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Nepal Service Learning Experience
Posted 04/20/2015 04:00PM

By Isabella Piconi '16

Nepal was the most memorable trip I have been on and I will miss everything about it. During my two years in the Nepal group, I have been researching the country and learned a lot from others who attended last year’s trip. Learning about something in a classroom or hearing the stories of others is one thing, but going out and experiencing Nepal for yourself is another.

We landed in Nepal from Delhi and got our first taste of what city life was like in Kathmandu on the way to the hotel. The dirt roads were filled with the sound of horns coming from every direction, people putting their lives at risk crossing the dirt roads without traffic lights and encountering occasional cows paying no attention to the chaos happening all around.

After Kathmandu, we met our homestay parents in the Tashiling Refugee Camp in Pokhara. My roommate Emily and I stayed with a woman named Tsering, meaning “long life”, who is a mother with two boys aged five and 13. She must wake up every morning at six to go get water for the day because water is only available from six to seven in the morning, then it is shut off. Tsering gets water for the dishes, for the toilet, for cooking, and has to buy the daily drinking water. Reliable electricity is only available Thursdays, Fridays, Saturdays, and Sundays.

Trekking was hard at times, as we went though many places: Hile, Ghorepani, Tatopani, Khalopani, and arrived in Mustang on our last day, where Tserok is located. For our service project we built a wall made up of rocks by the river in order to stop the floods from coming into the village during flood season. Every day the TASIS group as well as the local Tibetans of the village worked together. By the end of the project, we had met almost everyone in the village.

The village is made up of mostly younger and older Tibetans. The parents of the children must find employment elsewhere, like in India for example. Nepalese law does not allow Tibetans to work. As for the children, they can only get an education in Nepal up until they reach age ten. If they wish to continue their studies, they must go to India. Their parents, wanting their children to get the best education they can afford, send them, even if that means not seeing their children for a while.

That night, the very kind Tibetan who was taking care of us, named Sonam, told us the history of the Nepali, Tibetan, and Chinese people and how they are interrelated. He talked about how the Tibetan people had no rights, they could not get an education or hold a job, how parents sent their eight-year-old children over the hill and across the border in search of a better life.

After five days it was time to move on and complete our circle by returning to Tashiling, then Katmandu. The last night, the locals preformed three traditional dances. I’ve never seen anything like it. All the men and women all dressed up head to toe in their traditional dress, with a different outfit for each dance. I loved how the little girls came up to the front row and sat on our laps while watching the traditional performances.

Up in the Tserok Camp in Mustang, they sacrificed everything for us. They bought special hot water because that is what we are used to. The villagers shower in cold water, even in the winter. They were so nice. They would give anything to us, just for our satisfaction, to make things how we are used to, accommodate us to the best of their abilities, even though they have little.

To end our trip, we spent two nights in Tashiling, back with our homestay families. It was very sad to say goodbye. I will miss the conversations we had about each others’ lives over tea. I will also miss Tsering’s delicious meals. We spent our last day in Kathmandu where we took our last walk around the city. Returning to TASIS completed the circle.

I learned to love the simplistic nature that the people in Tibet live in and grew to appreciate everything so much more. I will miss the food. I will miss the sparse lifestyle, the way the communities got along, both in the Tserok Camp in Mustang as well as the Tashiling Camp where we stayed with our Tibetan homestay hosts. I will also miss our amazing group, the environment, and everyone. The Nepal trip was an experience I will never forget.

More photographs from the Nepal Global Service trip here

TASIS Global Service Program

The Global Service Program was envisioned by Jan Opsahl ’68, who became the first international student at TASIS when he came from Norway in 1965. The pioneering program was launched in 2013 with major support from a most generous donation from Mr. Opsahl and his family to set up the Global Service Trust. This Trust, along with support from the TASIS Foundation, make this incredible, life-changing experience for our students possible.

The Global Service Program transforms lives by providing every High School student a unique opportunity to connect across borders through comprehensive experiences that build empathy and encourage personal responsibility. Participation in the program—which is designed to awaken students to humanitarian needs, inspire them to build enduring, mutually beneficial relationships, and lead them toward a life of active citizenship and committed service—is a graduation requirement.

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