

What You’ll Teach

You’re most likely to teach English as a second language to your students, but it’s possible your headmaster will request that you teach other subjects as well. In the past, teachers have taught math, art, handwriting, social studies, health and computers. You are encouraged to express both your preferences and passions to your headmaster.

Where You’ll Teach

Although every one of our partner villages has a school, not every village in the Annapurna Region has one. For this reason, your students may have to walk long distances to school each day. Many students trek for two hours to get to and from school.

You should expect your school to be a basic cement structure with barred windows and open hallways. Most have beautiful views of the mountains, and some have a yard for students to play in. Schools tend to be furnished with basic amenities, but in bad condition. Most have benches for students to sit on, and taller benches for them to write on. Some schools have whiteboards, and some use chalk. Schools do not tend to have wifi or easily accessible printing. Most teachers do not speak English well (hence your value) and are very supportive of Trek to Teach-ers.

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Why It Matters

Providing Essential Education

In Nepal, English proficiency is a requirement for higher education. Nepali private schools and universities rely on English textbooks, lectures and journals, and because English is the medium of instruction in Nepal for science, engineering, medicine, and technical programs, not to mention it being used in tourism, not knowing English in any of those fields is essentially not an option.

Even in elementary schools, English is the language used to teach computers, social studies, and health classes. While this exposure to the language at an early age might seem helpful, unfortunately, in many Nepali public schools, instructors lack the proficiency in the English language to be able to teach these subjects coherently. Even many Nepali English instructors are not fluent in the language. This, not surprisingly, causes issues in the proficiency and ability of students as they progress in the language. This problem is cyclical and self-reinforcing — as non-fluent English teachers teach students English, these students then grow to become the instructors in the schools they were taught in, and the language gets diluted with each passing year.

Text books, printed for government schools by the Nepali government itself, are riddled with grammatical errors and awkward phrasing. The School Leaving Certificate (the equivalent of a US GED), features questions like: “It’s been popular by now,” (SLC Questions, file W-RE-101, page 5) “We can have some good time together,” (SLC Questions, file W-RE-101, page 6) and “Would you get me some way out?” (SLC Questions, file FW-RE-101, page 5). These awkwardly phrased examples, unfortunately, are just the tip of the iceberg, and are examples of what “English fluency” is assumed to be in Nepal.

With this type of understanding of the English language, Nepali people are barred from communicating at a level of proficiency. This not only presents difficulties for Nepali students attempting to succeed in higher education, but also deepens the language barrier between Nepali people in the hospitality and tourism industries and travellers visiting Nepal.

Because hospitality and tourism are two of the most major commercial industries in Nepal, being isolated from this source of revenue can be exceptionally difficult.

By providing fluent English speakers in TTT partner schools, we hope to break the cycle of stagnated English education and serve as a support system for local teachers trying to better their English skills. While we know that placing teachers every ten weeks in isolated Himalayan schools will not fix the root of this issue (which runs deeply all the way up through the branches of the Nepali government’s education system) we hope to better understand the barriers Nepali public schools are faced with and be able to provide both education and inspiration to the motivated students who see English as a useful tool for their futures.

FAST FACTS:

  • YOU GET: The ability to experience home in another culture & the adventure of a lifetime
  • THEY GET: An inspiring English education from someone fluent in the language.
  • It’s a WIN-WIN!

Apply today for the
Adventure of a lifetime