I left the people but not the memories

Geeta and I went to Janata Higher Secondary Sarkuwa in Baglung District of Nepal as CFFN volunteers. Although planned for weeks ahead, we were stuck in Kathmandu due to Tarai blockade and fuel crisis that hit Nepal. Leaving Kathmandu at 9AM of February 27, 2008, an express micro-bus took us to Baglung Bazaar at around 5PM. There we were received by Krishna Thapa, the President of the School Management Council. We stayed at Baglung Bazaar for the night and, in the morning, Krishna Thapa arranged a jeep for us to go from baglung to the place called Kusmi-Sera and his daughter Bihani was our travel guide. She was very friendly and frank and we became good friends.

I do not know the exact distance, but this place in the Western Nepal west of Kali River seemed very far from the Baglung Bazaar, which is connected by paved motor road. The jeep took only two hours to reach Kusmi-Sera but even this journey in the jeep was one of a kind. The road is crudely constructed by local people without using much of modern engineering. To tell you the truth, it was too creepy and too bumpy. Yet, it was not the product of any simple feat. People had cut through the hillsides to make the road and we could easily see how human had conquered this nature – ruled as well as ruined it. After reaching Kusmi-Sera, we had a meal and a short rest before beginning our walk. We walked for five and half hours to reach to Meghraj Sir’s home, which was as our own home for those days we were in Sarkuwa. We were excruciatingly tired climbing up the hills incessantly but the journey through this land was awe inspiring and every bit worthy.

After reaching Meghraj Sir’s home, we introduced ourself to the family and sat on the Pindi (porch) to catch some rest. Moments later, Bihani showed us the school where we were to go each day. This was way up over a steep hill. I felt so scared and frustrated. I looked at Geeta and counted days in my finger that we are staying there and walking that gigantic hill up every morning and down every evening. It was scary.

We were so tired but it was around 9PM when we proceeded for dinner. After the meal, we asked for warmed up mustard oil. Geeta and I went to our room and messaged each other really hard to give some rectitude to our poor muscles. After that – wahha! We slept so nicely that only around 7:30 in the morning our eyes opened up. As we came out of the room, the morning sun was shining so beautifully on those mountains and the entire view was so magical. Any one who reaches there would fall in love with this place.

The timing of the dinner is one of those stories worth mentioning here because I could not understand why people there ate so late in the evening. In these places, farmers do the farm work till the dusk and the cooking begins once it is already dark. That is why dinner time is always late compared to that in the cities. But it took us some number of days to figure that out. Our mind was trained to revolve around fixed office hours in the city but we got used to it very soon.

After eating the morning meal, we were led to the school by a little girl Nirmala. We were walking uphills with such a difficulty that we were talking about how hard the life of these people is and the struggle they have to go through to make simple living. We were contemplating about hardship of life as we were climbing and having only that little girl in front of us. When we stopped to catch our breath, we realized that so many students were following us and were looking so strangely on us. We were surprised but continued and, in a 45 minutes walk uphill, we reached the school.

At the school, everybody was staring at us. We introduced ourself to the staffs there and we told them our objective and aim to be there. However, there was no power so we couldn’t work in the computers. We, therefore, had some time to kill. Then all of a sudden, I thought of taking some classes and talked to Meghraj Sir about it. He seemed so positive about my proposal and sent me to Class 9 to teach health science.

The teaching experience was very amazing and somewhat difficult for me as I had read all the things in English but I had to teach everything in Nepali. I was so confused with lots of words but I did my best and taught them. Students there seemed to be not so active but it might be because I was a stranger to them. They were too shy to answer even simple questions about health. After me, Geeta also took some classes. It was very new and most amazing experience for both of us.

Later on, the power came and we tried to work in the computers but that day we couldn’t operate the computer because of the absence of computer teacher, Prem Thapa. Except him, no one knows even the user name and password.

The next day and the subsequent days we went to school with lots of other students around us. It was so funny that they all walked when we both walked and stopped when we stopped.

There was power when we reached the school the second day and Geeta worked on the computer. The same students of Grade 9, however, wanted me to come in their class and teach; so I went to the class while Geeta worked on computers. It was enjoying experience teaching them. From the second class, the students seemed to be frank and energetic. They were participating actively in the class when I was teaching.

I found that the education there in school is so much limited to textbooks. They know what is written in the textbook by heart but that’s all, no thorough understanding and insight. Even the teachers have limited knowledge. Students did not appear to have been provided with sufficient reading material but the teachers do not seem to have much more material on their disposal either. We both taught a few teachers about using Wizzy Digital software installed in the computer and the operation of the computers. We also showed how they can use the Internet through the computer and use other computers at the same time. We taught them how to dial up and get the web pages.

As on the first day, the power was absent on the third day as well. But when there was no power, we both went to different classes and taught the students. I taught them science and health science and English whereas Geeta taught English, population, math and science. It was a great time for both of us and we were feeling so lucky to be there among the village children in the class and to be their teachers.

In just three days, teachers were in the computer going through Wikipedia, searching for the subject material in the subjects of their teaching. God, we both felt so proud to see that moment that teachers of the school were able to operate the computers themselves. That was one of the happiest moment of our lives. Even some teachers said that they didn’t even knew what the computer does, what it can do, and why it is there for them. They were just playing pinball and playing music in it. But after we taught, their eyes got opened and they got what the computer was for and how they can use it in most effective ways. We felt so proud.

Our mission was short as we could not go there in planned time. Yet, on the last day in the school, we felt so sad as we were emotionally attached with the students and the teachers. We felt so bad. We went to the classes and just had a nice time with them. The students were so talented, so many melodious voices, great dancers, and comedians. The whole trip was truly good and we developed attachment with all the people there. They all will be in our memories forever!

About Article:

Project Category: Project: Rural Education Nepal
Article Category: Memoir
Author: Smita Khatiwada Pudasaini
About Author:  Smita Pudasaini is an energetic young women who volunteered to go the the remote village of Nepal, Sarkuwa, Baglung to teach computers.
Submission Date: February 2008

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