I am so glad that I went on this trip. I stayed at the Daunne monastery, which is the Chitwan monastery, and I volunteered for 3 weeks. The facilities at the monastery are very basic: the toilets are squatties, the hot water is a bit temperamental, and the electricity often cuts out. But none of that ever could have taken away from the brilliance of this trip.
Nepal has some of the friendliest people I have ever met. When we met Asim for the first time, he made us feel so welcome, and insisted we called him "big brother" because he treated us like we were part of the family, which I adored. The whole of the orientation team treated us so well, which made it so easy to adjust. Asim is always on hand if we had any questions, no matter what time of the day it was, and even if it was something as silly as asking him to tell the taxi driver where we wanted to go if they didn't speak English. Also, your safety is of paramount importance to them. When we were meant to be leaving Kathmandu, there had been horrible weather the few nights proceeding, so rather than put us on a public bus which would have taken hours more, Asim actually drove us in his car to the monastery. I always felt safe knowing that Asim was there to help us.
The monastery was no different. The minute we walked in the children came running up to us, grabbing our hands and dragging us into the jungle with them to go mushroom picking. They would chat away to us in Nepali, not realising we didn't have a clue what they were saying. The older ones spoke much better English, though, and could hold a really good conversation. However, every single child was eager to learn, whether that be at the school or just around the monastery. They wanted to know everything we could tell them about our homes, our families and our friends, so if you are thinking about going on a trip like this, I would advise taking some pictures with you, because the kids would absolutely love that. The teachers and the principle are also some of the kindest people ever, and I'm so sad I don't get to see their smiles every day.
In terms of teaching, before I went I was really worried that I needed to prepare lessons and try and think up things to teach them. And whilst that is useful, it is not necessary. They have a book which they study their English out of, and you just go through the exercises with them. The hardest part was knowing whether or not they understood what you were saying or what they were saying, because most of them could speak really good English or recite it, but they didn't have a clue what it actually meant. This was particularly the case for the middle aged classes. Also, the classes here weren't split based on ability, like we had thought, but they were by age group, which was actually a lot easier.
My biggest piece of advice for this trip is you need to be flexible. Yes, read the volunteers handbook, and yes, do lots of research into the country and the culture. But you need to accept that things won't always go to plan, and you have got to be willing to adapt and change. No matter what, this is a once in a lifetime experience, so immerse yourself as much as possible in the experience, because you will make some of the best memories on this trip.
If you wanted to do any excursions whilst on the trip, talk to the in-country support when you get there. I was surprised at how many places we actually got to visit whilst we were there. We managed to visit Lumbini, Pokhara, and Chitwan, as well as obviously Kathmandu and Daunne. I would definitely recommend Pokhara if you are doing this monastery, because we visited it at the end of our second week, and it restored some much needed Western luxuries, such as hot water, Western food, and a proper bed. However, Daunne is such a beautiful monastery that these trips aren't necessary, but are just a nice bonus.
Overall I am so grateful for this trip, and although I found a lot of things challenging, it has made me come out of it a much stronger person. It made me realise how lucky I am to be in my position, and actually made me a lot less stressed, because I realised everything will work out in the end, even if it wasn't how you had it planned.