Nothing surprised my mom more when I first told her about my intention of volunteering in Nepal. She knew that I am most likely to go there sooner or later but what bothered her the most would be how unfit I was. Little that she knew it was the most difficult decision to make in 2014. After my last trip, I have turned into an avid couch potato with several cardio activities here and there for more than a few months in between activities.
I kept toying with several volunteering ideas before deciding to proceed with Diamond Hill Academy in Gaunshahar. Besides, what could be grander than to volunteer in a school with the principal who is on a mission to change his community to commemorate a decade of my father’s passing? I was positive about the whole experience except for the trekking part. Having a 60-ish old woman literally dragging you to climb the stairs in the dark to reach your home for the week was not one of the worst-case scenarios that I played in my head before leaving for Gaunshahar. Abah, I know you would be cackling when you hear this.
Less than a month before I left, donation stuff for the school started pouring in. Good friends and ex-colleagues donated stationaries, laptop, books, and printer among other things. Some contributed the cash to finance the logistics and luggage expenses. I could never thank them enough for their heart of gold really made the students day!
The school children really are friendly and some could be quite cheeky, too. Not a day goes by without being bombarded with the requests of “Miss, one photo?” from the children whenever they saw me taking out my camera. The teachers definitely have my full respects for their determinations to educate the students with minimal wage and limited utilities. I wouldn’t dare let my mind wondering how unbearable it is for the children to spend hours under the zinc roof in summer without fans.
Apart from helping out in the kitchen, I also had the chance to assist in the paddy field. Being with the ever smiling host family and a few other volunteers who joined in the activity really was blissful. It was a bit like walking down the memory lane since my grandparents used to own some paddy field back in the 80’s while I was growing up. Most of my bonding times with them were done there, be it fishing or growing some corns. It really was a refreshing experience in Gaunshahar, especially when it is an upland field. Simply put, doing all the hard work under the winter sun with cold breeze all day long. How awesome is that?
During my brief stint in Gaunshahar, I had the chance to meet up with other volunteers and daily exchange of travel anecdotes, favourite books, stories behind the tattoos and everything else in between during meal times, which really were stimulating experiences. Some decided to travel and become a volunteer to mend their broken hearts. Others thought it is the much-needed small steps to take to change the world. A few decided that temporary seclusions from the modern world could help them finding their purpose in life. Alas, no matter what their intentions were, the abundant of positive vibes being projected here could move mountains. Well, not Himalaya of course but perhaps the small ones surrounding it. Oh well! You catch my drift. Anyway, did I mention that being surrounded with positive vibes all day long could shine your beauty from within? Now you know the secret to my youthful look, aye? Kidding!
Putting the not so pleasant trekking experiences aside, I should say that the whole Nepal experience was very encouraging. I made some new friends, which always left me gratified every time I’m back from my trip. And knowing that the majority of Nepalese who used to work here in Malaysia had positive experience with us Malaysians really made my day. The fact that I got better hotel rate in Pokhara because I’m a Malaysian had nothing to do with this finding, I guess. But being mistaken, as a Nepalese really was a blessing in disguise. Why on earth should I complain when I got cheaper bus fare and of course no one tried to sell you anything when you walk down the street. Happy day!