For the past 2 and a half months, I have lived in the village of Kimche in the Annapurna region, to teach English at a secondary school which sits atop a hill overlooking the town. On the first day of school, I hiked with a cadre of people through thick jungle, rice paddies, farmlands and past the properties of some local Nepalese up to the school while the rain came pouring down. I felt a mixture of nervousness, excitement, wonder and (if I’m gonna be honest) annoyance at the fact that I was getting soaked with water. Anything I felt on my way up, dispersed upon walking up to the school’s gate, a large group of children smiling with excitement and awaiting my arrival with flower necklaces in hand. In an instant, happiness fulfilled me, along with an appreciation that the kids were excited to see me. I can’t remember the last time I received so much attention; I may have even blushed a bit.
In the beginning, it was hard. I mean everything was hard. The first few days were spent just trying to focus my blurry vision caused by all the excitement and change of pace from my previous weeks. At the same time, I was adjusting to my new routine with the host family who’d I stay with for the rest of my time here. There was much to overcome and I’d be a liar if I said that everything was happy and perfect. I tried to remember some of the lessons I learned from past TTT teachers and by TTT staff, but while everything they said seemed to ring true, I felt as if I was falling flat. My mantra became, “lower your expectations” as the TTT staff had told me.
I learned so much in the first few weeks, both about the kids and myself. Everyday after school was spent adjusting lesson plans based upon what I had learned about the kids and their knowledge that day. Still though, I felt as if my effectiveness was futile. Soon enough, I had an epiphany of sorts; I was taking myself way too seriously and expecting the world from the kids. Quickly, I came back to reality and started having more fun. It was at that moment I really knew what “lowering my expectations” meant. After this road bump, the kids seemed to be having more fun and learning. Even if it came slowly and in small bursts, I realize that my being there was a positive experience for them and that just having everyday exposure to a natural English speaker would help them. Even after this “road bump”, there were ups and downs for sure. Some days I’d leave the school, walking down the long road back to the guest house, with a big smile on my face, other days I felt defeated and frustrated. I was constantly trying to find ways in which they could learn without even knowing it, a challenge for sure. But resilience was key and each week was better and better. The feeling of witnessing a group of kids learning something new is indescribable, it was this feeling that I found missing from my life after I stopped teaching kids piano over 3 years ago.
The whole experience was incredibly rewarding in a way I haven’t felt in years. Though my focus was on the kids, I would say I learned a lot about myself too. I always thought I had the “patience of a saint”, but now I feel like I’ve developed an even deeper patience. Living here, I gained real, true insight into how other people live and could not help but be grateful for what I have waiting for me back home in the States. Watching the people here go about their daily activities was an amazing experience in itself. I respect their strength and the simplicity in which they live when compared to the “western way of life.” You have to admire the kids in their daily trek up to the school, no bus or transportation, as they do so with a smile on their face.
Coming from the metropolitan area of NYC and having been in Europe the month before I left, I had to adjust to the slow paced life here. Pleasantly surprised, I settled into it just fine and I can not remember the last time I felt so calm and at peace. I learned to pay attention to small details, both internal and external as the lack of distraction allowed me to do so. I can remember just sitting there, watching the clouds slowly shift positions and change shape, to reveal my green surroundings, the Himalayas or at times giving way to new, bigger clouds. With this practice (as I came to know it), I felt as if I learned to focus my mind on small details. Speaking of the Himalayas, I’ll never forget my dream of reaching Annapurna base camp and getting a closeup and personal view of the magnificent snow capped mountains which look over the area majestically.
Overall, I’m leaving Kimche with a feeling that I had a positive affect on both myself and the kids here. It was my original intent to bring a bit of positivity to a group of young strangers who at one time seemed to live in the middle of nowhere to me, and I truly feel as I succeeded. I’ll never forget feeling like a rock star (for lack of a better term) as I walked around the village while my young students came up to me for high fives and fist bumps, or the cat calls which came from up above in the hills as I looked up to discover a group of kids waving from afar. I am in belief that Trek to Teach is creating a positive change for the children here and that the volunteers who enact this change will walk away transformed themselves. To bring some positive outside influence to kids who seem at times trapped by the surrounding hills, I think will provide a shift in their minds and a new knowledge which will last a lifetime. Thank you TTT for the chance to be a part of your mission,