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Monday, 17 November 2014

Teaching English, Giving Back on my Travels

Looking Inward, Building Outward

From the pinnacle of Singalila Ridge in India, admiring in bare faced awe at 4 of the 5 tallest mountains in the world at once, that familiar feeling returned to me – why am I so lucky?
4 of the 5 tallest mountains in the world, and 4 countries... what a view
On many occasions during my travels I have wondered what did I deserve to be doing what I am doing? I don't (or at least try not to) feel different than anyone else. I only remind myself that I was given a specific set of circumstances in life which thrust me onto my current path. In other words, it came down to sheer luck.

Thus far, I have met many people on my travels doing meaningful work such as teaching English or building schools. I regretted that I couldn't join their cause. But these missed opportunities kept me wondering why I'm travelling and not making positive impact like these amazing people?

I've talked a lot about making the world a better place but, up until now, I've been in full travel mode. I've been taking so many wonderful experiences the world has to offer, but have yet to give back.

I guess I was just waiting for the right opportunities to come along…

Featuring: The Nepali Cast(e) of Rising Stars
Bhim, the director of Basanta Sadan English Boarding School
Meet Bhim Adhikary.

Bhim taught for the Nepal public school system most of his life before retiring and starting his own private school. In 2002 he started Basanta Sadan English Boarding School ( on the ridgetop village of Basantapur in remote eastern Nepal.

I happened to visit this sleepy village. Bhim spotted me walking by his school, saying hi to some kids playing. He waved me over, showed me around his school, then asked if I wanted to teach English there in exchange for accommodation and food.

With virtually no time left on my Nepal visa, I agreed to teach for just one day. And what a magical day it was!
Students love the camera - they all want a photo!
Once I got over the probing stares of hordes of students, gawking at me like an exhibit in a museum, I set to work. Over the course of the day I taught two lectures, basically telling students about my life and about Canada. I managed to fit in some English theory on past tenses and participles, but they preferred asking questions about my life. After a couple of lectures I used my time to advertise online Bhim’s school search for volunteer English teachers.

I left the school feeling elated, though a bit short changed at the fact I stayed such a short time. But it gave me a sense of hope that such opportunities could be so easy to come by.

Fast forward one week later…
Anna, myself, and Liz, Couchsurfer and volunteer English teacher
Meet Liz Purdy.

Liz has been teaching English for 9 months in the remote village of Kharka, 4 hours from Darjeeling in northeast India. She advertised her homestay on Couchsurfing, which offered two great opportunities – one, to trek the promising Singalila Ridge, and two, to teach English. I jumped all over it.

After doing the trek with Liz and her friend Anna, filled with the most amazing mountain views I have seen, I got to spend time in Kharka. I guest lectured at her school for 2 days. The lectures were fun and informal and I really had an amazing time connecting with the children.
Having a good time with the students
At the homestay I witnessed Liz's seamless integration into the local community, learning the language and connecting with her adopted Nepali family (despite being in India the area is predominately Nepali caste) as well as other villagers. I learned a ton about the culture through her eyes and ears. I even got to help cook dhal, a lentil based soup, and ochar, a kind of pickled and spicy vegetable.

Her compassion and dedication to this little mountain village and its people was inspiring. I left the homestay with renewed confidence that I have the resources and potential to make positive impact wherever I travel.

Coming Full Circle

It has recently become evident to me of one important reason why I blog.

Since striking out on my own to Calgary 6 years ago as a naïve kid, I have undergone exponential personal growth, and have become addicted to it. After returning from Europe almost one and a half years ago, I outgrew Calgary and felt an invisible pull towards new and different experiences elsewhere.

Blogging has always been my passion and now I realize that it’s just one of my tools of personal growth. It’s a tool that feeds my circle of outward action and inward growth, ever expanding with every new experience. Without it – without you, my faithful readers – I lack the support I require to keep on going.
Teaching others is a way of teaching myself - expand one's knowledge, expand oneself
So I'm making a selfish request – read my blog! Because everytime you do, you propel me towards my goal, my ultimate vision. And hopefully in the process my blogs can draw even the tiniest of smiles across your lips, or create a pang of inspiration within you, and brighten your day.

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