Eine Reise in das 6500 km entfernte Pelmang, Nepal – Reisebericht (ENGLISH SUB)

A trip to Pelmang, 6500 km away Namaste. This means “I honour you“ This nepalese greeting was not the only thing we learned on our very first project day in 5th grade On this day, our teacher Ms Götz, who had traveled to Nepal many times, brought us close to this country in the Himalaya We learned more and more about its mountains, its culture and our partner village Pelmang And eventually, the first letters from our Nepalese pen pals living in Pelmang arrived Of course, we answered those letters and became even more fascinated by Nepal We filmed short movies for the children from Pelmang and sent countless pictures, clothes and toys to them Over the years, the idea of going to Pelmang came up And this idea slowly turned into a concrete plan, which we saw as more and more realistic We are fifteen students from the Augustum-Annen-Gymnasium in Görlitz, three teachers and a doctor How long did we think our plans over, were excited and then started pondering again But then, for us completely out of the blue, there were flights booked and bags packed. That´s how it all began What had been only a dream for a very long time becomes reality in October 2018 Together with our 30kg kitbags, we stand at the beginning of the greatest journey of our lives: A journey to visit our partner village Pelmang, 6500km away from Görlitz, within the gigantic Himalaya The first step is to go to Berlin by bus, then we fly to Istanbul and from Istanbul to Kathmandu When we feel Nepalese ground beneath our feet for the first time, our travel group is struck by excitement, but also by curiosity and uncertainty What we had prepared for so well appears to be very spontaneous in the end And suddenly, we are sitting in the garden of our Guest House, sunbathing, having breakfast and trying to cure our jetlag During the first days in the Nepalese capital city Kathmandu, we visit the Skylark English School At this boarding school, lessons are only held in English and especially girls between the age of 10 and 16 are able to get an education because of sponsorships from Germany They speak English very well and after our visit, we know that if these girls continue pursuing their dreams, they will shape and develop the Nepalese society In Kathmandu, it is possible to gain insight into the Nepalese culture and the religions of Buddhism and Hinduism The Bodnath Stupa, the world´s biggest stupa, is an important buddhistic temple The circular building has to be walked around clockwisely, with the right hand – the pure hand – pointing in the direction of the Stupa Two times a day, many monks come together at the Stupa to pray We also visit an important place of Hinduism, the crematories of Pashupatinath, where we come close to the “circle of life“ We get to know Sadhus and get blessed by them Afterwards, we explore the historical district of Patan with its many temples, try our very first Nepalese lunch and walk through the tourist district Tamel in the evening After this more or less relaxed phase of arriving in Nepal, our trip to our partner village Pelmang starts the next day at 5 AM With three jeeps, we drive for 11 hours to Salleri within the Himalaya Without seatbelts, it goes through rivers and crushed rock – we will definitely remember this jeep tour Attempts of passing the time by reading or writing post cards are failing soon But some pills against travel-sickness help and it turns out to be not as bad as in the beginning The phenomenal view also plays a role in preventing boredom When we arrive in the evening, we try Nepal´s main dish Daal Bhat for the first time: it consists of rice with lentils, pickles and cucumber

Sometimes we even get fresh bananas for a dessert Our first morning in the Himalaya starts with visiting a friend of Ms Götz He had been an English teacher in Pelmang and had moved to Salleri afterwards We get to know his family as well They also tell us what lies behind the big flock of sheep that wanders the streets of Salleri The animals are brought together to be slaughtered for the annual sacrifice offering But although we feel sorry for the animals passing by so happily, this is also a part of the Nepalese culture In Salleri, we meet our porters for the first time: 11 girls and boys who will join us for the rest of our trip through the Himalaya At first, we are shocked since some of them are not much older or even younger than us But they easily shoulder our 30kg-bags, so that our first trekking day is about to start In the beginning, we are surprised by how easy and pleasant hiking can be: The flowers, the chirping sounds coming from bushes and trees and the breathtaking sights into the Himalayan valleys allow us to forget that we are already walking for a few hours But after our daily portion of Daal Bhat, our good mood fades since it starts to rain And not only a little bit, but the rain keeps falling down for a couple hours In the end, we are drippingly wet – despite our rain capes and bagpack covers And to make matters worse, we discover the first leeches on our legs, which will accompany us for the rest of our journey Today, the sky is clear and it is warm The rain of the previous day has caused nature to flourish even more Ms Götz´ prediction that this day is going to be one of the hardest ones turns out to be true After countless hours of continuously walking downhill, only to walk uphill on the other side of the valley again, we arrive completely exhausted at our lunch place We buy and try a pomelo from a farmer we meet on our way and take several pictures while we cross a frighteningly high rope bridge above the Milky River Eventually, we arrive at our comparatively luxurious lodge and celebrate Eve´s birthday together with our porters, german and nepalese music and a lot of fun We have come close to our partner village in the end Our final hiking day before reaching Pelmang has dawned Again, we cross rope bridges, see exotic flowers and animals from afar and meet nepalese children, who observe us curiously Our daily portion of Daal Bhat waits for us in Bung, a neighboring village of Pelmang There, we visit a market where clothes and groceries are sold as well as cows and swines gutted But we don´t stay for a very long time, since we want to arrive in Pelmang as quickly as possible After another hour of hiking through the jungle, we see the first houses and our group´s excitement grows After all, we have been writing letters to our pen pals and listened to Ms Götz´s stories for quite some years now Finally, we can see the most beautiful mountain of the Himalaya with our own eyes We are welcomed very heartily and with many flower garlants Machhindra even had a welcome poster with our photos produced We are completely overwhelmed by the surprise welcome and can´t help but to smile back at the people and take many pictures, to remember this amazing moment forever We unpack our backpacks and get comfortable in our rooms, after all, we are going to stay in Pelmang for four days While many of us sleep in the newly built office building of the village, the teachers and six other students are housed in Macchindra´s house and the house of his brother The hospitality we experience in Pelmang is incredible Specifically for us, wood has been brought into the village from the forests to build us some beds Bit by bit, we get to know the children of Pelmang The shyness soon vanishes and already on the first evening, we play ball and frisbee games with them It is incredible how easily we can make those children laugh, even though we only know them for some hours and can only communicate by hands and feet This straightforwardness and the vitality that Nepal has really touches us Very pleasant are also our daily UNO games that we play especially with the older children and our porters

UNO is one of the only games everyone in Pelmang knows Since our last shower was about four days ago, we all want to get ourselves clean This means in Pelmang: walking downhill for half an hour to stick one´s head into the flowing mountain river This isn´t a nice thing to do while it rains, so we have to wait another day Instead, we have the possibility to wash our hiking clothes in the small brook directly next to our sleeping places And even better than that is visiting Pelmang´s Secondary School – we had all looked forward to this Like the day before, we are greeted by countless colorful flower garlands and we directly enter the kid´s daily morning workout Of course, our movements are not as trained as those of the children, but we soon adapt to the rhythm and even enjoy this morning ritual After we have given two big drums to the school´s headmaster as a gift, we are allowed to enter some of the lessons Luckily, maths is taught in Nepali as well as in English so that we can even follow the teacher The school books and exercises become more and more familiar to us However, this is not the case in subjects like Nepali or science, where we hardly understand anything The best experiences were our own tryouts as teachers, when we show the song “Head, Shoulders, Knees and Toes“ to the enthusiastic students In the end, we spend the first break playing with the kids on the school´s courtyard In the afternoon, some of us leave for a visit at the homes of our godchildren Since Pelmang is a very scattered village, it can take up to 20 minutes to reach the right house The joy is very big when a godchild and a person from Görlitz meet We give them clothes, but also toys, drawing books or pencils as presents The first meeting with the families some of us have been supporting for years is definitely the best thing about our visit The establishment of sponsorships in Pelmang to enable children to go to school is only a small part of the projects that take place in Pelmang at the moment Another project we can support with our own hand´s work is the building of the Health Post, a local health station where a nurse is going to work after the building is finished We can see how important this Health Post is to the people of Pelmang Even children drag bags of sand from the river to the construction site, so that plaster can be produced And every day, bulky pieces of rock are patiently and painfully cut and grinded We are presented with the task of painting the wooden window frames, which is something we do gladly By now, the Health Post has been finished and we are all somewhat proud of having helped with the building Today, we are visiting Pelmang´s Primary School It is a lot more small than the Secondary School and has been damaged during the 2015 earthquake But the students aren´t bothered by the thin walls or the provisional classrooms Again, we participate in the daily morning exercise and quickly walk beneath the roof when it starts to rain heavily The students however continue dancing and singing In the Primary School, we also give out many of the caps, scarfs and marbles that we have brought with us, and we admire how fast even the smallest students can recite the alphabet And the song “Head, Shoulders, Knees and Toes“ works with the younger students too The best thing is, however, the playing time on the school´s courtyard, where we can try the many frisbees, balls, skipping ropes and other toys from Görlitz together with the kids Later, we help Machhindra to peel his first harvest of Kardamom: Some of us sit for hours in a small circle and free the spice from its leaf Kardamom is very valuable in Nepal and that´s why we are so surprised when Machhindra gives each of us a small bag of Kardamom to take home with us Besides, we try cooking a traditional Nepalese dish: We learn how to make Momos, small dumplings similar to Pirogi from Poland, which are filled with different spices and specialties, depending on the region, and then twisted in a complicated way, so that they look like roses

After some minutes of trying we finally get it right and try our Momos right at dinner time The next morning, we are surprised by a well-known breakfast: Chips And finally, finally, the weather is on our side so that we set out for the river to have a bath Our conclusion: The mountain river is icely cold and “having a bath“ is the wrong way of putting it, since we only dive into the water for some seconds But the feeling of clean hair and the comfortable coolness is worth the trembling Our day turns out to be very creative, since Machhindra has asked us to decorate the naked wall of the office building While Wiebke practices Nepalese characters to write the house´s address on its rooftop, Mila and Merle paint three Mandalas on the wall It is a great honour to work at the future administration of Pelmang Everyone is interested in it, so it feels like every brushstroke is observed by the entire village In the afternoon, we are again invited into the Primary School, since the village has organised a goodbye party for us We are shown many traditional dances, the elder women demonstrate the use of the jaw´s harp to us and we are showered with valuable presents: Self-made baskets made of bamboo or a machete produced by a Nepalese man We are so overwhelmed by these gifts that we can´t thank the people enought On our last evening in Pelmang, we again try a new Nepalese dish called Duri, which is eaten in Pelmang very often since it is very easy to cook It mainly consists of millet and is served with fresh fruits Opinions diverge on this dish: Some of us are amazed, others prefer eating only the vegetables As culmination of our time in Pelmang, our travel companions Roshan and Mokram get a big ghetto blaster and the whole village, old and young, dances, celebrates, laughs and enjoys our last evening in the most beautiful village of the Himalaya Far too quickly, it is there – our last morning in Pelmang Packing our stuff is really hard since we would have loved to stay even longer After breakfast, we have to say goodbye – affectionately and tearfully, with many Kathas and flower garlands Bevor we finally leave Pelmang, we are hanging the many flower garlands we got during the four days to every beam we can find, and leave a colorful and beautiful Pelmang behind Our second big trekking trip lays ahead of us, with the destination of Mount Everest We hike through mangrove forests, whose lianas and insect sounds remind us of the Jungle Book, and during a break, we try Nepalese sugar cane, which we use as hiking sticks as well We meet our old friends, the leeches, again, and cross high and unsteady rope bridges and low, almost rotten wood bridges On our first hiking day after Pelmang, we reach our first Himalaya pass on 3000m and see more and more Stupas and buddhistic Mani walls Moreover, we have to pass about 2600m of altitude difference on one day and the lodges we sleep in become more and more luxurious There are days extremely challenging to us, for example the day when we had to walk uphill for 3 hours straight, with the sun burning at our backs But the more exhausting the trip, the better the feeling when we arrive at the lodge One day, we even meet other Germans on the deserted hiking trails But the closer we get to the high 8000m mountains, the more touristic the area becomes Suddenly, we can decide if we want fried rice or pancakes for breakfast, and it is a nice change in our routine Since we have been hiking for quite some days without meeting someone else, we have to get used to the big tourist groups we share the trail with now Our first morning in Namche Bazar starts with a short ascent to a viewpoint, from where we watch the sunrise together with other tourists Slowly, but steadily, the sun ascends above the highest mountains in the world To enjoy this environment even more, we do not only spend our time relaxing

A panorama tour around Namche enables us to fall in love with the world´s highest mountains for the second time Especially Ama Dablam, 6800m high, takes a shine to us This mountain “hugs“ the area like a mother and is on top of the list of our favourite photo scenes A tour in this area allows us to meet yaks for the first time, see one of the longest Mani walls in the world and visit a monastery in Namche An interesting monk gives us his blessing for the rest of our trip And that´s how our hiking tour around Namche ends Kumjung Village, hidden within the high mountains, shows us for example the typical way of life of the Sherpa people, who originally came from Tibet to Nepal In the evening, we have the possibility of informing us about the Sherpa in a special museum Despite all these highlights in the Himalaya, it has to be mentioned that not every person can deal with great heights easily In our group, there are signs of mountain sickness like headaches, tiredness, exhaustion or a general unwellness However, since we had ascended the mountains very slowly, the good acclimation helps to prevent drastic problems After two days of relaxing, we start again for our last Himalayan destination: Lukla, from where we are supposed to go back to Kathmandu by airplane Sadly, the outlook on warm showers and normal toilets in Kathmandu also means saying goodbye to Mount Everest, which we see one last time before our descent starts and the mountain peaks vanish behind the trees We are already familiar with many parts of the way, since we have to spend four hours hiking back on the same way that we walked in the other direction two days ago More and more often, we have to wait on the wayside because a large mule treck passes From Coke bottles to sheep´s wool, those animals transport everything in the mountains Obviously, since cars don´t work well on bumpy, narrow roads and unsteady bridges In the beginning, we even enjoy the many animals on the road and take many pictures, but eventually, waiting starts to get on our nerves since it extends our hike Still, we enjoy our Daal Bhat for lunch and we are even faster than we thought Two hours after lunch break, we already arrive in Lukla: Surprisingly three hours too early We are not very sad about this because it gives us time to take a walk through Lukla and visit an Internet cafe In the evening, we have to say goodbye to our porters who have accompanied us for such a long time and carried our entire luggage across the mountains We play one last game of UNO, give presents like headlights, caps and cereal bars to them and sing, for the last time, the song “Resham Firiri“, a Nepalese folk song that we have learned during the long hours of hiking Late in the evening, we are dropping down in our beds Of course, we look forward to the remaining days in Kathmandu, but still, it is the last night we spend in the highest mountain range of the world At least that´s what we think – in the end, everything actually turns out differently Because now, at the end of a journey which had been going fully according to the plan until now, the other side of Nepal shows itself Our flight back to Kathmandu doesn´t take off due to the bad weather situation, so that all of us have to wait in Lukla for at least 24 hours more Involuntarily, we get the possibility of exploring Lukla´s cafes and the German Bakery, but also of experiencing Nepal´s problematic sides at the world´s most dangerous airport Only those who pay the highest amount of money get a flight, no matter how long others have to wait Like many other tourists, we go back to Kathmandu by helicopter instead of a regular airplane And in the end, the nerve-wracking wait in Lukla and the feeling of infinite unfairness seems to be necessary in order to claim having crossed the Himalaya in a helicopter At the end of the last day, all students finally arrive in the Nepalese capital in different groups and at different times Our last evening in Nepal had been planned differently

We wanted to give our presents to Machhindra, say goodbye to him and thank him for the three most exciting weeks of our lives – and for his continuous motivation and support But the two main characters, Machhindra and Ms Götz, are missing – in the last helicopter, which had brought the six remaining students back to Kathmandu, were not enough places and so the two of them are still sitting in Lukla Instead, we get to know Machhindra´s wife and his daughter and give our presents to them After one last group picture in front of the restaurant we have to say goodbye – to Machhindra´s family, the colorful city of Kathmandu and the Nepalese way of life Hopefully, we are going to take the Nepalese straightforwardness and optimism with us to Germany, and we already miss the high mountains The next morning, everything happens very fast In no time at all, the last souvenirs are packed and then we already sit in the bus For one last time, we drive through Kathmandu and enjoy the last moments where cows and dogs between the cars on the street are normality After arriving at the airport, we check in and record a voice message for Ms Götz to sing her a song – it is her birthday and she still hasn´t arrived in Kathmandu yet We share the chocolate cake Ms Götz had ordered for us and hope that she gets a seat in a plane as soon as possible After an unplanned time of waiting, which we are already used to in Nepal, we sit in the plane towards Istanbul We take off and observe how the houses of Kathmandu and the mountains of the Himalaya get smaller and smaller The last step of our journey is shaped by melancholy as well as anticipation What we are looking forward to most of all: Our families, but also normal toilets, warm showers and the daily luxury that we enjoy in Germany and take for granted Even if three weeks full of excitement, adventure and new experiences are behind us now, our trip is not yet over We will definitely continue to work on our godchildren´s education