Deirdre Jones
Gatlang - July 2007

Another volunteer accompanied me from London. After the 10-hour bus journey to Syabru Besi, we stayed there overnight and the following day we trekked to Gatlang. It took about 4.5 hours. We met our host Durga and his family who were extremely welcoming and accommodating.

The children were on school holidays at the time. In Gatlang, there isn't a resource centre as such.  Instead, we used one of the classrooms of the school as our base whilst we were there. Durga kept all the supplies in his home and we brought these up to the school.

The typical day was to teach from 7-9 approx in the morning and then again in the afternoon for another 2 hours or so. Word got out fast that we had arrived and by the 2nd day, we had about 30 children appear. More tended to show in the morning session than in the afternoon.

The Tamang language was a bit of a problem but one of the older kids helped interpret for us. There were children of all ages ranging from as young as three up to approx 10 years old. It was helpful to have another volunteer because we ended up dividing the class into 2 with one of us taking charge of the older children and the rest took care of the younger.

The older children of which there were only about four were well advanced in comparison to the other children. They were able to read English, do maths timetables and so we tended to practise grammar with them and future and past tense.

The other group was much more basic. If we went through the alphabet with them, they tended to repeat it in a 'singsong' fashion, but we found that if we pointed to a letter at random many did not know what this was. So we tended to spend a lot of the time going over the basics, pointing to objects, and teaching words. They also loved incorporating game-playing into their learning. A favourite was head, shoulders, knees, toes, also the hokey-cokey, and getting them to work out which is their right and left side!

Unfortunately, I think the biggest drawback to teaching at Gatlang in July was the weather. It rained almost every day and we were constantly covered in cloud. In addition, we were unable to trek anywhere on our day off (Saturday) because of the poor conditions and mud everywhere. However, in saying that, the kids were really fantastic. They do not have much but they greeted us every morning with big smiles and waves and their enthusiasm never waned. It was truly an experience!

So in summary, in my view, go to Gatlang if you are thinking about it at all. When we did catch a glimpse of the peaks, they were truly breathtaking. However, if you are here during the monsoon you might want to consider that you will not see much of the beautiful surroundings. The family is amazing and very welcoming and you do experience something amazing.