Dhulikhel- a small village in Kathmandu Valley, Nepal
This is the village we stayed in Nepal whilst volunteering. Our home for the next three weeks. When we first arrived the rain was torrential, drenching all of our belongings and soaking us to the skin. This was to be expected as we arrived in monsoon season. It doesn’t rain in monsoon season, it pours. Nonetheless, the rain did not stop the Nepalese. A celebration was occurring at the guest house we were staying when we arrived, traditional Nepalese music was accompanied with dancing and laughter. We stayed in dormitory rooms, not the most comfortable but what did we expect, we came to volunteer not to have a lavish holiday. Minds were blown with the toilet, it was a hole in the ground. There were other functioning toilets but these were seen as normal here. Some of us embraced using the ‘hole’, myself not being one of those. It was a totally different way of living. At first it was hard to embrace and even once we had grown custom to the lifestyle we all still faced difficulties throughout. However, these negatives were hugely outweighed.
A 1000 steps, a Golden buddha and the ‘Lion King Rock’
Days when we were not volunteering we had ‘free time’ to explore what this village had to offer. This is when we embarked on the ‘1000 steps’. The name gives it away but halfway there was a huge golden Buddha. We were all shown the prayer by our leader and respectively took some photos. Throughout this trip it became prominent how important religion was to the people that lived here. To visit the Golden Buddha a small fare was needed and was paid to a small old man who did not speak any English. Whilst we were waiting for the others we spoke to him, although he spoke no English and we did not speak any Nepalese, we were still somehow able to communicate slightly and we all got a photo. A thousand steps may not sound that difficult but in 40 degrees Celsius and 80 percent humidity at a higher than average altitude, it was a challenge.
Fortunately, the steps were worth it and at the top was the ‘Lion King Rock’. I am not entirely sure what it is actually called or even if it actually has a name but this is what we called it because it looked like the rock of the film the lion king. The horizons were breath taking. It was the greenest place I had ever visited. It felt so fresh and it felt like the air I was breaking was pure. The mist was low and meant we could not see the Himalayas but that was to be expected as it was monsoon season. We all took photos climbing the rock, this wasn’t the easiest thing for me. The rock was sandy and I was sure I was going to slip and fall. It is actually higher than what it looked.
The village that is Dhulikhel
When walking in town it was an experience in itself. We were stared at by the majority of people who lived there. In advance, we were told that in Nepalese culture it did not mean the same thing as it did at home but they were just curious and was not a sign of disrespect. The first week we were the only white people in the town so when walking to the school or to some of the shops a few heads were turned. That may have been an under exaggeration, it felt like the whole town was staring at us, which was something we were not used to. The culture was very different to our own, we had to be fully covered up, not showing knees or shoulders, this was extremely difficult with the heat and the humidity.
Luckily, we were shown the ropes by our fantastic leader. She helped us with lots of challenging situations. This included showing us around the town, helping us with our own needs and educating us about Nepalese culture. Additionally, Telling the chefs to reduce the spice when our food was insanely hot, taking me to the pharmacy to get me some more travel sickness tablets and helping us in the schools when times were challenging. She was the most kind-hearted person I had ever met and I am so thankful for all of her help. She is a true inspiration.
Whilst walking through some parts of town, we became increasingly aware of the damage the earthquake left. There was a lot of poorly reconstructed houses that did not look safe. Accumulating in the streets were large unsafe piles of rubble from falling buildings. It was explained that it would only be moved if people were paid to move it and this was not available, there was also nowhere to put the rubble. Money was sparse due to the unfair distribution of foreign aid due to a corrupt government hoarding money. it also became clear that large problems need larger solutions that could not be easily resolved. The complexity of the situation was heart breaking, only so much can be done individually.
A quick trip to Bhaktapur
At some point during the week when we finished school earlier that day, someone in a group had a spontaneous idea to visit the next big town, Bhaktapur. We were so used to being on lock down from 7 o’clock at night every night. Once it hit 7 to the second, it was pitch black. For our safety, we had to stay inside the guest house from then. Finishing earlier than day we had around 4 hours before it went dark, so we took advantage of this. We entered and paid 1500 Nepalese rupees (which is roughly $15).
A moment that hit me hard when i was there was when I saw two young girls using a bucket down a well. It came to my attention that we take so much for granted, I was aware I was in a developing country that was recovering from an earthquake a few years back but, this had never crossed my mind. when in Bhaktapur we wandered around looking at temples and small stalls and absorbing the culture. The town had beautiful architecture with impressive temples and Durbar Square.
Once the administration ticket was purchased we were allowed to enter again within the week. When the opportunity arose, we went back after finishing early again. This time we went to the Durbar square. We climbed to the top and again documented the moment with photos. Again, by another amazing member of our group it was suggested we went to go and get some food. Luckily, a small restaurant tucked away in the corner was found. We all ordered chips and either Everest beer of Somersby apple cider. It was something we needed and boosted our morals after having a tough week.
Food in Dhulikhel
When embarking on a new destination many factors have to be embraced. Soaking up the culture and visiting new places also means following their lifestyle, this includes their food. This was another challenge a lot of us had to face. Obviously, Nepalese food is very different to Western food. Mainly every meal was Dhal Bhat. A traditional Nepalese dish that consisted of rice, spicy curry like sauce, spicy potatoes and vegetables. With having a Western palate, it was unbearably spicy so we lived off rice. On the odd occasion, we had other food such as chow mein. Unfortunately, this was too spicy sometimes too. Additionally, we had Momo’s, a dumpling like food with spicy vegetables inside. They were a strange texture that I had never experienced before. With living on rice every day, for every meal for 3 weeks it meant our energy was low. Especially with the heat, so we topped up with fizzy drinks, Pringles and Oreos that we purchased at the local supermarket. Not fully embracing the Nepalese food but it was the added energy we needed to get through the day.
The impact of Dhulikhel
Dhulikhel was difficult and a challenge, others in the group even came up with the nickname ‘Dhulihell’ as a joke but it definitely holds a special place; where we taught and met some kind-hearted people. Looking beyond the difficulties it was an extraordinary place that holds many memories. Including crazy power cuts for hours at night with us all sat chatting in the dorms, running away from what seemed like a hundred stray dogs that barked at us every time we walked past them to school scared we were going to get rabies, teaching incredible children and contributing to renovating classrooms.
I am thankful for the experience and could not have done it with the amazing people I went with.