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The Lake District

I am currently in the Lake district for the second time in two weeks.

On 30th September, I’m very proud to say that I completed a 22.2 mile walk around Ullswater but once again got blisters (just like when I walked Hadrian’s Wall Walk at Easter). It took 10.5 hours and finished in the dark. Not to be deterred, I did manage to climb a mountain on the 3rd October. It was called Pike of Blisco whoch is the 112th highest in England and one the famous Wainrights.

This weekend is an opportunity to relax here with friends before starting a new short term placement in a school on Monday. I will be teaching children aged 5-7 in Doncaster until Christmas. Last week I taught them briefly whoch was the first time in a classroom since leaving Redbridge in July. Although I was nervous, I soon relaxed when I saw the children and it reminded me how much I love my job!

My half term is different from most other schools which means I will be in London for the week beginning 30th October. Here’s hoping I can catch up with old friends.

I’m off to pack my things for a boat tour now despite it raining again. Seems to be the main weather here in the Lakes.

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After a couple of weeks recovering from illness post Nepal, I found myself on my maiden training run in Huddersfield. It was very hard and I didn’t manage to go very far but it’s a start.

With a few days spare, I hopped on a train and headed to the incredible, historic city of Edinburgh. As Scotland has recently been voted the most beautiful country in the world, it seemed like a good time to come.

I have been blown away with the place! The people are so friendly, the sea is visible and it’s surrounded by hills and mountains. What more could I possibly ask of a city? I will be heading to the castle tomorrow for the 1pm gun salute and I had the best time climbing Arthur’s Seat yesterday. 

I return to Yorkshire to sleep tomorrow before heading off to my other favourite city…London! I always wanted to visit Colchester so I have weekend plans back in my old stomping ground of Essex while I’m down South.

These capital cities aren’t half bad…

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Family time

It’s been lovely being home with my family and catching up. Trips to North Yorkshire and now Palma have been great (I’m sitting in Manchester airport again writing this). Spending time with family is the most valuable thing one can do but it did make me think of all those less fortunate. People who have lost loved ones in the recent floods in Asia and the USA. Other natural disasters or indeed attacks such as the most recent in Barcelona.

As children return to school having spent the summer hopefully having fun, they will value the love and support show by their family, the school and other trusted adults. 

Family comes in all shapes and sizes from parents and carers to groups and communities. No matter what your family looks like, value them and always remember that there’s always someone to turn to no matter what.

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Beyond the Comfort Zone

Anyone who knows me, knows how I adore hiking but hate running. My knee clicks, my cardio is useless and my pace is terrible. I moan at the thought of my legs pounding tarmac but totally admire people who do run and who complete running events.

Image Source

With all of this in mind, yesterday I registered for the Brighton Half marathon in February. 

Having spent a whole month in the company of fellow professionals in Nepal, some had already signed up and asked if anyone fancied joining in. As I face a new chapter in my life, I decided that pushing myself to be at the greatest depth out of my comfort zone by running was a great start! It will be a real challenge to stay motivated, train and be prepared but I have downloaded a ‘Couch to 5K’ app and enquired about top tips so I’ll keep updating my progress on here.

You can if you think you can…!

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Home Sweet Home

I have officially just landed back in the UK!

I can’t contain my excitement at the thought of a warm shower, dry floor, tarmac road and bed that has a real mattress. To see my family (and dog) have kept me going for the whole month while being away but now I’m back, it’s given me chance to reflect on one of the toughest months of my life.

Having spent 27 whole days in Nepal (specifically Kathmandu), I can honestly say that it’s my longest time away from home and first trip to Asia ever. Having done long haul flights to the USA before, the travel was very manageable with a total of between 18 and 26 hours travel time including all lay overs and transfers. Oman Air was an excellent airline to fly with and everything ran to time. The only complaint I have is that my luggage is still in Muscat when I am on British soil. Whoops…

The only trouble with such a long journey time was that I left the UK on Sunday 30th July and arrived at 10pm Monday night 31st July in Nepal. The very next day was straight into training at the Volunteers Initiative Nepal (VIN) charity headquarters. Although informative and usful, with such fatigue, I was already starting on the back foot.

It didn’t help that the living conditions at the Teach for Nepal house where we stayed for most of the time were even worse than I expected (and I thought I’d prepared for the worst). Wet floors everywhere, cramped bed (I initially had the top bunk with low ceiling), ants and cockroaches, cold showers…I could go on. The dust, grime and potholes ‘roads’ throughout the city made it mentally very challenging but I believed that I would adjust but it would just take time.

Long hours planning for the delivery of the training sessions and four back to back conference days with the local teachers meant that week one was a wall of tasks with no chance to recover from illness. It was on the first Saturday that I ended up in hospital and but for the excellent teams leaders Emma and Pierre coupled with the other fellows good will, I would have probably given up right there.

Luckily, there was some chance to recover in the second weekend in Pokhara. The fresh air and green surroundings were most welcome having worked solidly for two weeks and paragliding here was a real highlight. Sadly though, we had to return to the city where I took another turn for the worse and ended up spending most of two days in bed with a fever at the end of week 3. Also unfortunate that the initial team leaders left too which was a blow for a very well established and supportive team with a well-oiled routine.

The other fellows in the group were all excellent professionals with a range of experience in both Primary and Secondary. Some teachers were even checking their students GCSE results the other day with great pride! Such dedication. I have been privileged to meet a whole bunch of great fellow educators and hope to share further ideas with them down the line.

Would I do this Nepal project again? No. I was ill at the start and never really returned from there which hampered the whole experience. Would I work with LRTT again? Yes. I’d consider another project elsewhere or an improved version of this one. Was I happy with the partnership with VIN? Yes on the whole as they have a great vision for the empowerment of all people in Nepal. There are many points to take from it and I know that LRTT always strive to improve projects each year and I’m sure that this particular project will be worked on further.

I am however very proud of the thought that all of us on the project this year have tried to make an impact on at least a handful of Nepalese teachers who I know will improve teaching and learning for the children in their schools. Now that’s worth celebrating with a nice cup of tea and a yummy Sunday roast with my grandma tomorrow. 🙂

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Some of my findings here in Nepal, specifically Kathmandu:

The rain and clouds rule what happens. The roads are washed away most days and even when we tried to paraglide, the weather ruled the roost.

Any products from fruit and meat to containers and clothes is displayed at the front of the so called shops. In reality this means tiny little openings closely packed together right on the dusty, mud filled roads. I’ve often seen shopkeepers using a straw bundle as a brush to sweep the shop front. One day I saw a man deliberately splash water outside his shop to prevent the dust getting any worse coming into the shop. As mentioned, the meat and fish are displayed on a counter top next to the road covered in flies and dust with no preservation and with Nepal being a landlocked country, I wonder how far the fish has travelled in those conditions.

Wires hang in messy, random ways. Sometimes the wires are live and it is very easy to walk into one hanging loose even when it’s raining! No health and safety here. Even the plug sockets in the house we stayed were next to the water cooler on the floor with all the excess water dripping down.

Electricity usually goes off for a short time around 4 times a day although apparently, a genius found a way to keep it on for longer as recent as January 2017! It’s more consistently on but only for the city. Rural areas still go without it often…not great when you’re in a lift at a hotel.
Bricks around the city are all marked with a symbol largely to mark territory I think and bricks are everywhere in the middle of the street post the 2015 earthquakes.

Toilets are a real treat. Making sure you have tissues and hand sanitaser are essential to staying remotely healthy. There are lots of squat toilets but I’ve been surprised how many sit down toilets there actually are albeit still awful.

It is essential to ask restaurants for pasteurized milk and ph balanced water. Bottles with sealed plastic are ok. Avoid tap water at all costs and use bottled water to brush teeth due to a high risk of cholera.

When the locals shake their heads it can mean yes or no. This was particularly useful to know when delivering the training to the teachers when we asked if the had understood. It can be quite off putting when everyone shakes their head at you otherwise. Also, the word ‘fat’ is a real compliment. The fatter you are the better as it means that you have some well for yourself and are very wealthy. I never received this compliment but others did. You have to remember that it’s cultural.

Photo credit for the three above is Christine.

Even though the country is plagued by poverty, everyone has a phone and Facebook that we saw. All the teachers are connected from this project on a team Nepal 2017 Facebook page to collaborate further beyond the summer.

Holding hands is a common theme here between two males or two females who are friends or relatives. Any romantic love between a man and woman is not allowed to be displayed in public but there was lots of romance to be seen between young couples at the Garden of Dreams.

All in all, it’s a very busy city steeped in history, culture and tradition. Would I come again? I doubt it but I’m glad I’ve had the privelidge of being welcomed by the people here and shall say a farewell on Saturday when I return to the hills of my beloved Yorkshire.

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Post-Conference Teacher Observations

Today was the final day of post observations to see how they are implanting what they learned in their own classrooms.

I asked each one what they promise to do to continue the great work that’s been started here and comments ranged from better positive behaviour management to training other teachers in their schools.

Best of all, it has been a privelidge to see how each member of our group has been motivated and inspired enough to want to change things for the children in their care. I have seen teachers using key words, group work and better engagement overall. I have met an excellent bunch of teachers who have the desire to make a better system for education in Nepal and that’s where it all begins.

Keywords being used in a secondary science lesson.The Principal of one school who joined the training too.Generous gifts from Pineridge School.Teachers at Jugal feeding us parutha. It was delicious.

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Having shared a few posts already, I have yet to explain where I’m staying. Right in the heart of the city near Thamil, we are 26 teachers sharing 5 rooms and a handful of bathrooms in bunk beds. My bed was the top bunk with a low ceiling but I have since moved to the floor with the ants and cockroaches!

Crossing the road is an event in itself in that the traffic will not stop. We literally step out while trying to dodge the cars and mopeds. Accidents are minimal and it somehow works as a system. There are traffic wardens at busy times who stand in the middle of the road and blow whistles at vehicles to control them.

There are some cool sights like the Garden of Dreams, the Monkey Temple and Durbar Square.

It’s a fascinating city despite the dust and grime but for right now, it’s home.

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Having worked solidly for two weeks, we endured the 8 hour bus ride to Pokhara on Saturday for a rest. The thing that struck me the most was the clean air, tarmaced roads and GREEN! Although it’s Nepal’s second biggest city, the surrounding scenery is some of the best I’ve ever seen. It gives the Lake District a run for its money.

Whilst here, I have visited a fast river called Devis Falls, been inside a bat cave, walked over a suspension bridge, hiked through a jungle, had a boat rowed across the lake, seen a Peace Pagoda, paraglided through the clouds and zip lined along the steepest, fastetest zip line in the world! Sadly though I once again bashed my head at the end of the zip line due to the speed it was going but luckily I had a helmet on so I’m ok now.

You can just make put the wires for the zip line on the right.

This kind man was my partner for paragliding. He steered the parachute and got me safely down off the mountain. The scariest part was having to run down a hill and over the edge of the cliff to get up into the air!

Tomorrow will be at least 8 hours back along the so called roads to Kathmandu (they are so full of potholes due to being washed away during the monsoon season).