I fell in a water tap. Within 36 hours of our arrival in Rayale, I had already experienced public embarrassment. We’re not just talking a quick, graceful fumble either. One second I was casually trying to wash off at the tap and the next thing I knew I was parallel with the ground. If I had any hope that my fall had gone unnoticed, it was quashed immediately when everyone in the surrounding area let out a collective “oooOO!” Yep, everyone was watching. What could have been terribly embarrassing start to my time in the village, actually turned out to be a great way to bond with the teachers of the Rayale schools and the PHASE staff visiting the village. I couldn’t help but notice that while walking on completely flat, dry surfaces I was the only member of our group who was repeatedly reminded to “watch out it might be slippery.” Good to know that humor transcends language barriers.
After my grand entrance to Rayale, there was nowhere to go but up. I mean this both metaphorically and literally. Our time spent in Rayale was characterized by a lot of climbing hills and mountains. An example of this is actually one of my favorite moments in Rayale. We were lucky enough to spend our first few days there with a group of amazing teacher-trainers from PHASE and were able to accompany and observe them evaluating teachers in some of the Rayale government schools. One of the first days, Linda, Reilly and I joined them on a trip to observe teachers at more distant schools. The trek started out relatively easily, but by the end we found ourselves climbing a steep, rocky wooded area in our sandals in the rain. It was an amazing hike with amazing views, but if there’s one thing I’ve learned while in Nepal, it’s that when someone mentions going up a “small hill” or taking a “short cut,” they actually mean we are going to climb a vertical cliff in the jungle. I am only being a little dramatic.
Rayale is an incredible place. We spent a considerable amount of our time there in the schools, but I always loved coming back to the community and the home in which we were staying. It was incredible to see all of us transition from shy strangers to comfortable acquaintances, and even good friends. This was particularly evident with the two daughters of the family in the house that we stayed in. The initial days in which we found them shyly watching us from behind their parents seemed far away by the end of our stay, when more often than not I was awaken by their bursting into our room early in the morning or climbing in my bed. I loved spending time with them. It’s an amazing experience to be able to really feel a part of something, as we did for our time in Rayale. Going on hikes with groups of children we had met, meeting relatives and friends, and just speaking with the people of community were experiences I’ll never forget. I hope that our time together was that of mutual benefit and learning, but I know for sure that the experiences, insight and kindness they showed me are invaluable.
Last but certainly not least was my experience with PHASE in Rayale. There really was no better way to understand PHASE than to be in one of the many communities they serve. Our work in the schools, observing PHASE teacher trainers, seeing PHASE-supported livelihood programs, and spending time in the PHASE-supported clinic and its outpost helped me gain a broader and deeper understanding of the organization’s approach. It’s one thing to hear about an idea, concept and approach, but to see PHASE in action was incredible. Their staff is deeply committed and extremely friendly, and for the kindness and time they took to share PHASE with us I am incredibly grateful. One week into our time in Rayale, Dr. Gerda Pohl visited us and our group had a conversation that has kept me thinking ever since. She spoke of the PHASE approach of working in the sectors of health, education, and livelihoods, and how good health means very little if you do not have the education or livelihood skills to support yourself, or how having education means very little if you are too sick to work or learn. The three sectors may at first glance appear unrelated, but the more I learn and experience, the more I see that they are inextricably linked. The concept of breaking the cycle of poverty by attacking livelihood, educational and health problems together just makes sense. I know I will keep with me these lessons and other values and approaches embodied by PHASE well into the future.
I can’t believe we have already reached our final 8 days in Nepal. I have so much more to say and I have learned and experienced more than I can currently write about. We plan to spend our final days here working in the PHASE office in Kathmandu and sight-seeing. I can’t wait to see what else our time in Nepal will bring!
Emily Miller is a junior majoring in in biology and community health. She is a co-president of GlobeMed.