Unexpectedly, I had to travel alone to Nepal. The second student canceled the trip at short notice. With very mixed feelings, I said goodbye to my family at the airport in Zurich. What am I going to face in Nepal? Over Muscat I flew to Kathmandu.
Arrived in Kathmandu I asked myself: Am I still on the same planet? My culture shock was big. Every day I marveled again and again how the Nepali think, live, work and eat. Like a beginner I had to learn how to cross the streets. It seemed impossible and life-threatening. There are overcrowded buses, overloaded trucks, countless taxis, hundreds of mopeds and bicycles. Over time, I learned to smuggle myself from one side of the street to the other. Life happens mostly on the streets. Outside people cook, trade, slaughter animals and spent time together.
The first impression of a Nepalese school was pathetic. Three-year-old's already attend school and must learn the alphabet. The children seemed rather intimidated. However, there were also wonderful moments when they sang the national anthem in the morning or gave me a smile. I spent the first two weeks at Vidhya Sagar English Secondary School in Banepa. I taught some classes in mathematics and visited numerous teachers with the aim of giving them constructive feedback on their lessons. While teaching, it was sad to feel how dependent the children are. In most cases the teachers tell the children everything and they need to memorize it afterwards. In my lessons I tried to acknowledge the children and illustrate the contents. One student gave me a heartwarming response: Mam, you explained it so clearly, please come again! The gratitude of the children was heartwarming.
After one weekend in Kathmandu, where I visited two impressive temples, the journey continued to the second school in Dhangadhi. Dhangadhi is in the west of Nepal. The ride took a long time and took us on adventurous roads. Bumpy is just the preface. Especially a section of road between Mugling and the Terai (lowland) led along steep rocks. Huge buses and trucks drove towards us. Especially on the bridges I did not feel well anymore, just a few centimeters to the abyss. On the way I saw many monkeys, two crocodiles, countless goats, sheep and cows. People in rural areas live in small, simple wood-mud huts. There is no electricity and running water. They live mainly by agriculture - mostly self-sufficient. You feel like you traveled 100 years back in time. The goods are transported on ox-carriages and the fields are managed by hand. Incredible!
The welcome at Stepping Stone School in Dhangadhi was touching. All 1600 students were ready, throwing flower leaves and gifting us with countless flower chains. This spectacle left the long journey directly in oblivion. At this school, I mainly attended intermediate classes. Again, the goal was to help the teachers with useful tips on methodology and didactics, because many have not attended any trainings to become a teacher. In addition to the class visits, I offered workshops on the topics of motivation, group work and role play. During this time, I tried to work with teachers to develop activities, songs, games and teaching methods that they could then adapt to their lessons. I had to experience that few are really willing to implement sustainable changes. Nevertheless, I met some, especially young teachers, who were very interested. Together we learned new English songs, introduced Sudokus and new language games in some classes. With a sixth grade I practiced writing their own sentences - without copying. That was strange for the children, but they liked it. Mostly they were eagerly involved in new activities, which then led to a very lively atmosphere. It is a real challenge to teach a class with up to 50 children in a meaningful way.
The return trip to Kathmandu led across another rod along the Himalayan region. Unfortunately, the highest mountain peaks in the world hid behind dense clouds. During the drive, I had time to revel in my thoughts. The internship abroad has challenged me in various areas. You never knew what to expect the next day. Sometimes there was a strike, sometimes a teacher was absent, and I had to substitute spontaneously. Over time, I became more flexible and spontaneous. In addition, I was confronted with things that everybody would like to close their eyes from. There are still many children in Nepal who do not go to school. Five years of schooling would be mandatory, but no one controls if children actually attend school for this period or not. The conditions in public schools are pathetic. Twice I saw how children were beaten by teachers - that made me angry! Beside those negative experiences I had the chance to see a lot of wonderful and fun things. We celebrated festivals with loud music and dance. I could try on traditional dresses - a Sari and a skirt from the Hili region. I had extremely interesting discussions with two young teachers. They explained their culture, showed me their families, houses and traditions and I gave them insights into our way of life - that was fascinating.
My internship in Nepal - what an adventure and life experience at the same time! I'm very grateful to have had this chance. From the time in Nepal, I take valuable experiences for my future teaching career, as well as for life. I would like to thank my Teacher’s Training College in Chur, as well as Dora and Urs Frey for this exciting and instructive internship in Nepal.