From Zero to Hero

17th April 2016

Back in Derby, I was just a regular 19 year old boy, my diet consisting of Beans-on-toast, chicken nuggets and chips and the occasional Chinese take-away. However, out here in the village of Bhalu Khola in Nepal, I feel like a celebrity! Or perhaps just that funny looking Milky-bar kid. It won’t last long, but either way, having never set foot anywhere near Asia, my life has changed drastically. This is my day-in-the-life:

09:00 am : Four or Five attempts in, my Nepali room-mate and fellow Raleigh volunteer Amulya has finally convinced me to part ways with my beloved bedsheets.

09:15 am : Reluctantly opening my door to face the outside world, I’m met by my ever-so enthusiastic host-family with the question I’m faced with multiple times a day.

“Rice?” My host-mother Bonita asks with a beaming smile.

10:30 am : Fully refreshed and ready for another day with the Raleigh livelihoods team, I begin making my way through the aesthetically astounding village of Bhalu Khola. In a constant state of awe, I admire the gorgeous mountainous terrain that surrounds me as I make my way through the village. However, the same admiration on my face seems to be mirrored by the faces of the local Nepalese kids. I can only imagine what they honestly think of me, but my interpretation of their facial expressions translates to :

“Wow, look at that strapping young English fellow. I wish I could be as handsome as he!”

Sadly in reality, it’s probably more along the lines of

“How do these English people get a baby’s face on a fully grown man’s body?”

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An afternoon session in what we call the Treehouse

2:30 pm : After a long morning of hard-work with my brilliant and dedicated team of volunteers known as ‘NC1,’ (today we’ve been interviewing the owners of small businesses in the local area) we head up the road for a nice, refreshing cuppa.

After a couple of hard-boiled eggs, we head back to work for the rest of the afternoon to assess and fully translate the data we collected in the morning.

07:30 pm : After a long productive day, I settle down for a nice lovely meal mainly consisting of, you guessed it, Rice!

08:00 pm : We head to the temple to partake in day 4 of the 7 day celebration of Puja, and I seat myself on the male side of the temple.

“What is your Father’s name?” Young Kabin enquires, arm resting companionably, but firmly on my upper thigh – potentially uncomfortable between men in Britain, but 100% socially acceptable in rural Nepal. A mark of true friendship in fact.

“Joss! Dance! Josss!”

After 10 minutes of clumsily moving my body in a stupendous fashion, sometimes known as English dancing, the entertained/horrified crowd finally allows me to sit down and enjoy the rest of the celebrations.

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My new younger brother, Unique

My time in Nepal has been filled with strange and unique traditions and situations, but there is one clear lesson I have taken away from my time here so far. No matter where you are from, what ethnicity, social background or even religious beliefs, if you treat someone with enough love and respect, they become your family.

Written in honour of my new-found family:

Surendra, Bonita, Karuna, Unique and Amulya.

Written by UK volunteer Joshua Smith

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