Away with the Opies

Our travel adventures……

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Everest Base Camp-Day 7

Day 7 – Acclimatisation Day in Dingboche


Wow – What an incredible day!


The morning started with a late breakfast at 8:30 followed by an acclimatisation trek as far as we could manage up Nangkar Tshang. Rabin said it was doubtful that we’d make the top but fuelled by days of dahl bhat, ginger tea and adrenaline, we slowly gained height until we actually reached the summit at 5,616m. Here we were rewarded with breathtaking panoramic views of some of the worlds highest mountains joined by eagles flying above and below us. It was a magical moment. 


At around 1,200m higher than our tea house it’s not an altitude gain recommended in one day but Rabin was keeping a close eye on us – we felt strong and were showing no signs of altitude sickness.

There’s life in us old dogs yet!


Not Vultures or Eagles!

The above birds are Choughs which were flocking in Dingboche.

Factoid – Choughs are the National bird of Cornwall, but are also found in Nepal, where they’ve been known to nest at over 6500m, a world record for any nesting bird! For us it was an unexpected reminder of home…


We shared a picnic with Colin who had also made the climb before saying our goodbyes – heading in opposite directions from here we would not to see him again on this trip.

Descending we realised just how high we’d climbed – the track just kept on going down! Knees are a problem when you reach a certain age and by the end of this mini adventure my knees, especially were feeling the strain!



We returned to our tea house to find Dirk and Fleur playing cards – because of illness they’d rested for the day. We joined them later for a lovely evening of chat and getting to know each other around the little yak poo burner. Little did we know then that it would be the first of many such evenings together… 

 

 

Loving Life!


 

Everest Base Camp-Day 6

Day 6 – Pangboche (3,950m) to Dingboche (4,410m)


Sat around a welcome morning fire we all ate breakfast before saying goodbye to Colin and the Australian girls before setting off on our way.

AMS warning notice

One of the Australian girls was complaining of a headache and with no rest/acclimatisation day planned for them in Dingboche we were a little concerned for their well being – our worries were justified a few days later.


It had been the usual freezing cold night followed by a crisp, bright morning – we were keeping everything crossed that the fine weather would hold for just a few more days. True to our “Nepali time” schedule we left later than planned, but setting off we felt strong and free of any sign of AMS.  

Anyone can get altitude sickness, it doesn’t discriminate through age, fitness or mental strength. Physically fit people often become ill because they walk fast, gaining height too quickly. With this in mind we kept to a steady pace, reprimanded by Rabin if we went too quickly. The regularity of the rescue helicopters flying above us was a frequent reminder of how easy it is to become sick at these altitudes – complacency here is dangerous.

 


Shortly after the day’s trek began we reached the spot where a Frenchman had recently fallen, presumed, to his death. He’d taken a short-cut along a narrow path above a steep drop to the river and sadly, as far as we know his body’s not yet been found.

Notices are displayed at intervals along the trek offering a reward for information on his whereabouts. It’s a sobering reminder of how dangerous this trek can be. We would be taking no short cuts on our trip to Base Camp.


We arrived at Dingboche in time for lunch, where Kate started her garlic soup regime as it had been regularly recommended as a way to keep AMS at bay. On advice from Rabin I continued with my dahl bhat diet. Not only does it contain garlic, but it’s the only meal in the mountains where you get seconds!

Dingboche

 

 
Shortly after our arrival at the tea house we met Fleur and Dirk for the the first time. This young Dutch couple were to be our companions for the remainder of the trip.

After lunch we took a short acclimatisation stroll above the village to some stupas (Buddhist shrines). The views were lovely, but the wind was cold and the night was to be bitter.


With frozen toilets everywhere and no running water anywhere this was certainly not a trip for the feint hearted…

But we were LOVING it!


DAY 6 GALLERY

 

Everest Base Camp-Day 5

Day 5 – Khyangjuma (3,550m) to Pangboche (3,950m)

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Everest Base Camp-Day 4

Day 4 – Namche Bazaar (3,440m) to Khyangjuma (3,550m)


We left Namche Bazaar on the clearest of clear days. The sun was shining and the sky was as blue as we’ve ever seen – our luck continued.


Our first climb of the morning led us to the world famous Hotel Everest View which does exactly what it says on the tin. At one time it offered pressurised rooms, in an attempt to prevent altitude sickness for the rich and famous flying directly from Kathmandu – a practise that has now thankfully stopped.

It was here, whilst drinking tea, that we first met an affiable Singaporean called Charles. Charles was to become a friend and was sadly evacuated from Gorak Shep, the last point of civilisation before reaching Base Camp. 

Charles, Dirk and Fleur


The route from Namche Bazaar to Khyangjuma was a short and relatively easy one so Rabin took us on a detour to see the Yeti skull we’d heard so much about at a monastery in the village of Khumjung. Khumjung is also home to the Hillary School established by Sir Edmund in 1961. Unfortunately the monastery was closed so we set off to explore the neighbouring village of Khunde instead.       

 

                                          
A short while later we passed Kunde Hospital . Built in 1966 the hospital continues to play a major role in the area’s all too frequent disasters. 10 minutes and a small climb further along the path we arrived at Khunde monastery. Home to around 10 resident monks and beautifully decorated with brightly coloured murals and pictures of the Dali Lama it was well worth the detour.

Khyangjuma

We made a small donation before setting off on our way back through Khumjung – the Yeti Skull monastery was still closed!


The third tea house of our trek was the best so far. A draught proof room with stunning panoramic mountain views and en-suite toilet made us very happy – it didn’t take much at this point! We ate our evening meal in the company of the friendly family running the lodge who then treated us to popcorn and “Into Thin Air’‘ (unbelievably they had a TV), a film adaptation of the David Krakauer book about the tragic 1996 Everest disaster . The book is good – the film is not! 

 

Interestingly one of the family guests eating with us was at Everest Base camp working as a chef when the disaster struck. Unfortunately his English wasn’t good enough for an in depth chat about his experiences.

 

 

Sunset brought the most spectacular view of the day and joined by the tea house couple we watched a picture perfect display of pinks, oranges and reds grazing the snow capped peaks of Lhotse, Ama Dablam and other Himalayan mountains.


It was a magical end to a brilliant day.

Red sky at night…

Fingers crossed for more of the same tomorrow


Day 4 GALLERY

 

 

Everest Base Camp-Day 3

Day 3 – Namche Bazaar Acclimatisation Day


Having heard rumours the previous day that our trek was in doubt due to the adverse weather conditions, we were relieved to wake to clear skies and unbroken sunshine. Unbelievably, this fine weather was to last for the rest of our time in the mountains.

 

Accompanied by Rabin, we took a morning tour of the surrounding area, which included the Tenzing Norgay memorial and small mountain museum – gaining a little more altitude helped with our acclimatisation.

After our usual dahl bhat lunch the two of us explored Namche’s labyrinth of pretty, narrow streets. With it’s shops selling local and branded products, cafes, bars and local market there was plenty to keep us busy for a couple of hours. We bought and wrote postcards, stocked up on toilet roll and invested in some down mittens for Steve’s unusually chilly hands, before settling into a cafe to contemplate the trek ahead.

Here we met 2 Australian girls who were later to be airlifted off the mountain.


Flying the British Flag!

During our meanderings we encountered the first Yaks of our trip. Adapted to high altitudes these impressive beasts are kept for their milk, meat and wool as well as being used to carry loads in the mountains.

 

 


After a great day out and about we returned to Comfort Inn – still sadly not living up to its name – where we played cards, attempted, in vain to keep warm, drank masala chai, and chatted to fellow trekkers. We braved the still frozen toilets before scrounging extra blankets and tucking up in our sleeping bags for the night. This was our third day without a shower, but by now keeping warm was far more important than being clean – how quickly our standards dropped. Unwashed, still wearing most of our clothes and buried in our bedding we blew each other a kiss from opposite sides of the room – it wasn’t going to be the most romantic couple of weeks we’d ever spent together…

 

First and last beer of the trek!

CHEERS!

Everest Base Camp-Day 2

 Day 2 Phakding (2,610m) to Namche Bazar (3,440m)


Which way to Everest?!

 

We excitedly woke up a little before 7 and were ready for our first breakfast of chapati and eggs by 7:30. We soon discovered that Rabin our guide works on “Nepali time” – we were the last of the three parties to leave!

 

The first full days trekking was incredible, stopping only for a mid morning cup of tea, a Dahl Bhat lunch and a (very expensive) apple at a view point where we caught our first spectacular glimpse of Everest.

Our first view of Everest!


The route snaked through wooded tracks that reminded us of our treks in the Highlands of Scotland. It traced the beautiful turquoise glacial meltwaters of the Dudh Kosi river, crossed dizzyingly high simple suspension bridges and ended with a two and a half hour climb to Namche Bazaar (3,440m).

 

 

We checked into our second tea house of the trek, which frustratingly didn’t live up to its name of “Comfort Inn”. There was no running water, all inside toilets were frozen and the only source of heating was an electric fire that worked intermittently! It was COLD…

As we settled into our base for the next two nights it began to snow, the temperature plummeted and things started to feel very bleak.

 

Huddling around the ineffectual electric fire in a vain hope to keep warm we got to know Stephanie and Paulo, a young Columbian couple now living in Brisbane. Unfortunately, we were later to hear that, having reached Base Camp and on their way back down Stephanie was taken ill and had been flown to safety. 

 

We soon mastered the art of layering to survive the arctic conditions!

Everest Base Camp-Day 1

EVEREST BASE CAMP TREK…

Day 1 Kathmandu to Phakding via

Lukla Airport!

On Thursday the 19th January 2017 we arrived at Everest Base Camp – this is the story of how we got there…

Lukla Airport Runway

Let’s trek to Everest Base Camp he said – OK I said, let’s fly to Lukla he said – absolutely, most definitely not I said!

2 days later we were sat in the Kathmandu Airport domestic departure lounge with our guide Rabin bound for what’s considered to be one of the worlds most dangerous airports – this was NOT what I’d signed up for!

Inspired by mountaineer Sir Edmund Hillary and built in the 1960’s Lukla airport has acquired its hairy reputation for several reasons. The postage stamp sized runway is only 527m long. With a 600m drop at one end and a mountain at the other it leaves little room for pilot error allowing one chance only at getting it right. Getting it wrong means hitting a wall or dropping off a precipice! To make things even more tricky the runway was built with a 12% gradient to aid breaking on landing and acceleration on take off – the 60m difference from top to bottom makes for quite a ride in both directions. Operating without navigational aids, flights to Lukla are extremely weather dependant. Set high in the Himalayas at an elevation of 2,845m the conditions here are unpredictable and delays are a regular occurrence, sometimes for days, not just hours. Many accidents and near misses have occurred here over the years…

Now I have no idea how I got talked from point A to point B, but as we sat out a 4 hour delay because of snow on the Lukla runway I was bitterly regretting my apparent moment of weakness in agreeing to this madness…

As the sun rose in Lukla so the snow melted on the minuscule runway and the go ahead was given for our plane to set off on its way. We boarded a bus, which took us to our tiny Goma Air plane (with gaffer taped door), we chose our seats and were given boiled sweets and cotton wool (for our ears!).  

We were preparing for take off when I noticed the pilots wiping condensation from the cockpit window with their sleeves!!! Knowing that landing and takeoff at Lukla are carried out using pilot skill and intuition only, fogged up windows were most definitely not OK…

The take off and majority of the flight were actually pretty smooth, marred only by a short bout of turbulence around the mid way point which seemed expected as the hostess (yes there is one) had just scooted through the tiny craft to check that all seat belts were fastened.

25 minutes of spectacular mountain scenery later and the inevitable and dreaded landing was upon us. From a distance the runway looked like a challange, as we flew closer it looked like an impossibility…

Steve squeezed my hand and I squeezed his back as banking right we seemed to be heading straight for the mountain.

The crash landing warning alarms sounded throughout the cabin (luckily I’d done my research and knew this was normal) just before touching down and coming, thankfully, to an ubrupt, but controlled halt. Our safe landing was rewarded with a round of applause by all on board…

The weather closed in behind us and our flight was to be the first and last of the day!

Don’t ever make me do that again!


Joined by Rabin our guide and Padam our porter we set off for Everest Base Camp – we couldn’t have been more excited.

Padam, Rabin and Steve


Our afternoon trek was a beautiful and easy introduction to what lay ahead. We walked through the snow that had prevented us from flying earlier in the day, past numerous prayer wheels and rocks carved with Tibetan Buddhist mantras.

We arrived at our first tea house in Phakding (2610m) and settled in for the first of many chilly nights in the mountains.

It was here that we met Elle, an American, who was to become the first of our newly made trekking buddies to be flown off the mountain with Acute Mountains Sickness (AMS) only a few of days later.

 

 

Looking forward to day 2!


 

 

 

 

 

 

Everest Base Camp-Day 9

Day 9 – Everest Base Camp (5,356m)

 


Steve and I – Everest Base Camp – 19th Jan 2017


Our day started with great news – Charles was feeling better! Unfortunately though he still wasn’t quite fit enough to come with us to Base Camp. With the altitude playing havoc on his body he would rest a while longer before heading out later in the day. And so it was that on the 19th Jan 2017 Steve, Fleur, Dirk, Rabin and I set off to achieve a dream via Gorak Shep (5,140m) the highest village on the trail.

The weather could not have been more perfect and with the sun on our faces and the wind on our backs we enjoyed an otherwordly trek over rough and barren terrain all the way to our goal of Everest Base Camp.

 

         

                                      


On route we passed the two Australian girls we’d met previously. They’d made it to Base Camp the previous day.

Dirk-Fleur-Me-Australian girls 1 and 2-Steve!


Base Camp is a large area, situated on and alongside the Khumbu Glacier where expedition teams make camp for their summit bids. If the weather is poor the end of the line for us mere trekkers is on a track above the glacier, but for us the weather couldn’t have been better.In these
perfect conditions we picked our way over the tricky moraine and across deep crevasses to arrive at a couple of prayer-flag covered mounds. Surrounded by the most incredible landscape and in sight of a Spanish expedition’s orange tents we paused to soak up our surroundings.

We’d done it, we’d achieved a dream, we’d made it to Everest Base Camp!


In bright sunshine and with hardly anyone else in sight – the joy of trekking at this time of year – we posed for our Base Camp photos. Excited and emotional we celebrated with friends made along the way and remembered those who hadn’t quite made it. It was a special moment for us all.

 

Rum Rabin!

In the midst of all the excitement Dirk produced a small bottle of rum to toast our achievements and Steve and I were told we looked like film stars by an English guy who was clearly suffering from the altitude! 

 

Having put up prayer flags we scrambled back to the track, found a sheltered spot and munched on a picnic of chocolate and biscuits. Dirk produced a 7-year old Cuban cigar he’d been saving for a special occasion – this he thought was it!

We will none of us forget this day.


 

Steve, Rabin, Fleur, Dirk and I

Steve, Rabin and I


With the bitter wind now in our faces we headed back to Gorak Shep arriving both tired and elated – so far we’d survived our Everest Base Camp trek.

Now to make it back down…

Sunset on Everest – 19th Jan 2017


 

DAY 9 GALLERY

A Nepali Christmas

Melamchi-Ghyang Village Christmas 2016

A family affair!

At last we’ve found some internet and so here’s our ‘better late than never’ festive blog…

Christmas in Melamchi-Ghyang village was absolutely incredible and one that will stay in our hearts forever. On the 21st of December we were joined by Jack, Amy and James (our son, daughter-in-law ‘licensed’ and son-in-law ‘unlicensed’ – as described during their time in Nepal!). Three days later on Christmas Eve Meg, our daughter joined us – our nest was full and we were happy.

It was a white Christmas!


Christmas Day sunrise

Christmas Day here was like no other. We were all woken by an earthquake a little after 5am and we fell asleep that night to gales howling and snow falling. Throw in the sunshine, hail, thunder and lightening and it was pretty much a full house.  We kicked the day off with pancakes – a Christmas breakfast we intend to make an Opie tradition, before heading to school for a few hours of teaching . Our morning there started with the six of us being invited onto the outside school assembly stage by Purna, the headmaster. The dreaded microphone was passed to us in turn to address the perplexed (how many Opies?!) crowd in front of us… Having been adorned with orange Khatas and garlands of marigolds we all said a few words.

What an emotional (and surreal) few minutes it was. Our family all together in the Himalaya mountains, on Christmas Day, on a stage, in the village that is, for now at least our home. Known as the ‘village of dreams’ Melamchi-Ghyang more than lived up to it’s name for us on this special day. Unfortunately we have no photos of this momentous occasion to post on this blog…

Jack spoke first, he was great, Amy next, she too was great, followed by Meg, yep great and then James, superb!  Then my turn… Everyone who knows me well will not be the least bit surprised to hear that my effort was not much more than a tearful blab of words – not so great. Steve trumped us all with the J.F Kennedy quote –

‘Ask not what your country can do for you, ask what you can do for your country’  

A round of applause ensued!


And so to lesson time…

James (along with Jack and Amy) had, without knowing it, agreed to a busman’s holiday. Accompanied by Rudra, a teacher at the school, he took on the challenge of assisting with the older year groups and impressed with his talks on student motivation and best study practises. 


Jack with craft goodies from Huish Primary School

Jack worked with years 5 and 6 where pupils replied to Christmas cards sent from Huish Primary School in Yeovil (England) where he works. They loved using the crafting materials chosen and bought by his pupils just before the end of term.
Jack was so excited about the goodies that it was the first thing he showed us when arriving in the village!

Thank you Huish 


Meg, having only just arrived the afternoon before was thrown in at the deep end and brilliantly stepped in to help with some art and craft activities.


Amy worked her magic with the youngest classes, her forte, as she too is a primary school teacher.


On behalf of Melamchi-Ghyang school we would like to thank Huish Primary school for all their hard work and overwhelming generosity. The pupils there have raised money through such things as cake and bookmark sales and copper coin collections. In the space of just one term they have raised an incredible £690.33. Along with the huge bag of goodies, Jack bought with him Christmas cards made by his pupils. We had the pleasure of reading them before handing them out and were blown away with the effort, thought and talents that had gone into creating them. They were just brilliant and the children here absolutely loved receiving them.

Thank you to everyone at Huish – staff, pupils and parents – we’re so touched by your continued support for our work here and we can’t wait to come back and tell you all about life in ‘our’ Nepali village and school.

Wow!

We would also like to say a huge thank you to the pupils, staff and parents of Rode Primary School who very generously sent out goodies with Amy when they found out where she was going and what she was doing this Christmas. Much fun has been had with everything the children here have received – it’s been a creative and exciting Christmas for us all!


Lessons over and we could all relax a little…

For Jack that meant an eagerly awaited game of chess with the school chess champion. Mrs Carrie Newman a TA at Huish school had very kindly donated 3 chess sets. Jack, who runs a chess club at school was looking forward to a game or two whilst in the village. Steve and James were also challenged to matches and so all 3 boards were being used simultaneously – with varying outcomes. Jacks match ended in a one all tie -with lunch beckoning they decided to shake on the draw. Steve and James were less successful…


Steve’s pasty shaped momo!

Chess packed away and Opie clan buzzing we all headed back for dinner. Now we weren’t expecting a roast dinner, or anything the least bit special – the usual Dahl Baht would have sufficed, but when we got ‘home’ Jhangmu had cooked us momos which are just the most delicious thing ever. Time consuming to make they’ve been a rare treat for us in the village and Jhangmu, knowing that we’re more than partial to the occasional vege momo, had surprised us with a Christmas feast of them!

Thank you Jhangmu, it really was the best Christmas dinner we could have wished for.

What more can we say!   


After dinner we handed out gifts to our hosts – small tokens of our appreciation to a family who’ve made us feel so at home.

Christmas Mug

 

The sun was shining and so we went outside to give and receive our family gifts. We were very grateful for wooly hats and gloves (thank you Mum and Dad) and learnt new card tricks, or at least tried to (thank you Rob and Rosie) It turns out that some of us have better slight of hand than others!

 

Christmas Hat

Christmas Beer

 

 

 

 

 

 


Gifts exchanged and decked out in our new wooly gear we excitedly set off to Phurpar’s house where we’d been invited for afternoon snacks. I say excitedly because I’d sampled her milk tea and her cooking before and I knew we were in for a treat. Phurpar is on maternity cover for the Kindergarton and Nursery class teacher and the lovely lady I’ve been working with for the last few weeks. She’s welcomed me with open arms, let me use my mad creativity in the classroom and accepted me unconditionally as part of her class. At only 19 she has a very bright future ahead and I’m sure we’ll remain friends and keep in touch when we finally say goodbye to the village.

We drank the most delicious milk tea, ate fried potatoes, drank raksi, cornflour and butter tea, all acquired tastes and sang Christmas songs, very badly… It was a great couple of hours spent with a lovely person and a moment in time we’ll cherish.

 

 

 

 

 

Fun with Phurpa

We returned ‘home’ for the evening, filled our bellies some more, played games, drank the first wine in weeks and savoured our time together. We tucked into our sleeping bags in freezing cold rooms with the storm howling around us. What an amazing day it had been!


Cheers ?

We wish everyone a wonderful 2017

Xx


 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Melamchi-Ghyang School

Shree Melamchi-Ghyang Secondary School

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Set high in the mountains Melamchi-Ghyang School is the most out of this world place we could ever have imagined working in. With roughly 250 pupils, 2/3 boys and 1/3 girls, it’s a community based government school offering ‘hostel’ boarding accommodation to all pupils from outside the village. This facility is necessary as the only access road (we would call it a rough dirt track) becomes impassable during the monsoon season making the only alternative route for pupils (aged between 4 and 16) a tough 3hr upwards trek. Despite it’s remoteness, the school’s success and growing popularity means that children from all over Nepal are sent to this hidden gem, miles from anywhere.

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Steve, myself and Alex having been welcomed to the school

Steve and Purna, the headmaster outside the school office. Not a school day as Purna isn’t wearing his usual pin striped suit!

At the helm is the inspirational and charismatic headmaster, Purna. He’s the formidable driving force behind everything the school achieves. Leading by example he expects the highest standards and committment from staff and pupils alike and strives to give everyone the best tools and opportunities to excel. Impressive results are achieved here, a few years ago the son of a yak hearder and pupil at Melamchi-Ghyang school graduated from Manchester university with a medical degree. 

The children are worked hard – it’s a 6 day school week for everyone. Saturday is a holy day and so the only day off.

Every other day is business as usual and goes like this –

Outdoor assembly at 8:30 gets the day started and is only ever cancelled if raining. All pupils stand in rows of boys and girls with the smallest at the front and the tallest at the back. The rows are then ordered by house colour, Blue, Red, Green and Yellow. Everyone has a small scrap of ribbon pinned to their jumpers to indicate their house and the girls, who all have long hair, tie appropriate coloured bows around their plaits and bunches – it’s very cute. Everyone follows exercises as instructed by a fellow pupil from the stage (a Nepali version of shake and wake), the school prayer is then sung followed by the Nepali national anthem. Recently voted the second best in the world, it’s a stirring tune, especially hearing it sung outside with the views of the himalaya all around. It gets me going nearly every morning!

Pupils, chosen either by house or by class then go onto the stage to recite a poem, ask a couple of questions, tell a joke, dance or sing. Their representative teacher is also expected to do something at the end and there’s no getting out of it – I know, I’ve tried!

Last week worming pills were handed out to everyone, with mouths checked that they’d been swallowed successfully. Apparently this happens 6 monthly.

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Just about ready to go on the assembly stage…

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          It’s big steps for a little person!

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In complete control during my class’ heads, shoulder, knees and toes assembly rendition…


Lessons start at 9:00. The morning consists of 4 forty-minute lesson periods with a 10 minute break half way through. There is an hour for lunch which is followed by another 4 forty-minute lessons including another midway break. The second outdoor assembly of the day for everyone in the winter months is at 3:30 before hometime at around 4:00. During the summer the day is half an hour longer and was shortened only a couple of weeks ago for the winter months. It’s getting noticeably colder now and with no form of heating anywhere on the school campus it becomes too chilly for study to take place after this time.

Except

Years 9 and 10 who are in exam mode and so expected to be at school to start lessons at 6:00 am. They don’t go home (apart from lunch) until 5:30pm and when they do finally get home, as with all the other pupils in the school (except for my kindergarten and nursery class) they will have homework in most subjects taught during the day. Any homework defaulters are hauled up on stage during one of the following day’s assemblies! This timetable lasts until March next year, so continues through the coldest, darkest months.

School uniform is navy with striped ties. Coats (non uniform) are allowed to be worn at all times of the day now, outside and inside the classroom. My little ones start the week, Sunday, looking very smart and tidy. By Friday many of them are filthy, mostly the boys. Twice yearly parents are asked to measure their children and any uniform needed is bought to them from Kathmandu.

 

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The male teachers all wear dark pin stripped suits and ties of their choice, the female staff wear bright pink local dress. They all look very smart.

 img_2135Traditionally shoes are not worn inside, so they are left outside the classroom during lesson time.

 

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Children help keep the classrooms, headmasters office, hostels and canteen areas clean using little hand brushes/brooms which work an absolute treat. No such things as Hoovers or employed cleaners here!


Lunch consists daily of the local dish Dahl Baht cooked over 3 large woodburning cooking stoves. It’s an impresive feat catering for so many children and teachers in this basic way. The food served is absolutely delicious and there’s plenty of it. Where possible all produce is bought from farmers in the village. By helping local people make a living from selling their goods it’s a win win situation for everyone involved.

With lunch comes a mug of hot water.

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The school kitchen

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School canteen

When the days were warmer I thought it was tough job for the chef and kitchen staff working by the fires all day. Now that it’s colder I feel complete envy!


The school buildings are all still temporary structures following the devastation of last year. After the earthquake struck it took just 1 month for the school to be back up and running. Impressive in any situation, but especially so when all buildings were destroyed beyond use and had to be rebuilt from scratch using only the rubble around them. What was achieved is a testament to the tenacity of the staff and the community, particularly considering that everyone was living under canvas in miserable conditions at the time.

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Girls dormitory room

 

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The only structure to remain unharmed after the earthquake was this poly tunnel. Used for vegetables at the time it was cleared and converted to an emergency shelter housing over 300 people in one go! The girls now use it as their study space.

 

Housemaster and English teacher Tika Limbu in his tented accommodation. He actually has a tent inside a tent!

The temporary hostel accommodation has been made as comfortable as possible under the circumstances. There are separate girls and boys boarding houses. Some are raised tin structures, all are lined with ply for insulation. The teachers are still living under canvas!

The shower facilities are basic but there are taps and hot/warm water generated by solar power. Proper shower fittings are on Steve’s to do list.

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Solar system

Shower Block

Toilet Block

Toilet Block

Fast forward 20 months and the situation at the school is this –

Engineers have visited during the last few weeks to give an idea on how now to proceed, costings etc. The boarding hostels, classrooms, wash facilities, canteen, kitchen and headmasters office all need to be rebuilt following new government earthquake resistant guidelines. Some funding is already in place, but more financial support will be needed to complete the project. Community Action Nepal have committed to help with a substantial portion of what’s needed, but as with many other charities here the disaster last year has pulled on their resources. It’s hoped that everything will be in place for work to start next year with a completion date in 2 to 3 years time.

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Danny from Belgium with Purna the headmaster

Some teachers are funded by the government, many by outside sponsors and we’ve been lucky enough to meet some guys from Belgium who do just that. They arrived bearing gifts of clothes and shoes amongst other things which were greatly and eagerly received by the children at the school.

Many of them are still wearing the clothes and shoes they were given that day. We were also lucky enough to spend some time with Corin, a computer/IT whizz who was actually in the school at the time of the earthquake! He has experienced village and school life pre, during and post the disaster – he is a bit of a legend in the village!


Huish Primary in Yeovil, the school where our son teaches, is very kindly fund raising for Community Action Nepal throughout this school year. The pupils have already been busy raising imagemoney with a copper coin collection and a bookmark sale. We’ve heard that they’ve been incredibly generous with their own time and money. Steve and I would like to take this opportunity to thank them for their hard work and generosity.We appreciate all that they are doing for the people of Nepal and are really looking forward to re-visiting the school to thank everyone in person and share our experiences with them later next year.

When the children here found out about what Huish School were doing for them they wanted to send letters to the pupils there. I was blown away with how much care they took and how enthusiastic they were about writing and decorating them – there were no homework defaulters on that day! They are so excited about sending the letters and are even more excited about hearing back. Two schools in different continents caring about the bigger picture – inspiring.

Here are just a few examples of year 5’s masterpieces. 

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For myself, teaching the little ones continues and I’m loving it – all of them are completely adorable. They do the Nepali shaky head thing which is just so endearing on Sherpa children who are cuter than cute anyway! The day includes English, handwriting, maths, creative play, outdoor activities and Nepali (not my forte!). We’ve drawn round our hands and feet, counted fingers and toes, coloured in rainbows and drawn faces.  I’ve also been spending time getting together some lesson plans for teachers to use when I leave – It’s been fun using my creativity and I’m hoping it will be of some benefit to the school going forward. I’m also looking forward to helping with some English lessons with the older children before I leave.

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Steve’s here there and everywhere doing just about everything…

 

He’s mended the 5 school microscopes, he’s fitted light sockets, he’s insulated classrooms, he’s put up a shelf for me (his most important task yet), he’s taken science lessons and field trips, he’s fixed the failing water supply to the school, got the wifi back on track – the list goes on. At the moment he’s spending less time in school and more time in the forest with the local men folk assessing what’s needed to improve the village water supply over the coming weeks.

Accurate calculations are required for plumbing parts needed as it’s at least a 3 day trek to Kathmandu for anything forgotten or missed off the list!

Year 8 pupils checking out the source of the school water supply

Steve's science field trip to the wetlands

Steve’s science field trip to the wetlands

 

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Corin and Steve misbehaving in class!

We’ve been asked to do some voice recordings for the English listening syllabus – hilarious, I’ve taken a school assembly – terrifying and Steve has been asked to sing in front of a class when they found out he was in a choir – awkward!

We’ve also taught the staff how to play scrabble so they can play (in English) with the students. You’d think we’d have an unfair advantage over the local guys but I came last!


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With little friends at the funeral…

The final school fact for now is that the school is at present the home of the sacred village funeral pyre. Originally set well away from the village it now, (since the earthquake) sits bang slap in the middle of the school grounds and temporary classrooms. Last week sadly the body of a local man was found after he slipped and fell whilst cutting tress in the forest that surrounds the village. The school was shut for the funeral ceremony and the cremation of his body. We were invited to attend and felt privileged to do so. It’s something few outsiders experience and a day we shall never forget – we’ll save the details for another post.


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Boarding pupils’ cutlery

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My classroom

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 This school, it’s staff and it’s children will remain in our hearts long after we return home. It’s a special place that we shall never forget.

P.S did I mention I’m bringing at least 20 children home with me (don’t tell Steve!).

Here are a few of them…

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