Day 6, which also happened to be Canadian Thanksgiving, saw the group of travellers split into two for a brilliant day of hanging out with the students. One group headed way, way uphill to try to catch a glimpse of Mount Everest, while the other joined senior-school students for a rousing game of soccer in a park near the village of Phaplu. We hand the blog over to Heather and Shelagh, respectively, to tell the stories of the day.
“From the top of Ratnange, you can see Mt. Everest!” That was the hook, at least. However, we were told we would need a clear day, and when we woke up in a cloud of fog, we knew that lofty mountain views were off the menu.
Nonetheless, we started our hike up the local mountain with an enthusiastic crowd of students and teachers, and I knew it was going to be a special day. The students trooped along, carrying a large pot, a kettle, and a loudspeaker blasting cheerful Nepali tunes. They were all proudly dressed in their uniform school tracksuit, but many had nothing but basic, thin-soled shoes for the trail.
We hiked through dripping rhododendron forests with hanging moss and bright red plants locally named Snake Corn. Also: leeches (not pictured, thankfully).
The students were very concerned about my well-being and asked me constantly if I was tired (no) and whether I was having fun (yes!). The students were so interested in us: I was questioned about my name, age, home, income, and also a few trick questions. “What is Canada’s GDP? What is Canada’s area in hectares?” (Fortunately, there was someone in the group who knew the answers.) Their delight in the day was infectious; these are young people who have little, but who are so happy with the opportunities they have been given.
In seemingly no time, we had summited the mountain, which ended in a grassy knoll. A concrete monument optimistically promised the views of Mt. Everest, although we could barely see 10 yards ahead. The teachers built a fire (mostly to burn the trash that had been collected en route as part of World Expeditions’ 10 Pieces Initiative) and the students broke into groups to eat their lunches, chat, and play hide-and-seek in the fog.
We then broke camp and made our way back down to the relatively warmer fields on the lower mountain. Some people might question why we did such a hike on a day when we wouldn’t have a chance to see anything but each other, and I would respond: that is exactly the point.
First thing in the morning, Paul, George and Rick got to work, inflating soccer balls for the day out in the park.
Several senior school students and teachers arrived at the hotel to meet up with Erica, Susan, George, Rick and Shelagh.
After a short walk out of town, they reached an open field surrounded by trees. Susan and Rick opened the black bag and produced the bright soccer balls (or footballs, as they are of course known in Nepal!) that they’d brought as gifts for the students.
Susan and George picked random teams of boys and girls and the fun began.
They played a number of 5-minute scrums (trying not to let the more senior members of the teams succumb to the physical challenge!), with great offense and better defense, including from the goalie (Erica).
The group played hard for an hour, before taking a group picture to commemorate what may have been the first Canada-US-Nepal soccer match in Phaplu’s history. After spending a few minutes picking up garbage in the park as part of the 10 Pieces Initiative, they headed back for some well-earned lunch.