After a flight from Paris to Delhi and then a delayed transfer to Kathmandu, Sonam, from the Shambala holidays agency greets us at the airport giving everyone, the first khata (scarf) to welcome our stay … He took care of the administrative aspect of our trip: trekking license, insurance ….
The setting was made in Bodnath, at the « Dragon Hotel ».
We quickly ask Takla our ex-pupil of « Dolanji Monastery in India » to get the necessary nepalese rupees for us. Ugyen makes us a quick but friendly visit. Then, Passang, the CPS Directing manager, picks us up to join his school further down the valley, where the kids and the whole team are waiting for us impatiently. We receive a very usual moving welcome made of dances by various groups of happy students, proud to show their talent to these « strangers » from so far away!
We thank Pierre for his initiative, what a surprise, he made the audience laugh with his magic accessory: the nose of a clown. Jean improvised an English rhyme mimicking the approach of the elephant. Then we organize the collective distribution of small school equipment, soft toys, small cars, then gifts given by the families who sponsor children. Photos are taken which will testify of these moments with the godparents. Annie meet her godson, both are deleted and emotional. The visit of the school show us the improvements due to the commitments of various donators: paved the courtyard, general equipment of the classes and we discover the new needs: in the dormitory the roof is leaking and the toilet area is refining …
After some formalities, we go back to the airport to reach Nepalganj, a city close to India where we spend a short night. Takla’s local relationships make the passage of overweight bags easier… This flight for the small altiport of Juphal always surprises the regular travelers with the striking Himalayan mountains.
The air is fresh at 2400m hight, the bags are loaded on a « jeep » and we start our long trek by a half-day descent to Dunaï, the first town of Dolpo, Dunaï is in an isolated area where we can reach the school of Kagkot which is our main destination.On the next day, Dechen comes to visit us on the ground where we spent the first night under tents and invites us to her home. She carries her daughter on her back all day. Her husband works at the Bön school where their son is educated, but this « former Dolanji students » lives very modestly. We give her some clothes which are the donation from a generous french sports store.
After meeting our muleteers and the kitchen team, we join the village of Tarakot during the day but then we have to face a strong rain, then end of the monsoon, which makes track slippery .
Once again, we notice the consequences of regular landslides that force up and down large. On the next day, as on the previous visit of Monique 6 years ago, the inhabitants of Kagkot sent us some horses to relieve our old bones. Seen from above, the steep slopes towards the river offer us some frights. Alternating horse and walking, we finally arrive in the Kagkot village (3300m).
We quickly discover the new buildings almost completed and intended to expand the boarding school. As a school teacher, Bishnu became the headmaster of a team of 7 motivated young teachers. The school hosts about forty students. We will spend 2 days discovering the various improvements in the classes (8 levels up to the 4th). Both dormitories are equipped with good beds financed by our fondation and made up locally. The cook that we pay prepares hot meals for the 18 students of the boarding school and the teaching staff. As a result, the school has gained a good reputation all around. We find that most of the beneficiaries of the boarding school are the children of the villagers. They had couragously rebuilt their houses on the plateau near the school, sheltered from the rock falls of the old village. During a general meeting, including Shenang, the District Chief, we talked about the building of the first part of the boarding school and of the accommodate children from remote villages. During another meeting, we talked about the future needs of Kagkot school. We decided, however, to agree an additional 4 months salaries for 2 volunteer teachers.
Thus, the students will be taught during 11months and the education will go on.
In the evening, we also celebrated together the Monique’s 70th birthday the « Arche de Dolanji »president whith a cakes good as our french cake…
Our project is to continue our discovery of high villages of this Daulaghiri massif.
Bishnu, the headmaster of Kagkot school, meet us to visit the school equipement. Indeed, schools have been built, but the few appointed teachers do not stay; cold and isolation make them return home while continuing to collect their salaries ! Only decent housing, improved travel opportunities will help this teachers to stay in the village as in Kagkot.
Once again on the way, we walk through the villages of Pimri then Gharen, as described in the report of 28.11.2011, to reach Seri at 4000m hight. The harvest of barley offers magnificent views. Here, a school was built and operated funded by the Karuna Shechen NGO of Mathieu Ricard, the secretary of the Dalai Lama. It welcomes 42 students. Here we are welcome and meeting the teachers is interesting. We attend the children’s meal and then a quality dance performance in this magnificent natural setting.
The village of Teren has been emptied of its rare inhabitants that are busy with crops picking. We need a day of high altitude and sometimes narrow path to reach Mukot from the Barbung River. It is the ultimate step of our stay, the village appears well isolated with 4300m hight, around of snow-covered of Himalayan ranch. An interesting exchange takes place in the house of the village chairman.
This is again the opportunity to take information on the school situation. This has hardly changed since our last visit. It is therefore useful to mention the existence of the Kagkot boarding school. These homestays are moments of discovery of an austere lifestyle that only electricity is improved by using solar batteries.
In order to go back to Kagkot,it is not possible for us to walk and cross the Barbung , so we ask to go up and walk until the night falls. We go back to Kagkot and find the running water pipe as well as the shelter of a room for our evening meals.
We go back to the boarding school for an evening meal and notice that the children have no seats.
It is expected that one of the new parts will be equipped for this purpose. During a new meeting with teachers around Shenang, we confirm our commitment to cover the salaries of the 4 winter months for the 2 volunteer teachers. A list of needs by priority is submitted to us and discussed.
This moment of family gathering is very important especialy when the country celebrates Dashain during 15 days.
A goat is offered to us by Shenang, but we prefer a bag of local apples. To our surprise, we are invited to participate in the ritual related to this festival that brings the children in a respectful silence of the tradition. Music and dance to which everybody participate with joy.
For the last time we go through the new village. Everybody is busy managing the yaks rented by an expedition.
Delightful farewells precede our departure, knowing that it will no doubt be difficult for us to return one day.
Back to Kathmandu with a touch of nostalgia but a new visit awaits for us. The « Namgyal School », located on the outskirts of Kathmandu, welcome children from the 6th class. We have to give the gifts entrusted by sponsors to 5 students. The headmaster receives us in his office and confirms the good results of these students who go along with those of the well-ranked establishment in the valley. The establishment regularly wins prizes during sport competitions
sports. During the visit, we attend the snack room of the pupils boys and girls separated in an impressive calm made of self discipline without prohibiting so much the conversations. We meet groups of students in rooms or dormitories well used to self-management. We leave the college with Passang (the CPS headmaster) who leads us there and gives us a list of needs that we will examine at the next board meeting.
The time to fill empty suitcases with gifts and clothes distributed.
Purchases of local crafts for sale in France will mainly take place in one of the many shops that surround the stupa of Bodnath.
Many invitations come one after the other « ex- Dolanji Monastery students »: at Ugyen and her husband’ home, then at Pema who runs a « guesthouse ». We also drive through the busy city to have the pleasure of meeting Tsewang’family . He works for a major NGO and gives us a glimpse of the top of its terrace of the nightlife of the city. In a revitalizing air, we share a meal with his great friend Takla, his childhood companion, Dolanji Monastery in India. Passang being with us.
During the last evening , we find Michel Houdan, member of the fondation, returning from a mission to Mustang, with the family of his godchild Yangchen.
In the early morning of October 20th, farewell greetings and warm thanks to Takla and Tirtha, the cook, are exchanged at the airport. Passengers departing for Delhi leave Katmandu, sad but happy to have lived so many unique and strong moments, near a people who is improving, a little thanks to our distant but faithful solidarity …