Our friends at Trek to Teach educate Nepali students in remote villages, while trekking through the Himalayan foothills and staying with local families, pushing the boundaries of educational limitations for rural Nepali youth. At Sherpa Adventure Gear we are happy to provide Trek to Teach volunteers with apparel and gear for their travels, knowing that access to education can change the world, and are excited to share one of their recent volunteer’s experiences with you.
Read on to hear more from Ella, a Trek To Teach volunteer’s, experience:
In the days before my flight to Kathmandu, I didn’t know what to think or how to feel. I was a mixture of excitement and a little bit of “oh boy what did I get myself into.” My biggest fear was being overwhelmed by loneliness, having that ache for human friendship that so often haunts us. After all, I was launching myself into an isolated community in the mountains to teach where I couldn’t even communicate the native language. I was bound to feel a little out-of-place.
Once in Tolka, I learned that my worries were just a waste of energy, a bad application of my imagination. Yes, I was out-of-place, but it turns out that this dislocation just gave me one of the most authentic opportunities to grow and change. And, the key to it all? Vulnerability.
Vulnerability is an action we try our hardest to avoid, especially in Western culture. Even the word sends us layering on more armor. But without vulnerability we are left at a great distance from one another, and oftentimes we are so used to layering up that we create a distance within our own selves.
The distance I was accustomed to was quickly diminished starting from the moment I arrived.
A Welcoming Family
A 48-year-old woman named Laxmi erased this gap in a matter of days. She immediately approached me and pulled me into a conversation of broken English and broken Nepali, a dance of tongues. Language barrier aside, her warmth and genuine kindness was enough to settle my soul. She was vulnerable with me, welcoming me into her home and her life without hesitation. With only a few words and a cup of tea, Laxmi adopted me wholeheartedly, as I did her. From then on, she became my Ama (mother) and I became her Chori (daughter) and the whole village knew us as such.
Every morning at 7 o’clock I walked up to Ama’s house to drink tea and be with her. Sometimes we wouldn’t talk much, but just feel comforted by each other’s presence and proximity. Other times, we would talk long into the morning, angering Ama’s hungry chickens. One morning, we cried together, I held her hand, shared her tears, and wished to take her burden from her. That is what vulnerability is —it’s closing the distance, and sharing each other’s joy as well as hardships, it’s belonging to one another.
Then, a fellow teacher working at Shree Himalaya Secondary School was unexpectedly vulnerable with me in a way that I will always be grateful for. When I first met Babita, she was very shy and timid. Occasionally, we would walk to and from school together exchanging few words. I could tell she was self-conscious about her English, moreover those few words were greatly appreciated. I did not, however, expect to become a part of her large and very warm family.
One day, to my great surprise, Babita invited me to stay at her house during a school break. I immediately felt at home though I was thousands of miles from it. Her family embraced me like one of their own when I thought I’d be just a guest passing through. One day turned into two days and one break turned into two breaks. Soon I was going on Ferris wheels with them, they were dressing me up in saris, and their family became my family. My Nepali Grandma, sisters, brothers, and cousins erased all possibilities of any cultural awkwardness and we simply shared life together. The joy and laughs exchanged with Babita and her family are gifts that I will forever cherish. I realized that people like this don’t let differences or fear get in the way of kindness—they don’t think twice, they just hope that their vulnerability rubs off on you.
During my stay, I took this idea of vulnerability and applied it to my teaching, deciding that if there was one lesson I wanted my students to take away from me, it would be how to love and care for one another.
Kids are innately vulnerable, the world hasn’t yet taught them to be otherwise and their kind of openness is infectious. Grabbing my hands and taking every opportunity they can to jump into my lap, pushing past space bubbles with their boogery fingers and enthusiastic smiles, the children made any hardship or challenge I faced more than worth it. They clung to me the way that we should all cling to one another—without assumption, without an agenda, and with wild abandon.
Spending time with children and new friends of another culture is a good way practice your vulnerability and spread some more joy in the world.