Home Away from Home: Volunteering at Crystal Mountain School

Students during the morning assembly, Crystal Mountain School

A post on call for volunteers at Crystal Mountain School that’s all it took for me to decide to pack my bag and take 2 flights, and walk 4 days by myself to get to the place where I had never been before and where I knew no one. As I stepped on the school ground students started greeting me, small kids did it multiple times actually. They were all so excited to have me and so was I. The warm welcome and hospitality was so selfless and generous it made me forget everything else and just be in the moment with the wonderful people. I taught English subject to the students. I enjoyed teaching them. After school I went to Taakshi village for a visit with a teacher from our school. We went to a hotel there, the owner and many villagers had recently returned from China after their trade of Yarchagumba, clothes and other goods. I realized that Chinese market is nearer and easier to access for them than the markets at lower places of Nepal. We had Chinese tea and Uwa Satu there.

Me with my students, CMS

After school a student requested me to go to her house and I went with her and had a great time. We went to a nearby river and I climbed on a cliff with them. We collected different flowers and made a bouquet out of them. We went to Dho and many people encouraged me for what I was doing, they said they had never seen a young girl volunteering as a teacher for children in such a remote place. Every morning I joined my students for prayers for half an hour. I enjoyed the sound produced and got lost within for a while.

As a festival of Maane was approaching I taught dance to students. After the last class, they had some tea and immediately they came to me to learn dance. I could see that they were very excited to learn. I also helped students with their assignments. I joined them for prayer in the evening.

Me dancing with the villagers during ‘Waang’, Dho village

Finally, the day of Waang; final day of Maane came and our school was closed. Like every other woman in the village I got dressed in Tibetan dress and ornaments and I also recited Maane(Om Maane Peme Ho). There were so many people from different villages praying together entire day and slept in tents at night. I was very fascinated by the unity among villagers.
The blowing of big drums and instruments and praying on the background made me feel lost somewhere. I performed Tibetan dance ‘Shyarbo’ with villagers, few men played traditional instrument called Dhyamgin and other men and many women danced in a circle joining hands.

Inauguration of a monastery near Taakshi village

On Saturday I went for a hike around the cliffs. I got lost in the solitude and serenity of the mountains. I couldn’t stop myself from sleeping on the grass and enjoy the sunshine. Only sound I could hear was my heartbeat. I enjoyed the freshness of air. I met few people going to transfer their Raman; place away and at higher altitude from the village. I went down to village and had some ‘Polo’ tea which is herbal tea. I went to Panighatta with my two students and saw ‘Champa’ being made from ‘Uwa’. I talked to villagers about the struggle they face and the work they do every day. After all it’s not the same to cook food by burning cattle dung and by using electric heater, it’s not the same to have market in a few minutes drive and after 2 days horse ride which could be accessed only once a year.

Yaks carrying food and goods from China, CMS

Chirping sounds of birds woke me up. The grass cutting had started in the villages. I went to assist villagers in cutting grass. The fields were beautiful in a riverbank between two small villages Dhoro and Sepche. Most of us cut grass, a girl collected the grass and her father tied it up beautifully. On the way back to school I could see villagers working in their fields, helping each other. Lights glowed at midnight and when everyone else would be dreaming, Dolpopas were busy cutting the ‘Uwa’ as grains would fall apart during the daytime. I wanted to experience that myself that’s why I went with one of my students. We ate daal, bhaat, potato curry for dinner. We were seven of us sharing a tent in the fields. We started cutting ‘Uwa’ at midnight, the fields were by riverside. The light pattern in the background kept changing, with people starting and stopping at different times. We collected the fallen grains from last night the next day. Afterward, I rested on the field looking at the sky and working villagers.

Attending festivities with Sangmo ma’am

Then, I used to wake up to the sound of the flowing river and see a river on the lap of a big hill from my room and sleep to the same sound which was my new companion. The barren hills with last rays of the sun and horses grazing on fields after the crops were harvested were some of the mesmerizing views on the way to the village. I tasted the milk of female yak for the first time today and it was delicious. I enjoyed walking in that lovely place with music of nature which gave the feeling of being on the lap of nature.

My beloved students, CMS

I went to Kalang village with few students after school. On the way there we ran, sang, talked to each other, saw blue sheep, and did fun things. We stopped for tea in the first house we saw after dusk and continued our journey in the moonlight. We made momo stuffed with smashed potatoes and spices. Early morning we went for a hike around the village. I must say it was very different Dashain this year; I went for kora- a religious hike around the mountains with my two students. All the villagers were busy harvesting the ‘Uwa’. On our hike, we saw shapes on rocks resembling a head, foot of a person, yak and other animals which are worshiped by Buddhist people with great respect. Each of us piled up small stones to make small houses which are believed to be the place for us after the death according to the local belief. I played with snow for the first time, I took snow on my hands, threw it high and enjoyed the snowfall. We reached the peak and ate ‘Lagoor- bread made from buckwheat’, with yogurt. Finally, the day came when I had to say goodbye to the place and the people with whom I had got so attached to in very short time.

Me being colored in the colors of Dolpo

Oh, what a remarkable experience it was! I miss all of my students and coworkers, villagers of Dho, Taakshi, Kalaang, Raamjo, the Dolpopas I met along the way and the beautiful Dolpa. My love and Taashi Delek to you all! I cannot wait to come back someday! Thank you Pawan Dhakal dai for the information about this opportunity.

Are you ready to have the best experience ever by volunteering at CMS?

Feel free to reach out to me with any questions!
Email: gathaadhikari@gmail.com


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