Looking back, I am glad to have had my month in Nepal. It's a country I would usually never have even thought of visiting; when you put yourself in such a country for a month, you get to know the real Nepal. I saw Nepal beyond its hyper-tourist Thamel section and beyond its UNESCO World Heritage sites (which were unbelievably gorgeous). I experienced the lives of Nepali people in more rural settings, how they thought, their esoteric customs. I left the country with a familiarity and sense of ease for Nepal that often only accompanies a comprehensive understanding of the place. It was a great cultural experience for me, and teaching children at a local elementary school was the cherry on top for further insight into the Nepali life.
On a typical weekday, I would wake up at 5:30AM (that never happens at home!), because Nepali people start their day very early and are in bed by around 10PM. Breakfast consisted of tea and biscuits. Afterwards I would get ready for school, and at around 9AM, a big lunch was served. Then I would catch the local bus to the school at which I was volunteering, using my (very, very) limited Nepali and much body language to arrive at the correct town. I spent about 4 hours everyday at school teaching children English words, phrases, and nursery rhymes/songs. I was in three different classes, from 4th to 6th grade. After school, I took the local bus back to my host's town (Banepa). Then I would just walk around town, explore the area and really get to know the in and outs of the place. Dinner was usually pretty late around 9PM, I would journal for a bit, then go to sleep.
My host family was very accommodating and flexible with my needs and wants. My host father took me on his motorbike for an hour-long trip into the capital, Kathmandu, for sightseeing. My host mother's cooking was very authentic and I enjoyed it quite a lot.
On the negative side, when I signed up for this program, I expected to be grouped with a few others my age, or even anyone participating in the same program. The logistics of the program were a bit vague, and I found out upon arrival that I was the only one staying in the area for this program. In a completely foreign country where I do not speak the language, being alone was quite difficult and sometimes lonely. Not sure about Kathmandu, but in Banepa, there really is no "nightlife" as in the US, since the absolutely-dark streets are emptied out by around 9PM. Although I enjoyed my experience with the children (they were absolutely adorable, motivated, excited to learn), I'm not sure if the program was worth the money. That's another thing. When the website said "There is only a registration fee. There are no program fees, which means food and housing are offered at no cost," I thought I would only have to pay the $50 registration fee, but later I was asked to submit a $600 deposit. I was confused--wasn't this basically the program fee? I had signed up for the program because it advertised free participation as it was for volunteering and social justice; I am still not sure what the $600 was used for.
Although this payment I incurred remained a mystery, the volunteer experience and cultural learning I had in Nepal was worth the stay, and someday I hope to return, to visit places like Pokhara which I didn't have time to go to the first time around.