The length of time between each blog post pretty much directly correlates with how much of a good time I’m having.
I’m having a pretty good time.
Another teaching week has flown by, filled with classes and marking of homework and despairing of children for not doing said homework. Cat and I have developed a system whereby we designate alliterative days of the week for given activities (Fun Friday, Song Sunday), which has served to split the week up quite well for us, making it a lot easier to plan. We’ve also now ended up taking on class 7 in addition to our 4 other classes, because Indu Miss has had to go home to India to look after her father.
Class 7 intimidate me. Despite being only a year older than class 6, who we’ve taught from the beginning, there is something so significant about the gap between pre-teens and teenagers. Even though we know a few of them because they live in the hostel, it still presented a daunting task, taking on a new class just for two weeks before we leave. But we struggle on.
Though I could never see myself being a teacher full-time (I think the stress would kill me), I definitely have enjoyed the experience of pretending to be one for a few short weeks. It’s really interesting seeing a classroom from the other side – and also makes you realise how annoying you were as a child. It turns out that constant low-level chatter emanating from the back of the classroom makes teachers want to batter children over the head with the nearest object to hand, and anything you think is funny when you are eleven years old is categorically not.
That being said, a lot of the kids are absolute dreams. For the most part they’re incredibly hardworking and eager to please (especially when there are stickers involved). Some little projects that we’ve done have worked really well: doing a class debate with class 6 went down very well, and spending a couple of lessons making posters about their last holidays has occupied class 4 brilliantly.
It’s very hard not to have favourites. And in fact, I don’t know how teachers can be bothered to teach the kids that irritate them. I certainly can’t. I think I’m not patient enough to be a teacher.
The kids in the hostel, on the other hand, I have all the time in the world for. I would happily sit around chatting to them and entertaining them all day every day. The younger kids are adorable (if a bit mental), the older ones are thoughtful and intelligent, and the ones who have now left the hostel are really really good at basketball. We’ve spent so many fun evenings just hanging out in the playground, playing some basketball or chatting to the kids in the prayer room – it genuinely feels like home to me now. And as we approach the final weeks, I’m not thinking of all the delicious chips and gravy I’ll be eating when I get back, or all the glorious hot showers I will take, but how much I will miss Vishnu sir and Bibek and Tancho and Yuvraj and everyone, kids and teachers, not to mention the other volunteers who I’ve got to know over the time we’ve been here. How will I cope without Nathan’s seemingly limitless knowledge of the presidency of Lyndon Baines Johnson; with no Clare to rush to take photos every time an animal appears, be it moth or adorable puppy? What will we do without Bibek to answer our increasingly daft questions about anything and everything?
We’re determined to make the most of our last days here, so Cat has planned a rigorous schedule for us over the next week and a half, to make sure we hit all the key tourist attractions and have time to overfill our bags with tourist junk before we fly back to the UK.
This weekend just gone saw us embark on our long anticipated excursion to Nagar Kot with all the hostel kids, as the school bus had been fixed. We left at 10.30am, Nepali time (i.e. 11.15), after having a leisurely brunch at the school, with the school bus well over capacity and with the addition of a bench in the middle of the aisle to accommodate more people. The bus ride was not as exciting as anticipated: apparently in recent years the police have become a lot more stringent in their security checks, so our hopes of a rooftop ride swiftly faded. It was beautiful though; as soon as we left Kathmandu we went up into the mountains and were surrounded by greenery that is sorely missing in the dusty city in which we live. We soon emerged above the cloud line, after which point every 40 seconds would be punctuated by Subash poking me in the arm and saying “miss, look!” – at a cloud or a tree or a hill. Bless him. After about an hour Subash dozed off and I decided to read my book; no mean feat when you’re trundling through ditches and hurtling round steep mountain bends. At intervals the boys at the back of the bus would burst into choruses of “we will rock you” or “everywhere we go”, providing light entertainment (and earache) for the rest of us.
After a couple of hours we arrived and we all piled out, heading straight for the tower which gives you the best view of the surroundings. We all scrambled up it until the platform at the top was dangerously full, and took the obligatory panoramic pictures of the view. Unfortunately it was a bit cloudy, so we couldn’t see the Himalayas – but nonetheless, it was pretty beautiful. Once we’d had our fill of looking at scenery, we began the slightly less graceful descent, whereupon Matt got somewhat stuck halfway down, resulting in many amusing photos.
The rest of the afternoon was spent in buying snacks from roadside stalls, sitting and eating the lunch kindly provided by Vishnu’s wife and Bibek’s mum (I’m not sure how they managed to transport half a gallon of yoghurt all that way, but I decided just to accept it), and mucking around with the kids. We also took the opportunity to sit on top of the bus and take some pics while it was stationary.
It was an all-round excellent day, though knackering, and though we got back at a very reasonable hour we were all quite grumpy because of the travelling for multiple hours on a sweaty school bus filled with children. Personally I fell asleep at 9 o’clock, fully dressed.
Sunday was a very enjoyable school day because we had been informed that Monday was a festival day, so it was almost like an unexpected extended weekend. Though teaching songs to four different classes was exhausting, it was very rewarding when later Dan overheard one of them singing “don’t stop me now” in the toilets.
That afternoon, it rained. We were playing basketball, and what started off as light drizzle quickly evolved into a monsoon downpour. We sheltered under the overhang of the school for all of five minutes, before Dan and I exchanged a look which clearly said “let’s go and run about in the rain”.
So we did.
A couple of hours later we were all soaked to the skin but deliriously happy, having spent a happy afternoon slipping and sliding around, shampooing up and washing our hair under dripping roof water, swimming in the gradually accumulating puddle at the bottom of the playground, and making sure we soaked all the bemused children who were watching our antics from the dry corridor. Definitely one of the best afternoons we’ve had here.
After we’d had enough of mucking about in the rain, there was a scrum for the shower and I very much lost, with last place in the queue. I didn’t actually manage to shower before we went out again, just peeled off my wet clothes and struggled into dry ones. Bibek, Dan and I went on a mission to buy some knock off DVDs from a place near Patan durbar square, as it was a school holiday the next day. We had our first experience of a Nepali auto rickshaw, which was relatively comfortable compared to Indian ones (and strangely ran on electricity), and our first real experience of Nepali street food (delicious, of course – love a bit of buffalo).
We ended up buying about 7 or 8 films (at 20p each, how could we not?), and spent a very enjoyable evening watching School of Rock.
We’ve now been joined and left again by a couple of nice Austrians, one of whom will be teaching here after the long Diwali holiday. They’ve gone off to Chitwan now, but joined us briefly for yesterday’s Kumari festival.
Ellen, Ella and Clare are due to leave tomorrow – but that’s a story for another time, when it’s not past midnight and I’m not grumpy from catching Cat’s cold. The fact that people are starting to leave is freaking me out; I’m not ready to leave yet, not ready to go back and face the real world. I can’t face reality yet. I like this little world I currently inhabit, and I want to stay here