–Haresh Tilani, Singapore
My experience in Nepal was eye-opening, to say the least. Things kicked off with a short stay with the very hospitable Mr. Nardev, his wife and his 2 adorable children. The first 2 days were spent sightseeing before the finally starting what I had come to Nepal for – teaching in the village at Aserdi, Palpa District.
I will admit that the first day in the village was somewhat awkward. So if you are considering teaching there, just be prepared for a lot of staring and giggling. I had already braced myself before we reached the village, and I armed myself with what I found out to be the best solution for the situation – a big smile. Many of the villagers are simply shy, and that is all it takes to overcome their initial shyness to bring out their friendly nature. Of course, making an effort to learn some Nepali and actually speaking it made the whole atmosphere even more enjoyable. They chuckled and laughed when I pronounced some words wrongly, but that just made them less embarrassed to try and speak English, during which I willingly returned the favor.
At the Poorna Jyoti Boarding School in Aserdi (i.e. the school that you will teach in), the subjects are taught in English. Thus, most of the students have basic knowledge of the language, while those in Class 4 and up are fluent. However, the main difficulties I faced arose when I was teaching Classes 1 – 3. While Classes 2 – 3 had some problems understanding me initially, I eventually slowed down my speaking and increased my patience, which helped tremendously.
Unfortunately, I felt practically helpless teaching the students in Class 1. They did not have a sufficient grasp of English, and even the teachers teach them the language by explaining most words to them in Nepali. So I was stuck. I remember this one time when they kept talking to me in Nepali. I repeatedly told them that I couldn’t speak any Nepali, but the problem was that I was telling them in English. So I went home and asked the older kids to teach me how to say ‘I cannot speak Nepali’ in Nepali. I learnt it without much of a problem, and tested it the next day. So the next time one of the students told me something in Nepali, I busted out my newly-learnt phrase: “Moi leh Nepali jandi no!” The response: “Moi leh English jandi no!” I was speechless.
Teaching was nonetheless only one aspect of my time in the village; I had so many other wonderful experiences interacting with the people of the village before and after school. Be it playing cricket or table tennis (albeit on a make-shift table), walking in the forest or simply relaxing at one of the many scenic spots that can be found near the village, I learnt a lot just by chatting with the children. Many of them had never traveled outside India or even Nepal, and they asked me numerous questions about the countries that I had been to. At the same time, they answered many of my questions I had about their upbringing as well as heard their opinions on a number of general matters.
While most of you may be a little apprehensive of visiting a village on your own, rest assured that you will hardly face any real dangers. One of the reasons why I fell in love with Nepal and its people is because of their warm and welcoming nature. Of course, there are the inherent risks, but I am sure the fact that you are reading this means that you have some sense of adventure in you, and that such problems would be nothing new to you. In fact, I would encourage those of you who are considering applying to venture out on your own because the tranquility of the village, coupled with the lack of any internet or mobile phones, really gives you a lot of alone time to reflect on your experiences. I definitely did, and it made this wonderful experience all the more memorable.