Day 4 saw us head out early from the hotel in Phaplu hotel for the hour-long drive to Mopung, where the principal of Zeke O’Connor School has his ancestral home. Principal Lhakpa Sherpa was kind enough to host our group and a couple of the ZOC teachers.

On the way, we stopped at two beautiful monasteries. First up was Serlo Monastery, an education centre for monks, located near the village of Junbesi.

Serlo Monastery gate (pic: Heather Culbert)

Monks at Serlo (pic: Heather Culbert)

View from Serlo Monastery (pic: Kristie Gill)

Warmest welcome: Paul and the Lama at Serlo Monastery (pic: Allison Murphy)

We also stopped to admire some of the scenery— a waterfall and the half-moon found (naturally) on a rock, which gave Junbasi its name (“Jun” means “moon” in Nepali)—not to mention our Jeep drivers’ expertise during a pretty harrowing river crossing!

Kristie beneath the waterfall (pic: Vicky Bell)


Half-moon rock (pic: Vicky Bell)

Our next stop was at Thupten Choeling, an enormous monastery at Mopung. 700 monks, nuns and students live at this stunning site, which climbs the hillside.

Monastery gate (pic: Kristie Gill)

Heather and Erica at one of the hydro-powered prayer wheels, during their walk up the hill (pic: Kristie Gill)

The 100-year-old kitchen at Thupten Choeling, which feeds 700 people daily (pic: Susan Lazar Hart)

Nuns at Thupten Choeling (pic: Susan Lazar Hart)

Yak cheese drying at Thupten Choeling (pic: Heather Culbert)

Finally it was time to head to Principal Lhakpa house! Just down the hill from the monastery, it’s a beautiful 3-storey structure, built by Lhakpa’s grandfather. The grounds are large enough for tents to be set up so some of us could sleep under the Himalayan sky.

Lhakpa’s home

Tent home, featuring Vicky and Kristie!

Bikash Rana, our amazing guide from World Expeditions — who set up our tents! — with Kristie and Vicky. (Pic: Kristie Gill)

But first: gifts! Mary and Allison had brought some gifts from their home towns (Kansas City and Boston, respectively), which they presented to Lhakpa and his wife, Doma (also a teacher at the Zeke O’Connor school), and son, Mingmar (student at ZOC).

Doma’s mom, Mary, Allison, Lhakpa, Rick, Susan (pics: Virginia Elliott)

Before dinner beside the campfire, we had a fantastic cooking lesson with Doma, in which we attempted to make veg momos, but we could never attain the deftness of Doma and her helper in the kitchen.

The finished product: momos and tomato sauce! (Not shown: grilled chicken, which came later.) (Pic: Virginia Elliott)

In the morning, we got a chance to visit the monastery inside the house. Lhakpa told us a little about his life story: how he’d been fortunate enough to have his education sponsored by a German benefactor, to travel, run a business and earn his Master’s degree, and then find his way to his role as principal of the ZOC school. It brought home to us that things have come full circle: after receiving an education himself, Lhakpa is now giving back to education in Nepal. The German man who sponsored Lhakpa didn’t help just one person, he helped hundreds to come.

And you can, too, if you’re interested, by contributing to SEHF’s One Student, One Family student sponsorship program.

Lhakpa, explaining the deities in the monastery at his house (pic: Vicky Bell)

After breakfast, it was time to head down the hill and climb back into the Jeeps, for the drive to the junior school, where we would meet the students!