Getting into the Groove
If you read books on trekking in Nepal they will state that June and July is monsoon season and recommend not visiting during these months. During monsoon it rains every day, some days quite strongly, and worse, leeches are a big problem. After the rains, the leeches erupt out of the ground and are everywhere. Like everywhere else on the planet, the climate here appears to be shifting because even though it is only the beginning of May we have had rain almost every day. One night the storm was so strong that it reminded me of a tropical storm I experienced while living in Houston. And they weren’t kidding about the leeches. When it rains they just appear. They are skinny like worms, move like inchworms and are very aggressive in their search for a place to attach. Once again I am thankful for my boots, as the first time I encountered leeches on the trails, I had time to brush them off my boots before they found me and latched on. The whole experience is kind of like being in a low grade horror movie and now I have become paranoid when walking around after it has rained.
The team composition here continues to be dynamic, with people coming and going. There are really two main groups, those like me who are staying for several weeks, and others who come for only a few days; less than a week. It seems that Shamser has a home stay option as well as a volunteer option, thus some of the short-timers are a part of the former program. The total count continues to average 16 or so, regardless of who, individually is here at any given time. We lost the Australian woman with her daughter, the Brazilian guy, and the English and Kenyan women, gained a Romanian guy, an English guy, two German guys, and two Spaniards. The Belgium family left today to go to Pokhara for a few days but will be back and as I sit here writing this I hear two new voices. It’s hard to keep track of but I do get to meet a lot of people, especially considering I am in a small village and not going anywhere!
Project-wise things are settling into a rhythm as I now have a week under my belt and feel like I can make positive contributions. I taught third grade last week. They are a rowdy group and it is especially challenging. The classes are all in English and I have to pay attention to make sure that any new terminology introduced in a lesson gets defined. I’ve been stumped a few times, I have to admit. In their English class on Thursday, for example, they had to read a small passage about Michael Douglas (I have no idea why him!) who was described as a “famous actor”. That put me in the position of trying to define what an actor is to a bunch of kids who have never watched theater, TV or movies- they only know cartoons. I have to admit, I gave up and moved on to other words that had more applicability to every day life. In math, I had to convey the idea of “perimeter” which was much more manageable. Luckily there are two of us teaching at a time so there is some support!
This week it looks like I will be on computer detail. Seven computers, donated, recently showed up for the computer lab Shamser wants to establish and that whole project needs to be organized. Gary, the English guy, and I started tackling that today. The room has benches, power, power strips and that is about it. The Spanish couple lugged a projector here (and I applaud them for that) and we identified some needed carpentry work- for a projector mount, a teacher’s desk, and shutters for the window to keep the rain out (very important!). Theoretically the carpenter is coming tomorrow so we can explain what we need. The rest of the time we got familiar with the state of the computers. Three have Windows Vista software and are installed in Spanish, two come with Windows 10 and are in English (I brought those and still have two more laptops in the US that need transporting here) and one has Windows 10 installed in German. The final computer has an operating system that neither Gary nor I have ever heard of so I am not sure what we are going to do with that one. The one installed in German I was able to switch over to English. After accomplishing that I did a bit of online research then sent Microsoft customer support a long email with questions. I am embarking on a learning experience.
Gary and I then spent some time trying to identify free, downloadable educational software that we could show Shamser. I am not sure he is aware of the breadth and quality of the free educational software available. If he can utilize those resources it will really open up the opportunities for the students, both the ones that are more advanced and learn quickly and those that need extra help. I think, however, some of this potential is new to him, but with volunteers of varying backgrounds rotating through, I have no doubt that the knowledge transfer will continue.
Whatever we establish as the starting configuration though, the software has to be downloadable and cannot rely only on an internet connection. The power goes out here randomly with regular frequency, which of course takes down the internet. As a matter of fact I was downloading a promising program today and the power went out with only 1 second left of download- so I will have to start over again tomorrow. It’s a journey. The kids are very excited about the idea of a computer lab even if they are not sure, exactly, what they are going to do with it!
The Friday evening pizza party was a bit of a marathon as we had about 20 people in residence and it was raining but, as always the pizza was a hit. Working with the two boys from Belgium, I made the dough and helped roll it out and then was cook’s assistant for a while at the fire so I could observe how the process works there. We also managed to make some deserts: cinnamon rolls, apple rolls, and chocolate rolls The chocolate especially was super popular.
Saturday morning was “acro-yoga” morning. The guy from Brazil had studied yoga in India and was showing several of us this technique. It was a bit weird, and fun, and really did stretch out some different muscle groups. As you can see from the pictures he had to have strong legs and be really coordinated to do this. I kept it simple but some of the poses with the others got quite sporty. After breakfast a bunch of us headed down the hill to go shopping in Besishahar. Because it had rained most of the previous evening I borrowed a hiking pole. I knew the way down was going to be slippery (and it was!). It took about 50 minutes to get down and we spent several hours getting stocked up on supplies, including fruits and vegetables, keeping in mind that everything purchased had to be lugged back up the hill. I think my backpack ended up weighing about 8 kilos or so including the one liter bottle of water I bought to drink on the way up.
After a nice lunch we started back up the hill. It took me two hours to climb it but I made it up, exhausted and hot. It was really, really, hard because it is steep, partly steps, partly climbing up slippery rock or mud. As we moved along I ended up in the middle of the pack. My prior trekking really paid off as I was in “mountain goat” shape. Some of the new people, who came straight here and have not trekked, were really struggling and were about 30 minutes behind me. Once I got to my room, I dropped my stuff off and headed to the cold shower to clean up. It is the one time in my life that I will likely say that a cold shower felt good. I then collapsed into bed and slept even though it was only about 5:30pm. I’m not sure I want to climb that hill again…..
I have about two more weeks here and still hope to get some writing done.