For the last month I have been living in rural Nepal, which has been amazing. For a start, the view from my bedroom window is an open meadow, and I am woken up every morning at 5.30 by the squeals of the pig tethered just outside. At the end of the meadow is dense forest, eventually backing onto the mountains. All water is sourced from the handpump in the front garden, and the toilet is no more than a hole in the ground. I have eaten Dahl, rice, vegetables and occasionally goat without exception for the last month, and the only other European face I have seen is that of Mr John Spencer. He stayed in the SOS school for two weeks, coaching cricket and teaching English.
Life here could not be more different, and I fear the thousands of pictures I have taken will not do it justice. Unfortunately there is no chance of me uploading any at the moment, as there are random powercuts 18/24 hours a day, which makes emptying my memory card far too risky!
The pace of life is much slower and far more relaxed, though I wish the same could be said for the road - a month in and I still have no idea what side of the road you drive on in Nepal. I heard yesterday that "There is no limit to speed in Nepal, people just drive as fast as they want". This explains a lot...
In the day I have been teaching at Rastriya Lower Secondary School, a government funded school which Brighton College have been sponsoring for the last few years. My lessons have been interesting to say the least: My first was a complete disaster, not only was I faced with 30 students, none of whom speak any English (and my Nepali was at this point, and still is pretty much non-existent), but I myself had no idea how or what to teach them. To make matters worse, the classroom had no lights, doors or glass in the windows - i.e. nothing to stop the rest of the children clamouring at the windows, desperate to come in as well. Nowadays my class sizes are much smaller, and I am enjoying it a lot. Perhaps the hardest thing is getting to the school at at 6.15. Those who know me will confirm that I was never in school before 8.30, let alone 6.15!
Brighton College sponsorship has had an enormous impact on the school, most notably in the form of a safety rail for the stairs and balcony. I shudder to think how dangerous it would have been before this was put into place. We have also provided furniture, a photocopier,computers and a soundsystem, among many other things which have been invaluable for the school. This year Brighton College will be funding the installation of doors, windows and electricity in all the classrooms. We will also decorate the currently gray, stained and utterly uninspiring classrooms. Teaching is hard enough already, let alone in the dark!
The College is not only financing a new toilet block equipped with separate cubicles for boys and girls and running water, constructing a new bridge between two classrooms, replacing the unbelievably dangerous one in place at the moment; two sticks of bamboo, with planks of rotten wood lying on top, secured with lengths of string.
Tomorrow is the school's annual function - the equivalent of our speech day. I foolishly offered to make my speech in Nepali, a decision I am of course now hugely regretting. Even after hours of practice I cannot get further than the first line without people breaking down into hysterics about how "terrible" and hilarious my pronounciation is. It's not looking promising!
I have visited beautiful temples, spent hours lazing in the 35 degree heat playing the highly addictive "carrom"- Nepal's national game, and been to hospital with food poisoning. A particular highlight has to be the death-defying day trip up the mountains in a jeep, which I quickly realised was essentialy a "booze-cruise" for the teachers at the school to celebrate end of exams! We stopped off at various villages deep in the mountains, some of which were 8 hours away from civilisation. It was a truly memorable experience, and I spent most of the journey back with my eyes tightly shut. I had to trust that the driver was capable and sober enough to manoevure us around the hairpin bends and collapsing roads...
Anyway, I must go before the next powercut strikes, rendering me utterly incompetent as I scrabble around for my headtorch and candles, but I will continue to update you as soon as it's possible to get onto a computer again.