That’s that. We’ve left Nepal, and are currently sitting in Delhi airport (apparently voted the second best in the world), waiting for Lufthansa to deliver our boarding passes to us.
It’s been an absolutely mad last week, with lots of rushed goodbyes, the painting of a mural, a (relatively successful) attempt at cooking French toast for 50 people, a quick trip to a Nepali hospital and a cheeky Maoist strike. So much has happened and we just can’t believe that that’s it: it’s over, and we’re going home. I also can’t believe my bag has managed to withstand the huge number of purchases this trip – I’ve bought enough gap yah trousers to carpet Kathmandu Durbar square.
The Cambridge volunteers from Dang arrived on Friday, followed swiftly by our own pals from Durham the next day, and it was quite nice to have a big group all back together again. The Cambridge girls all seemed to be a really good laugh, and of course Dan and I were really glad to be reunited with Team India once more (running full pelt down the stairs and nearly knocking Tyler over when we heard that they had arrived). However, it has to be said that it was a good thing that they all went out for a farewell meal while we had our last prayer session. I think it would have been quite awkward had they been present for the goodbye speeches, which inevitably would have referenced them teaching ‘our brothers and sisters’ had they been there. As it was, it was just a very sad but very sweet occasion. We all got requested to dance and sing (as per), several people stood up to give speeches to say goodbye and thank you (Bibek and Jeevan’s were especially sweet), and finally we were all presented with HVP jumpers and certificates as leaving presents.
Overall the last week had been brilliant. We’ve spent more time with the kids than ever, running around like headless chickens to accommodate various promises that had been made. We sang some Taylor Swift with the girls, played about a million hours of sport with the boys, took the teachers out for a meal to say thank you, and went out to a local cafe with the graduates; every day we felt more at home and every day the imminence of our leaving impressed itself heavier upon us.
It seemed that all the bad luck had ganged up to spring itself upon the school in the last week. With all of us having just about recovered from the horrendous cold viciously spread by Cat, illness struck again, hitting Nathan first, then Matt in a very big way (in a staying up all night vomiting every 15 minutes into a bucket kind of way), and then David. Dan and I miraculously survived again, and Cat just remained quietly convinced that her malaria tablets were slowly killing her.
Apart from that, it turned out that our friend Tancho had in fact contracted typhoid, which somewhat explained the fact that he hadn’t been showing up to play basketball for a few days, and then Rohan went and broke his arm jumping over a low wall in the playground. Dan and I insisted we accompany him to the hospital with Bibek (I think we both felt kind of bad because he’d been running to collect the basketball when it happened), and so spent a cosy evening in the emergency area of the nearby hospital. We did our best to keep him distracted, telling him jokes and riddles and stories about Dan’s friend Adam (whose life suspiciously mirrors that of Harry Potter’s), and taking full advantage of the fact that we were foreigners and the hospital staff let us stay with him a lot longer than they otherwise would have. We spoilt him rotten after he had his operation the next day, and were very sad when we found out that we wouldn’t see him again as he went home to his family for the holiday a few days early.
In general it was hard to teach the last week; with the knowledge that we’d soon be back in England, it wasn’t easy to press on with teaching grammar rules and drilling the kids on tenses – all we really wanted to do was play games and sing songs and have fun with them. But we managed it, and approached the last day with eager anticipation. Unfortunately, we had a lovely last day all planned out and then out of the blue, as I’m sure has happened to the best of us, the Maoists called a strike. All the children were very happy, and we were pretty gutted – especially with the news that it might continue on until Sunday as well, leaving us with no final goodbye. (Don’t worry kids, the story ends happily, with us teaching almost a full day on Sunday before rushing off to the airport).
Dan, Matt, David, Cat and I had also come up with a plan to hold a final basketball match with the graduates, the losers of which would buy the winners dinner. However, what with Nepal being Nepal, the thing got put off and put off, what with our unexpected excursion to hospital and Yuvraj deciding he fancied a shopping trip one afternoon. As it was, we ended up playing on the Saturday before we left, amidst all the packing and planning and cooking treats for the kids and painting.
It was a hard-fought match: Dan, Bibek, Rajat and me against Jeevan, Cat, David and Emma, with Lukas refereeing. Unfortunately, true to tradition, my team lost (I don’t know if a team with me on it has ever won since we’ve been here), and I had the uncomfortable situation of having to figure out how I was going to pay for people’s food when I had no money left (thanks Dan for saving my arse). We went to a place just round the corner, which had shisha and comfy cushions gathered round low tables – it was pretty wicked, and quite a shame that we only discovered it the day before we had to leave. Tancho joined us (apparently his brother owned the place), and we had a really nice last evening sitting about, chatting and laughing at Jeevan and Bibek taking the piss out of each other.
The final day dawned and we still had ridiculous amounts to do: I had chosen to stay up watching Robocop with Bibek instead of packing, so all of my crap was sprawled across my bed and onto the floor, and I was faced with the almost impossible task of fitting eight weeks worth of impulse guys into one small 65 litre rucksack. It took all day, with many pauses to rush upstairs and help supervise lessons, throw chocolates out to expectant children, confiscate my iPod from Yuvraj for taking too many selfies, and read countless goodbye letters, but I managed it in the end. Dan and I finished our painting (we made a ‘peace tree’, created from different quotes swiped from the internet), I rattled off a few pages’ contribution to the volunteer handbook which we hope will be distributed to future volunteers to HVP central, and then we rushed around like mad things saying bye to all the teachers and all the classes, regardless of whether we’d ever taught or spoken to them.
It was such a busy time that we barely had time to catch our breath, but when we got into the van and set off for the airport it really sunk in, and both Dan and I were inconsolable for a little while before pulling ourselves together. I for one was definitely grateful to have Kate, Tyler and Emma there to listen to our stories and constant referencing of people they had only the vaguest idea about, and it was great to be able to reminisce about the trip as a whole with a group who’d come out as almost strangers, but are going home as a close knit group of friends.
It’s been an incredible couple of months; I knew it would fly past and I wasn’t wrong, but I think I didn’t realise quite how much the kids and the whole experience would affect me. It’s genuinely such a terrible thought that I could never see some of the kids again that I am going to have to at the very least go back and visit, if not volunteer, again. We’re all massively keen to put a lot of effort into fundraising when we are back at Durham; it’s such a genuinely great cause and I really think we can make a difference to them. I want to start by raising some money to buy some books for them; the library was severely lacking, and Prativa, one of the girls in class 5, would read class 6’s creative writing homework for want of reading material.
I could go on for pages about the merits of every individual student, but that would be boring, so I’ll keep those memories to myself. But I won’t forget this summer for a long long time, and I hope it doesn’t end here.
Goodbye Nepal, you’ve been a wonderful host and I’m sure we’ll see you again soon.