Have you ever wondered what a few days could look like for a group of Scandinavian and Nepali students in the gate city of the trekking region Anna Purna in the Himalayas? Well if you have or even if you have not, I’m about to tell you about week seven, since it was the days that we had two quite diverse fieldtrips and a unique birthday party for Malin who turned 22 years.
The week started in the usual quiet pace, me and Malin were at this point living outside of Pokhara in the little outskirt village “Happy village”. The other students lived in an apartment building by the lakeside area, but we’d chosen to stay a bit more on the country side to be able to be in an even more peaceful setting. We lived up on a steep mountainside in a hotel with a huge shared kitchen and big balconies, sharing the space with Yenki (our Tibetan yoga teacher) and one other funky Japanese guy. The rest of the space was more or less empty, apart from the times when the yoga center behind us would fill it with future teachers.
Anyhow, Monday started in our usual routine, at 5.45 our bells would ring and at 6 we’d be down in the yoga hall to practice with Yenki for an hour and a half. Then we drank our tea, ate breakfast and headed down for the road. Every morning we would hitchhike the few kilometers to school, so every morning became little adventures. Our favorite rides would be stopping two motorbikes and follow the road at the bottom of the mountain right next to lake Fewa, those moments were pretty magic. If I remember correctly we started that Monday like that, wind in our hair and morning light in our faces.
Monday class started at nine. We spent a few hours splitting up in groups and preparing for the fieldtrips that awaited us on the upcoming Wednesday, Thursday and Friday. I was double planning since the surprise party for Malin was on Thursday as well. We had three visits planned; two to an NGO called Kopila (to its office in the city and to its farm up in the hills) and one to the municipality of a commune in Pokhara. We got ourselves ready for the meetings by preparing interview questions and discussing appropriate behaviors etc.
Wednesday arrived quite fast and our first visit was to the NGO Kopila. This is an NGO that works for the protection of abused women and children, also with a focus on helping females with some sort of physical or mental disability. We were greeted in the office and taken to a presentation of their work in the conference room. It was eye-opening to listen to their stories and attempt to understand how different life can be for a woman in need in an eastern culture. After this presentation, the ones who wanted to, could go and visit the women in the shelter they had in the city. This became a happy experience for some, were they turned out to be dancing and singing with the Nepali women. While for others, it became a moral dilemma to even visit the shelter (something that would contribute to interesting discussions in the classroom evaluation in the week after). It is very interesting how we as a group managed to have such diverse attitudes to this, which, since we are students of peace and conflict, provided us with a perfect opportunity to peacefully attempt to solve or accept our differences.
Thursday was our visit to the municipality and Malin’s 22 birthday. Upon our arrival at the municipality, we got a presentation of their responsibilities and work in the commune, greeted by the mayor and his whole committee of smiling coworkers. After the introduction, they invited us to go and visit their compounds that they use to empower women in their society, which also presented us with the opportunity to interview some locals and get a sense of their day to day life. As we reached the compounds we realized it was more like farm, since they used the huge garden area for teaching about agriculture and harvesting the land to bring an income for the working ladies. We were greeted by a big group of women who were all dressed in matching pink saris (traditional dresses usually spotted at weddings) as they put necklaces of flowers around us and tikkas (colorful powder used in traditional ceremonies) on our foreheads.
After the required introductions, we got to interview some women that worked at the compound. Then they gave us a tour of their farm, from the massive duck pond to the big vegetable garden in the back. When the visit came to its end, and we’d taken the opportunity to buy organic vegetables from them, we headed back to Tuki hotel for our everyday treat of their big lunch buffet.
After eating it was time for the surprise party, our friend Anna was in charge of distracting Malin while some of the rest of us headed down to the riverside of lake Fewa. We’d planned to rent two floating boats (that kind that require you to use bicycle pedals to move forward) so we went to the waterside to hang balloons and other decorations over them. When we were done, we headed for a Chinese karaoke restaurant close by, and pimped the area that we’d reserved for the birthday dinner.
Back at the water, most of the students and our teachers had gathered to jump aboard the boats. When we were all aboard, Anna and Malin came walking along the waterside. Malin was thinking that they were on their way to meet us at another café. We yelled “surprise!” so it echoed out over the whole area, and Malin got quite a funny shock as she saw us floating on the lake with all the balloons and signs.
Anna and Malin jumped aboard and all of us enjoyed the last few hours of sunshine on the beautiful lake. Heading out on lake Fewa in the sunset hours is truly a thing that should not be missed in Pokhara, especially on the “river” side, where the lake has the monsoon green forests on both sides giving the experience a mysterious jungle feeling. After the boat ride we moved to the Chinese restaurant and sang karaoke for a very long time. For some very entertaining reason, many people in the group have a love for singing!
Friday morning arrived and we had our last field visit of the week. The first NGO we visited (Kopila) has a farm up on the mountain hills of Pokhara valley, this is where we headed. The early morning bus ride was a beautiful one, climbing higher and higher up the mountain side to reach more remote areas were the tourist buses don’t go. Our tired faces still managed to appreciate the views and snap a few photos here and there. As we arrived to the farm, we were warmly greeted by everybody that lived there. There were many women with ruff pasts, children with disabilities and others who’ve been misfortunate to end up in difficult life situations. We barely spent ten minutes at the main house before they gave us ancient agricultural tools and asked us to follow them to the field. It was just to dig in! Literally. Our teacher Samrat had promised them we were there to volunteer, and volunteer we did. After an hour we were all a gang of muddy and sweaty farmers, stopping for some tea in the shade. It was all very entertaining (probably more fun for the people watching us), we even sang “labor” songs to keep the team spirit up.
When the fun was over and our bodies couldn’t take more work, we said our good byes and jumped back on the bus. A well-deserved weekend awaited us! And that my friends, is what a study week in Pokhara can look like.