A rambunctious bus ride out of Pokhara and into Nepal’s rural valleys found us in the beautiful town of Bhurjungkhola in the district of Kaski. We arrived to a city covered in clouds. It was only later during the clear, bright morning that we met the massive Mt. Machhapuchhre, the commander of the northern skyline. Because the morning sun tinges its face in a rosy hue, a casual observer may mistake its soft complexion for an invitation. The reality, however, is its 7000M peak is insurmountable.
Once we arrive at the school, we receive a warm welcome. We are gifted with scarves and red tika on our foreheads. The headmaster, a wonderful and passionately curious man named Santosh takes us on a tour and gives us a personalized class schedule, suited to our strengths. We are assigned to teach six to seven classes a day -- which is quite a load -- but there is still flexibility, which we appreciate. Our work is contingent on the students' schedule. Some begin their classes at 5 AM and go until 4 PM. The older students in the senior grades go from 6 AM to 10 PM and stay at school-provided accommodations.
The students' strenuous workload is intensified by the Nepali one-day weekend (Saturday). While we feel this schedule is severe and could be counter-productive, the students say they prefer to be at school. The Sunday morning question: “How was your day off?” is often met with a terse reply: “Home is boring.”
Once they overcome their initial shyness, the students are often caught between a curious excitement and ingrained politeness. Never before has my beard received such voracious interest. Before breaking into giggles, kindergarten students would regularly ask: “Whaaat iss this?” “Thiiis iis lamo dari” (long beard). I was known as Lamo Dari (affectionately I hope) throughout our stay.
We taught Social Studies which could sometimes be just a glorified English lesson. However Principal Santosh would say that that the major benefit of the volunteer presence was just hearing native English speakers. Therefore we were granted much freedom in making our lesson plans.
For the younger students, textbooks are the best way to keep their attention. Whereas, for the older students, we found they enjoyed discussing a range of topics not usually taught in Nepalischools, such as World War II, Colonization and Ancient Greece.
Volunteering at the school was a wonderful experience. The curiosity of the students combined with the dedication of the teaching staff is producing positive results in national testing. The students impressed us everyday with their language proficiency and their intellectual strength -- due in large part to the their teachers and the school itself.
We strongly recommend other volunteers to devote their time and resources to this delightful school. Having volunteered in several different countries across several different continents, it is no exaggeration to say that the Shree Machhapuchhre School is the most determined institution of its kind. All resources, whether it be financial, material, or simply time, is utilized and greatly appreciated.
We are thankful to the school and our host family for their generosity and hospitality during our stay and we look forward to returning in the near future.