TRAVEL WITH MISSION TAKES VOLUNTEERS TO NEPAL! PART 2« Back
Part two of our participants’ account
In the first part of our article we shared with you the details of our trip, and what surprised our participants upon landing in Nepal. Today, we would like to tell you more about the volunteering experience itself, and what motivated our team to join in on this adventure. Are you ready? Let’s go!
OUR NEXT TRIP TO NEPAL IS ALREADY PREPARED, JOIN US IN APRIL and NOVEMBER 2018, READ THE PROGRAMME HERE!
Why volunteering, and why Nepal?
Although the destination was the same for each of our participants, the reasons why they decided to embark on this journey were very different. For Agnieszka – Nepal is just one of those places on earth to which she always returns with joy. Marta on the other hand had a 3 in 1 approach: „I like helping people, travelling and exploring the world in a ‘non-tourist’ way. I know that you cannot change the world with one trip, but you can try to make it a bit better place for at least a few people. Also, I thought that it would be a good idea to spend my vacations with people, with whom I share similar values. I realize that most people with the same holiday budget would have chosen vacations on Galapagos, in a hut on the beach, sipping a tasty cocktail decorated with a little, colourful umbrella. However, my fellow travellers and myself decided to give three days of our vacations to others. If somebody had told me to take some time off work to paint my apartment, I would have assumed they’re joking. Another aspect of this trip which I really value is the possibility to live in the house of a local family, who seeing how we were involved in our volunteering project – opened up and didn’t feel uncomfortable to carry on with their daily activities as usual. They didn’t pretend anything. Living in a hotel or in an apartment rented through AirB&B always has some commercial accent. At Krishna’s – we didn’t feel anything of that.”
Nepalese cuisine – what should you expect?
In travel programs, we can often take a peak of what exotic cuisine looks like in faraway places, and frankly speaking – it varies much. How about the food in Nepal – what did it taste like? Let’s have a look.
Momo – Nepalese/Tibetan dumplings offered in a few different versions, served with spicy sauce on the side based on chilli– unanimously were voted to be the best specialty. Momo tasted best in small, local bars, which the participants of our program discovered only thanks to their local guide, who persuaded them into entering such a place.
Other typical Nepalese dishes, like ciapatta, thukpa or sherpa stew … all had a unique and compelling taste.
Marta tells us: „The food was absolutely fantastic, although I have to admit, that it is really spicy compared to Polish food. However, with time everyone got immune to the level of spicy in Nepal ;-) What surprised me was the small diversity of dishes served in the home of our hosts: twice a day Dalbhat – which basically is rice with side-dishes which people in Nepal eat for breakfast and dinner, and during the day just a small snack, typically some toast or Chinese soup”.
In case you were wondering whether our participants were offered any insects to eat – perhaps we will disappoint you, but the answer is no :-).
What about the weather?
Although our volunteers came to Nepal at the time of year when the rainy season should have ended, this time the season lasted longer than usual. Fortunately, it rained only during the night and a few times during the day, which didn’t affect their plans. Even when it rained during the day, the water quickly evaporated as the temperature was around 26 degrees Celsius - which they felt was just perfect for travelling. Marta adds: “only in Chitwan it was really hot and too humid. It took two days for my socks to dry, but still I am a big fan of such weather :-)".
An expedition to the Nepalese jungle
The plan for the trip in Nepal also foresaw time to explore the country’s exquisite nature. On our list it was a boat trip down a quite narrow river, which turned out to be an unforgettable experience. Lidia recalls: „at first we spotted a few alligators, resting by the riverside. A few moments later we could admire one really well, lying on a small Island, in the middle of the river. I thought, well, if we are really surrounded by such animals, well then…. Most certainly I will remember a rhinoceros, which during our trip became almost a legend because we just couldn’t spot one. It was only right before leaving Chitwan, on our third day there, that we finally saw one - during our travel to the jungle at sunrise, on the backs of elephants ;)”
Małgosia tells us: „it was incredible that when we walked through the jungle a day earlier on foot – all the animals fled from us, while when we travelled on elephants – we were treated as part of nature, and animals around us did not run away. We could admire deer and monkeys, and even catch a glimpse of a rhino during his morning bath ;-)”
Marta describes one experience during the elephant ride which surprised her the most: „Monika dropped her case for glasses, so our rider turned his elephant to recover it. I was a bit worried that he would have to climb down from the animals back, and I really didn’t feel like sitting on the elephant all by myself. But then... he said something to the animal which picked up the case with its trunk and passed it back to us. I must admit – I was in shock”.
The participants we thrilled by the variety of animals in the Chitwan park, which they could also admire during their jeep ride. And even though some members of the team had been previously to Nepal, the sight of a tiger’s paw print left in the mud or a startled bear - still made a strong impression.
Despite the afore mentioned alligators, elephants, bears or rhinoceros, our volunteers also had the opportunity to observe eagles, herons, a kingfish, macaques, any many, many other magnificent species.
Did you know that the jungle has its dress code? Our participants were surprised to hear that they shouldn’t dress in colourful clothing (not to scar away the animals), which turned out to be real challenge for some, especially in a situation when the only raincoat is… bright pink ;)
But there were more situations which were a novelty. Agnieszka says: „there is one thing that I am ALWAYS amazed by in the jungle: the noise! Birds, animals, insects, trees. Everything seems to make some noise, which together make an amazing composition of the sounds of mother nature. The impression is hard to describe…”
What about scents? Monika describes them: „I can’t say they were very special. I don’t remember any characteristic smell, well, maybe apart from the scent of carrion left by a tiger :-)”
What is the main difference between Nepalese people and Europeans? Małgosia says: „They seem more cheerful and less stressed out – that’s the main difference. It’s really a great pleasure to spend your vacations some place where time is not an issue, and being late is not a problem. People are free from the pressure of time, their professional or financial achievements.” Monika adds to this: “I think, that although they are poor, they do not complain, simply because they are happy with what they have. I wish we had more of this attitude.”
What else? Our participants further list that Nepalese people are open, friendly, have a positive frame of mind, and as Lidia says … they sometimes even seem too relaxed as „we, people from Europe, are used to being in a rush and constantly doing something, while people in Nepal are totally chilled out, which sometimes made us feel that everything is happening so slow.” Agnieszka adds: „People of Nepal are well known for their good humour, laughter and positive attitude. Most of them carry an inner light, which allows them to forget about the surrounding poverty and be happy with life as it is. I think we can learn a lot from their attitude.”
Marta carries on: „they are very warm hearted, but also very passive. I would assume that it is directly connected with poverty, but also with religion, according to which you should avoid suffering and wanting. This gives them a high acceptance of the state they are in.”
And what surprised our participants is how much English is popular among the people of Nepal.
Volunteering: Painting the school
The volunteering mission took place during a six day stay with two Nepalese families, three of which were spent on painting the school. Tools and paint were provided by the local organization; however, the costs of these supplies were covered by our volunteers. Despite these supplies, our team still needed to buy some additional equipment, like brushes.
Our volunteers must have done such a good job, that the children thought they were professional painters, whose regular job back in Poland is painting buildings ;) Just to remind you: six women, some equipment (brushes, plaster, water and glue, spatulas), and a challenge of restoring a new look to classrooms decorated with children’s handprints, not to mention drawings of dragons & princesses…overall – mission impossible :)
As for co-operation between the local community and the volunteers, Lidia tells us: „At first, the teachers looked at us cautiously, but on day two they joined in on the action. It was really thanks to joining forces we were able to paint the whole front of the school! Children walked into the classes while we were busy with painting, watched us, chatted, and we could see that they were very pleased with what is happening.”
Monika tells us about the scope of work: „Within our volunteering program we planned to paint two classrooms. And we didn’t think much of it until we saw what they looked like :-) Frankly speaking – we were in shock. The second shock came when we were told with what materials and equipment we were supposed to work. It quickly turned out that we have two completely different technologies. We needed soap, good brushes to wash the walls, a good base product, good paint that would cover the walls properly, spatulas to even out the holes and a whole bunch of other accessories. We were offered: gypsum, glue and water. They never even heard about washing the walls. We started with reorganising our work, buying a few more things – and we did it, we renovated the classrooms! Everyone was really surprised with the effect, just as we were :-). We were proud of what we achieved with such a modest budget! At the end of the day, we painted not only the two classrooms we were supposed to, but also the front of the building and all the doors and windows, too! I am very happy that we could contribute to making the school a more beautiful place, and that the school’s director and teachers joined in.”
Impressions from Kathmandu
Kathmandu – a city full of chaos and dust, and yet friendly to tourists. Agnieszka describes the capital of Nepal as: „hot, full of fumes, chaos, crowded with people and cars. Masks are a must-have :-) I love the city, but it’s a complicated relationship – after spending a whole day in Kathmandu I feel like running away, but as soon as I leave – I begin to miss it…”
For Małgosia Kathmandu is also about fantastic restaurants: “we already have our favourite places, and if you have shopping on your list – plan to do it in Kathmandu”.
Monika remembers the intense traffic very well, and its particular style: „Everyone keeps honking their horn: be careful, I’m coming, watch out – I’m overtaking right now, make me some room, I’m turning, oh, hi! haven’t seen you for a while! I tell you – chaos and noise everywhere. Mind you – if you’re looking for peace and quiet – you most certainly won’t find it in Kathmandu, not even at night.”
What’s worth seeing? Without hesitation, participants name Buddhanath - the largest stupa in Nepal and the holiest Tibetan Buddhist temple outside Tibet.
Marta in turn was impressed by one scene: „I remember in particular a cremation in a temple by the river. The whole ceremony was public, and anyone could participate. Next to the hearth there was a red coffin, and I remember the smoke hurting my eyes. A completely new experience.”
Your favourite memory is…
Trekking, travelling on elephants, sunrise with the view of the Himalayas… It’s really hard to say which memory is the best, but Agnieszka puts it this way: „the whole trip really was one series of pleasant memories, but probably my most cherished experience would be mini-trekking with a view on Annapurna – we didn’t meet anyone on our way, we had to make it through the jungle, find our paths in unpopulated areas, and cope with the weird sounds we heard, that you can only experience in the jungle. A few magical hours.
Most definitely I will also remember exploring the national part in Chitwan on elephant and watching the animals that passed by. I felt as if I could peak into paradise, where many species live next to each other in peace and harmony, on endless fields of grass.”
For Małgosia each day was a new adventure, even getting up at 4.30 a.m. to see the sun rise. :-) This is how she recalls her favourite moment from Nepal: “for about an hour, with the speed of a professional runner, we climbed the spectacular slope of Sarangkot – to see THE legendary sight of the Himalayas and the massive of Annapurna. When you sit there, you have the impression that you are on the very top of the world, and that anything is possible. Very empowering. Even the best camera or description can’t catch these views as they really are, can’t describe the feeling – the only way to feel these emotions is to come here. As for the whole trip, our philosophy was that we were in no rush, even though we had a tight schedule. On Sarangkot nobody hurried anybody, even after an hour of sitting and watching. We sat there until each one of us felt satisfied :-). But that’s not the end of my personal list of favourite memories :-) The happiness and joy I saw in the eyes of the children whose school we painted, their admiration, and WOW they expressed… priceless.”
As for Monika: „When we came to Pokhara to paint the school, the weather was nothing special. It was warm, but cloudy, and it rained – which wasn’t so bad as it washed the dust and dirt from the streets. All the local people kept on saying that they have the most beautiful mountains, it’s just that we can’t see them. :-) Every day I got up I climbed on the rooftop hoping to finally catch a glimpse. We even planned climbing the Sarangkot early morning to admire the sunrise. We got up at 04:30 a.m. (and I would just like to notice that we were on vacation! :D), got ready for our journey, and then heard „go back to sleep, you can’t see the mountains”. About 2.5h later, my room-mate woke me up whispering “you can see them!”. I rushed to the roof top… and was breath taken – not because I had to run up a flight of stairs, but because of the view. You really could see them! 20 minutes later, with Agnieszka – our guide – we were ready for trekking… and nothing could stop us. The first time I saw the Himalayas, the massive of Annapurna – is my greatest memory.”
And the final question you were all probably waiting for: will the volunteers repeat this experience? Monika immediately replies: “Yes, yes, and yes again! And I will whole-heartedly encourage everyone to try this form of holidays. And as soon as I find out about a trip with the same team – I’m in – no questions asked ;)”
Małgosia has similar thoughts: „We are a group of six girls who really took a great liking to each other. We shared the same sense of humour, we supported each other when one of us didn’t feel too well, we were eager to discover each other. For sure we will keep in touch.”
Marta: „We didn’t know each other before the journey – the first time we saw each other was in the departure hall at the Okęcie Airport in Warsaw. I hope that we will not only stay in touch, but that we will paint more than one school together :)”
We couldn’t be happier after hearing these words, and they are the best possible award after our trip! And if by any chance you still haven’t had enough – check out Agnieszka’s blog: www.50pluandminus.wordpress.com, where she shared her personal encounter from our adventure.
PS. One more thing. If you would like to have a taste of the experiences and emotions of our participants, OUR NEXT TRIP TO NEPAL IS ALREADY PREPARED, JOIN US IN APRIL AND NOVEMBER 2018, READ THE PROGRAMME HERE!
Till next time!