The Chronicles of the 2023 Youth Corps Adventure and its Impacts on the Travelers
Our Travels Our Lives Have Changed Forever Slide Show
And so our adventure begins
Greetings from Kathmandu! It was certainly a long flight. Fortunately, the flights were completely uneventful and as a group we actually felt ready to tackle sightseeing that afternoon after a shower and lunch!
As all of you know, one of the most exciting things to do in a country like Nepal is avoiding all the motorcycles and cars while enjoying (most of) the sights, sounds and smells of the various market stalls we passed. We visited a number of stupas (Buddhist shrine), the Monkey Palace, and lots of off the beaten path little shops. It started raining pretty heavily on our walk back (I was the only one who remembered to bring a rain jacket!), but it was warm rain so not that bad.
Yesterday, we took a taxi to Pashupatinath which is the oldest Hindu temple in Kathmandu, built in the 5th century (still mind boggling to me how that could have been constructed before an understanding of physics, electricity, etc) Since it is bisected by the holy Bagmati River it is a place where they go to cremate their dead (it is where Dinesh took his father after he passed away). No photos were taken out of respect, but we saw several people being prepared and transported to the actual pyres (a guide told us they cremate 20-50 people per day).
Then we went to the Boudhanath Stupa which we learned is the largest Stupa in the world! We got a quick introduction to Thangka painting which is absolutely beautiful and very elaborate.
But by far the highlight of the day was when we literally wandered into the slums to find some old friends of Mark (keep in mind that he had not been back to Nepal in many years). These friends were actually people from India who had travelled to Nepal many years ago in search of work. They had connected with Mark years ago and stayed in touch.
It was like a big family reunion when everybody saw him! The friends were living in destitute poverty yet they were incredibly gracious and brought out chairs and a table and served us all tea and cookies. The girls were great and started talking and playing games with the younger children. Somehow the topic turned to mehndi (henna) and the girls all had elaborate designs drawn on their hands! A magical bonding experience!
We travel to the orphanage today!
A visit to the orphanage and school
On Wednesday morning, we all drove about an hour to Bhaktapur which was one of the three main cities of the Kathmandu Valley in the 18th century (It is one of eight UNESCO World Heritage Sites in the country.) The central part of the city was largely preserved in that style although also unfortunately heavily impacted by the 2015 earthquake. We spent time exploring shops, taking a stint at a potter's wheel, sampling street snacks, etc. It is similar in many ways to the bustling streets of Kathmandu, but with a more laid back vibe. Then we visited the school attended by the kids from HHO. The Vice Principal personally took us to each classroom, introduced all of us, asked which of the kids were from the orphanage, etc. That was fun and you could see it was a really big deal to have visitors from the US!
Again, the highlight of the day happened at the end. The girls stayed at the school until it was over and then walked with the kids 30 minutes from the school back to the orphanage. Completely different surroundings from heavily urban Kathmandu - the current orphanage location is actually surrounded by rice fields. After a nice welcoming tea and cookies (plus a beautiful card for each of us that had been drawn by a HHO student) we shared all the shoes and clothing and other items we had brought for HHO. There were lots of happy smiles! Mark and I then drove back to Kathmandu for the evening while the girls stayed and spent the night at HHO.
On Thursday morning the girls walked with the kids to school and then the principal asked them to split up and teach the kids a lesson about America (essentially some fun facts and a little compare and contrast). I heard it went well and was a very good experience for them. After lunch we walked an hour or so to a nearby temple and then later that afternoon we gave out all the clothes that we had brought. Then, because several of the girls were camp counselors, they taught the kids some fun games (see the videos) We were served Dahl batt for dinner and all ate it Nepali style (with your hand and no utensils).
Today we are returning to Kathmandu and we expect it to be a little rough as Mark wants us to really get the Nepali experience and is asking us to take the public bus rather than a private bus or taxi. We anticipate about a two hour trip without air conditioning and we have been told to bring along bags that can be disposed.
One bus ride to remember for a lifetime
OMG! With the caveat that this description and these videos won’t really do justice to the whole bus ride from Bhaktapur to Kathmandu here you go ….. We left Hopeful Home Orphanage on Friday morning and walked to the bus stop which was on a bumpy dirt road in the middle of nowhere and waited about 15 minutes. This completely full bus pulls up. I'm thinking, "Ok, we'll just wait for the next one. There is no way they are getting seven people on the bus, let alone with five big backpacks!" Au contraire! We were motioned that we could all fit, but we had to put the girls’ full backpacks on the roof of the bus ..... You could see in their eyes, "Should we do that? (Yes) Is it safe? (Probably) Will they be tied down? (Kinda doubt it) Will I ever see it again?" (Let’s hope so) We work through our fears and manage to all get onto the bus. Every seat is full and the entire aisle between the seats is standing room only including a couple people down in the entry stairway. Two minutes later, next stop, two more people get on! Two minutes later, next stop, three more people get on! There are literally now three people on the outside of the bus, foot on the entry stairway and just holding on with one hand! You really can't move at all at this point and it obviously takes a while for people in the back of the bus who need to get off at a particular stop. Fortunately, one of the girls had brought motion sickness pills for everyone and I speculate that really helped. There were times the odor was unpleasant, but it was not nearly as bad as I had feared and no one threw up.
Then they turned on the music and we spent most of the rest of the ride rocking out to Pitbull and Jennifer Lopez and just having a fabulous time! It was the definition of an adventure! We made it back to Kathmandu and were met by Mark and Dinesh who promptly arranged for us to take rickshaws back to the hotel!
And now on to our visit at the Himalayan Education Center
What a full day! We made it safely from Kathmandu to Tumlingtar (with only a half hour weather-related delay) While most of the group decided to take the Jeep from the airport to the Himalayan Education Center (HEC), Mark, Izzy and I decided to walk along an adjacent path, passing through Khandbari. It took us just over two hours and we probably sweated as much as we ever have in our lives!
Hard to believe Mark and Rand used to make that trek on a dirt path with full packs!
When we got to HEC, they gave us each a beautiful little bouquet and we presented them with gifts and games we had brought from the US and bought in Nepal. The girls had a lot of fun learning Jenga and Skip Bo and Chutes and Ladders.
Dinner was a delicious dal bhat, eaten Nepali style with our hands, followed by tea and a small sample of raksi (Nepalese whiskey).
After dinner, we had a little fashion show and learned how to take corn off the cob to provide feed for their animals.
By far the highlight of the evening was singing songs to each other and then teaching them La Macarena which transitioned into a Conga line back up to the house! My cheeks were sore from laughing so hard!
Playing a little catch-up now because so much has been packed into the past couple of days! We took an absolutely epic jeep ride from Khandbari to Gola (it took over 8 hours to cover a total of 43 miles on mostly dirt/muddy roads up and down the mountainside with occasional sheer cliffs on either side).
The Epic Adventures Continue
We dedicated a library in Gola to Bhabin Garung, hiked to the little village of Lingham where Sunita was born and had fun playing with the school children, took another incredible jeep ride back to Kandbari/HEC, learned how to pick corn, plant millet and eat with our right hand!
The HEC girls served us wonderful Nepali food so we decided to turn the tables and treated them to a breakfast of french toast and a dinner of spaghetti, garlic bread and ice cream (for 8 of the 11 girls this was the first time they had ever eaten ice cream and the first time for some of them using a knife or a fork).
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Our lives have been changed forever
(Read the words first hand of those who experienced the adventure.)
I went into this trip completely open-minded and filled with excitement. I’d never been to a 3rd world country before so it was really amazing to see the Nepali way of life and learn about their culture. All the loving kids from the schools and towns - their hearts are only filled with pure joy. I brought some of my cousins’ old clothes that didn’t fit him anymore to the children in the orphanage, and getting to see some of them in his clothes was incredible, to see such a little gesture have a huge impact on the kids. Throughout this trip I learned a lot about myself and how I’ve changed as an individual, how grateful I am for the things I have, understanding you really don’t need much in life, and the way you build your life is through helping others. - Anja Bond-Welch
This trip is hard to put into words. The best advice given to me before going was to not have expectations. What I learned was there would have been no way for me to expect how kind, compassionate and generous the people we came in contact with really were. The connections that Ten Friends and Mark had previously established led us to meeting some incredible people and visiting remarkable places! Notable moments for me was the enjoyment of life that every school kid we met seemed to have. The genuine smiles and laughter shared between us and these kids was incredible and so soul filling. I realized that what we were able to give is incomparable to what we gained in terms of life lessons. I am incredibly grateful for the opportunity we got to go to Nepal, and for the amazing people we met along our journey. These memories are unforgettable! - Izzy Schiller
The time we spent in Nepal was like no other. I hadn’t ever been out of the country before so this trip was full of new experiences. All of us girls went through every possible emotion while traveling - being uncomfortable and constantly pushing ourselves, but also having the most real encounters with the Nepali people. My favorite part was getting to see so many children of all ages, all with their own difficulties and challenges, but each somehow managing to have the most joyful and positive attitudes of any kids I’ve ever seen! The maturity in these kids and willingness to do anything and everything for you was amazing. They loved teaching us new Nepali words or how to do their basic everyday activities such as handwashing clothes, farming, getting water, shucking corn, preparing food and more. Overall, this experience was incredible and I miss the people and place so much! - Hadley Schar
My experience in Nepal was nothing I could’ve imagined. I was challenged and uncomfortable at many points, and though that certainly pushed me and helped me grow, any discomfort was overshadowed by all of the amazing moments throughout the trip. I was struck by how kind and welcoming every person we met was toward us, and how happy everyone was, despite having so few possessions and hardly any money. Nepal is such a beautiful country, but the people are truly what make it such a special place. I would highly recommend this trip to others in the future. I feel so lucky to have experienced such a different culture and part of the world; it was a once in a lifetime opportunity and I can’t express how grateful I am to have been a part of the trip. - Molly Greaney
My favorite trip highlight was seeing all the smiling faces of the kids all throughout the trip while we would sing and dance. We would teach the kids how to play American games, sing American songs and dances. In return, they would show us their dances while they would sing. Those will be memories I will never forget. - Lauren Hartrich
This was the best adventure of my life and far exceeded what I could have imagined! It had elements of fun, newness, challenge (both physical and mental), real risk/danger, social impact, and ultimately a change in one’s outlook and a completely new perspective on life! The structure of going to Nepal with Ten Friends added both purpose and many connections that wouldn’t be there if it was just a trek in the mountains. The ability to spend extended time with Nepali youth at both the orphanage and Himalaya Education Center provided invaluable insight into a personality and a mindset that I had not experienced (people I’ve talked to refer to it as “pure kindness.”) Finally, spending time with five amazing high school students who brought wonderful energy, compassion, laughter and resilience to the many ups and downs of the trip was just unbelievably special. - Bruce Abernethy, President - Ten Friends Board of Directors
Meet the students who traveled to Nepal in 2023
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2023 Ten Friends Trip to Nepal