Pokhara High Life

After an eventful long-weekend’s holiday in Kathmandu, the Pokhara team have returned to their lakeside surroundings (sans Fran) for the second week of teaching. We thought we’d lost Bobby for 48 hours in the smoggy capital, but it turned out an orphanage was just clamouring for his enthusiastic childcare skills. No matter – safely returned to us while seven of our number went white-water rafting for the day, Bobby joined Rachael and myself for the seven-hour local bus journey through the Kathmandu valley, ready to see our perma-smiling students again.

The first two days of this week have been an education. Everyone’s feeling a little hoarse-voiced, owing to the boundless energy of the Year 7 classes. The monsoons have been arriving later in the day, which makes mornings and afternoons at the school almost-unbearably hot. In better news, we’ve found a cafe near the school which is easier on our stomachs than the previous one we were frequenting for lunch – and today, the school’s Principal insisted we join him there for masala chai.

In the classroom, progress is swift; just as well, given that next Wednesday and Thursday will bring us to the concluding competition for the children. We are tackling a range of motions relevant to Nepali society: highlights have included This House believes England is better than Nepal (suggested by one of my Year 8 students), This House believes both men and women should go to work, and This House would stop protecting endangered species.

The children have really enjoyed playing The Sales Game, where they pretend to be shopkeepers trying to sell different objects to an audience of aliens just landed on Earth. The game forces competitors to constantly explain the importance of, say, a piece of chalk or my raincoat, by asking the question Why? For example, “You should choose these sunglasses because you can wear them when it is sunny. Why is this important? Sunlight can damage our eyes, but we can protect them by wearing sunglasses. Why is this important? If we damage our eyesight, we will not be able to see clearly and will not be able to gain more knowledge.”

It’s a constant delight to see how much contextual knowledge the children have about their beautiful country, and how quickly they pick up on the language and structure of debating. In addition, learning how to debate is teaching them the importance of listening to each other, because, after all, you cannot win a debate just by building your own arguments – you must also dismantle those of your opponents.

Tomorrow, we will run our first after-school club, for the very keenest students (unless the threat of a teachers’ strike materialises). Hopefully by the time I wake in the morning one of our team will have thought of a suitable motion for these highly motivated debaters!