In August 2017 , I visited Nepal for the first time. Being able to make these kinds of travels is one of the reasons why I started my online business The Journey is Yours
My mentors Stuart and Jay teach me how to tap into the knowledge of having an online business. This way you can create with a lifestyle you really love.
I am very thankful I met them. If you want to know more, have a look at other parts of the website or click here to receive their free video training to see if it’s something you’re interested in as well.
—>YES I am interested <—
But first things first: Let me tell you a bit about my trip to Nepal.
I’m in Doha , standing in line for my flight to Kathmandu. Behind and in front of me 2 Nepalese families who start a discussion with each other when an officer opens another counter to board the plane.
The officer picks out certain people to go to this counter. Supposedly to be quicker inside the plane, although I doubt if it really works.
The people he chooses are all foreigners who hold European or American passports. The mother of the family behind me asks if they can go to that ‘special’ line as well. Her request is denied though.
I hold my bordeaux red Dutch passport in my hand and tap it nonchalant against my nose. The officer passes me by. He looks at my American sporty clothes, my pass and then my face and decides, although he hesitated a bit, that I do not qualify to go to the other line.
I am probably recognized as one of the SAARC (South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation) citizens, which is anyway also partly true. With my European pass and would qualify for the faster line, but I just chuckle. I am fine here, standing between those who look similar to me.
Arriving in Kathmandu there is a line for Indian passport holders WITH visa. Although I am not Indian and so I don’t qualify, I do have a Visa! So let’s see what happens when I take this line instead of the huge one for “foreign passport holders”.
I mean… that will take ages!
One Nepali officer looks at my passport and my face. “You have a Visa?”
“Yes I do.”
“What passport?” He asks.
“European, but I am Srilankan born” I say to him.
He looks at me, hesitates and says: “You come with me!”
He brings me to a new counter, and within a second I enter the country.
For one of the first times in my life, the combination of the colors of my passport and face seem to pay off.
250 kilometers east of Kathmandu lies the village of Okhaldunga at the foothills of the Himalaya. After a bumpy ride of 12 hours, we arrive in this green province. Between the rice fields, we find a school surrounded by a couple of houses. There are just dirt roads with stones. A squat toilet per 30 people, street dogs and cats, chickens roaming free, unfinished ghost houses, plastic waste everywhere, grey mud and classrooms full of dust.
What is this place? Forsaken by God? We have to adjust to our new environment for a moment. But when the people come out, the children and our host family we feel already much at home.
The project in Okhaldunga is run by VIN Volunteers Initiative Nepal.
If interested, see here their introduction video.
Our host family greet us friendly and show us to our rooms. Together with 5 other volunteers, I share a small room on the first floor. 5 others share a room with mattresses on the floor, tiny but cozy though. “Why is there plastic nailed against the straw ceiling?” someone asks. “Against the rain?” But in the night, if we’re not disturbed by big flying cockroaches, we hear the mice walking over the plastic. Well, better that than when they fall down on our faces while we sleep we think. Although these mice do cause the occasional screams from the girls. Together with jumping on the beds and the cries for: “I cannot sleep here!”
Priceless hilarious moments.
The children of our host family smile. They love to have new people around.
We brought them some color books and they are most eager to start coloring in our midst, on the mattresses on the floor. They are full trust and before we know it they hug us and lie comfortably in our arms.
As we start teaching 5 classes a day we discover that the ages vary a lot and so does the level of the kids who are each other’s classmates. My co-worker Celine and I start with the small kids. We do some singing of English songs, teach them colors, English sentences, numbers and of course we draw and paint. They go crazy about that, especially when we take out the beautiful Korean colored crayons.
The first day is basically meant to get to know the kids and their level. It varies immensely and we have to come up with a plan to keep them all interested. I am happy to be with Celine. We share good teachers energy and one word or look is already enough to understand each other.
The children are very eager to learn. Not all of them of course but many. Some of the girls are much ahead. It saddens me a little that their lives will probably only happen within a few kilometers of this village. Will they marry someone from this town?
The girls seem to be in a disadvantage here in Nepal. They are the second and lesser gender in every way. The first to be taken from school when things get rough, or never even to see a classroom because they have to help on the farm or with household tasks. With my heart which has “fight for equality” carved into it, I find it sometimes difficult to see it happening right in front of my eyes.
One of the girls, Niruta, lives in the same house as us with her mother and little sister.
She soon becomes my favorite, but I have to be careful to not get her too attached to me because at some point I will be leaving from here again. Every day after school time she comes to sit with us in our room. Playing silently or listening to our adult conversations of which she obviously cannot understand the real meaning.
One day I softly caress her back and her body startled. I quickly remove my hand and look at her. She smiles though. I do it again and now she lets me. Like a kitten, she curls up against my side. Holding my arm.
One of my coworkers tells me later that her mother hits her children on the back. So now it makes sense that Niruta didn’t like my caress in the beginning.
It’s nice to be out of the daily routine, working on something that has much meaning. And also to forget what we usually value. Like our phones. How quickly they become just practical objects like a torch or alarm clock, but not much more. Here in this rural area, where there is no electricity during the daytime anyway, also no WiFi, the meaning of your phone changes a bit. WiFi comes back at 20:00 and so you are still able to be in touch with the rest of the world. But if you don’t want I, then you don’t have to.
On one of the last night, we cook an international dinner for ourselves and the extended host family. Being Vegan, I don’t really know what to cook as the traditional Dutch dishes will not reach my plate anymore, but Jana asks me to join her Czech team, and the Czech potato pancakes could be made vegan as well.
While preparing the potatoes we face another blackout. “I’ll go get my headlamp!” I tell Jana and run upstairs. Niruta follows me.
“I watch your phone?” she asks.
“My phone? Okay, here you go” and I take my phone from the recharger.
Running down with my headlamp she comes to me in the kitchen. “Unlock it please?”
“I’ll teach you the code, okay? Remember it!”
She walks away with a smile on her face and a little later we hear the Frozen Let it go from the dining room. After a while, when Jana and I are sweating above the pancakes, Niruta pulls my shirt. “Another cartoon?”
“Which one? I ask while flipping pancakes into a plate.
“You choose!” She says with a smile.
I open my phone case and find the screen completely dirty. My oily hand certainly doesn’t make it any better.
“Here, watch the Rusalka cartoon” I say to her and she walks back to the dining hall where she seats herself in the corner on one of the wooden benches. Some of my co-workers enter the kitchen to prepare the main dish.
“Done with the stove already?”
“No, no 15 minutes more” Jana says.
Phones are taken out to accompany us with some musical tunes. The kitchen and dining hall are full of people. Preparing food, singing or dancing to the music and most of all with high expectations of this international dinner which will last till midnight.
But all good things come to an end.
On the last day in the school, when saying goodbye, the two older girls from the highest class I taught in, come to me.
“I miss you already!” They say and hug me. Then they start to sing one of the songs I taught them.
“The rainbow song! It’s your song!”
“Yes, but now it’s yours too!! Keep singing okay? Every morning, you sing!”
It’s the only advice I can give in this emotional moment.
The next morning at 6 AM our drivers pack our luggage on top of two jeeps, I see Niruta hanging from the window.
“Bye Niruta!” I say. She comes down but stays at a safe distance from all the hustle at the jeeps.
I walk towards her. In my hand, I hold a small Chinese charm.
She thankfully takes it.
“It’s for good luck!” I say.
She rubs her left eye and looks down. Then she looks away from me. I hear a sniff.
Maybe because it’s early in the morning, maybe it’s because we are leaving.
She looks up at me, judging.
I could imagine she feels betrayed by our departure. Yesterday night we were still eating together and having fun. Everything seemed in order when she was called to bed.
I am sure she heard Spanish music through the floor of her bedroom, as well as our voices, talking and laughing. Just like the nights before.
“You going? She asks.
“Yes” I say.
“When you come back?”
I can only tell her that I am not sure when. Saying anything else seems too sad.
When the jeep leaves I see her standing on the road. Her hands on her back. Confused.
I wave to her. “Bye Niruta!”
She smiles but doesn’t wave back at first, only at the last possible moment.
30 days in Nepal were not enough so I am planning to be back this coming August and therefore I couldn’t be more happy to have been introduced to my mentors Stuart and Jay. These teachers have free time to do these kinds of travels, meet new people, and learn about another culture and place.
It’s something I always wanted to be able to do as well and with an online business you can!
If you want to know more about my journey or my mentors have a look at on the rest of The Journey is Yours or sign up for the FREE Video Series where my mentors explain how you can create your own Digital Nomad Lifestyle.
—>YES, that sounds very interesting!<—
See you on the other side!