Tyler's Report from Bigu

I spent 3 weeks up at Bigu, from early March to the beginning of April. It’s a 10 hour bus ride, followed by a 6 hour hike up. Please, learn from my mistakes and pack light. I thought I was in reasonably good shape, but the last 2 hours of the hike are just stairs going straight up. The weather was much colder than Kathmandu, sometimes falling below 0 at night. If you get cold at night, just tell the nuns and they’ll be able to get an extra blanket. The guest lodge is quite nice, but leaks during heavy rain storms. Pretty basic, each room has 2 beds, a desk, and a universal outlet. Next to the lodge are 3 toilets: 2 pit, one “normal”. The 2 showers are a 5-minute walk from the lodges, and are used by the whole nunnery. They’re solar heated, and usually warm by around noon.

Puja:  Morning Puja starts every morning at 5:30am, and afternoon at 3:00pm. It’s definitely worth attending each at least once. You don’t have to get there right as it starts, and you don’t have to stay till the very end. Morning is a bunch of chanting, instrument playing, and lots of tea. Afternoon is silent prayer and lots of tea.

Food:  For the most part, the food is pretty basic. We had fruit for some special occasions, but mostly lots of rice, potatoes, noodles, and very spicy foods. During my stay there, there was one breakfast with hard boiled eggs, and one dinner with buff meat. Breakfast at 7:30am, lunch 11:30am, and dinner at 6:00pm. The shop in the nunnery sells coffee, cookies and chocolates. There is supposedly a shop a little ways down from the nunnery where you can buy beer, but the nunnery itself is a dry zone. You probably won’t like butter tea, but it’s worth trying at least once.

Teaching:  Bigu was hit really hard by the 2015 earthquake, so the classroom I was teaching in was a temporary shack with a whiteboard and a felt pen. I was told that as of May 2017(ish), the new building should be complete, meaning volunteers should have proper classrooms with desks and white/chalk boards to teach. Classes run from 9:00am onwards, starting with the older nuns (approx age 25-60). They’re a lot of fun to teach, but only know very basic English. While I was there, I taught things like family relations, opposites and synonyms, before-during-after, etc. Not everyone shows up every day, so each class is usually its own entire lesson. Their class is about 45 minutes, but quite often you’ll get invitations to have tea in their rooms and help them practice the day’s lesson. After that, class 1 and 2; their English is better than the older nuns, but they still struggle to form/understand full sentences. If available, it’s a good idea to bring some sort of a game they can play (like Bingo). Classes 3 and up had exams the whole time I was up in Bigu, but they seemed to have pretty good English based on conversations at dinner time.

Etc:  The Himalayan honey bee is the world’s largest honey bee; single adults can measure up to 3.0 cm (1.2 in) in length” - Wikipedia. None of the previous write-ups about Bigu mentioned these things, but they’re terrifying.

There are also giant spiders that like to hang out in the showers.

There are a couple giant dogs that are let loose at night to guard the nunnery. They’re terrifying, but harmless.

It’s not a bad idea to bring a small thermos if you can get a hold of one in Kathmandu. It’s nice to be able to make your own tea or coffee in your room in the morning.

The shop in the nunnery sells stuff like toilet paper, shampoo, soap, pens, writing books, etc.

Saturday, if the weather is nice, the younger nuns hike up to the top of the ridge for a picnic. It takes about an hour up, but the view is worth it.