The Basics of the Week - A to "Erin Ma'am"The past week began with Kitty and I being dropped off at out school. Naturally, I was anxious about arrival. What would the school be like? Would the staff be friendly? However, we were received with open arms and friendly faces which put my mind somewhat at ease.The school is absolutely beautiful! I knew coming into it that it was a well-off school, but it still far exceeded my expectations. And the location in it of itself is beautiful. From the soccer field (I seriously almost just wrote football pitch... I've been away too long!) you can see a gorgeous panorama of mountain ranges, including the Langtang Range where we went trekking. Still, beauty and such aside, I was nervous! Kitty and I spent the first few days observing and getting used to our surroundings. We sat in on the English lessons of classes 3, 4 and 5 (ages 8 - 12) and did our best to settle in. We are staying in an apartment-like setting as opposed to staying in the school's hostel as we originally thought. The building we are staying in is across from the girl's hostel, where we have dinner, and we share a room. We share a bathroom also and it has a nice hot shower! (Though, still no western toilet). A teacher, Bharun, from the school lives above us, but more on that later.The first few days teaching have been quite challenging! The class sizes are very big (about 30 students) and the classrooms are tiny, despite the school's resources. It is tricky to find creative activities to do with the kids with such constraints. Plus, the kids are quite used to having volunteers around, so the first thing they think when you walk in is, "Games! Games! What are we playing today?!" And, as volunteers, we have no syllabus which makes it difficult to know where to start. (This has many advantages though too, as we don't have to reach a certain point either). So the task ahead is a bit daunting at the moment, but I think the first week went well. Thus far, I tried some simple writing exercises, played MAD LIBS with the students and did a bit of reading activities. When my schedule becomes a bit more solidified I think the planning will become easier as well. As of now, I am in classes 3, 4, 5, 6A and 6B on various days throughout the week.That's pretty much it as far as the teachings of "Erin Ma'am" (Yes, that is what they call me!) for now, but I will be sure to keep you updated!
The Family We Thought We Didn't HaveDespite enjoying my time in the school, early in the week I did begin to feel a bit homesick. We were in yet another new place and now we weren't even with the whole group, so I was missing them too. It was just so much change!
Tuesday, as if on cue, there was a knock on our door. I opened the door to find Sujata, Bharun's wife, standing in the doorway with their almost 1 year old son. She had come downstairs to introduce herself and make us feel welcome. She showed us around the building a bit more (the terrace, kitchen and introduced us to her in-laws who also live above us). And most importantly she made it clear we were like family now. It was so incredibly nice! Immediately, my discomfort in our new environment began to melt away.That night, Kitty and I had tea (delicious Nepali tea!) with Bharun and Sujata and met Bharun's nieve and nephew also. Basically, Bharun's family, his brother's family and his parents share an entire flat (1 floor). Kitty and I are in a room below and on our floor there is also a volunteer from Chinaand a room for the principal to stay in some nights during the week.I feel so lucky to be living where we are. It was such a nice surprise to be welcomed into a family and experience family life when we originally thought we would not have one (as many other volunteers do). And they are just absolutely lovely too! I think we are celebrating their son's birthday this Friday so I'll let you know how it goes!
The Not So Green BeanAs part of welcoming us, last week the principal invited us out to dinner with himself, the director and the primary school director. At first, we didn't think much of it. We figured we would to go to a local place, have a quick bite, and that would be that - more of a formality really.When we arrived at the Dhulikhel Lodge Resort however, it became apparent this was not the case. It was a beautiful resort owned by one of the student's parents. There were pictures on the wall of different kinds and presidents having made appearances at the lodge. I mean, it was legit. It was nice even by western standards!The meal began with "snacks" around an open fire. There were chili bites, chicken kabobs, fries and trail mix. Enough for a whole meal! We were then led to a huge buffet table with an assortment of local cuisines. There was Dal Baht, chowmein, chicken curry, fresh vegetables and tons of other dishes. Being the curious eater I am, I wanted to try a bit of everything! So I put a bit of each dish on my plate, loading up especially on the vegetables (I'd been having them so infrequently; I craved my greens!).I returned to my seat and dug in! I noticed that two dishes had green beans in them, but I didn't think much of it at the time. The more the merrier! So, of the two, I tried the chicken and green bean dish first.Suddenly, my mouth was on fire! I thought, okay, spicy sauce, stay away from that. But the burning only intensified. Moments after swallowing I felt my stomach churning. My head began to pound and my hands were sweating. What was happening?! I searched for starchy foods - bread, potato, anything that would relieve the burning! I think my fellow diners began to recognize the distorted expression on my face. They asked if I was alright and apparently my nodding in reassurance was dismally unconvincing. I silently held up a green bean as tears swelled in my eyes. Immediately the table roared with laughter. "Oh, spicy, spicy, huh?" was all I managed to make out between their chuckling.It turned out that the extra crunchy green bean was in fact a chili pepper. And for someone who traditionally sticks her nose up at spicy food, it was like a punch in the face! Call me a wimp, but I challenge an average person to eat that in one bite ad enjoy it. In fact, Kitty began to poke fun at me and after having a piece of one, rescinded her taunts. Moral of the story: expect the unexpected when you're trying new foods!