In 2019 I decided to do something ‘crazy’ – as my friends were signing up for relaxing European getaways, I found myself signing up for a volunteer trip in Nepal with Challenges Abroad. It was one of the scariest and most life-altering decisions I’ve ever made (but in a good way!), and in the blink of an eye, I found myself on a plane to a bizarre new country, which I was soon to fall in love with. To sum up my incredible and humbling trip, I present you with my Top 10 Nepal Memories:
1. Meeting my Health Promotion team and onsite staff: The first few days in Nepal were a little overwhelming, as everything was so new and different, but meeting the incredible staff and my eleven teammates (who were soon to become family) meant I very quickly felt at home. All of the challenges we faced were faced together, and I miss them so much now!
2. Soaking up Nepalese culture: I very quickly fell in love with Nepal, its vibrant culture and how religion and spirituality are fused into its way of life. We spent most of our time in Dhulikhel, a small village about an hour out of Kathmandu, and the more we became familiar with the town and the people, the more we were swept off our feet.
3. Teaching in the school: The focus of our trip was to teach about health at a local school – we planned all the lessons, created resources and then delivered the material to our allocated classes (the grade 5’s and 6’s). Knowledge about health, hygiene and disease in Nepal is extremely limited, and the difference in both health and education systems (compared to somewhere like Australia) was jarring to experience. Hence, it was so special to be able to educate the kids about things like communicable diseases, germ theory, menstruation and healthy eating, to equip them and hopefully make a difference in their health outcomes.
4. Developing relationships with the kids: The children we were teaching very quickly grew attached to us (and vice versa)! After only a few days we were greeted with hugs and hand-picked flowers, and we spent lunchtimes playing games with them, getting to know them better, and answering all sorts of questions about us and Australia. They are such beautiful souls, so eager to learn and so optimistic despite the hardships they and their families face. They taught us as much as we taught them, and they are so incredibly special to me.
5. Downtime: It wasn’t all work and no play! We became addicted to momos (Nepalese dumplings) and honey lattes, so would often walk to the nearby café to plan lessons, or just relax. At night we would play lots of cards, have bonfires, and get to know the other Challenges Abroad teams also in Nepal. These times were fun, but also so needed to recharge for the next day!
6. 1000 step walk: Exactly what it sounds like! Right near our accommodation was the base of the 1000 step walk, which we ventured up several times. The views from the top were absolutely amazing – there were rolling hills and sweeping views further than you could see, and watching the sunrise from the top was absolutely magical.
7. Waking up to the Himalayas: Speaking of magical, it was such a treat to see the Himalayas every morning as we woke, every trip to/from school, and in every gorgeous sunset from the rooftops. Photos cannot capture how incredible they are!
8. Travel to Kathmandu: On the middle weekend we travelled to Kathmandu together to do some sight-seeing – highlights include visiting the Monkey Temple, browsing the local markets, taking a flight to see Mt Everest (up close!!) and eating some INCREDIBLE food.
9. Painting the mural: The school gave us permission to give the grungy toilet block a makeover, so in our teaching breaks we designed and painted a mural, which tied in what we had been teaching the kids, and featured all their handprints! It was fun to do something creative but also seeing the difference and how it brightened up the school was so rewarding.
10. The heartbreak I felt leaving: Winnie the Pooh said it best – ‘how lucky I am to have something that makes saying goodbye so hard’. Leaving Dhulikhel, the school, the kids we had been teaching… it was so difficult but special as it brought about the realisation of how much of a connection we had made in our work. My time in Nepal with Challenges Abroad was an amazing, humbling and rewarding trip which I will forever look back on fondly, and it has definitely changed me and the way I view life back in Australia now.