Stranger – “Hey! Whats your name?”
Me – “My name is Ankit.. pronounced like punk it..”
Stranger - ”So where are you from Ankit?”
Me - ”I am from Kathmandu, Nepal.. you know, somewhere really close by mount everest, the tallest mountain of the world!”
(or state that Nepal is located somewhere between China and India, which works too 90% of the time)
Friend - ”Wow, I know Nepal. It is a beautiful country, you must have climbed Everest then, since it is literally there?”
(Thats a common response from people who have heard of Nepal, some people confuse Nepal with Naples, or somewhere else.. then you start wondering if someone’s geography teacher was slacking somewhere in the Asian chapters)
Me - ”Nah, although it was literally there, I have not climbed Everest yet and sadly I haven’t had the chance to travel around Nepal a lot either.”
Well, that conversation is so two thousand and late, but it was a great conversation starter while I was back in Iowa.
I wanted to change all of that, with each conversation like above, the anxiety and the excitement to come back to Nepal and travel around increased exponentially.
After returning to Nepal in late 2011, I have been on a travel frenzy and the odds have been in my favor. I have been all the way to the north near China to Bungee Jump, traveled all the way to the rural far west to deliver medical supplies for a birthing center, traveled down south near the border on a “tanga” and have heat maps all over central Nepal.
Very recently, couple of us from Biruwa and other friends went on a trip to Thokarpa, a village around 2 hours hike from Sukute. There was altogether nine of us, on our super awesome motorbikes. It had been a while since I had taken my baby R15 out on the highway and it felt fantastic to let her rip in high RPMs on the highway.
After around two hours of motorbiking, we reached our pit stop. At Sukute, we parked our bikes and got ready for a hike to Thokarpa, one of our tour buddy’s relatives village. Since it was monsoon, the gravel road had been washed away by rain. Most of our bikes had racing slick tires on, so we did not want to risk taking our bike up in the hills. We started our hike around 2 PM, a hike which normally lasts an hour for locals, took our “City Kids” almost 3 hours.
We had a local villager guiding us all the way to the top of a mountain, Thokarpa was located around 1200 meters above sea level. The evening was a blast, we got three local chickens cooked up, and around 4-5 liters of local “Kodo” (One of the finest and purest form of Kodo I have ever tasted). We were up until around 2 AM talking about life, business and our awesome experiences in our business. With all the nutritious food, juice and hilarious conversation, all the exhaustion and pain went away in a jiffy.
Thokarpa was very interesting, a lot of the family had emigrated outside Nepal, but still had houses there. We got an opportunity to visit a local government school which offered classes 1 through 5. Luckily, one of the faculty of the school was our host from the previous night, so we got a very special tour. The infrastructure of the school was like any other public schools in Nepal. Rooftop made from metallic sheets and walls made from stone. However, once we were inside the classroom, it had a lot of personal touch in it. Even my private school’s first grade classroom did not have such a personal feeling. It felt like any student who went to Raktakali School, Thokarpa had some sense of ownership and accountability. It was filled with artwork and vocational items that the student had made themselves. But the most impressive aspect about the school were the faculty involved. They knew they were working on a minimum wage, the teachers were mostly farmers by profession, not that well educated, but they used every ounce of energy in their body to make the curriculum interesting to students.
Since there was construction work going around the village and cranes were involved to make roads, the teachers made a working model of crane to teach students how hydraulics system worked. To make multiple choice questions interesting, they made a circuit board of interchangeable questions so when students selected the right answer, it would blink green and blink red if the answer was incorrect (For a remote village coming up with these ideas, we were seriously impressed). The way they presented us and explained our team how hard they were working to get these students learn creatively was beyond fascinating and very touching.
After the tour, we felt like we needed to contribute back to the school and the people who showed us great hospitality and treated with uttermost respect. The school did not have a computer and needed some sort of educational material to show the students what ostriches (or other animals) looked like in real life. Our group decided to contribute the remaining money from our transportation pot around 3000 rupees to buy stationary items for students. Furthermore, we have a friend donating us a used desktop and another group of friends who will wipe everything off the computer and load it with educational materials. We plan to deliver the equipment to the school and help the students get the most out of it. Their creative learning culture is something we definitely want to help continue.
With my travels around Nepal, it has been clear to me that not only is Nepal blessed naturally with awesome terrains but the people here have a big heart too. Our hosts at Thokarpa and the group I went to this awesome place made this trip really special and unforgettable in so many ways.
Check out more pictures of the trip here.
Keep on Keeping on!
-Ankit SJB Rana