Report by Sydney Westrick
My name is Sydney Westrick, I graduated from BSC in 2016 with a bachelors in International Studies. However, before my graduation I had the ability to travel extensively throughout the world and the United States from Colorado to Uganda, Africa. So when the opportunity to travel to a little country that was stuck in the middle of two major world powers was available I had to take it, this country was Nepal. Outside of the trekking and environmental communities, Nepal is not well known. It is overshadowed to the south by India and to the north by China. Initially, I knew only a little about Nepal with the little researched I did in the two months leading up to the trip. But after a whirlwind of graduating from college and celebrating in New York City I set off for an adventure into the unknown.
I arrived in Kathmandu on June 4 and was greeted with a friendly face ready to take me to my accommodations. The first impression I had was chaos with cars, motorcycles, and people going everyway, not to mention the fumes, car horns, and heat. I stayed in Kathmandu to acquaint myself with my new surroundings as well as the culture of Nepal. After four days and many miles of walking through the various temples in Kathmandu, I set my sights on Daldale which was about 6 hours to the south. Again when I arrived in late afternoon I was greeted by the hosts of the Hostel and some of the children that I would be teaching English to for the month and a half. After a cold coke and a nice nap I went on examining my new surroundings. I ended up on the top of the roof overlooking the flat land of the Therai region of Nepal.
A quick background of the Therai: this area is home to 80% of the population of Nepal and is mostly farmland with very fertile soil. It is as flat as Illinois, or a piece of paper, and butts up next to some mountain ranges that run east-west cutting Nepal into thirds.
I stayed in Daldale for a month and a half and most of that time I taught English at a kindergarten that was right next door to the hostel. I usually spent the morning into the early afternoon playing with the children in the kindergarten while the older kids were at school. Around 4:30 – 5 pm I would start teaching the first group of children ranging from 11-14 years old. I taught them for an hour and then I would teach the older kids, ages 16-19, for another hour ending my teaching around 7 pm. After teaching, me and some of the older children would take a walk around the town and just talk about anything that came to mind. At the end of June my duties changed from teaching to working around the hostel. This was a result of the children studying for their exams. I would be helping some of the children study for the exams one day and then the next be out in the fields planting rice or helping dig out a patch of land for the harvest. Each day was a new adventure and usually would end up with the boys playing soccer and the girls talking while they were working.
Although I was only there for that short amount of time the children and the people who worked at the hostel became like family. It was a sad feeling knowing that I would have to leave them soon. However, about a week before I left another volunteer from BSC, Cheyanne, and two German volunteers arrived in Daldale. It was nice to have some westerners with me as we explored the rest of Nepal together. We head to Lumbini, on the border with India, a couple of days after they arrived and went to see the birthplace of Lord Buddha. This place was amazing! It was a town full of shrines dedicated to the Buddha from various countries around the world. We only had the ability to see 6 of the 12 shrines at the town. Although we never saw every single shrine we were able to see the importance of religion in the lives of Nepalese. Even for the minority of Buddhist. Nepal being a country with an 80% majority of Hindus.
After our adventures at Lumbini and Daldale we headed two hours south of Daldale to a little town called Meghauli. This town was the headquarters for Clinic Nepal the organization that GPE is affiliated with. It was also the place where we hooked up with 12 French students and worked on renovating a kindergarten in the community. The first couple of days me, Cheyanne, and the two German volunteers got to see the famous Chitwan National Jungle. We went for a hike in the jungle, went on a canoe ride, hopped on the back of an elephant and went to see some rhinos and jungle life up close and finally took the elephant for a bath in the river. After our days of relaxing and seeing the place we jumped in with the French students and helped with the kindergarten. After a week we lost the French students as they had to return to France and Cheyanne as she had to go back to United States. So it was just me and the two German girls, Rudy an American, and some locals to finish up with the kindergarten. We ended up finishing the project in about 3 weeks and upon finishing me, Anna, and Annika (German students) headed north to get out of the heat and to go on a little vacation. We head to Pokhara which is about 6 hours north of Meghauli and 6 hours west of Kathmandu.
Pokhara is known as the main tourist attraction in Nepal and was very westernized. Here we had the ability to do some souvenir shopping, eat pizza, hangout at the bars, and the lake that was to the north of town. Pokhara is also known as the jump-off point for the famous trekking into the Himalayan Mountains. We decided to do a day hike with some of the locals and ended up 3000 meters high in the foothills of the Himalayans at the Australian Base Camp. We arrived there around 5 pm and relaxed or played football with some of the locals that lived in the little town. Around 7:30 we set our sights on making a campfire but the rain came and shooed us inside to the cafeteria area. Here we spent the night talking and playing cards. The next morning we woke up to a crisp cold and a magnificent view of the Himalayas right out front of our room. We returned to Pokhara the next day and said goodbye to our new found friends. The next couple days we spend walking around Pokhara before I said goodbye and head back to Kathmandu to leave for home.
After spending two and a half months in Nepal through GPE I had the ability to see what life was like for the regular Nepalese, their struggles and their unique relationships with each other and foreigners that have the privilege to be invited into their lives. Nepal left me with many lessons learned. These lessons include:
- The importance of friends and family
- No matter where we are in the world, the languages we speak, or the foods we eat we all have the same desires and fears
- As westerners most of us do not understand the importance of work
- That toilet paper, air conditioning, and clean water are a luxury
- On an international security/international studies stand point Nepal has a lot of resources and a very strategic position that the government can exploit if they can become stable enough to identify them.
GPE gave me the instrument to examine the lives of these people up close and personal. It has become a jumping off point for my future endeavors into the international security scene and a community of friends not only from Nepal but France and Germany too that I will keep treasured into the coming years.