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If you’re interested in volunteering, contact Volunteering to Learn. They coordinate all our farmstays.
The Homestay… and so much more
September 5th, 2009
The week it was! One week in Gunjanagar, a small village in the Terai Plain of Nepal, in what we thought was a homestay centered around working on a farm. But oh, no! We were in fact, well… given jobs as teachers at the local school. Suprise! More on that later…
Days 1 & 2 were spent in the private garden of Siddi Parajuli, a lovely man who has just retired from being a professor of agriculture. We were connected with him through his daughter, Pramila, who set up our volunteering in Kathmandu. A better teacher for two newbies in the garden we could not have asked for. We tore at the earth, for the laborious process of creating new farm-beds from scratch. His garden received a complete makeover, with three new garden beds and careful footpaths laid carefully beside them. We planted artichoke, lettuce, radish, carrots, broccoli, and many more that I cannot recall. Perhaps too much dirt from digging the garden has polluted the memory banks of my brain.
But alas! After two days in Siddi’s garden we woke early in the morning and walked 3 km through the village. Gunjanagar is located on the plains of Nepal, whose economy is almost exclusively based on agriculture. The entire village is growing. Whether it be the vast expanses of rice fields, mango or papaya trees, corn at the side of the road, or any other delicious fruit stuff you could imagine. It is a tropical climate, and the gardens grow very well. For every meal, nearly 100% of the food came directly from the garden. It was usually picked the same day that it came to our plate. Very fresh. Very delicious.
Siddi’s brother Uday runs Ajamvari Farm, a large piece of land that is well-suited for volunteers. Our accomodation was on the roof of the main house, under the cover of a well-made A-shaped grass overhang. Upon our arrival Uday, to our suprise, informed us that as well as being a farmer, he was also one of the founders and teachers of the local school. Which started in twenty minutes. We walked the kilometer with Uday to the local school, and were introduced to it with this morning assembly. After the assembly we were invited to tour the classrooms. The teachers brielfy introduced us and then to our suprise, left the classroom. I had told Uday that I was an studying to be a teacher, however a little notice to my new career would have been appreciated. Fortunately, all the students in the school had proficient English skills, and were all good-spirited and easy to teach. For our first on-the-fly curriculum, educational Hang-Man worked well, as well as map-drawing, English-Nepali conversation practice, reading, and the crowd favorite: the Americans singing and dancing. After an inital period of teaching every class alone, eventually the teachers would filter into our classes to monitor our progress.
For five days (except one) we followed the same routine: Wake at 6 o’clock to help Uday weed the fields, milk the water buffalo, and pick the lemongrass for morning tea. Arrive at school just before ten o’clock, and teach five classes until four or five. When we returned home from school we would have a brief siesta, then when the sun was low enough we would work the land to get ready for the potato harvest. It was HOT. Hot and buggy. We must have poured a few gallons of sweat into the fertile Nepali plain, and while doing so burned even more calories swatting mosquitoes at an olympic pace.
The exception to the routine was the day of the strike. From the bits and pieces we have put together, the Bus and Taxi union was unhappy about the way they were being treated. One of the disgruntled employees decided to repeatedly stab (but not kill) the president of the entire operation. The next day everyone within a-hundred mile radius of our village pledged not to drive their public vehicle. Including the school bus drivers. Thus the school was closed.
The teachers, however, decided to meet anyway. In the morning Ian and I showed up with a handful of trees to plant in various locations around the school. Very excited, most of the staff came to help us, and it became a grand ol’ time.
After tree planting, Ian and I introduced the Frisbee to the nation of Nepal. After tossing it just once to a few of the teachers, literally the entire staff came to experience this new phenomenon. Such raw enthusiasm I have seldom seen, and long after Ian and I were done with our inital instruction, the staff continued, and continued, to toss the disc around. The Frisbee of mention is now the property of the JannaPriya Public School.
And now… after all that, it is purely a memory. It seems like a dream to us now.We were treated so kindly by everyone we met, who were always eager (perhaps sometimes too eager) to engage us in conversation. For this week we left the tourist trail behind, and it was unique, not routine, for the locals to see a foreigner. These wonderful, beautiful people live the simplest of lives. They grow their own food, spend loads of time with their friends and family, and live amongst natural beauty unequaled in most urban or developed areas. They are kind, patient, and intelligent, and treated us with nothing but respect. They have engaged us in their community and for that we thank them with everything we’ve got.The bus out of the village was like going through time. We gradually went from the serene, rural village life of Nepal to the dusty, dirty and noisy atmosphere of the big city. Once back in a proper town, both of us initially had extreme culture shock. The slow pace and serene setting of the countryside was gone. In its place was dust and grime, cement, and noise. Our shock faded after a few hours, but those moments off the first bus I will not forget, as such a contrast has never hit me so square in the face in such a short period of time.We are now in Pokhara, relaxing. Our volunteer total is strong at 96 hours. It is nice, now, to be back in civilization. But alas we will not forget our experience in the village.
John & Ian, Prescott College, Arizona, USA
Where to start? It has been such memorable, fun, happy and enjoyable experience. The family were so kind and generous. I felt right at home straight away, and now I have a Nepali family. The farm is amazing, so many lychees! I have learnt so much, and had such a fun time doing it.
Sadhana – Thank for all the cooking, it really is amazing. You should open up an organic restaurant in Kathmandu! You have been like a mum to me, something I have missed a lot! You are so kind and helpful, and you have an amazing family, and two great kids.
Parbati – Such a wise, open, honest woman. An inspiration, still such vital member of the community at the grand all age of 84.
Subash – A future Nepali caram-board champion. Always happy, smiling, like a kid brother should be.
Sebika – Happy, beautiful with an infectious smile and laugh. Thank for all the laundry, washing, and for assisting on doing the washing up. You are so bright, you will go far in whatever you do.
And finally Udaya – you are so kind, enthusiastic, generous, interesting and a real character. Thank you for showing your wonderful family with me, for asking so many questions, and teaching me so much. You opened your family to me and I really do feel I belong. Just wish I could stay a little longer.
Thank you to everyone, you all have made my time in Nepal so unique and I have many happy memories that I will remember for a very long time.
Good luck with all your many projects.
Chris Miller (Nepali Name: Pritam Babu)
What a peaceful retreat in the middle of a long trip!! I stayed at organic farm called “Eternal Farming” in Chitwan. I am enormously grateful to Volunteer and Learn Nepal for providing me this amazing opportunity.
I learnt in this wonderful organic farm so many new things: how to milk a buffalo, how to make ghee, how to make gas from buffalo’s poo, how to cook some simple and delicious Nepali meals, how to make plates with leaves… and, most important, I had a real occasion to be in touch with Nepali life and culture. I admire the harmony and the beauty of this nice family. Everyone has been so kind and smily. Special thanks to Sadhana for the delicious food she cooks!! And thanks to Udaya for all the time he spent talking with me about the differences between Nepal and France. And, thanks to Sebika for her active presence when all the kids of the village came together to learn English and to play. And, thanks to Subash for his incredible smile. And, last but not least, big big thanks to Parbati for being what she is: a wonderful old woman, full of ideas and kindness. I hope that she will achieve her project of building a library and a first-aid center in the village.
Good luck to all of you!!
To a loving, caring, and wonderful family:
Thank you for sharing with us your fascinating culture, your delicious food, and your warm and happy home. For the rest of our lives we will never forget these past two weeks with your family. This experience has truly been so life enriching to us both, and will be something special for us to share with our friends and family and to whoever we meet along the fascinating journey that is life, and we are glad that we got to share it with such good people. Your smiles and laughter will be embedded in our minds and we will always look fondly on this country when we think of you.
It makes us sad to be leaving but we have a whole journey ahead of us, our paths may even cross again someday which we both hope will.
To the whole family good luck on your paths, and may the sun shine down upon your heads. You will be missed. Thank you so much again. We will try to send some books so as the school can blossom even more. Be well.
I love bananas!
Emily & Neal Reading
Udaya, thank you for showing me around your wonderful Organic Farm and teaching me about all of your plants. It has been wonderful staying here, and learning about life on the farm. I am only sorry that my Nepali is not very good, but thank you for the effort in trying to teach me as much as possible.
Sadhana and Sebika, thank you both so much for the wonderful food. I feel as though I have eaten like a Queen with all of this delicious organic food. You both have such beautiful smiles and are such a joy to be around. And, thank you Hajuraama for feeding me all of the tasty lychees and for always looking after me. And, Subash thank you for showing me around town, and take care of your arm!
Thank you all for everything and for opening up your home to me. Keep in touch.
P.O. Box – 62
Whitefish, MT 59937
I spent a week at the farm last year and enjoyed it immensely. I recommend a visit: the family are wonderful and entertaining, food is great, the surrounding landscape is wonderful to explore. Enjoy!
See also http://eternalfarming.blogspot.com/ for pictures and more informaiton.
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