15 – 19/3: Pokhara

Sorry I haven’t been able to write here recently – I’ve only just  gotten access to wifi in Pokhara. There won’t be any pictures as the connection isn’t very strong. I’m currently sitting at a Cafe in Lakeside, the tourist area next to lake Fewa. It’s been four days since I arrived.
I came to Pokhara by bus on Wednesday morning leaving Kathmandu at 7 am, winding along roads that clung to the edge of the hills, past stepped farms running down the slopes. The whole landscape was beautiful – full of villages, rivers and sparse tree line forests. There was a surprising amount of industry: cement works, brick-kilns, mining. It all seemed to be part of a boom in the amount of of housing in the valleys. The journey took a lot longer than over the six hours I’d been told, but at least I arrived. Manoj – my next NVC contact – was waiting for me at the bus station.

So then we came to the monastery – climbing some two-hundred and fifty steps to reach it finally. The whole complex is amazing, brilliantly coloured and covered with intricate paintwork. I was told to and rest in a room inside the temple whilst my own one was made ready. I had a couple of short conversations with the teenage monks who were coming in and out of the room. But, as I tried to sleep, suddenly I heard incredibly loud crashing sounds coming from the floor below. When the chanting started, I realised: they had started their prayers. I carried on feeling tired.

Later, I was told my room was ready. It’s incredible – I have the whole roof and top floor space on one of the accommodation buildings. The view is spectacular. However, what I wasn’t told was when the meals would be. So I managed to almost miss dinner time – and completely missed breakfast. I felt quite out of place on the first two days, as no one around could communicate very well with me; I was just left waiting until I was told what to do.

On Thursday afternoon, Markus arrived. When I was told there would be another volunteer teaching with me, I was a little apprehensive – would he be a boring old teacher who would know exactly what he was doing? Would I be able to get on with him? As it turns out, Markus is my age, on a gap year before university. He’s from Aarhus, in Denmark, and has very good English. He’d say something sarcastic if he saw this, but he’s a pretty funny guy. Neither of us have much teaching expertise so we’re able to just muddle incompetently through this together. It feels like an incredible bit of luck.

We spent most of Friday waiting around to teach. First we were told it would be at nine, so we waited at nine a.m. to be taken to the classroom. No one came. As t turned out, lessons were at nine p.m. We used the time to go into Pokhara (by public bus) and wander around aimlessly for a while. Lakeside is such a relaxing place, especially after Kathmandu. Everything is so calm here. 

In the evening, we had our first class. Around twenty boys sat there, staring at us and waiting for something to happen. We tried asking some basic questions – what is your name, how old are you etc. It turned out they ranged from eight to thirteen. We started testing their number skills, amongst other things. Because we hadn’t been given any opportunity to prepare or judge the class’ abilities, we basically spent the next hour stumbling spontaneously from one idea to the next in a kind of awkward double act. In retrospect, we didn’t do too badly really. Except, as we started to realise mid-way through our very dumbed down lesson, the kids had actually been taught quite a lot. When I got hold of one of their textbooks, it had phrases like “ornamental vase” in it’s vocabulary section… Kt

Slowly dawned on us that we had been incredibly patronising. Oh well. The next morning, we decided to plan out properly what we would teach. 

  That was the night the rain came. It began with thunder and lightning flashing in the distance, creeping closer. Then hail started to sweep across the valley, skating over our balcony outside. The windows actually rattled in the wind – suddenly, I felt very exposed in our room at the top of the building. As the hail turned to rain and the storm picked up properly, our power went out. We had nothing left to do but try to sleep.

Most of Saturday was spent in Pokhara, taking a boat out to the World Peace Stupa on the hill. The storm left the air perfectly clear – our view north over the snow-capped mountains was finally clear, after being shrouded in haze for the last week. It is genuinely beautiful here. 
Today, we went paragliding. I really can’t describe how much I enjoyed it – you could see the whole valley and lake spread out below you, fading away into the distance. There were Nepalese eagles which flew right along side us.

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