Volunteering Trip to Fikkal Ilam Part 3
The game was on! A friendly game was on the plan. I was looking forward to the day and so were the students. A court was needed for the game. On the day before, the vice-principal, the students and I measured and marked out the outline for the court. The students themselves then took over and “created” the court. There I was standing in the middle of the court, overseeing them happily creating and working as a team to make this possible. The moment was captured in my camera. They now had a permanent court that they could call their own. I could not hold back my excitement and joy, I was so proud of them! I went through the rules of the game again with them and reminded them to give themselves a round of applause for their hard work in creating their own court. With a new court, I gave them a chance to play and tried out the game format.
On 1st August 2014, Friday, it was my last day in school and the day of our friendly game. I went to school early to prepare the prizes and get ready for the friendly game. The night before I was rushing to handmade the prize tags to go with the prizes. Before the start of the game, I asked the teachers to help me to wrap the prizes while I was still doing the prize tags. I also gave the teachers role to play for the friendly game, e.g. time keeper, scorer, etc. When I was rushing and preparing for the game, the school committees and parents were present to give their support for the event. After the opening speech, past noon, the game started. The game format was 5 minutes for each half, total of 8 teams from Grade 4 - 8. The battle had begun, between Grade 4 - 6, followed by competition between Grade 7 and 8.
They really gave it all to fight for the ball. Dive for the ball and back on feet to continue to give their every bit to make sure their team win. Exciting game would be the final between Grade 7 and 8. Though Grade 7 was on the disadvantage due to height, they displayed resilience and perseverance. They never gave up. It was a close fight but Grade 8 won. There was an incident when a 14 years old tall and big boy fell on top of a 12 years old boy. The younger boy was in pain and tears rolled down his cheeks. The teacher checked on him and he wiped his tear. He said he was fine and good to continue. I was worried if there was fracture or any injury. However, he showed me resilience and the fighting spirit, I really admired that. On another note, the older students from Grade 8 did not listen to instruction and I got a bit upset. Instead of throwing and passing the balls, they started to hit the ball like volleyball way, which was not part of what I taught and the game was not played that way.
Just before the rain came, we finished our first friendly game and our prize presentation was done in the rain. As it was my last day in school, I bought the famous lollipop, a specialty from Ilam, for the whole school. I did not manage to capture the moment when the students received the packet of lollipop. However, I did remember vividly the smile on their faces when they received it despite the rain. Due to rain, I could not take individual portrait of the students, class & staff photo, as I wanted and it was part of my mission. That would be the only disappointment I had.
At the farewell ceremony, weather was gloomy and students were standing at the usual assembly area. There I was sitting at the "VIP" seat and overseeing them for the last time. Each face and smile... I would remember by heart. I was prepared to give my farewell speech and tried to hold back my tears but I failed. Some students cried too. I was already missing everyone and the place. In my speech, I told them once again how well they did and I was so proud of them. I told them to study hard and not to give up of their dreams.
Other than my days in school, I managed to tour a bit in Ilam and house visiting. I had great company, who brought me to places and led me to new experiences, they even tried to teach me simple Nepali. Just to name a few of places in Ilam where you can visit, e.g. cheese factory, lollipop factory (must try! A milk candy only available in Ilam), tea factory (of course you cannot miss that), etc. I also tried many local foods like momo, pokada, lot of potatoes, etc. By house visiting, I learnt more about their culture, lifestyle, etc. I even went to Pashupatinagar, the border of Nepal and India. I had fun at the outing and spending time with new friends.
I could not express how much I had learnt and gained from this journey, it was an enriching and fruitful experience. Without the enthusiastic participation from the students and the help from the school, this whole mission would not be possible. The obstacle I encountered would be language barrier. As it is a Nepali medium school, majority of the students did not speak English. With the help from the school English teacher as my translator, I could get my messages across to the students. I also had to use more body and sign language. I was really grateful for all the kindness, friendliness, hospitality and helpfulness I received from the people I met. It was indeed an unforgettable and once in the lifetime experience. I am grateful for the new found friendship.
Text and Photos : Tiffany Lim, Singapore