Our experiences during five weeks in Ganganagar

Kajsa Bilius 

Ebba Holmquist 
Uppsala in Sweden 

We wanted to do some volunteer teaching after having done trekking and a lot of other tourist activities in Nepal. We were lucky to come in contact with INFO. Everything was very quickly arranged. Just a few days after our first introduction with Asim at the office in Kathmandu, we were out on the field. INFO arranged a short Nepali language course and we also got to know important things about Nepali culture before we sat off which was very useful. We could never have imagined some of the cultural differences between our- and Nepali society and it would not have been so easy to handle without some "background information". INFOs' co-ordinator Asim also came to see us once in Ganganagar to make sure that everything went smoothly.

 VILLAGE LIFE IN GANGANAGAR Nepali families in general treat their guests with big respect and a lot of love. Our family was no exception. We really felt welcomed, loved and taken care of during our stay at Ghimires'. The family included Deba Raj, Sushila and their lovely daughters Kanchan and Kiran. Soon we felt like members of the family. They became our sisters and brother and will remain so.

In the Nepali society the neighborhood also form a kind of big family which we really experienced. During the afternoons people went to each other's houses and sat chatting for a while before going to the next house. We got in close contact with our neighbors. Especially them of our own age, which we now consider our intimate friends and with whom we will keep in touch. The women of the village arranged a traditional Nepali picnic one Saturday. We went together with them to the shore of Rapati River. A lot of food was cooked over open fires and the singing and dancing continued the whole day and evening long. As time went by we became quite skilled in eating Dal Bhat with our hands, washing clothes on the stone platform under the pump, taking "bucket-baths" inside a little shelter and washing the dishes (when we got the chance). Nepali culture does not at all invite or include guests in the housework. But we tried hard and since we were considered as members of the family, we succeeded in helping making Tea, "Tarakari" and Rice-pudding and, as mentioned, to do the dishes sometimes. 

Nepali everyday life became after a while natural to us. Even eating Papaya, Bananas and Oranges from the garden's trees became not so exotic as it would have been just a short time before. We felt strongly for the women in the village. Traditional Nepali culture puts the women far behind the man. Coming from a much more equal society, this part was difficult to handle. 

SCHOOL We taught in two classes each. Kajsa was teaching in class five and seven while Ebba had six and eight. The students' knowledge in English differed very much from person to person. To teach was a very interesting and amusing challenge as well as a really tricky one. Especially in the lower classes was our lack of deep knowledge in Nepali was a hindrance. We did everything from singing songs and playing games with our students to teach them grammar and have group discussions. The students were very curious about us and about Sweden. Sometimes we skipped the grammar and talked about Swedish different customs instead which we also considered being a very important part of our presence. We were not only English teachers, we were also human beings with a lot of other views and experiences which we shared with our students and staff. Certainly we also got our share of our Nepali friends views and way of thinking.

As INFO volunteers we didn't only talk, we did some work with our hands too. We drew some pictures on the school's wall including Nepal's map and a Swedish elk. The elk rose a lot of questions. Didn't it have a too short tail? Our school session ended in a very friendly and traditional Nepali way. We were given "Tikas" (red colour on our foreheads that soon tended to cover whole our faces) and "Malas" (beautiful flower necklaces made by the students). 

As a summary we can say that our five weeks in Ganganagar made deep impressions on us. It's a time which we'll never forget and which has enlarged our views. We hope a lot of other people will take the opportunity to become volunteer workers in the middle of Nepal!