By Program Director, Emily Stanley
One week ago, eight Edge of Seven volunteers boarded a plane for Nepal. After two days of air travel they arrived in Kathmandu, tired but inspired to begin their adventures. Edge of Seven volunteer trips are an experiential lens into another county, culture and way of life. Because much of our work is in very rural Nepal (and trips often require a several day hike into the project site), volunteers tend to spend a good portion of their pre-trip thoughts and preparations focused on what they’ll do once they arrive in the village. But what happens when you first arrive in Kathmandu and the days that follow?
While the schedule varies slightly trip to trip, below is a sample itinerary (based on what our March volunteers were doing last week):
DAY 1 (Sunday) – Airport pick up and a brief introduction to Kathmandu and Thamel (the neighborhood where the hotel is located). While touristy, Thamel is a backpacker’s haven. Good food, bustling streets and lots of outdoor gear. The volunteers nap, shower and settle in to their rooms. In the afternoon, a local resident leads us on a tour of Durbar Square, a UNESCO World Heritage Site with unique, historic Newari architecture. By early evening, jet lag kicks in. We finish the day with a dal bhat dinner and early to bed.
DAY 2 (Monday) – During the morning, volunteers to do a cultural tour of Kathmandu paying visits to Swayambhunath, Patan Durbar Square and Boudhanath Stupa. After lunch, we conduct a cultural and logistical orientation covering what to pack for the project site, life in the village, religion, history and general questions. Volunteers eat dinner in Thamel before retiring early to prepare for a morning flight.
DAY 3 (Tuesday) – The group takes a commuter flight from Kathmandu to Phaplu, one of the airports in the Everest Region. Sometimes they see a brief glimpse of Everest from the air. They enjoy lunch in Phaplu and hit the trail early afternoon. This year, thanks to a generous donation from one of our former volunteers, the group carried laptops from the U.S. all the way to Nepal. The laptops were dropped off at our recently completed girls’ hostel in Salleri, quite close to Phaplu. Volunteers trek all Tuesday afternoon and camp (gear provided) that evening.
DAY 4 (Wednesday) – Most of the day is spent trekking to the village. This spring, our project is constructing a higher secondary school in a village called Basa. Upon arrival, volunteers are introduced to the local community and their host families. While it takes a few days to settle in and find a routine, we introduce volunteers to the toilets, kitchen, water and day-to-day needs. Living accommodations are typically very basic and our groups live simply, but happily like locals!
When preparing for a volunteer trip abroad the most important thing to bring is an open mind. With a little flexibility and a willingness to go with the flow, you’ll get more out of your experience than one might imagine.
For a little about the Basa Project Site and photographs of the region, visit Edge of Seven’s board chair’s blog at: http://outlanderings.com/2012/03/15/welcome-to-basa/.