Monday, September 12, 2016

Anastasia's Volunteering Experience in Changunarayan

Having a degree in International Studies and currently being a Master degree student in Local Development, I had been interested in global issues including poverty, mass migration, environmental degradation, etc. for several years. However, I realized that having an interest and theoretical background is definitely not enough if someone truly wants to make a difference. So volunteering abroad appeared to be a good way to gain some practical knowledge and experience because it gives an opportunity to go out of one’s comfort zone and challenge yourself a little bit.

I came to Nepal after finishing my summer school in Norway. Frankly speaking, deep inside I did have some worries. But later it turned out to be needless since I fell in love with Changunarayan village right from the beginning. As soon as I saw the smiley faces of villagers I forgot about all my inner fears.

Most of my worries were related to volunteering activities. It was my third volunteering experience, but still there were many ‘first times.’  Not only it was my first time staying in the village, but also it was my first time of teaching English to school kids, first time delivering a session on the importance of plastic recycling, first trial to write the small grant proposal, and even the first time writing a blog post… Despite the fact that not everything went according to my expectations that I had prior to arrival, it was still a very valuable experience for me. I have learnt many things. The only thing I regret about is that I couldn’t stay longer than one month. Maybe there still will be a chance to come back.

So, for me the journey to Nepal was a movement towards a “state of motion.” Here by “motion” I don’t mean the very dynamic and active movement that many people might think of, but the one which is gentle and soft. This gave me a chance to make a pause and take a deeper breath before my next life adventures. That’s what I would call the “art of stillness.”

During this month I could truly enjoy and appreciate many simple things. Every morning I could enjoy listening to the sounds of the ringing bell from Changunarayan temple while during the nighttime I could enjoy the cacophony of sounds of nature created by crickets, dogs and other living creatures. Sometimes during the daytime on the way from the guest house to school or bus stop I observed a serene picture of cows and goats peaceably chewing the grass, chickens crossing the bumpy roads and dogs peacefully laying on the streets. It was also a pleasure to see local kids playing football or badminton on the hilltop in front of the guest house. 
Hindu Chikens? Chickens at temple.

This kind of simple joy is comparable with meditation without any time pressure. Almost every evening I gazed out across the hills to see a beautiful formation of clouds and sunset along the valley. So I could finally reattach with nature after-life in the cities. Moreover, I got some free time to read books I wanted and started again with my meditation practices. Despite the monsoon season I was lucky to have experienced five different festivals just in four weeks. Rural lifestyle definitely has many attractive sides.

My stay at the Star View Guest House was a very pleasant experience, as well. It has a perfect location with its beautiful views across the valley. I think the name “Star View” was given to it for a good reason. I still remember the workings of my heart when from the rooftop of the guest house I saw the sky sown with myriads of stars. It is a perfect space for a personal retreat. But it was not only about the beauty of the place itself, but mostly it was about people whom I met here. 

After a few days I had a feeling that I was a part of family. I enjoyed discussions on various topics with Amanda, collaboration with Sajana and Bikash and dinners with Kamal’s family. I am truly grateful for their incredible hospitality and warmth. It was the endless pleasure having a chance to come here. Changunarayan village is a beautiful and peaceful place. I would not over-romanticize it, since there are still some flaws here, as well.

There are buildings that were not completely restored after the earthquake, people who live below the poverty line, houses without fulltime electricity, etc. But… There are things that truly impressed me more than anything else. And that is the attitude of the local people, their ability to stay peaceful and to radiate the positive vibes. I will always remember their friendly smiles and warm, ‘Namastes.’  
Anish, a local friend and guide who is like a walking history book.

Having an experience of traveling throughout different countries I accept the fact that sometimes it breaks my heart into pieces, pieces that I leave in the countries I felt attached to. And Nepal, and particularly Changunarayan village, is definitely the place where I left part of my soul. This means that someday in the future I will be willing to come back…

A note from Amanda:
Anna was a delight. I asked her to manage our new, plastic recycle project because it seemed like nothing was happening with it. She did great. She pushed us just enough, did the planning and gave a lot of thought to the project. We are just waiting for the information on budget in order to start sending the grant proposal that Anna wrote. I say she wrote it because it was her eye to detail, grant writing skills and managarial skills that made it happen. This was on top of her teaching the students at the school and helping Sajana to learn a computer program. 

All I can say about Anastasia is that the company that hires her will be the most fortunate company on the planet.

Anasatasia and Sajana on our rooftop

My eBook is available now at If you are planning a trip to Nepal you'll enjoy it. It will save you time as well as money, but more importantly, it will help you to have a better time in Nepal. Many people wonder if they can eat the street food like in Thailand or Vietnam. 

Here's my spoiler alert: Do not eat the street food in Nepal, nor should you eat at any buffet. The eBook addresses such things as this and what to do if you become ill, etc. Whether or not you get my book, please read this short, free eBook. It will help you get your time here off to a great start. there is a problem with the download or code please let me know at 

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