Teaching in Nepal

A different style of traveling

PAINTING PALS These are a few of the students I was able to teach and be with throughout my journey in Nepal. Every time we had a break, they would ask to take pictures and videos with us. Photo by Emma Riba

Hands go up as I write math problems on the chalkboard, as 10 elementary school students eagerly wait for their turn to solve them in front of the class. The students running towards me with big smiles on their faces, lining up for a high five or a hug is a memory I will never be able to forget.

Back in February 2018, I faced one of the most challenging but enriching experiences of my life. At 16 years old, my school gave me the opportunity of going to Nepal for two weeks to work at a local school in the village of Sauraha with the purpose of engaging in the community through teaching, building and decorating. Sauraha lies along the edge of Chitwan National Park in the southern region of the country. I have always loved to travel, so I knew I had to join my classmates and teachers on a trip that opened my eyes to a different style of traveling.

As soon as I stepped outside the airport, I noticed the poor air quality of the capital, Kathmandu; the dust that filled the air made it hard to breath.

However, the capital was filled with tall, colorful buildings, children in uniforms and people with food carts trying to earn rupees, the currency used in Nepal. There were no traffic lights, so we had to cross the road all together as a group, hoping no vehicle would run us over.

After hours of flying to our first stop, and taking a 10-hour bus ride, we arrived in Chitwan, and were greeted with a lush, green landscape. Since there weren’t as many vehicles in Chitwan, the air quality was slightly better than in Kathmandu and people were able to ride their elephants along the sidewalk.

As we entered the school, the students and teachers welcomed us with a traditional Nepalese ceremony and put a Tilaka, a classic red paste used in Nepali culture as a symbol for celebration and luck, on our foreheads. I have always loved working with children, so I decided to teach for a few days and later switch to decorating the classrooms.

It was my first time teaching, but I soon got the hang of it and realized how much the students liked math. The small, square rooms with colorful desks added a cheerful feeling to the whole process. I was surprised at the student’s fluency in English, as it is not their native language. During my days of teaching, I realized that despite the lack of resources available, every student had always a smile on their face and were eager to learn from us.

SWAYAMBHUNATH STUPA This is a stupa, a religious building used in Buddhism to meditate or perform different rituals. It can also be referred as the monkey temple, due to the amount of monkeys living in this area. Photo by Paula Rodenas

For the last four days, I was given the job of making the designs for the walls of the different classrooms. It was a long process of priming the background, projecting the images we wanted to draw and finally tracing and painting them. We decided to have a theme for each wall including a multiplication table, the diagram of body parts, types of animals and different shapes. While we were working, students would come and wait outside the door, watching what we were doing.

The greatest moment of my trip was seeing the reaction on the students’ faces after looking at their newly decorated walls. This experience made me understand how simple actions can have a powerful impact. I was disappointed that we were not able to finish all classrooms, but I hope that will have the opportunity to go back in the future and finish the project we started.