What worries you, masters you.

Now I’m going to say John Locke wasn’t so wrong. And I’m going to do it be getting up close and personal to my 19 year old self from 2  years ago. I’m going to get frisky with the crippling fears and worries I have had just to come out a better person, a changed person, someone who I am proud to be.

That’s what I would say if this were a good-heart-diary-blog. But it’s not.

I have said before that Nepal has changed me. But why is that? Why didn’t Moldova change me? Or did it? Why am I so incredibly critical of everything and so hard to impress?

I have had an extremely privileged life; and I don’t mean because I am an upper-middle class white girl that grew up in Europe. I don’t say it because for the last ten years or so my father has been in upper managerial positions at work, and I don’t say it because I grew up with an intact family that loved each other.

It’s simple, I grew up without worries.

Yes, times have been rough, harsh. I was born in the time of the second gulf war…in Turkey. I lived through the huge floods in Romania, while living in Bucharest, and I was a student without a job during the greatest economic breakdown since the great depression. But none of these really affected me. I was surrounded by my parents and my brother who always made sure I had nothing to worry about.

I grew up in a bubble that nurtured my hope, let me have fears, that helped me deal with my problems in a healthy manner and that taught me determination, hard work, hope and love can overcome anything. And to this day, I think this is true.

So why the huge worries? Why the crippling fear of the future or in the words of Augustus Waters, oblivion?

Almost exactly two years ago my family was torn apart. I was left with seemingly nothing.

I felt it was my fault; that I had brought this on myself and that I should no longer have a place on this earth. I hated what I was doing at University. I wasn’t learning what I felt would help me in the future. I wasn’t happy with the people I was surrounded by and my monetary pillar had also crashed. I was stuck in an apartment by myself wondering at night wondering how long it would take for someone to notice I was gone, who and how they would find me.

The only thing that kept me going was the thought of what my mother had gone through and how the disappearance of me would probably end her completely.

So I started drawing and painting, reading into art-therapy and self reflection. Really began thinking about myself, my situation, my family. Hope. Love. Determination.

I got really into Tumblr and have learnt SO much, met people that are in a similar situation to me. I have learnt it’s not all over.

My dissertation was coming up, so I seized the opportunity to learn about myself. I achieved this by keeping it as objective as possible. Reading on Third Culture Kids, Identity development, bilingualism and the lack of a home made me question myself in ways I hadn’t done before.

Finally, I decided to put a lot of my efforts into planning my trip to Nepal. I made that distant dream become tangible. Instead of asking Why? I began asking Why not? Suddenly, I had something to look forward to. A hope to achieve something. To make something of myself. To change someone’s life.

Who was I kidding?

At this point, I’d like to refer to this wonderfully insightful blog post by Pippa Biddle that describes all the thoughts I had before going on my trip perfectly. Nonetheless, I decided to grant myself my wish and go. And boy am I happy I did. FACE Nepal, Patihani and the kids did more for me than I could ever do for them. Yes, I might have given them some fun in the fun lives they already leave. I might have taught them the word “butt” (which seems to be a univerasl trigger word of laughter). At this point, I would also like to thank Shreeram for helping me through the crisis I had over there. When I asked him what the point of my being there was actually; that I was just being selfish that there was nothing I could do for the country; to uplift the community, he simply responded with a smile and a speech about the importance of the individual. About how it’s not the country you need to save. It’s the individual children. The Pardeep and the Shrishti. Nepal doesn’t need saving. The children need hope, communication, world-views. And that is what I was there for. To brighten the eyes, to create joy and to maybe teach them a little English.

So what does this all have to do with Locke’s saying?

All the worries I had about my mother, my brother, my future, the world, my inability to help, my fragility made me question my importance. My raison d’etre if you want. It drove me mad to the point of being unable to think about anything else. It stopped me from questioning my  worries. It just showed me them. It drove me close to insanity. It MASTERED me.

But not anymore. No, no, no. I would like to say that one day I just woke up and decided to say NO, but then I’d be lying to you. It was a journey a physical as well as metaphorical one.

And now, I am a similar situation as I was two years ago: finishing a degree without a clear future. But the difference now is that I am relatively happy with where I am, what I am doing and who I am with. I surround myself with people conducive to my physical, emotional and academic well-being. I still don’t really have a plan. But I know I want to do good. I know I can’t do everything. I know I can’t change the world by myself. But I can change MY world. And I am now ready to to accept that. To understand that MY world is as important as the rest of the worlds.

I have fears and worries. But I no longer let them master me. So while I still say that Locke isn’t wrong. I think that worry is also necessary. Without worries of something being wrong, how would we improve? Without worrying about someone else, without empathy, why would we reach out to help?

library from afar?

I have written a lot about the library I helped organize. I don’t know if I have focused enough on my worries that it will not be used…well. I’m really worried my work was in vain.

BUT!

good news!

A new volunteer has arrived in Patihani for FACE Nepal. It is part of her job to look after the library. She has developed a sign out system and has told me that the library really is open every day, and that the kids are actually using the library regularly! 🙂

exciting stuff.

leaving Nepal

I have now left Nepal and am sorry for not posting regularly anymore. I will try to change that.

After (three) amazing goodye ceremonies…where I was completely caked in red tikka powder I had to say goodbye to FACE Nepal. I spent three days in Kathmandu, without ever really entering Kathmandu. But how is that possible?, you may ask. Easy.

Get off the bus and take a Taxi to Patan. A BEAUTIFUL old town that has developed into a sister city of Kathmandu. Not necessarily less touristy, but smaller and calmer and less ‘oh my god it’s Kathmandu!’ I don’t really know how to explain…but I loved it. Also, it’s known for it’s yoghurt..which I had been craving for days 😉

Stay one night there, because you cannot afford another night although you would love spend more time in this seemingly small town. Take the bus to Boudha. Which you thought was a far way outside of Kathmandu, when it really actually is right on the ring road. How can the most serene place of the Kathmandu valley be right next to the ring road? I have no clue. But it is. As soon as you enter the gates  it seems like you are in a different world. The busy, bustling city is left behind and all that surrounds you is a huge Buddah Stupa, many souvenir shops and a plethora of hostels and monasteries. A truly beautiful place.

The next morning you get up early and walk to the holiest Hindu place of the Kathmandu valley where you can watch people getting cremated…this place is beautiful in a morbid kind of way. Although the 1000 Rupee entrance fee, in my opinion, is oerpriced for what you get to see in other places..but still sort of worth it, becuase I doubt there’s a place like Pashpatinath anywhere else in the world…

After going back to Boudha it is still morning and you realize that you do in fact have enough time to also take a bus out to Bhaktapur. The old hometown of the last king of Nepal. The whole town is a UNESCO World Heritage Site, which implies it is beautiful….but nothing prepared me for the beauty, peacefulness, and culture that I found in this town. Simply Amazing.

The next morning I took a Taxi to the airport becuase I decided to splurge on my last days in Nepal ^^. The ride was quite nice, I had a very simple chat with the driver…in NEPALI..woah. I didn’t know I could do that! It basically was just:

Did you like Nepal?

Yes! Very much!

How long were you here for?

2 Months

WOW that’s along time! What did you do?

I volunteered in Chitwan.

Still.

I am impressed with what I learnt.

final touches.

Today I finished the final touches of the library (ie the final painting)

As I was doing so, at some point I just had to laugh…three years ago, my art teacher was always trying to get me to work on bigger and bigger canvases for my IB Art show…I wonder if this would have been big enough ^^

Well. Tomorrow will be the teachers’ introduction and then my stay in Nepal is over. My stay with FACE Nepal however will not finish now.

Every three months we will hand out a questionnaire to the teachers, the headmaster and the students to be able to analyse the usage of the library. Exciting things are happening.

This is exactly the kind of thing I was hoping for when I came to Nepal. I wanted something to take back ‘home’ with me to continue working for the NGO, or at least the country. And this is just PERFECT! 🙂

Thank you FACE Nepal for allowing me to do this project!

introducing the library.

Since the library is basically finished (all the books are shelved, the shelves are categorized, the floor is clean, the tables are set up the benches are cleared and set up for studying) I started introducing it to the classes. 10th grade is left. then all classes are through.

On thursday I will finish the painting (the leaves of the trees). I will also show the 10th graders the library and how to use it.

The headmaster and I decided that the eighth grade would be in charge of keeping the library clean. This way there is no added work for the teachers, and the students are made responsible for their own actions. Next school year, the new 8th graders will be in charge, and so on. They seem to be somewhat engaged…at least when I asked them to come to the library just after school they all showed up (yay!) So that seems to be working.

The teachers will all get the introduction on friday. I have finished the manual that will be printed and handed to the headmaster. The activity schedule is done (every three weeks) to ensure that the library is used at least at that time. At the teacher introduction on friday afternoon I will not only explain but also show them how some of the activities work. Which shall be fun!

I heard that Room to Read is coming back to Chitwan, Nepal to do some work with the libraries they supported in 2005. So that should be interesting. I hope to keep updated with all the information about the library that is going on even after I go back to Austria and then off to England for University.

library

I am working on organizing and establishing the library of Shree Ganganagar School with the help of FACE Nepal (www.facenepal.org) and am trying to compile a manual for the teachers who are in charge of the library for when I am gone. I want to make sure that I did everything I can do to enable the school to use the library!

Dear teachers, parents, librarians, school staff, development workers, authors or whoever is interested in books,

I’m writing a manual for libraries that contains different activities that can be conducted with children of all ages (or age specific activities) for the library that I painted and am organizing at the Ganganagar School. I would greatly appreciate any ideas anyone else has!

The activities should be reading, comprehension and student oriented. Also, since the manual is for a rural school in Nepal, no materials except for books should be needed (except maybe pen and paper).

libraries and me.

Yes, I like books…and I like to read…but this is a new trend that i’ve discovered.

Three summers ago I worked in an orphanage in Moldova, and out of my own doing ended up working in the library every day there for a month and a half. Two summers ago I worked in the primary school that is connected to the school where I graduated high school for a month and ended up organizing three or four classroom libraries. This year I am half way around the world in Nepal and again, out of my own doing, I end up working in a library.

Maybe I should give up my career (that hasn’t even started yet) as a teacher or development worker or whatever I’m going to do and just become a librarian…I seem to be getting quite a bit of experience in this field of work 😛

Wie ich zur Bibliothek kam:

Shreeram fuehrte Ruth (die andere Volontaerin) und mich durch die Schule und zeigte uns ein paar Klassenzimmer. Nebenbei erwaehnte er die Bibliothek. Sie wuerde nicht wirklich benutzt und gehoerte mal organisiert. Er redete nicht lange darueber.

Nach der Tour sassen wir im Lehrerzimmer und dann kamen meine Fragen. Daraufhin gingen wir in die Biliothek. Shreeram zeigte mir ein paar Buecher und ich entdeckte, dass einige von ‘Room to Read’ gesponsort wurden. Da ich es extrem bloed finde, dass eine so tolle NGO wie RTR Buecher gespendet hat die nicht verwendet werden, und da ich Biliotheken unheimlich schoen und sehr wichtig fuer Schulen finde entschloss ich mich in dem Moment dazu die Bibliothek aufzupaeppen!

Auf gings ins Farbengeschaeft und dann in den Raum.

Als erstes wurde mal alles durchgeputzt. Dann wurden die Waende bunt angemalt (noch immer nicht ganz fertig). Am naechsten Tag ging es an die Buecher. Zuerst wruden sie in drei Kategorien sortiert: Nepali, Englisch, Nepali und Englisch gemischt. Dann in weitere Unterkateogorien unterteilt und in die sauberen Regale gestellt (da sind wir grad dabei). Hoffentlich bleibt mir auch noch ein wenig Zeit um ein paar Bibliotheksaktivitaeten aufzuschreiben und dem verantwortlichen Lehrer zu geben, damit die Biliothek auch (hoffentlich) wirklich verwendet wird…und nicht nur als Ort wo Buecher stehen, sondern als Raum zum Lernen, Lesen und Spielen.

back at school.

Now that I am back from my trip, I went back to work…but my schedule has drastically changed, since the government schools have resumed normal classes.

I will still do one hour of class in the Ganganagar Learning Center in the morning (from 7 am to 8 am). Both the morning groups will be mixed. Which means I will have kids from Nursery to 7th grade in one group. That’s a challenge! But we will manage. I only have on hour, because although school only starts at 10, the kids should be heading to school at around 9 o’clock. This is not because they have to walk an hour to school (they have to walk something like 10 minutes), but because in Nepal it is normal for kids to play on school grounds for an hour before classes start. I think, this way there are a lot fewer kids who will be late…

As Shreeram showed Ruth and me around school he mentioned that the school had a library that wasn’t really being used because it’s not organized. Seizing the opportunity I asked to see the place. I was amazed by the number of books and materials present in the library, and when Shreeram showed me a book with the ‘room to read’ logo on it my decision was final. I will make this library usable! I will make it so the ‘room to read’ books are being put to use! I hate seeing books just sort of sitting somewhere molding away.

So, somehow I ended up in a library…once again. (This seems to be a recurring theme in my volunteer work…maybe I should abandon my teaching career that hasn’t even really started yet to become a librarian hehe).

Quicktrip through Nepal

For the last week Ruth, the second volunteer, and I have been sight seeing around the country. Here’s a quick recap:

Day 1: Lumbini.
The birthplace of Lord Buddah. Personally, I was disappointed by this UNESCO World Heritage Site. Yes, the temple that was built around the miraculous 7 steps Buddah supposedly took after he was born is nice, but the rest of the Stupa and Temple complex was disappointing. Everything seems to still be under construction, and the temples that are finished don’t seem to be in use. There is usually only one monk per temple..which doesn’t really give this site a very religious feel. Rather, I felt like I was walking through the tables at a cake decorating competition. The temples were beautiful, but they weren’t being used, just like the cakes at competitions are beautiful, but not made for eating…

Day 2: Tansen, Palpa.
I was thoroughly impressed by this small district capital. It is built on an extremely steep hill (which ensured the first use of my hiking boots). The handicraft capital of Nepal really is beautiful. The town is filled with fabric shops that sell not only the ususal (probably) Indian fabrics, but also the woven fabrics that are so common in the hills. Shoeshops are everywhere and there are even some yarn shops, as well as some shops that sell some yarn rovings. Something special about this place was definitely the fact that they had a tourist information office that even had a map of the town! So we walked up the Shreenagar hill and had a beautiful view of the countryside. We also walked South of the town where we found the District Jail. Surprised by its size (VERY small) and lack of security (there were children walking on the walls talking to the guards all the time…) we continued our short trek back up the hill to go back into town.

Day 3:Pokhara.
Just like every city in Nepal Pokhara seems to be extremely polluted, but that didn’t deter us! We found a hotel that gave us a great value for our price (we are off season after all). I had my first warm shower in a month…not too bad 😛 This day we only walked around Lakeside a little bit to see where we were exactly, and how we would get to the World Peace Stupa the next day.

Day 4: Pokhara.
Busy, busy day. We got up at 6 (which for me, is already like sleeping in) and walked off to the boat rental place. We got a young man to bring us across the lake (we were basically the only people on the lake!) and walked up the steep climb to the Shanti Stupa (World Peace Pagoda). It looked identical to the one in Lumbini, but was quite different. A small monestary/hostel was built up there, as well as some restaurants and cafes. We chose one and had some tea before we continued our trek to Devi’s fall, Gupteshwor Cave and Chorepatan. Another great site in this part of town was Tashiling, the Tibetan Refugee Camp. I was surprised to see a small, self sufficient, touristy village rather than a camp of tents. Since we had thought that all this sight seeing would take the whole day, we were a little lost for where to go next. We decided to ask our lovely tibetan lunch host of what else would be nice around here. That’s how we came to find the beautiful river side where children were bathing and cows were grazing. An unpolluted, perfectly clean river…a rare sight. Also, we decided to walk the 30 minutes or so to the International Mountaineering Museum, which was DEFINITELY worth a visit! We watched a short documentary on the Khumbu (Everest) Region  and filled our brains with mountaineering information. After that we were exhausted and took a bus back to Lakeside, where we looked in the little tourist shops (post cards, books, clothes, art work…very touristy stuff)

Day 5: Pokhara
Today was a day to calm down a little and walk less. We decided to see the city, but soon realized it was EXTREMELY polluted…so we went and got ourselves some masks. Before all of this though, we went to the Mahendra Cave and the Bat Cave where we got ourselves a private tour guide to show us the little baby bats. These experiences were terrifying…I didn’t know I was afraid of caves…but then again, I’ve never gone so deep into a cave before…Afterwards, we tried to find a museum that nobody seemed to know about, so we gave up. The second museum was nice though, the Pokhara regional museum. Small, a little old, but good information on some rural groups of Nepal. AFter that we walked through the old town of Pokhara (yes! Pokhara has an old town! Something special about this city) and to the Anapurna Regional Museum (Stuffed animals, wildlife information, information on the Anapurna Conservation Area and lots of butterflies)

From there we walked to the Baglung Bus Park to find a bus to Tashi Palkhel, yet another Tibetan Refugee Camp. This was more fascinating than the last one. Tsering, a Tibetan Refuge who came to Nepal as a baby was kind enough to show us around the village (the school, the multi purpose hall, the houses…) as well as her own house where she gave us some juice. Thanks to here we were also able to witness the monks doing their afternoon puja.

Day 6: Sarangkot.
After quite a long, very steep climb we finally made it to the extremely foggy town of Sarangkot. After finding a guest house we decided to attempt the final summit. At this point we saw nothing but a few paragliders (okay, a lot of paragliders) taking off…it was impossible to see the mountains. We decided we would come back in the morning anyway, so we should go explore Sarangkot and it’s surrounding villages. BEST DECISION EVER!

1. we saw a lot of nature

2. we met some wonderful people. Especially one family was very nice. We sat down with them had a small chat and bought a humongous cucumber (very tasty). We found out that the daughter of the elderly couple was a teacher, and that she would be going to school now. We were asked to tag along…being volunteers to teach (and especially me, being a teacher) we were interested in seeing this school. It was wonderful to see a classroom and a school that doesn’t get as much attention from NGOs as the Ganganagar school (although they HAVE seen 2 or 3 volunteers…). After talking to the principal, the students, and the staff, and after exchanging e-mail addresses we left to continue exploring.

Day 7: Paragliding and Gorkha.
Before I talk about Paragliding, I MUST mention the sunrise. We got up extra early (only by an hour) to see the sunrise from behind the highest peaks of the world. This morning there was not a single cloud in the sky and you could see everything. The Anapurna South, Anapurna I, Anapurna III, Delaughiri, Macha Puchre (Yes, I now know more himalayan mountains than I know Austrian mountains or any other mountain…) were only some of the mountains we saw that morning. PHENOMENAL!

The walk up the mountain was hard enough, and since I thought it would be cool to go paragliding it had now become the time. Flying. With the himalayan mountains in the background, the beautiful Phewa Tal under me and my breakfast in my stomach I did the impossible. I flew! Well, I didn’t really do much…my pilot did the flying (and even some stunts over the lake!). It was great! Definitely something I would love to do again…although I did feel a little sea sick..or I guess sky sick. But not too bad. AMAZING. Finding the bus wasn’t too hard, but because the company had forgotten our backpacks at the top of the hill we had to wait quite a while to get them. While waiting, we had some fruit (papaya, apple, banana). By the time we reached Gorkha, there really wasn’t much we could do, but look at the little town. (the main attractions are up the mountain)

Day 8: Gorkha.
Today, we walked up the 1500 Steps to the Former King’s Palace and the Kalika Mandir (Temple). Those were a lot of steps…especially since we had been walking up mountains for the last week. The view was bad again today (which made me extremely happy to see how lucky we were when we were in Sarangkot!), but the Palace and Temple were really beautiful! We even walked past some army camps (Gorkha was the town in which the King lived that attacked all of what is Nepal today to unify his Kingdom. It is also this army that defeated the British when they tried to invade Nepal after they conquered India–the British were defeated!).

This trip was really amazing. I saw so many new things, met so many great people, practiced and used some of my Nepali (and was actually understood!) It was truly amazing, and made me fall in love with this country even more…I don’t want to leave!

Drama Update!

Sorry to keep you waiting on this topic…

The kids did GREAT in the performance! Some parents came to watch and they remembered everything and were able to perform everything without my help (yay! Goal achieved!)

Of course it could have been rehearsed more, but when you think that the whole thing was practically done in a week..that’s pretty amazing. Especially because none of the kids had ever done drama before, and they don’t really know much English…so to be able to perform a short play in a language they barely speak is admirable!

-sorry, but I can’t figure out how to upload a video that’s not on youtube…-

So, CONGRATULATIONS kids of the Ganganagar Learning Center Drama Club!