We catch up with Zhenya who travelled to Nepal spending her time volunteering abroad as a teacher. What made this experience even more special was the fact she was teaching monks in a Buddhist monastery, located at the base of the Himalayas!
Zhenya just so happens to be an incredible photographer - although very modest about it! When the photography from her trip came to us we couldn't believe just how well she had captured the beauty and spirit of Nepal, so naturally we had to share with you guys (these are truly special!).
For more great photography from Zhenya head over to her Instagram.
The following blog comes from Zhenya, summarising her journey not just in a physical perspective but emotionally too. We hope you enjoy her humble words and beautiful photography...
First of all, I have to say that Nepal has always appealed to me as a special place to visit. For me it has this deep spiritual aspect due to there being so many temples, monasteries and sacred places which are believed to have special meanings. Nepal proved to be extremely inspiring to me as I met so many people who were open minded, interested in different cultures, spiritually fulfilled and searching for a true meaning in life.
The location of Nepal was a huge attraction, being so close to majestic and beautiful Himalayan Mountains. The world's highest summit is situated in Nepal and thousands of travellers and mountaineers go to this country every year for treks and expeditions hoping to achieve their own goals and ambitions.
Though I didn't challenge myself by climbing the mountains, my journey became for me a spiritual mountain and it broadened of my mind. Living in a monastery, teaching nuns, getting involved in the authentic way of living, understanding customs and traditions - it all has become a unique experience which has changed me a lot.
We woke up at around 5am and went to pray, there was a gong which would be struck throughout. Breakfast began at 6:30am before classes commenced at 8am. One of my favourite parts of the day was at 11:30am when the nuns and I were served Tibetan tea. Everybody went to an open terrace with their cups, sat down and just enjoyed beautiful views around, with a little bit of reading and the occasional chat.
We would then continue teaching. To be honest, I'd never taught children before. I even became a little nervous meeting the young children or even babies as I didn't know how to treat them. The fact that we were supposed to teach girls aged 10-11 was a relief for me, although of course my first lesson perplexed me. There were ten girls who could hardly speak English. They were all giggling, messing around, teasing each other and staring at us with their deep brown eyes. I just didn't know what to start with, luckily Jounitta (the other volunteer from Australia) saved us and came up with some great games. Thus we got acquainted and the lesson went really well.
At 3:30pm we would attend evening puja (praying) with mantras and then we’d have some free time to explore.
There were a few moments which will stay in my mind forever…
The first happened on a day off, we were in the monastery and we thought why not go exploring. The nuns and I decided to go on a walk, so we hiked up the hill on which our monastery was situated. It took us 2 hours to reach the top and we found a male monastery over there. The main monk kindly invited us to join them for lunch and we were so happy sitting beside other monks sharing our story with them. At first the nuns seemed reserved and shy but as long as I kept talking and questioning about the monastery they became curious and started giving glances at what was happening around them. Afterwards we thanked the monks and descended the hill, although it took us a little longer this time as we couldn't help but play hide and seek in this fairy-tale like forest.
The second memorable moment was a six day trek to a village with all the volunteers. The mountain villages where we stayed had a special atmosphere...when we reached the last village I was scared to break the silence in which the whole place was masked in... I will always remember Poon Hill village for the distinct carpet of a million stars I could see above that night.
I vividly remember the last day of the mountain trek. Breath in, step up... as we kept hiking, my body had got used to it...legs achy from the day before, both calves in need of a stretch and a little rest but we kept moving...the music playing in my headphones motivating me onwards. With the Himalayan Mountains in front of us, it constantly reminded me why I was doing it. This six day trek wasn't expected to be that tough but it turned out to be an amazing challenge for me. I’m incredibly happy that we faced it and successfully completely it, although it wasn't easy at times. When we reached the final point, I looked at the valley with my head rested and felt so blessed I had got to do it...I was absolutely exhausted but the joy and satisfaction from the experience was incredible!
Three Word Summary
Unforgettable. Inspiring. Unique.
We would like to say a huge thanks to Zhenya for providing us with this stunning imagery, but most importantly for dedicating her time abroad to make a positive impact upon the lives of these Buddhist children.
If you would like to do something similar to this volunteer project, why not take a look at the options available on our website.
All the best,
Real Gap Experience