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Carla's Blog0001: Volunteering in Thulo Dhading

Updated: Aug 1, 2020

Carla Geiger January 30, 2017; Monday 23:20 NST (Nepal Standard Time)

Lasso (=Hello in Tamang language)!

I am Carla Geiger, 19 years old, from Germany. Since I wanted to learn more about the diversity of our planet and its people before I go to university I decided to take a gap year after high school and have some adventure. My mom was trying to convince me to go to New Zealand or Australia like many German adolescents are doing at the moment. However, I wanted to go to a "real" foreign country where life isn't comparable to Europe and where I meet people with a different culture and with different habits and attitudes. Well, so I decided to go to Asia. I stayed about 2.5 months in Nepal but also travelled through Vietnam and Cambodia. During my time in Nepal I did the two things which make sense to do in this colorful and diverse country: Trekking and Volunteering.

Trekking was just amazing - It's a sin to not go trekking while travelling in Nepal. I did the Annapurna Circuit, the Annapurna Base Camp and the Chepang Hills Trail [ Carla's Blog 0002 - Dal Bhat Power 24 Hour ].

But first more about volunteering:

Through Hoste Hainse I got the opportunity to do some field-based work in Thulo Dhading, a village in Sindhupalchok District, east of Kathmandu. The former governmental school in Thulo Dhading was totally destroyed by the earthquake in 2015. Due to a SLC-pass rate (rate of students who pass the final exams at the end of 10th grade) of 0% in 2013 and 2014, the village community happily took the offer from Hoste Hainse to build a new community school which will be directed by Hoste Hainse only. As the administrative process takes a long time in Nepal and to reach Thulo Dhading it is a long ride on horrible roads, the construction works only just started in December 2016. Since the earthquake the students have been taught in temporary corrugated-iron shacks but thanks to the involvement of Hoste Hainse the SLC-rate has already reached 76%.

Thulo Dhading, Sindhupalchowk

I stayed in Thulo Dhading for about 2.5 weeks in November 2016 to teach English and to dismantle the former school together with two other German volunteers, Julius and Xaver, so that the stones can be reused for new buildings. The time was most of all a great cultural experience because I got an insight into the traditional Nepalese village life while staying with a lovely local family. Their life is in no way comparable to the life we live in Germany. I imagine maybe my great grand-parents living like that. However especially for that reason I am really happy that I went there. I guess everybody knows that most of the countries aren't as developed as Germany but only by experiencing it you really get aware of it and you start seeing the world with different eyes.

Thulo Dhading, Sindhupalchowk

The adventure started with meeting my host mother Krishnamaya Moktan and the principal of the school in Thulo Dhading at the local bus park in Kathmandu. A bus ride with a local bus is always an unforgettable experience in Nepal. The bus was super packed with people, rice sacks, chickens, travelling bags, etc. I ended up in the back row with six Nepalese. Most of the 5 hours ride was on a bumpy dirt road up and down different mountains. Thanks to all the bumps I was jumping like a rubber ball almost hitting my head at the bus ceiling. The dirt dust coming in also was a lot of fun so that Krishnamaya gave me a mask to cover my mouth and nose and a couple of times it felt like we were going to fall off the road into the valley. I did however enjoy the ride because everybody was super nice and I was really excited about the upcoming weeks. The friendliness and warm-heartedness of the people was something I experienced the entire time in Nepal.

Thulo Dhading, Sindhupalchowk

Thulo Dhading is located in a hilly area, surrounded by rice fields, millet fields, fruit trees and jungle. If you climb up the mountain on the hillside the houses are scattered on, you can see the snowy peaks of the Himalayas. Krishnamaya lives in a temporary house with her dad, her 13 year-old sister, 7 goats and one pig. She is 36 years old and her husband lives in Kathmandu with her two kids. Since she only found a job as a Nepali teacher in Thulo Dhading she can't stay with her kids. She is an outgoing woman with a big heart.

The life was simple but pleasant. We slept in one room under a corrugated iron roof. In the morning and evening we cooked Dal Bat on the fire, which we ate with our hands while sitting on the floor. The curry and vegetables were always a little different and Krishnamaya knows how to flavor - it was delicious food. Sometimes they would serve meat as well. The way how they treat meat will take much to get used to if you come from Germany because they just chop up the meat on an old wood pole (so no concern for hygiene at all) and while eating you can come across a set of teeth or chicken feet - but the taste is fantastic.

Our House. We lived on the upper floor. In the room on the lower floor stayed another family and in the back of the house was a rice mill.

The Bedroom

The Kitchen - outside and inside

The only source of water was a pipe on the road, in other words you always had Nepalese carrying loads of fresh cut rice and other supplies in big baskets on their forehead or cows and goats passing by while brushing your teeth, washing your hair, cleaning the dishes and washing clothes.

The Toilet with the Pipe.

Electricity was rare but why do we have headlamps? And stars? The sky full of stars was incredibly beautiful!

The view from our house during sunset.

Due to the fact that I only knew a couple of words in Nepali and the locals aren't much better in English and are actually talking Tamang dialect, it was really hard to have a real conversation but we managed to communicate with hands and feet. After my first week two young Nepalese civil engineers came to the village to teach the people how to build earthquake-resistant houses. They stayed at our place as well and since their English was quite good I had fun evenings with them chatting and playing cards. Everybody was really nice, curious and inviting me for oranges or guavas.

Grandpa bringing back the pig from her out-break | Traditional dance performance to fight disease.

School started at 10 o'clock in the morning with everybody standing in front of the classrooms doing some morning sports and singing the national song. The students stayed until 3 or 4 o'clock with one hour lunch break. I have to admit that it didn't seem to me that the teachers and students take school too serious. It wasn't unusual that only 50% of the students showed up at school or teachers were busy with other work - discipline seems to be another matter. I was allowed to teach Grade 6 to 10 in English whenever I asked. I tried my best to teach at least some basics, like how to read the clock. The biggest difficulty for the students seems to make own sentences, even simple ones like "I like oranges." They reproduce subject material but they can't produce material by themselves or transfer the knowledge to form new sentences. However, it was a lot of fun for both the students and me to have lessons and I really tried to get them to open their mouth and talk.

The temporary school and morning ceremony.

The classrooms.

After lunch breaks I used to go up to the old school to help Julius and Xaver who usually already had started to take down the school with the little tools we got. In the first week, we only had an old hammer and one iron bar. This made progress slow but we got there in the end. After work we enjoyed the nice scenery. One bad thing to mention: Nepalese don't really care about waste management. It is really sad how they destroy the beauty of the place by throwing garbage everywhere.

Julius and Xaver at work.

To sum up, I can repeat again that it was a great experience to stay at Thulo Dhading. I did what I could in the short time I spent there to inspire the students to work hard at school and to convince them that you only learn a language by talking no matter how wrong you might be in the beginning. I really want to thank Hoste Hainse for this opportunity and also the people in Thulo Dhading who treated me with so much kindness.

On a hike with Julius, Xaver and Krishnamaya. I am trying some strange, really sour, berries, to explain my face. ;)

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