Asia | Nepal | Kathmandu Valley | Kathmandu – Miss Beth
After months of research, planning and procrastination, leading to one spastic day of packing, I was finally on my way to be a volunteer in Nepal. I arrived in Kathmandu on Friday the 6th of April. It was a good thing that I had arranged for my friend Rishi to meet me at the airport, as I arrived early to find the airport relatively abandoned save for the heavy police presence. This was due to a transportation strike. It would be Saturday before I found out the cause of the strike had been the threat of violence by Maoist rebels against anyone seen driving a bus or taxi. This was taken quite seriously as only days before, Maoists had killed 35 police officers. On Sunday, the 11th anniversary of Nepalese democracy, they would kill 29 more officers.
I was beginning to wonder if volunteering as a teacher here for 4 months had been a wise decision. Two things reassured me that I was doing the right thing in the right place. The first was a small snippet in Monday’s Kathmandu Post. Apparently, a man caused a bit of a traffic mess by standing on the side of the road and opening a satchel full of money. He began tossing handfuls into windows of passing cars and busses. He also tossed handfuls into the laps of those sitting along the side of the road hawking their wares. He offered passers by a chance to reach in and take what they wanted, but many refused out of suspicion or confusion. This man’s acts of kindness gave my faith in humanity a bit of a boost.
The second reassuring thing was meeting some of my future students. While I had already begun classes on Sunday for the Nepali teachers to help with their English language problems, I had yet to meet any of the students. School does not start until the 15th of April, the day after Nepali New Year, but on Tuesday the kids came to see the results of the previous term’s exams. Six of them were going to perform traditional dances for Nepal Television, to air on New Year’s Day. They invited me to join them at the station.
I rode to the station with Ajay, one of the other teachers. He has a motorcycle and I rode side saddle on the back with no helmet. As we zipped through crazy Kathmandu traffic, I found myself laughing at the thought that my life was one false move away from ending in a cracked skull mess on the street. If the Maoists don’t get me, stupidity might.
Once we all arrived, the girls and I spent about 4 hours giggling and having fun, as school girls will. I didn’t talk to the boys much, but at the end of the day each one in turn said, ‘Goodbye Miss Beth’ and smiled a little sheepishly.
Today is Thursday and as I arrived at the school the dancers were once again in attendance. I found myself quickly herded by the girls into a waiting taxi. They were on their way to an inter-scholastic dance competition and wanted me to come watch. I could not refuse. Unfortunately, by the time I finished watching them perform, I was already an hour late for an appointment 20 minutes away. Thus, I had to leave before it was over and have no idea if they won or not. I hope they were not too disappointed.
We all have Friday and Saturday free to celebrate the Nepali New Year of 2058. Sunday, I meet the rest of the students, who I have already begun referring to as ‘my kids’. I am a little nervous, but hope that it proves to be enjoyable for us all. I’ll let you know how we are getting on in the next edition.