January 2009 – School of Education Students visit Malagiri
Denise and I fly to Kathmandu to hold discussions with the Nepali Board and view developments at the school site. The weather is warm during the day but cold at night and we see glimpses of the majestic, snowy peaks of the Himalayas. We usually visit Nepal during UK school holidays in July and August which is the monsoon season in Nepal and at that time the mountains are shrouded by mist and cloud.
Students and friends arrive
We catch up with Nepali friends and after a couple of days three students from the University of Brighton arrive to undertake their complementary placement in Nepal. Katie Kilbey, Camille Montgomery and Sarah Davies are staying with our friends Priti and Om Yogi who are going to lead their induction programme before they start their school experience in a school which is predominantly for the children of carpet workers in the Jorpati area of Kathmandu.
Denise and I are staying with our friend Pema Dorjee in the Porong Monastery in Tinchully, Kathmandu, and we are woken each morning by the sound of bells, cymbals and monks chanting their prayers. Sarah, Katie and Camille visit the monastery and get a tour of the classrooms, the gompa (temple) and a talk from Pema about the background history of the monastery.
Three friends from Sweden, Carin, Anders and Henrik, who are also involved in the fund raising, arrive and we have lots of discussions about fund raising and the building work at the school.
The drive to Malagiri
On the Monday morning we all meet very early to climb aboard a most comfortable minibus to travel the three hours to the Malagiri School site. We travel along the busy highway towards Pokhara and the fumes of the cars, lorries and buses can be most unsettling. After a couple of hours we swing off the main road onto the Rajpath Road and head up the lower Himalaya. The road is quiet and beautiful – fields magnificently tended, men and women at work in the fields and others are carrying huge loads on their backs with the straps of the bags wound round their foreheads. We arrive at the Malagiri School site to be greeted by the whole community.
A warm welcome from the villagers
Children give us flower garlands – this is the traditional greeting in Nepal and we are warmly welcomed by the villagers. We spend time going round the site and it is really beginning to take shape. The views across the valley are spectacular and the engineer, architect and builders have done a super job in very challenging terrain. Through our interpreter, Karma, we talk with the villagers and then we give out clothes which have been donated by the Dharma School in Brighton, West Blatchington Primary School in Hove and our friends in Sweden. The villagers are very pleased with the clothes and the children march about proudly wearing their new apparel.
We look around the village and visit one of the houses. Women are sharpening their scythes on stones, the cows and buffaloes are tethered to posts – the house is made of wood and is very basic. There is an open fire downstairs but no chimney and the family sleep upstairs – often the animals also live downstairs. Sadly, we leave the village behind but we resolve to come back to the community at some time in the near future to stay and get to know the villagers better.
The drive back to Kathmandu takes many hours. A lorry has broken down on the main road over the pass there is a huge traffic jam and it takes about 7 hours to get back. Camille, Sarah and Katie now begin their teaching placement and Denise, myself, Carin, Anders and Henrik, hold meetings with the Nepali Board. We look at the time frame in terms of getting the building finished and the sum of money needed to complete the building work. Costs have increased as the retaining wall needed to be reinforced due to the steep terrain and there is 30%-40% inflation within Nepal. It is anticipated that another £20,000 is needed to complete the build and this will be shared between English and Swedish fund raising efforts. We hope to have the school finished by late autumn and for the children to be able to start in January 2011. It is a most productive meeting and we finish the meeting feeling tired but happy with developments.
We spend our last few days in Nepal travelling to the wonderful village of Rattankot and live with Karma’s family in their magnificent house – simple but very beautiful. We sleep above the goats and can hear them breathing whilst they too doze during the night. The villagers are introducing bee hives to produce honey and it’s amazing to walk along the village track with the snow capped mountains in the distance.
Back in Kathmandu we decide to take a mountain flight towards Everest. We have not been able to do this before as the plane rarely flies during monsoon. This was an incredible flight and we are blessed with clear weather so we get wonderful views of the mountains with just wispy clouds scuttling across the tops of the peaks.
We travel back to UK via Bahrain and feel happy and motivated to move the project forward.