My husband, Quentin, and I decided to explore the world this summer. Knowing that we had several weeks of vacation approaching, we spent many evenings fantasizing about distant locales to visit. Perhaps Italy and Greece – we could eat delicious food and drink fabulous wine! Or a tropical island where we could sunbathe and do nothing for hours on end. The possibilities were endless.
That is, until one day when I heard about an opportunity to travel to Nepal and help a rural village to build a much-needed primary school. And that’s when it clicked. This was the trip we were meant to take. I don’t think either of us knew exactly where Nepal was, or what we were in for with this adventure. But for some reason, it felt right. The opportunity to volunteer our time and help others, combined with traveling and seeing remote parts of the world, was the perfect solution to our vacation quest.
It was one of the best decisions we have ever made. Traveling to Jarang, Nepal was an experience that we will never forget. Jarang is a small community of 30 families located on top of a mountain surrounded with views of the Himalayas. There is no electricity or running water.
Each volunteer was placed with a host family within the community of Jarang. A typical day began with the sunrise and the rooster crowing to wake you up. After having tea with your family, you headed off to work at the project site. The work would continue for the duration of the day with several tea breaks and a long lunch break to rest and catch a break from the hot sun. As the sun began to slowly sink behind the mountains, we headed back down to our homes.
Our evenings were the best part of the day. After a quick, cold, bucket shower to rinse off the hard days’ work, we settled onto our host Amaa (Mother) and Buwaa’s (Father’s) porch to watch the sunset and visit with the family and neighbors. People from all over the village would stop by to say hello and ask us about our day. Children would sing Nepalese songs and perform traditional dances for us. Even though we could not speak any Nepalese and very little English was spoken by the villagers, we were somehow able to communicate with each other and thoroughly enjoyed each other’s company.
Living like a local allowed us to truly experience the Nepalese culture. We were treated like family and every effort was made to make us feel at home. Our host families didn’t have many material things, at least compared to what we are used to here in the United States. Yet, they shared everything. While water was difficult to obtain, they let us “shower” at the end of every hot, long day. They fed us constantly with crops yielded from their hard work on their farms. And finally, they gave us our own rooms in houses that were already full. Their generosity was overwhelming.
At the end of the two weeks in Nepal, Quentin and I had formed unforgettable relationships with the villagers in Nepal and with the other American volunteers. The experience that we shared, with each other, is hard to describe in words. I would do it again in a heartbeat.
This program was made possible by a non-profit company called Edge of Seven. They connect American volunteers with service projects in developing countries that are sustainable, community driven, and responsive to local needs. They help Americans to get out and see the world.