A good friend of Tall Travels tells us about his experiences teaching and volunteering over the last twelve months. I worked with Guy in Mexico, met him again in Colombia but haven't seen him since! You can read more about his latest project in Indonesia here.
Not Quite Seven Years and Not Quite in Tibet
"Seven Years in Tibet? More like five and a half months in India, but I was teaching Tibetan students and the Dalai Lama lived a stone’s throw (albeit a long one) from my village.
Having taught English for over eight years in schools and universities in England, Spain and Mexico, I decided to spend a year volunteering to give something back. Not long after returning from six months working with a bunch of young ragamuffins in the Dominican Republic (that's another story), I packed my bags and set off for India.
This job was different. I would be working and living with my students. In addition to class time, we ate our meals together, and slept in adjoining rooms. It meant knocks on the door with requests to check their English Facebook posts, unavoidably listening to their romantic Skyping, and enduring the boys constantly Spitting everywhere - all over the school! However, getting to know the students so well was a privilege.
They were curious, interested and desperate to practice their English; in class, outside of class, over breakfast, lunch and dinner. And their interest wasn’t limited to the language. Due to their limited Tibetan education the students now felt they were playing catch up, and were keen to devour news and current affairs, and delve into subjects such as history, geography and the arts. Helping broaden the experiences of such these young adults connect was my inspiration.
Instead of tedious grammar exercises, I prepared class materials on a wide range of topics, from women’s rights to creative photography, from protest songs to political campaigns. I encouraged them to be more active in the learning process and hopefully instilled a feeling of empowerment.
What makes their interest and positivity all the more remarkable, are their personal stories. Take Nagkyab, who was forced to flee Tibet for selling banned books and spent eight days eating and drinking nothing more than bread and water and sleeping under plastic tarpaulin in order to avoid the Chinese soldiers; Or Longrig, a monk who walked for twenty-nine days over the Himalayas so he could meet the Dalai Lama. Then there was Dorjee, whose leaving home led to his brother being arrested, held and tortured in a Chinese prison cell. Many of the students have little to no contact with friends or family back home, and the possibility of returning to their homeland is slim.
Despite these hardships, there was rarely a day when they weren’t laughing or smiling. It didn't matter whether they were celebrating teacher’s day by dancing around a bonfire after one of our momo (dumpling) parties, or just mocking my beard (and age) in class, there was always joy among us.
|Himalayan products that Guy sent home to help fund the refugee school|
For this and so many more reasons, I feel privileged to have had the opportunity of working with them all. And by the end, I’d even got used to the gobbing everywhere."
Many thanks to Guy for providing his story. I look forward to him asking me to donate to his latest project. Remember you can check out the work he's done with an Indonesian homestay here
If you are interested in telling your teaching or travel story via Tall Travels, please get in touch via the usual methods.