I’ll be honest. I wrote an entire post dedicated to the final rounds of the volleyball tournament and then read it over. I decided it was a boring read and scraped it. I’ll fast forward to the end of it!
I told each class, if the boys or girls win from a class, then the whole class would receive the prize. Grade 9 girls won so all of grade 9 would be rewarded. Grade 8 boys won so all of grade 8 would be rewarded. All that left was grade 7. Early on, I already knew that no matter the outcome, I would reward each of the classes. I just chose not to tell anyone because I wanted to keep the matches competitive. Besides, grade 7 didn’t have a girls team to represent for them being that there were only two girls in the entire class. It wasn’t exactly fair.
Grade 7 left the volleyball court, defeated but still surprisingly in an okay mood. Later that day, I went to their classroom and told them that even though they didn’t win, I would still reward them along with grades 8 and 9. They clapped and cheered hearing the news.
“On Tuesday, instead of going to periods 7 and 8, meet me down below the rice fields,” I told them.
What was the prize? I’m going to dedicate the next post about it.
In the meantime, I had something else planned for my host family kids, Amisha, Amish, and Aakash. Weeks ago, I told them for my last weekend in Pokhara, I wanted to take them down to Lakeside and treat them to all sorts of fun stuff. Aatma and Mina gladly let me have them for the weekend. Thankfully, I had Zahra coming with me to split the babysitting duties.
Now that most of my core group of volunteers were gone, I could focus on spending more time with the family. Immediately after school on Friday, I told the kids to pack a quick bag and we’d hike down to Lakeside, which takes less than two hours. I guess the term “pack a bag” isn’t what it would mean to me. Each kid brought an extra shirt and nothing else. Not even any toiletries. They put their shirts in my bag and that was that. They were excited to go though! They wore their cleanest set of clothes. “Save your good shirt for later,” I told the boys. “You’re gonna get sweaty going down the mountain.”
“It is no problem!” exclaimed Amish. “I won’t sweat.”
Whatever floats your boat, man. While Amisha would be hitching a ride down with Aatma on his motorcycle, the boys would be hiking down with me. Mina took Zahra down to Lakeside earlier in the day to get fitted for traditional Nepali wear, so they were already down there waiting for us. Aatma was a little concerned about little Aakash hiking down the mountain, but I let him know that I would be carrying him most of the way. He’s lighter than a piece of paper and shouldn’t pose a problem.
Amish, Aakash, and I made our way down the mountain village along with their crazy young uncle Anish. Anish lives with the Thapa family during the week and is also a teacher at the school. It seems like they grab any random person in this village to teach at the school. He followed us down the mountain and left halfway through to catch a bus back to his home.
I was happy to see that Aakash had all the energy in the world hiking down the mountain, but once we hit the bottom, he came to a halt. His little legs couldn’t keep up with us, so I propped him right into my big bag and continued on. He fit inside perfectly and I think he enjoyed the free ride!
We did have to rest midway through. The boys were getting thirsty so we stopped at a small shack and quenched our thirsts with cokes. They rarely ever get to taste any soda on the village so I let them get whatever their little Nepalese hearts desired, even though I knew cokes would only make them thirstier.
We eventually made it to Lakeside without a single complaint from the boys. They rarely complain about anything. We met up with Zahra and Mina at Lakeside and also with Tim and Emre who have been there for a few days now. Tim and Emre could have stayed another week in the village, but they wanted to spend their last week with hot showers, soft beds, and toilets with seats–none of which we got on the mountain. We checked into our rooms and all of us went across the street to Perkys for lunch. “Get whatever you want!” I told the kids. “But you have to get a milkshake with whatever you order.”
The milkshakes at Perkys are gargantuan and I knew the kids would love the freshly made ice cream shake with two scoops of more ice cream on top. Amish ordered the chocolate one and Aakash ordered a strawberry. The shakes were too big for Aakash so he ended up sharing with his mother. Amish and Aakash both ordered a chicken sandwich with fries. Amish liked his but Aakash wasn’t a fan. He only liked the fries and dipped his fingers in the ketchup. Weird kid. How can you not like a chicken sandwich? Mina was there to finish off his plate.
Later on, Amisha finally joined us after we had already eaten. She was probably hungry too so I asked her what was she in the mood for.
“Chicken momos,” she replied.
Excellent choice! Chicken momos are a Nepalese staple here. Chunks of chicken wrapped in a flour pouch. Very similar to a perogi. We found Amisha some chicken momos and she chowed down.
It started to get dark so we went back to our rooms to relax a little and so I could take a shower. The kids would finally have their own soft beds that they didn’t have to share with each other! Amisha and Zahra split a room while Amish, Aakash, and I split another. Tim and Emre shared a room between ours. It all worked out great! We regrouped and walked around the main street for a bit until we found a neat place that offered pool. These kids have played pool only once before in their lives and it was evident based on the way they held a pool stick.
“Order something to drink guys,” I told them. “Whatever you want.”
They did and aside from the pool table, they were focused on the swinging hammocks nearby. Occasionally, I would stop them from swinging on them so hard. “Those are hammocks not swings!”
The kids were getting hungry already and so was I. I already knew I wanted to treat them to pizza and I knew the best place in town: Godfather’s Pizza, which was located right down the street. For drinks, they ordered chocolate lassi’s and we split a veggie pizza and a chicken and mushroom pizza. We didn’t really have much of a choice. We couldn’t order any pizza with sausage or ham on it because it was against their culture to eat it. Godfather’s Pizza catered to tourists so they threw all their culture laws out of the window. Amish mentioned that his pizza tasted like pancakes. What kind of pancakes have you been eating kid? Aakash scraped all the veggies and goodies off his slices of pizza and poured more sugar into his lemon drink. I think this is the most sugar he’s ever had in one day. That, on top of the strawberry ice cream Zahra bought them shortly after. Even though the pizza was okay for them at best, it still managed to fill their bellies.
The kids slept silently through the night and woke up to the sound of roaring trucks passing by on the street outside. Zahra and I had to go to the market in the city center to get some supplies in the morning, but brought along the kids for breakfast. The only place that was open at 10am was a vegetarian restaurant. The kids reluctantly ordered veggie momo’s (they really wanted chicken momo’s again). Afterwards we headed back to Simrik for a quick rest before we went to the local store to stock up on snacks. These snacks would go with us to the lake and on a boat I would rent for all of us to take. This was the highlight of the weekend for the kids. I let Amisha and Amish take off their life vests, but not Aakash. He’s so fragile and light that the wind could carry him away and right into the water.
Zahra and I paddled most of the time but eventually let the kids work off their debt to us. Their little legs could barely last two minutes!
Before we left Pokhara, Zahra and I wanted to take Amisha out to the market to pick out a couple of birthday gifts. As she mentioned to us on the previous post, her birthday was in a couple days. We took her to a market and let her pick out whatever a new 14-year-old teenager would want. She ended up picking out a pair of red shoes and a pair of red jeans. Afterwards, Zahra went to get a massage while I took Amish out to get a henna tattoo on his arm.
We planned on taking the bus back up but it broke down and the driver said another bus wouldn’t be ready until 6pm. We had to get up the mountain before dark so we opted to cab it up instead. The kids had a great weekend but I could tell they really missed the dal bhat, it’s the only thing they know. It’s their absolute favorite food. I’m just glad I could take them out of the village to enjoy the little things in life!
The next day was Amisha’s birthday, and after school, two of her classmates joined her at the house to celebrate. One of the girls was absolutely smitten with me and it became awkward real quick. All evening actually. It was already bad enough at the school. She’s in grade 8 (another reason why grade 8 is not my favorite). I was the teacher and she was the student. I had to detach herself from my arms and hands a few times. Anyways, we celebrated Amisha’s big day with a cake, sweets, and gifts!
Tomorrow would be the big day for grades 7, 8, and 9. The reward for the volleyball tournament and more so, a way to give back to the students. I can’t wait for you guys to read how it played out!