Danielle Soya (Danny)
Gatlang, Langtang - Feb- March 2007 ( 6 weeks )

Despite warnings that going alone could be difficult, I chose to be placed in Gatlang just outside of Langtang National Park. It was a very remote village with few Nepali speakers (they are mostly Tamang) and fewer broken English speakers. However, my goal for the trip was to live in the most remote mountain area I could find. Having just recently returned, I have no regrets. 

The 10 hour bus ride was fine, with only one minor landslide delay, and I was welcomed in Syabru Bensi by the volunteer who had run the library there for 5 weeks, and her host family. She ended up changing her plans to return to Kathmandu and walked up Goljung Pass with me to help set up in Gatlang. The Pass was an experience in itself: 2 hours straight up the mountain, then 2 more hours along the road at the top to reach my home for the next 5 weeks. The view is awesome, and canít be properly captured with words or photographs. From the host familyís house there is a perfect view of Langtang I and II, as well as the surrounding snow capped mountain ranges. It is impossible to be upset by anything when you wake up to that view every morning. It makes the cold bearable. And it was cold when I arrived. Snow was a frequent occurrence and quite some time was spent huddling with people around a fire. By the time I left, the warmer weather was coming, which I was grateful for, if only for the sake of the locals who wore sandals through it all.  

I managed to set up a decent teaching schedule by the end of the first week. It had taken a while to organize because of the extra language barrier, and the school being out of session, but the effort was more entertaining for the village (and there is something to be said for that). After a brief break to celebrate the Tibetan New Year in Syabru Bensi, I began a daily schedule of class. From 7-8:15, I instructed the younger men of the village who were no longer in school. They could read it quite well, but with the highly accented and non-fluent teachers in the school, everyone had difficulty understanding spoken words without visual aids. At 8:15 until 9 I worked on vocabulary with the small children. They were exceedingly eager and very good mimics, though it took a lot of effort to get them to really comprehend the meaning of words. I ended up going back to assist the English teacher with regular classes because 3 of the 7 teachers never came out to Gatlang to teach. I would teach Class 5 on my own when they had no teacher, and I would work with the official English teacher in Classes 6, 7, and 8 until 1:30. The kids have very little contact with English speakers and would come up and request me in their classrooms before they realized I would be willingly sticking around to teach for a while. 

In the afternoons I occasionally did hikes up to Pavari Kunda (a lake 45 min more up the mountain) or to Goljung the other volunteer village 2 hours away. Usually, I taught a few students privately on request until dinner time. There is never a shortage of students if you are eager to teach. The host familyís home is actually a guesthouse and the head master of the school stays there. The teacherís would come to me with all sorts of questionís about the English language and other countries, all the while trying to improve their pronunciation.  I wish more volunteers would visit the area as the long spaces between volunteers mean each one starts from scratch. Still, you never doubt that you are making a difference or that the change is welcome. Next time I go out there, I will try to get some Tamang training to improve communication with the parents in the village. But donít worry, everyone is very nice, and I was so well cared for, I didnít ever feel the need to get in contact with the outside world. Though, it is nice to know INFO would help out if there was a problem. I will definitely be returning to visit in the near future.

Email: dcsoya@gmail.com


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