Valters in Lamjung

My experience as an English teacher in Lamjung can be described as, rewarding, fulfilling, unforgettable, very different from what I have ever experienced and certainly challenging. This place and the people will stay in my mind for a long time.

Getting there:

It takes about 9 hours to get there. First you take the micro bus from KTM to somewhere in the Lamjung region where there is still asphalt which takes about 5-6 hours.  Then you switch to local bus and start your slow and super bumpy journey of about 3 hours. The cliff is right there, a meter or two or sometimes less away on the side. A window seat is recommended. When you arrive, you'll have to go on an uphill hike for about an hour. It is quite exhausting if you have the big backpack, but what a workout. Welcome to Lapsibot.

The village (Lapsibot) and the people (Gurungs):
The village lies in the middle of a high hill overlooking the valley and river "Dordi". There are about 100 houses including 4 shops, a few temples, the school and the others are just private houses. The city is more vertical than horizontal with stony stair paths running through it. Picturesque views can be seen from many parts of the village and around it. For power they use solar energy, but are hoping to get electricity from a hydro dam in a few years.
The people are very friendly, especially the kids, however they're also a bit shy. They're Gurung, so they speak their own language, though they also know Nepali. These people have their own festivals and they like to celebrate by drinking the local thing they call wine - roxy. During the day they mostly work out in the fields gathering crops or attending the kettle. Unfortunately, one thing that was quite easily noticeable is that women work much harder and put in more hours of work than man. That is a bit sad and certainly not just.  On weekends you can hike places to get better views of mountains or experience the valley more.

The school and teaching experience:
The school hosts about 100 kids and have class levels from 0 to 8. My friend and I were teaching classes 4 to 8 each of the 5 periods per day. There were on average 10 kids in a classroom seated tightly together. I must say that the older they are, the more eager they become to learn and listen. The difference in age, skills and knowledge varies vastly even in the same class, although none of them were fluent in English. The overall level was quite poor, which can also be said about the English teachers’ command of the language. They knew the alphabet with some pronunciation errors and few handfuls of simple words, but most had trouble differentiating between a noun and a verb, not to mention constructing a sentence. If you're planning to come here for a longer time, you might really make a difference. I would advise you to prepare some games and songs for the younger classes since it might be very hard to keep them focused. Some of them might shout and throw stuff and ask you to speak Nepali all day long, others might just stare at you and you'd not get an answer in million years. But the whole experience is totally worth it due to the kids who actually like to learn and are looking and listening to you with pure enthusiasm. You'll probably develop a natural liking to some of them and even if you only teach them a little, or spark just a glimpse of curiosity in their eyes and the fulfilling feeling on your part will be gigantic. 

In addition, they like to play sports (especially volleyball) and other activities in their free time, also a great way to connect.

The other teachers were also friendly to us, except for a couple, but the communication barriers between left us mostly with "Namaste" and mutual smiling. The only exceptions were the English teacher (who knew enough words and was curious about us, so we talked relatively a lot) and the head master who, together with his family, was also our host.


Accommodation and Food
We lived with the headmaster’s family in a small room that had space only for the double bed and two big backpacks. It belongs to his son, but he was always smiling and didn't look too irritated by the fact that we lived there. The bed was okay and they provided a big blanket, but I advise you to take a sleeping bag, because it does get chilly at night. There was also a wall socket, but it couldn't charge an iPhone. The internet works only on EDGE with the mobile data; most charging is done in the school. There is a light that works for the most part, so you can do lots of reading as we did.

Now for the scary part: the room is not completely sealed and between the walls and the tin roof are cracks large enough for any kind of insect to get through and even rats. Yes, we had rats visiting us every night. We saw them and certainly were woken up by their voices on multiple occasions, but they never jumped on us or walked the bed when we were there. They stayed and lived on the wall paths. We also had a big spider (not humongous, but big for a northern European like me), a giant cricket and a giant beetle. We dealt with them peacefully, but it took time.

As for food, you'll have 2 meals of Dahl Baht per day and two tea times with biscuits. After dinner the headmaster likes to chat and will probably ask questions about your country and the world. His English is weak, but enough to understand his questions. Sometimes you'll be offered meat with your meal, but I would opt out of it, since they do not have freezers and it simply wasn't tasty. On special occasions you'll get some different pickles or some fruit. The shops have only chips, all kinds of biscuits, lollipops, chewing gums, Nepali chocolate bars (not a lot of chocolate) and soft drinks. So do take some dry fruits and nuts with you. 

Take purification tablets for water and toilet paper!

To sum up, I would have liked to get to know the locals more and spend more time with them although we did quite a lot. The most unforgettable moments were the unplanned ones, like the time we went to hang out near the waterfall with couple of kids during a national teachers' strike day and when the headmaster stopped our classes and took us and the bigger kids to see "honey hunting" that happens once a year. In the end, the goodbyes were filled with gratitude from both sides but also a little sadness, because we were become a part of the community.

Valters Didrihsons
Riga, Latvia