Namaste Jack Uncle | Travel Talk

Namaste Jack Uncle | Travel Talk

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“Namaste Jack Uncle” is what I would hear all the time on a daily basis. The kids here are among the happiest kids I’ve met and so content with so little. I was expecting it to be at least a week before they opened up to me and talked. Not at all, within the first few hours I had kids hanging from me like monkeys. I’ve gotten to know alot of them and kept finding myself anxiously waiting all day for the kids to come back from school so we could play and do chores!

the school run #nepal #ivhq2014 #chito

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get to wake up to this everyday #nepal #travels #nature

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so much red #shrine #nepal #temple #travelling

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I sought out a tatooist while I was there. I now have arms full of snakes, cats, a house and some mountains. Little rahul is quite the artist. We took the kids to the temple and had a picnic one of the days which was more of a mission than it may sound at first. I went into town with our host sister Saroza to stock up on momos (kind of nepali dumplings if you will – a favourite amongst the children and myself!), we then took a taxi up the mountain which sounds impressive but then if you throw in the fact that Nepal has no real ‘roads’ so the path up the mountain was a little rocky – an even more impressive feat for the taxi driver. As well as this we took huge speaker amps up so we could have music to dance too and marched 21 kids up a to the top of a mountain. It was well worth it and I think I was way more excited than the children! Over the duration of my stay we had various volunteers from different countries come stay and the orphanage was as busy as ever. I went to the old city of Bhaktapur and got the chance to see the Gai Jatra festival. Everyone dresses up and its a pretty great atmosphere. It was a hive of dancing and stick clapping. The old city is quite amazing with lots of old temples and architecture. It’s pretty impressive. Overtime I went down to the old city I felt a sense of ancient history and awe at the buildings around me.

Bhakatapur festival #temple #nepal #rammedro #partytime

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I also witnessed the birth of a baby calf on the farm. Just as we were leaving to go back one evening one of the mothers came shouting saying the gai (cow) was having a baby. We stayed and watched and it was incredible to see so close. We now have baby wally to add to the family. Just a typical day in the life of a volunteer.

Rohan and ‘wally’; the new addition to the fam #nepal #ivhq2014 #neckhug #baby #cow

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Time is flying! I have really settled into the nepali way of life and home now. The more comfortable im getting in my placement the more the days seem to be passing by quicker. I recently went to chitwan on safari where I met with the other volunteers from orientation, which was a great chance to catch up and see how everyones placements were going. The resort was really nice and we got to shower on top of an elephant! Then went on a canoe down the flooded river and an elephant safari. The weather held out for us and we only had one delay from a landslide on the way so pretty successful. More to come on my chitin safari adventure experience in another blog post!

Pdidi grass cutting #nepal #travels #farmlife #instavillagemission #vscocam

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We threw a birthday party for all the kids as it was two of their birthdays. Myself and the other volunteers bought mangos, rice pudding, a cake and new school bags for all 20 kids which was great! We danced alot and at one point got taken to a random party in the village as they were celebrating a festival as well. I had no idea what we were doing at a villagers house to begin with. Then music came on and everyone started dancing,  it was me and two other volunteers who were the only foreign people and the rest were nepali villagers. No one really spoke good english but everyone was so excited to have us there. They laughed at my questionable dance moves which I don’t blame them for because they were terrible! They offered us some delicious foods and then we went back to carry on partying with the kids and other volunteers. It was so fun and random to party with the locals and a truly unique moment. Life in the village was pretty sweet and loved being with the kids.

Jdidi Roti machine #nepal #ivhq2014 #food #vscocam

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The Nepali fam #nepal #homefromhome #ivhq2014 #vscocam

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The kids love mangos just a little bit #nepal #ivhq2014 #smile #vscocam

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pre-roti rolling with pdidi #nepal #food #culture #vscocam

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One man and his goats #IVHQ #nepal #goatherder #instagood

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I also had the cool opportunity of experiencing the womens festival a day where women dress up, dance and fast for the whole day to pray for a good husband. In support of the females in the house I also fasted. It was a long day. The girls all looked grown up in thier best outfits and saris and we went to the temple to dance/me take photos. At one point jamona and bdidi pulled me in to dance. I felt like I was gonna be eaten alive by the women ‘praying for good husbands’ at the sight of a giant white man.

the girls getting ready for the womens #festival with #henna #nepal #ivhq2014

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today was all about the ladies #womens #festival #nepal #culture #dancing #demsaris

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We got the paints out one of days which was great to see kids getting creative. The younger boys ishan, rahul and ashok decided to put paint all over their hands and then ran through the home to the bathroom. They dropped dollops of paint everywhere and tried to wash in the bathroom, which just resulted in blue stains and streaks. It was funny to watch until ashok filled a bucket of water to throw at the paint and got half of it over me. We all laughed as we cleaned up the blue mess. The whole time ishan telling me not to tell anyone.

no tell saroza, no riya, no rupak #nepal #ivhq #oops #blue #instavillagemission

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we unleashed arts & crafts today #nepal #ivhq2014 #instavillagemission #topstudent #moneyshot

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Nepal is pretty awesome. Made even sweeter by my little bro rahul who pinky promised me with both hands everyday. Then kissed them both and says “friends forever uncle, yes”.

before the painting got out of control #nepal #ivhq #painting #art

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There were so many incredible moments during my stay with the Thapa family from aama (the grandmother/mother) cooking us delicious rice dishes every morning and evening but not being able to speak any english; which was interesting when she would keep piling more rice on our plates even if we were full up. I impressed everyone by learning the days of the week and numbers in nepali along with a few other nepali words and phrases which got me bonus points with the house mothers and aama. Going with Ashis one of the older boys every morning to sell the milk. Helping them all with their homework everyday and walking them to the bus stop for school; sometimes we’d get on the ‘smiley bus’ with them if were headed into town. Getting to know the house mothers, who on the most part don’t get as much attention as everyone else, so it was really great getting to know Jamuna, Maiya and Parabati; even if we had to act out most of our conversations due to language barriers – this made it all the more worthwhile!

Hajur baii #nepal #ivhq2014 #aseko #instavillagemission #laugh

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Bumpy bus ride – nepali style #bus #nepal #travelling #asia #vscocam

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The end of my trip was bitter sweet. I was super glad to get home and eat some home cooking but this was outweighed and overshadowed by the fact that I was leaving my new family behind. Half of me was now entwined with this small nepali village. I never expected to fall in love with an entire village and the kids. The kids I had been with everyday for 2 whole months, who I walked to the bus stop and stayed up with to help with their homework. The kids I had bonded with, I had to say goodbye too. I’d never felt such a heavy pull on my heart as I did the day I had to leave and get in the taxi to the airport. I was leaving behind new friends, a home and a new family.

As soon as I landed back in England I was happy but sad that it had come to an end. I lasted four months being back before I booked another flight back there. I’m heading back to my nepali family and I couldn’t be happier!

this view though #nepal #travelling #instavillagemission #incredible #colourspopping #mountains

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big and small #nepal #ivhq #bestbuds #instavillagemission #hands

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Arriving in Nepal | Travel Talk

Arriving in Nepal | Travel Talk

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flying into kathmandu valley #mountains #nepal #travels

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The kathmandu valley, Birds eye views are the best #nepal #landscape #instadaily A photo posted by Jack Gunns (@jackgunns) on

I finally arrived in the Tribuhuvan airport in Kathmandu Nepal, after a gruelling 32 hours travel from Sydney. The flight into Nepal was great getting to see glimpses of the incredible mountain range and gliding through the clouds to the airport.

Stepping outside the airport was a flurry of shouting, smells and blinding light. It’s very overwhelming at first especially if your travelling solo, I had no idea where to go or what I was doing. But once I found my airport pickup – who was holding a makeshift sign with my name questionably spelled on it – we made our way to Kathmandu guest peace house. They definitely call it a ‘culture shock’ for a reason; it couldn’t be more different to England but I was looking forward to embracing it and learning alot from this experience. Nepals road system is questionable but I held on and took in the busy sights all around. Im not going to lie you have to be prepared for it, I was so overwhelmed and slightly terrified as I got into a small white van with two foreigners who spoke little english. I spent most of the journey planning my escape route! Luckily I had gone through an organisation IVHQ so I had some comfort but it was still pretty scary.

After settling into my new guest house and having my first taste of breakfast – which was very sweet ‘bread’ and black coffee. Needless to say Nepal doesn’t have access to many of the foods I’d usually be having but even this was a luxury as I knew my host family wouldn’t be serving this once I was on placement. So for now I made the most of it and looked forward to my few days of orientation.

had the blackest coffee for breakfast. #coffee #buzz #breakfast

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My 3 day orientation was so much fun and a great way to start the experience. We had one of the smallest groups in a while at 15 people including 2 canadians, 2 french, 2 italians, 2 aussies, 1 Netherlands, 2 chinese, 2 portugese, 1 hawaiin and me representing the brits. Everyone was so cool and we bonded really well as a group so much that most of us have booked to do the chitwan safari in 2 weeks time which will be great to catch up! The orientation consisted of visiting the beautiful monkey temple Swayumbhunath. The temple is, as the name suggests, populated by monkeys who have no fear about going right up to you and are incredibly curious; also fairly intimidating when you start to get surrounded by them. We made our way up steps towards the main stupa taken in the awesome views of the Kathmandu valley surrounded by vast mountain ranges. Thousands and thousands of colourful prayer flags covered the entirety of the temple grounds. We got to take a look into an art gallery to find out about how some of the masters paint works such as the mandela and buddhas eyes. It was really interesting to find out about the different levels of mastery in the artwork and how the masters use gold within parts of their paintings. As we carried on our journey we made it to the top of the stupa; when visiting a stupa, you must walk around it clockwise. You can also spin the prayer wheels that line the base of it to create good karma or energy as you go round.

Just incredible views! #nepal #mountains #travels A photo posted by Jack Gunns (@jackgunns) on

so many cool statues on the climb up #buddha #peace #temple #travelling

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Anything You Like?

Swayambhunath #monkey #temple #peace #travels A photo posted by Jack Gunns (@jackgunns) on

Monkey TempleMonkey See

Prayer WheelsThe orientation provided another trip to the Buddhist haven of the Boudhanath Stupa where we got to witness yet another marvel of building and detailed craft of Nepal. This particular stupa had 108 small images of the Dhyani Buddha Amitabha around it.

Boudhanath #temple #nepal #travels A photo posted by Jack Gunns (@jackgunns) on

Stupa GuardsDragonpot

We also got to see the famous Durbar Square and do a bit of shopping in Thamel. If you’ve been to Kathmandu you’ll know its a dusty combination of old meets new with buildings on top of buildings stacked up and crammed in. But it is a hive of life and interest, as there is always something happening and you can walk into a shop and find pockets of peacefulness to sip your coffee that you wouldn’t have expected find compared to the high speed noises high streets just outside. It a bizarre yet wonderful mix of bustle and calm. There are tonnes of shops, souvenirs and cafes to explore that you’ll have a hard time not picking up  at least something! A lot of the shops in Thamel sell western snacks – like oreos – which after placement will be a welcome relief, make sure you stock up on a few packs to take with you! You can also find ATMs scattered around most with armed guards around them. I’d take out as much as you need but be sensible, don’t carry too much on you – most of the placements around Nepal will also have places you can draw some out. Also be clever about it as some of the machines charge a fee to draw out. Once I got to my placement I pretty much drew out most of my money as I knew after meeting my  host family that I could keep it safe in their home and it was easier as I was based there for the duration as well as it being a quiet village. I only took out small amounts whilst I was in Kathmandu.

Buddha | Peace

notes with elephants and rhinos on! Now thats my kind of money #nepali #currency #traveller #elephant A photo posted by Jack Gunns (@jackgunns) on

One last thing about Thamel – if you want a great place to have a drink or two in the evening or day – head to Phat Kath and grab yourself an Everest beer! We loved it and its a great starting point to onto some of the other bars along the hight street. Don’t get lost in the maze of guest houses and shops that start to meld into one giant jingo game after a few days of living there!

had drinks at the coolest little treehouse style bar #drinks #phatkath #nepal #travelling

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Our orientation had to come to an end after a great few days learning about the culture, meeting new friends and exploring the many temples of Kathmandu. It was sad to leave them all to go to placements but exciting to see were you will be based for the next few months!

I then got placed in Bhaktapur not too far from kathmandu but much more rural which was a welcome change. The volunteers, host Family and staff there were all friendly and welcoming. The kids were awesome. Too cute. I started getting called ‘Jack Uncle’ by them all. The next few months were going to be on some of the best I had ever experienced!

So I’m about a week into ‘living’ in Nepal now. I love it. The initial shock and anxiety has been replaced with excitement and awe at this beautiful country. Filled with breathtaking scenery, a wealth of culture and so many friendly faces!

Stay tuned for my next instalment to my adventures in Nepal!

If you’d like to see more of my travel photos from Nepal or my other photography then check my social links!

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My Experience with IVHQ | Nepal

My Experience with IVHQ | Nepal

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I chose, after a lot of research and endless googling, to volunteer in Nepal through the company IVHQ to do childcare work within an orphanage placement. I’ll talk about my experience with the company as well as give a run down of what I went through pre-trip and whilst on placement. All views and experiences are my own.

 

What they say…

“International Volunteer HQ (IVHQ) provides affordable, safe and responsible volunteer abroad programs in 30 different countries around the world. Each year, IVHQ places thousands of volunteers on our volunteer abroad programs and offers a wide range of volunteer travel opportunities in Kenya, Tanzania, Ghana, Madagascar, Victoria Falls, Uganda, Zambia, South Africa, Bali, Nepal, Sri Lanka, Philippines, Mexico, India – Delhi, India – Dharamsala, Vietnam – Hanoi, Vietnam – Ho Chi Minh, Vietnam – Ha Long Bay, Cambodia, Guatemala, Ecuador, Costa Rica, Thailand, China, Brazil, Argentina, Colombia – Bogota, Colombia – Cartagena, Morocco, Peru – Cusco, Peru – Lima, Laos, Romania, Italy and Fiji.

Established in 2007, IVHQ has grown to become the world’s leading volunteer travel company, offering a variety of projects for volunteer travelers, including Teaching, Childcare, Community Development, Medical, Construction and Renovation, Turtle Conservation and Wildlife Conservation.

Whether you are traveling abroad, taking a gap year, wanting to experience a volunteer vacation, or simply wishing to provide assistance in a developing country through volunteer travel, International Volunteer HQ has the program for you.

With volunteer program fees starting from USD$180, you will not find a more affordable, high quality and trustworthy international volunteer travel company.”

 

What I say…

“IVHQ was definitely one of the more affordable companies for volunteer work I came across, especially what you got for the money and the variety of destinations you have to choose from. You really can get a lot out of the experience without the massive price tag of what other companies are offering, because after all your a choosing to volunteer so don’t want to have to pay an arm and leg to do so! There are other ways to volunteer cheaper – by going directly to in-country organisations, organising parts of the trip yourself i.e. accommodation, familiarising yourself without guides however for a first time experience in a country like Nepal I was more than happy to pay the small amount extra to get all of this included in the fee price.

IVHQ right from the start provided email correspondence to answer any queries I had, organised airport pickup, accommodation, placements and have an extremely friendly team to welcome you and check up n you throughout your placement. They also provide a weeks orienteering at the start to introduce gently into the culture and lifestyle of Nepal before sending you to your host-family placements; as well as some language lessons which come in handy!

I wouldn’t have had a clue where to start with arranging all of this so this is why IVHQ is a great company to volunteer through if your new or solo travelling. I can safely say that the team in Nepal made me feel safe, welcome and at ease before I started my placement. With this in mind I would recommend going for more than 2 weeks to really make the most of your time volunteering in Nepal. Once you take the week off for the orientation (which is essential at the start I think) you should try to have at least 2 weeks+ in your actual placement. I saw people come and go within a week or two which leaves no time to really ‘make a difference‘ or get to know the people your working with. It frustrated me that a few were just using it as a cheap way to travel – this isn’t fair on the children you are working with. If your choosing to volunteer then invest your time with the kids.

“I wouldn’t have had a clue where to start with arranging all of this so this is why IVHQ is a great company to volunteer through if your new or solo travelling”

The support from the team lasted throughout my 2 month placement with regular visits to make sure I was alright and to help with any trips I wanted to plan whilst there – they even arranged tickets and weekend trips to Chitwan National Park which I wouldn’t have known were to go for. The IVHQ team also checked in with me online via email and answered other queries I had.

I was lucky enough to be placed with a fantastic host family and the most incredible children at Bhaktapur Self-Sustaining Orphanage. I decided to stay in the same place for the duration of my stay to really get to know them. All I can say is I knew when I chose to volunteer I was going to help, what I didn’t expect was to fall in love with an entire village. Everyone from the host family, children, house mothers, villagers and locals  are like my home from home now. I’m entwined with an entire nepali village on the side of a mountain and am heading back to visit everyone in March ( keep up to date by following @travelling_jackg or my social links).

“I knew when I chose to volunteer I was going to help, what I didn’t expect was to fall in love with an entire village”

So, all in all IVHQ was a great company to volunteer through. They gave me the confidence and ease to volunteer without all the headache. I had support, help if I needed it, introduction to culture and a base of friends right from the off. Like I said you can do it cheaper but compared to the other companies out there this is one of the cheapest for what you get! You get a quality service without the ridiculous price tag and is ideal for people starting off. From doing this experience I can now say I’d be happy to just go to Nepal and organise it myself without an organisation but thats only because I had such a positive introduction thanks to IVHQ.”

Here’s a quick breakdown of what I paid volunteering through IVHQ and other additional costs:

IVHQ Program Fee – £620

Flight – £400 return (LHR – KTH) – I booked through STA travel however in hindsight use sky scanner for a better variety of deals.

Visa – £70 – Apply via the Nepal embassy – send your passport off and get it back with recored delivery. You can also get a visa on entry to Nepal I just wanted everything done before I got there.

Travel insurance – £30 via post office

Criminal background check – £50 via .gov

Vaccinations – varies depending own what you need, I had already had quite a few for a trip to Kenya previously so only needed a typhoid one which was free. I also took malaria tablets which you only need for a small part of Nepal in places like Chitwan however I never ended up taking them as it was only a two day stay. I just wanted to be prepared incase I was placed here for the whole of my stay.

Check what you need here.

Average weekly expense – £0 – £10 (Nepal isn’t very expensive at all, especially as food is including in the accommodation – although don’t expect anything fancy. Expect rice, a lot of rice)

Chitwan 2 day safari – £80 (I’ll write a more detailed post on this as well as trekking expenses)

More blog posts to come about my experiences and time in Nepal, make sure you keep up to date by following my social links!

You can expect:

  • Nepali culinary delights
  • How to bond with an entire nepali village
  • My experience with a bad stomach ache and a mountain
  • 3 new didis, no english and lots of acting out

Stay tuned!