by Emily Gabbard

Colorful, loud, interesting, busy… These are the words I would use to describe Kathmandu, Nepal.

I have been part of various volunteer projects during my first month here.

I teach English at EDUC (Education and Development for Underprivileged Children) for two hours every morning. I find this school amazing; they are giving street vendors’ kids an education for free, which means, essentially, that they are giving these children living in poverty a chance to have more options in their lives. The principal of this school is one of the coolest people I have met. She is caring, funny, and just amazing. She, along with the rest of the teaching staff, receive little to no income from the school. They are basically volunteering for the betterment of the children.

I help by teaching English to a class full of 8, 9, and 10 year olds. The kids are so happy to learn and for the most part they are very attentive. Their teacher stays in the classroom with me and translates what I say into Nepali; however, most of these students understand a lot of English.

I also have been volunteering for BBC (Beyond Beijing Committee). They are dedicated to women’s rights and equality. They write reports about what the government needs to do in order for women’s rights to be upheld. I help them by editing the reports, which are written in English.

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I have recently started volunteering at the vocational school to help teach math. The students now have access to a computer lab where they use Kahn Academy to learn math. I assist with translating the problems (because they are still learning English) and occasionally helping work out the problems. I really love being a part of this program. I have set up my own Kahn Academy account, which allows me to take many different types of courses. I am currently learning about computer programming in my free time, which has helped me narrow down some possible majors once I go to Carolina this fall.

Another organization that I have worked with is called Curry Without Worry. I’ve helped by chopping vegetables and making roti for a dinner that served over 300 people. This was a great way to learn how to make curry, build relationships, and impact the community. I hope to continue to work with ‘Curry Without Worry’; however, it takes up the entire day, which would mean I have to miss the Khan Academy class in the evening. Maybe I can leave Curry earlier and make it back in time for the class? Oh the choices I have to make on my gap year.

I love volunteering here, but I have been fortunate enough to do some exploring in my free time. I rode on the back of an elephant, went on a jungle walk, went to see Mt. Everest, saw the living goddess, and jumped off a bridge into the highest canyon swing the world.

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The Living Goddess

I was fortunate enough to see the Living Goddess one afternoon. She only appears out of a window for 10-15 seconds, so it was very exciting that I was there just in time.

The Living Goddess has to be from the highest caste of the Newar community. There are many requirements that a living goddess must possess. She needs to have eyes of a cow, a neck the shape of a seashell, no mark on her body and many other things. Basically the girl has to be beautiful and perfect.

The Living Goddess is chosen during one of Nepal’s biggest festivals. It is during the darkest night where they sacrifice buffalos and lay their decapitated heads around a bonfire. Girls the ages of 4 or 5 are sitting around the decapitated buffalo heads while a man dressed as a demon is dancing around them. The girl that remains calm is selected to become the Living Goddess. She is supposed to be brave and courageous, which is the reason why she is not afraid during the selection process. Also, the girl must choose items that the previous Living Goddess wore. After many different tests the girl who passes becomes the Living Goddess.

The Living Goddess is believed to have healing powers and predict the future through her actions. A girl will remain as the Living Goddess until she menstruates or loses a great amount of blood from her body, for this means the goddess has left the girl’s body.

Chitwan National Park

I took a trip to Chitwan National Park with two other volunteers, Emma and Hanna. I was able to ride an elephant, go canoeing with crocodiles, walk through the jungle, and just relax in Chitwan. It was interesting to see this part of Nepal because I am so use to seeing the smog filled Kathmandu. Also, Chitwan was actually warm! I didn’t need to sleep with my sleeping bag! It was fantastic.

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The Highest Canyon Swing in the World!

I admit that I am a little afraid of heights. I finally overcame my fear and jumped off a bridge into the highest canyon swing in the world. My gap year has been about overcoming challenges and fears; jumping off a bridge into a canyon was definitely one of those moments.

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Interesting thoughts:

  • I have never had a sleeping bag before. Here, I sleep with a sleeping bag every night because it reaches about 30 degrees F at night.
  • It can be 30 degrees at night but up to 75 degrees during the day in the sunlight. The temperature changes drastically; from sweatpants, hats, scarves in the morning to a t-shirt and sunscreen during the day.
  • I have grown to like Asian food. For those of you that don’t truly know me, that’s a huge change.
  • I have never been so thankful for my washer and dryer. Hand washing clothes is difficult!
  • There are solar panels on the roof that makes the water hot for showers. However, in order to take a hot shower you must do it from 3-6pm. Sometimes if you’re lucky it’ll be warmer earlier or later.
  • They have load shedding for the electricity. There is no power for about 11 hours a day, but don’t worry there is a generator that keeps the Internet working haha. When there is electricity it’s a nice surprise.
  • I realize I don’t need to live with western technology; however, I am thankful for it back home.
  • One month already? That went by fast. But I have 15 more weeks until I go home! That’s so long. 15 more weeks until I get to be in the comfort of my home, but 15 more weeks left in my gap year!

I’m not sure whether to look forward to May 9th, 2015: the day my gap year ends.