I arrived to the Teaching in Buddhist Monasteries project already a bit homesick as I had already been in India for five months, doing a semester abroad. I saw the opportunity with GoEco in Nepal about midway through my stay in Hyderabad. I’m so glad I saw it when I did because I signed up on the spot, whereas had I seen it at the end of my stay, perhaps I wouldn’t have jumped on it so quickly and then could have missed out on one of the most rewarding experiences of my life.
After the introduction week with the director of the project and his family, I felt very familiar with the area and the culture. I was confident to venture out into the city on my own or in the company of the wonderful volunteer, Nikki, with whom I was privileged to spend time with during the month. We tried out our newly acquired Nepali phrases learned in our crash course from Rajesh with cab and minibus drivers, shopkeepers, and friendly passerby as we explored Kathmandu.
After one week I moved to Pharping, where I would be working at a Buddhist nunnery school and a community school. I stayed with a lovely family who had owned the community school when it was private, before they turned it over to the dedicated group of community organizers. The community school is an incredible little place, colorfully painted by volunteers and bustling with over sixty students in their red uniforms. The principal, Sandesh, is a mild-mannered gentleman who cares for the students and the welfare of the school such that he doesn’t even take a salary, choosing instead to allocate the funds to his students through scholarships and class materials.
He dreams of opening a day care in the school, to accommodate children younger than nursery or kindergarten class levels. The community school interconnected with other community projects in the area including a community college, an adult learning center, a trade school, and a model farm to be operated as a sustainable agriculture school. Their scope and aspirations are large, to help generate a sustainable, educated Nepali public, developing Nepal from within and without losing its heritage or natural beauty.
The nunnery school is a great place, too. The girls there are bright and well-spoken, most dreaming of continuing their education at the university level. I had expected to be living at the ani gomba and teaching, but it turned out differently. Their school went on vacation after only a few days teaching there. I didn’t get to know them as well as I would have hoped, nor to observe and learn about their way of life. It was still great to have met them and spend a few days trying to get discussions going and teaching each other songs and games. While it was unexpected, I really enjoyed living at the family home. I got to spend a lot of time alone to contemplate and absorb deeply the lessons I was being taught.
In addition to the teaching, I got to work at an orphanage in Kathmandu. I cannot explain the affect of those astoundingly beautiful children. Just to hold a child in need of a hug. To feel a hand slip so readily into yours simply to feel love and affection freely given. To feel special to someone. It bursts your heart. Their delight in each other and what little they have is truly inspiring and I will never forget them.
All in all the time flew by quickly and yet went slowly, so full of new insight and growth. It was an amazing month that I will endlessly cherish and continue to learn from.