Meditation, Buddhism and Volunteering with the Monks: A Story of a Traveler from Oregon

Meditation, Buddhism and Volunteering with the Monks: A Story of a Traveler from Oregon

Last Updated: December 12, 2023

I didn’t have many expectations when I came to Nepal. I didn’t ask many questions regarding specific details prior to my arrival in Kathmandu—which was intentional. I wanted to immerse myself in the experience without creating expectations of what that would look like beforehand.

I was in contact with Narayan prior to my arrival in Kathmandu. We exchanged a few emails and he shared his WhatsApp number with me to coordinate the logistics of picking me up from the airport. His cousin Sujan was there to meet me when I landed and brought me to the house. I immediately felt very welcomed by Narayan’s family. They made sure I had everything I needed and fed me the best food I’ve had in Nepal (eating at Narayan’s house is one of my favorite highlights from the trip).

After a day or two at Narayan’s I checked into Monastery. The volunteers from FDIP and the other organizations were incredibly welcoming. They showed me all their favorite spots around our local area.

Teaching classes took some time to get accustomed to. I’ve taught classes to adults in the past, but teaching to young children presents an entirely different set of challenges. I found that the real difficulty wasn’t preparing the lessons or teaching the concepts as much as getting the students attention and keeping order in the classroom. I quickly realized that teaching the younger students wasn’t for me. I decided to spend my time teaching math and science to 4th through 7th grade.

Patrick walking with monk kids in the Monastery

Photo: Patrick walking with monk kids in the Monastery

Most of the lessons went very well and the students seemed genuinely interested in learning the lesson material. The main challenge I encountered was the lack of organization with the school’s management and curriculum. Both the teachers and students seemed confused about the school calendar—sometimes you would be told that it was an exam or holiday, then at the last minute you would be told that it was a normal class period. There were many times I would arrive at a class with a lesson prepared and a teacher would tell me that the students are on holiday, just finished an exam, or were doing something else that morning or afternoon. It could be slightly time consuming to arrive in a class with a lesson prepared.

I recognize that I’m not going to change the outcome of these children’s future or education by volunteering at a school for just 2 months. I think these children have the opportunity to receive a fantastic education if given the right curriculum and environment, but that’s something that needs to be resolved within the school management.

Patrick on a safari with fellow volunteers

Photo: Patrick on a safari with fellow volunteers

As far as FDIP goes, I couldn’t be happier with my decision to volunteer with them. You feel like you’re part of a family at FDIP. We went on weekend treks, safaris, and explored the city as a group, welcoming volunteers from other organizations to join us on all the adventures. I regularly had other volunteers asking me how I found FDIP because they wished they had volunteered through my organization instead. I told them it was just luck and I really didn’t know what I was getting myself into.

Patrick on a trek with fellow volunteers

Photo:Patrick on a trek with fellow volunteers

Near the end of my trip I had the opportunity to attend a 10 day Vipassana class. One of the other volunteers, Sebastain, had just completed the course and gave me an idea of what I should expect. Narayan coordinated everything with Monastery to ensure an easy check-out and check-in process before and after my Vipassana class. I also had the opportunity to visit some other cities in Nepal during my time away from the Monastery. Both Pokhara and Chitwan were amazing experiences.

I had the opportunity to meet Suk and some of the volunteers from other projects, who were all incredible people and seemed to be enjoying their experience with FDIP in Nepal. My critiques of the school aside, I genuinely couldn’t be happier with my decisions to volunteer in Nepal for 8 weeks. It was truly a once in a lifetime experience. I’ve met so many incredible people, built meaningful friendships, and learned more about what it means to be a practicing Buddhist.

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