“Right guys, have we got all the group kit packed?”
“Who’s in charge of transport?”
“Have you got the airline tickets and you know what we are doing?”
“Yes! Well let’s get on the minibus.”
3 hours later, we were at the airport checking in for our flight to Muscat. After a small layover, we boarded the flight to Kathmandu.
Thrown into the heart of Nepal
This particular group had three students that had never flown before, all but a few had never ventured further than the all-inclusive resorts of Spain. Only one student had been outside Europe. So as you can imagine, they were catapulted out of their comfort zones and into a new culture, country and way of travelling. Picking up the bags and going through customs was straight forward enough. Then the fun began. Watching the students sort themselves out in a new country.
Chaos at Kathmandu airport
Easy prey for porters and hawkers; 3 students willingly handed their bags over to be carried to the minibus not remembering that a tip would be required. A couple of students blindly followed a porter the wrong way to a taxi. Some nearly got run over by a fast moving trolley and others almost bought necklaces from a hawker. I stood back, watched, laughed and then helped sort it all out! Students will still get things wrong, no matter how much you warn them!
Students are in control
The group have spent the last 18 months getting ready for this adventure; they’ve raised the funds, researched the destination and got physically and mentally fit for the challenge ahead. So it’s only right that they take control of the expedition. We set up roles before we left so that they each have a part of the trip to lead on a daily basis. One day they could be in charge of accommodation, the next catering and so on. This teaches them a sense of ownership and independence, I don’t like the idea of them following me around a country and not having any input. I hope that they can step off the plane on their return and say that they did it all themselves, no one did it for them.
We arrived at our Kathmandu Guest House, enjoyed a good meal and reflected on the first few hours in Nepal. We talked through what had happened at the airport and it dawned upon them that they are no longer in their comfortable homes. This is all real and they have to switch on. The mood amongst the group is an excited mix of anticipation and tiredness – ready to start the challenge.
The community project
We headed over to Bandipur, a lovely little town in the foothills of the mountains. Lots of work has been happening around the town and luckily, its wonderful atmosphere and character hasn’t been spoilt by the growing tourist traffic. It now has a pedestrianized high street with a nice community feel.
We were there to help out one of the local schools and see what we could do for them. The state funding for schools works in a way that the get part of the funds to do a project so they start said project and then wait for more money to continue it.
This school had started building a toilet block. It has walls and that’s about it; no roof or floor, let alone plumbing and is very over grown. The school is waiting for the next chunk of funds from the government to complete the next phase. The wait between funding can be long.
We had some funds and a team of 22 keen laborers at their service. Under the guidance of the headmaster, we got to work! Tasks included sorting the nursery, the outside walls, painting a classroom and putting up barbed wire. We also cleaned up and painted the outside of the local hospital. The hospital is in much the same situation with funding – if we can make the outside walls stronger – they’ll last for longer!
The students worked hard and really got involved with the community. We were made welcome at the Old Bandipur Inn even to the extent that they made us a cake to thank us for the visit.
At some point I’ll add a gallery page to my website so you can all see the pictures!
Check back next tomorrow to hear about now the adventure continues! Off up the mountains next.