After spending over a year living in Kathmandu after the earthquake which destroyed their homes, the nuns have returned to Bigu! We were very happy to have our volunteers Ela Furdas and Martin Luo spend time with the nuns shortly after their return last month. They have returned to Kathmandu with news of how things are going at the monastery.
Between the few buildings there is nothing, just piles of rubble that look organized and ready to be reused. The nuns are living in temporary shelter made of salvaged wood, plastic sheets and corrugated metal. They have rebuilt the dining room and kitchen that had been completed not long before the earthquake, although they prefer eating in small groups in front of their rooms. The only buildings remaining from before the earthquake are the guest house (volunteer accommodation) and classrooms.
The nuns are very open to volunteers helping with ceremonial preparations such as making butter candles and taking part in morning and holiday puja (worship). Although puja is not in English, some nuns are happy to discuss Buddhism with volunteers who are interested.
Most volunteers who go to Bigu help with the day to day tasks of the nuns and teach English. Ela taught the teenage nuns to write short responses to conversational questions and used these to teach grammar, writing and reasoning. She used the white board while speaking to help with word recognition and helped the nuns form simple sentences to explore feelings and emotions. The word "frustrating" was a favorite once they understood, as it was a frustrating concept to learn. In addition to English lessons Martin taught the younger nuns Kung Fu and engaged in philosophical discussions.
Future volunteers should know that the nuns are still rebuilding so facilities are very basic. The climb to get there isn't easy but as always, our coordinators will match the pace of any volunteer!
Past volunteers will be pleased to know that the yak butter tea is still being served, their old handyman is still around and the earthquake has not diminished the kindness, spirit, and hospitality of the nuns. We hope to bring more information to you as their rebuild continues.