Exploring faraway land in far west

This was my second visit to Bajhang. The first one was about three months ago where we went to train the teachers from 10 different schools on using laptops and implementing the ICT based education. This visit was intended for the further enhancement of the teachers’ skill towards integrated teaching via in-school training. In addition to that, we also conducted a Baseline Survey on the students of 10 schools in Bajhang. This was my very first experience of conducting an official survey. So besides the technical help, I also assisted with that.

I had never been to Terai during summer. This was the first time I encountered so much heat. It was 40 degrees in Dhangadhi when we stepped out. We decided not to stay any longer there because of the heat. We set off for Dadeldhura pretty soon. This time of the year was perfect for Kafal (a wild fruit called Bayberry). We were accompanied by delicious Kafal on our way. The next day, before setting out to Bajhang, we paid our visit to one of the popular temples of Dadeldhura. We reached Jhota Bazar at around four in the evening and it was pretty much astounding, for we had thought the place would be too hot. Rather, it was a cool place to hang out which changed our minds as we decided to extend our stay there.

Starting our first day of work, into the wildness of the forest, we walked along the trails by the beautiful Seti river which was burbling its way out.  We left for the school at around six in the morning when I felt the freshness of the purest touch of nature, leaving behind all kinds of pollution of Kathmandu. Half an hour walk of about 3.5 kms would certainly be tiresome but not in the freshness of such place. I started the technical stuffs as soon as I reached the school. While Tika sir was engaged in class observation, I was busy with the kids of class three in the school. I made them draw something on their own. They were busy on making their art for a while and after a bit later, I took a laptop and played a children’s song. They enjoyed the song and started singing along. So, I paused the song and called a boy from higher class to play Madal (a nepali musical instrument) for them to sing. I enjoyed listening to such innocent voices. This was my very first interaction with the children in schools. By the time I finished my work, it was already noon. We were unable to hold the SMC meeting so we returned to the nearest pickup point which was the same as the morning. We returned to Jhota Bazar where we were staying and had our lunch. Later we went roaming around and eventually reached a mini-beach on the bank of Seti where we created various sand art for fun. We tried catching fishes and skipped stones on river. We didn’t stop until it grew darker. At the end of the day, before and after dinner we took a short walk along the empty roads.

Kids exploring their creative side.

On the second day, I revisited the same school for Baseline survey with our trainer Miss Deepa. It was pretty much difficult because of the communication gap between us and the children. We came across such brilliant students who could change the face of Bajhang in the coming years but the English language became major source of dissatisfaction. Interacting with the children and helping them with their questions was very much fun yet tiring.  I went on with the survey with other classes as well. By the end of the working hour, I had a sore throat because this was the very first time I had to control the whole class by reaching out to each and every kid. As we didn’t had our breakfast, we were invited to the headteacher’s house. We agreed on going and I believe it was the right decision. We found out that the community was self sustaining with bio-gas for cooking purpose from the by-products of the cattles they rear. The chilling gust of wind under scorching heat of sun was refreshing. We decided to explore the bank of the Seti river again while waiting up on the road for our pickup to arrive. We returned to our stay and took some rest. Two of our colleagues went fishing instead.

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The shaky bridge to the school.

The next day our driver had to drop us to four different schools at the same time. So he dropped four of us to Bagthala, our splitting point. Miss Deepa and I took a local transportation where I suffered throughout the journey. It was an off-road and the driver was playing annoying music really loud. We reached the school about an hour later after crossing a ‘temporary’ bridge. It was very adventurous to even think about the thrill of falling off it. The river flowing down the bridge would certainly give a lot of trouble as we were carrying some electronic stuffs with us. After reaching the school, I continued with the updates and survey. We were received by our vehicle at around midday. We had our lunch at Head Sir’s house where I met a boy who was physically challenged but a brilliant mind. He was always cheerful and didn’t regret his state. I was very inspired by his spirit. After we left the place, we headed to Deulekh for our stay. We received others on the way. I personally didn’t like the place. It was boring. The place lacked electricity and proper drinking water.

The next day we set out for other schools. We had to reach Bhumiraj school in Chir Udi. It was exactly on top of the hill, opposite to where the vehicle left us. It was a good time and place for hiking that morning, until we took a  diverged path that ended us to the foot of the hill. It almost took us an hour to reach the school. I was very much delighted when the students greeted me with ’ Good Morning’ rather than ‘Namaste’. This was the best school for me. The students were very much forward in terms of communication which made my survey much easier. I was so much relieved to find such kids. I only had to stand there and watch them give the responses and nothing much. They found the survey so much easy that they took half the time they were given to finish it. What I didn’t like about the school was its location. It was on the edge of the cliff which was very dangerous. However, the teachers were very much concerned about the equipments. They inquired about the precautions that should be taken for long life of the equipments such as the solar panels, inverters, etc. Then we left the school and reached to the pick-up point. On our way back, we also stopped by the Bhumiraj school in Suwakot. The teachers welcomed us with Kafal and we stayed there for sometime, while Ganesh Sir went to Bagthala for he had to complete some work. Later, we returned to our stay and got some rest.

The very next day was refreshing as we walked to the nearby schools and didn’t require vehicular transport. We went to Kalika Bhagwati school. However,  as the school was on top of the hill, we only had to ascend to reach the school, which was tiring. I started my work with the updates and later joined the survey. I was disappointed with them for they were not as good as the students of the previous school. Apparently, It was the Ganatantra Diwas (Republic Day), so not many students showed up. There were a lot of students in this school as compared to other schools. There wasn’t anything different than what we did in other schools. However, we found a writing enthusiast. As I recall from the training few months back, she was very much into taking charge, representing a group, and now interested in writing. She had maintained a series of reports of school activities. After going through her writings and enjoying our day at the school, we returned back. Later in the evening, everyone of us agreed to hike to Shiv Bhawani school. There was a beautiful meadow from where we had an exquisite view of the hills.

Baseline survey in action.

It was Friday and we only had a school left with two groups. We reached the Manakamana  school after a stiff climb. This was one of the places I liked the most because it was a beautiful place with ever-flowing water resource. This was the very place where I had my first snow experience during previous visit. We didn’t have much trouble that day because the school was only upto class three. So we had only two grades to survey. I started the update as soon as we reached the school. We waited to start our survey as we were planning to conduct some recreational activities with the kids, such as playing games, singing and dancing. The students enjoyed their start of the day. After some time we began our survey and finished it shortly.  We decided to leave for Dadeldhura on the same day which was technically scheduled for next day. We left Bajhang bidding Good-Byes to the friendly folks at around three in the afternoon.

Children bidding us good-byes

After we left Bajhang, it started hailstorming. There wasn’t any place to take shelter so we continued with the journey. It was such a thrill to view the lightnings as we gained altitude. There was very strong wind that made the biggest trees to sway and eventually break off. The wind had blown away many roofs in Dadeldhura. We didn’t find any place to take shelter, so we continued further to Doti where we found a place to stay. It had almost been a week that we found such good food and cozy rooms.

We left early next day. Four hours of ride from cool place to a hot one was difficult to adjust with. Eventually, we returned a day ahead beating our estimated plan. This 9 day visit to Bajhang was a good experience for me. I found this trip much more easy and enjoyable than the previous one.

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