Volunteering in Nepal – Monks Playing Soccer

Posted by: Samuel

My one month and one week volunteering at the Teaching in Buddhist Monasteries project in Nepal began November 15th, at Tribhuvan Airport, Kathmandu. After landing, disembarking, completing my visa application, payment, and exchanging some money, I exited the airport. As soon as I had exited the doors, I was asked by maybe ten different drivers if I needed a taxi. After explaining that I didn’t, and had private transport (organized by GoEco), they helped me find the driver who took me to the car. There, I met my first and best friend of trip, Behrad.

The seeming chaos of the driving system here is what first struck me. Taxi drivers and motorbikes, weaving in and out of traffic, 20 people at once atop buses who were overtaking and weaving too. The sound of horns, whistles. After a 20 minute drive, we arrived at the guest house, a very beautiful three story traditional Nepali style building, complete with mahogany-colored double doors with Hindu creation carvings, a temple room and an impressive double staircase. I was warmly greeted by the other volunteers, Rajesh (The coordinator) and Rob (The housekeeper).

The next day began introduction week, a educational week filled with language lessons, cooking lessons, culture lessons, excursions and the great people that were the other volunteers, with whom I learnt about their own countries, reasons for coming and a range of card games I didn’t know existed.

That Sunday, I left for Namo Buddha with the other volunteer going to that location, David. After a three hour bus ride (on top) and a short taxi ride, the golden monastery atop a mountain appeared. Words would fail to describe both the surreal beauty of the place and the experience I had teaching the students. It was 3 weeks that I’m likely to treasure for the rest of my life. From experiencing phuja, the daily ritual prayer of the monks, to teaching maths to monks my own age, to becoming friends with the monastery cook who told us all about the life of Nepali villagers and his own experiences of the recent political turmoil, earthquake disaster and now the fuel crisis. I met some of the warmest people I’ve ever met, not just limited to the monks.

A truly memorable experience was refereeing two days of soccer. The monks truly love the sport and had a 2 day schoolhouse tournament, which I was requested to referee. The youngest monks were the spectators and cheerleaders, beating plastic bottles and plastic drums, cheering their houses on. They played on a small pitch dug out of the side of (literally) a mountain, the ground was dirt and the goals made out of metal poles. In two hours of soccer, I think I only had to give a single foul, which to me exemplifies the spirit of comradeship and gregarious nature of these incredible people.

I made great friends during my time, of many different religions, cultures, countries, and highly recommend to anyone not just my own volunteering program, but any with GoEco, and would like to return again.