CAS Week 2018

Renaissance College

Category: Kathmandu, Nepal

The Canvas of Teaching

24/11/17 Author: Lok Wa

Bad news first: We regretfully could not teach the monks today as there were protests in the area. Although it was incredibly sad for us to learn that our experiences with the monks would end abruptly without a proper goodbye, we remained enthusiastic for the four lessons we had with the students at Deeya Shree Boarding School up ahead.

“Students are not jars to fill up, but a fire to ignite.” — Kwawalung Tashi Choeling Monastery

I think teaching was not exactly the same experience as what we expected it to be. Coming in, we thought that teaching would just be like colouring-in book: You started out with the printed outlines (our lesson plans), and filled it in with colours (following the plan). Of course, there would be variations in what colour you chose depending on the class dynamics and time constraints, but we did not expect much: Come in with a plan, and follow it.

As the days passed and more time was spent teaching, we learnt that teaching is no colouring-in — Teaching is one vast canvas with infinite possibilities. We could choose the colours, we could choose the shapes, we could morph it to anything our mind willed it to be. There are no boundaries. Anything we wanted the lesson be, it could be.

Now, this is not about the academic related things we teach during the lesson; this is about everything else about teaching that we never thought of. The human connections. The camaraderie. The laughs we share. Teaching was so much more rewarding than any of we had sought out to be.

Despite some of us feeling nervous for not having the best of plans coming into a few of the lessons, that feeling gradually subsided as we learned that teaching isn’t strictly about academics. Having a hard lesson plan was one way to paint our lesson. Another is to share our ideas and experiences. The canvas of teaching was in our grasp.

As teachers, we are mentors to the students, and the students are mentors to us. While we share our knowledge and experiences with the students, they share the resilient and open attitude towards life that every one of them holds to us. When we share our experiences with them, we see the light that sparks in their eyes. When we tell jokes so terrifically bad that we have picked up over the years, we hear the gleeful chuckles and giggles envelop the room.

We can all confidently say: Teaching was a complete joy.

The four lessons for the day gave us valuable time to share more of our experience and be touched by the pure happiness that the students possessed. We ended the day with games of football and volleyball in their barren grass field behind the school with bamboo splinters as goalposts. Screams and delighted giggles rung far from the little field. Smiles were on everyone’s faces. As the day drew to an end, hugs and high-fives were thrown around the school and said our melancholic goodbyes.

As we got on the van and saw where our memories formed with the students grow smaller and smaller, we felt an amazing energy in the air. Deep inside, we felt happy. Somehow, perhaps not fully realising it, the energy of the students lingered with each one of us. But we definitely felt it in one way or another. Our experiences with teaching reached far beyond any of our expectations, and our gratitude towards the students cannot be expressed. The four days of teaching felt short, but I think, what we learned will stick with us will last for years to come.

Head in the Clouds

23/11/17 – Siena and Pak

After a night of singing and stargazing, we had an early start, waking up at 6 in the morning. We wrapped up in our warmest clothes and set off for our scheduled sunrise walk. The lookout point was a construction site on the edge of the mountain. We didn’t exactly luck out regarding the sunrise, as there was quite a bit of mist and fog. However, the spectacular view we got of Nagarkot truly took our breath away. What was even more shocking was the fact that the CAS coordinator of RCHK took us urbexing.

We then made our way back and took the path up a hill just behind the eco home of which we were staying at, discovering a turn to some stairs and a temple. The temple was small and looked as if it needed repairing, as there were a lot of cracks throughout the floor. This was probably signs of the impact of the earthquake that hit Nepal in 2015. We then made our way back down, and warmed ourselves back up with a much needed cup of hot chocolate. The Eco Home we were staying at took families in following the earthquake as it was one of the few places in Nargakot not structurally affected. This is just one example of the great work Anita and Semanta who run the hotel have done in the area – they also sponsor many students and families.

The men who were running the eco home were nice enough to prepare us breakfast. We had an abundance of eggs, toast, and yummy homemade papaya jam. We then went back to our rooms and got ready for the long, tiring hike ahead. We were given a bottle of water and two bananas each, and waved off on our way to take a long uphill walk in the cool air.

We hiked along a winding road and caught glimpses of the Himalayan mountain peaks in the distance, the mist slowly lifting the higher we climbed. Two dogs from the eco home even came to accompany us on our journey! We soon arrived at a lookout point where we were met by school children and a Nepalese cowboy on a horse. This was when we had our first proper look at the Himalayan mountain range. The hike really gave us time to reflect on the time we had spent in Nepal. We had time to think about how we have really been living with our heads in the clouds. Our time spent within the school and monastery has been incredibly eye-opening. We are so privileged regarding the lifestyle we lead, and we all have the potential to take responsibility and do our part for society. However, we still choose to neglect the issues within our world and live in our “perfect world” filled with lies.

After we came back from our hike, the eco home had prepared us some lovely momo’s (Nepalese dumplings) and fried rice. We then packed up for the day, before taking our 2 hour bumpy drive back to the Kathmandu guest house, with some of us on the brink of bursting! We then checked back in and went to our new rooms, some of which were incredibly different to the ones we had previously, giving us a nice surprise.

Overall, today has been extremely useful for gathering our thoughts on our experiences within Nepal. It was great to take a step back and take in the silent, peaceful atmosphere away from the constant chaos of the city.

Day 5: A starry starry night


Photo: Nathan

Authors: Kelly, Joey & Andrea

After our usual morning routine, we received some rather unfortunate news. We were told that today could be the last day for us to experience the joys of teaching our students – the Nepalese students at the Deeya Shree English Boarding School and students from the monastery. This is because there are elections going on at the moment in Nepal and one of the outside political parties may organise a strike on Friday, which means the school will be closed and buses won’t run.

On our arrival to our first stop, the monastery, we were greeted yet again by a group of smiling, eager monks. Some of the older monks were sitting outside in the sunshine and a few of us had the chance to chat with them. One was reading a book on philosophy and said that he was in the 4th year of his 9 year philosophy course. When asked what he would do after this he said he’d probably teach, but he might travel too. When asked if he would continue to be a monk, he said he wasn’t sure but that he was able to choose if he wanted to or not, which surprised us as we didn’t realise they had that freedom. Indeed, he felt that coming to the monastery at age 9 had given him choices he wouldn’t have otherwise had.

We all had an amazing, educational experience with them, especially seeing them in a different light after our prayer session the day before.

Although it was saddening to say our goodbyes, we know that this will not be the last time they will hear or see RCHK students (or teachers, as they would often refer to us as).

At the school, we were able to capture many farewell photos and say our solemn goodbyes.

Then began our long endeavour to Nagarkot. Our perilous journey split us into two individual vehicles as the road would be so bumpy and steep in parts that one might struggle. Our 2 hour long journey began at the School, and we kept ourselves entertained with many ukulele songs, sing-a-longs and naps to accompany us on the bumpy roads.

Upon arriving at our new Eco-home, we were able to be greeted by one of its owners, Anita, who showed us our rooms with cute balconies and an amazing fireplace to sit round later.

That night we ate what many agreed was the best meal of the trip so far, a freshly made Nepalese dinner and especially delicious chocolate pudding dessert.

After sitting around the glowing fire for a while singing a diverse repertoire of songs from the Eagles to Disney, we proceeded up the stairs to the rooftop. Here we could lie down and gaze up at the stars, truly awestruck by the beauty of Mother Nature. As we counted and watched the twinkles above, we were able to reminisce on the good times we have had in Kathmandu so far.

As we looked up at the crystal clear night sky filled with stars, we thought to compare such beauty with the cloudy, light polluted skies of Hong Kong. We were able to consider the privileges and disadvantages of living in the big city, while appreciating the pure, natural beauty of the rural countryside.

Our night was filled with laughs, cuddles and shooting stars. As Year 12 students, all of our shooting star wishes were filled with #IB45’s, hoping for futures as bright as the stars above us.

They say that we should always aim for the stars- and tonight, we were able to clearly see where we would one day be able to reach. We’re so thankful for this opportunity to see such wonderous views!

Sorry for the delay

22/11/17 Day 6 – Josh & Anson

22/11/17 Day 6 – Josh & Anson

Today we started off with a bright and early start and headed for the monastery at 8:45. Although the traffic was tough and roads were rough, as the magnificent golden monastery edged its way into our view, we were on the edge of our seats. As always, the monks had a warm welcome for us as we walked in to our respective classrooms.

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After 1 hour and 30 minutes of fun teaching, we said goodbye to the monks and quickly headed to the school.


The kids from the school were extremely excited to be with us again and they had plenty of fun being taught Maths, English, Art, and Music. They were eager to learn and very enthusiastic. They even ‘told’ us to play with them at lunchtime!

Although students from the school were sometimes misbehaving and having a hard time focusing, as teachers, we all tried our best to encourage them to continue as we hope that the knowledge they receive will be hepful for them in the future. Their cheerful laughs and smiles are priceless.

We eventually had to say our goodbyes the cute students and left to go to the monastery for a once in a lifetime experience – watching a prayer (puja) session. The ritual was somewhat scary with the thundering drum and the wailing trumpets, on top of the actual prayer itself. We even had to check if they were actually breathing they were reciting the words so fast! For the hour, we sat at the side listening to them and giving time to our own thoughts.

After the prayer session, the monks were nice enough to invite us to join them for dinner, and it was our pleasure to taste their Nepalese cuisine. The lentils and chilli were exceptionally tasty, but a few of us had trouble eating the olive chilli as it was so spicy! No matter how the food tasted, we were all very honoured to share the same table as the monks, as well as be included in their prayer session, as not many people get this kind of opportunity.

Day 3: Looking for Innocence

20/11/17 Authors: Jack, Brian, Lok Wa

“In life, there is no right or wrong answer.”

“So what?”

During our first days of teaching in Kathmandu, we learnt that there were no right or wrong answers. Today, it was not just the students at the school and the monastery that received a lesson. It was our group of twelve that received two lessons:

1. Nothing goes according to plan

“Give a man a fish, he will be full for a day. Teach a man how to fish, he will be full forever.”

The first day of teaching did not go as planned as our CAS week interfered with the monastery’s exam period. Thanks to our flexible time schedule, however, we managed to change our teaching schedules with the school by shifting between morning and afternoon.

The quote above was written on a wall in the monastery, and it gives a clear insight of our aim, our purpose of this trip.

Four days of teaching made it very unlikely that we can improve their academic performances within these days. However, it is possible to teach them how to approach to different questions/difficulties in their courses of academia.

Instead of teaching them solid materials, we can teach them how to learn and to think critically.

Of course, it is challenging for us, as current high school students, to teach them what we are not even completely sure of. But it is the attempt, our willingness and courage to try that is the point of this trip.

We had planned detailed lessons before coming over to Kathmandu to teach the kids. However, in consideration of the exams coming up for the monks in the monastery, our groups had to adapt and tutor the students in their exam instead. The music group even had to scrap their plans entirely, as the monks wanted serious help in their English skills! Although it was sad for us to see the plans we had worked so hard on to go to waste, we were ecstatic to help the students prepare for the exams and see their faces brimming in confidence with the skills we had helped revise.

2. The kids in both the monastery and school were extremely energetic.

They were eager to interact with us, and we were a bit blown back by their energy at first. However, they welcomed us with open arms and within moments it seemed that everybody had close bonds with the students.

It was just a day, but the experience with the students have certainly exceeded our expectations. We look forward to the next day of teaching and once again having lots of fun with the monks and students.

Day 2 Kathmandu

Author: Crystal

Today was a real eye opener for us on the lives of the Nepali. In the morning, we visited the school where we will be teaching: the Deeya Shree English Boarding School. For some of us the school was bigger than expected, but for others, the tiny classrooms were astonishing. The one story school building is about the size of our RCHK secondary gym, with classrooms barely fitting our group of 14. The students were very friendly and excited to learn. It was interesting to note that each grade had a wide age range with one class ranging from 8-13. The sad reality is that many students are not sent to school until a late age or are unable to attend school at all because of their family’s financial situation.

Similar situations are happening country-wide as we heard from the Seven Women Center in the afternoon. We were greeted warmly with “namaste” from the women of the center. Each of us received the tika blessing – a red pigment swiped on our foreheads and some flowers sprinkled on the top of our heads, to welcome us. We then proceeded to listen to Anita, the center’s director, who told us how the Seven Women Center was founded. The organisation was founded by an Australian student, aged 22, who had made a trip to Nepal and met seven women with disabilities who were living out of a tin hut, trying to sell the things they were making but struggling against discrimination. There is a huge problem in Nepal where people with disabilities are being shunned as many believe having a disability is punishment for doing evil in a past life. She saw these women trying to make a living for themselves and wanted to help them gain independence by supporting them through social enterprise, and it all began from there.

The center’s focus is empowering women, who are marginalised in Nepalese society. Some families do not send their girls to school as they believe that only boys should have an education and that their purpose is to clean, cook, and be forced into arranged marriages. Anita told us that she herself ran away from her family and village at 14 to escape this life. Many women in Nepal are left as single mothers after being left by their husbands for giving birth to a girl and not a boy, and have to support their families alone. The Seven Women Center provides a place for women to learn the skills to provide for themselves, such as sewing and handcraft making, and teaching. They have a school they encourage and support girls and rural children in attending, so they can have an education, aspirations and break the cycle of poverty.

The center provides cooking and language lessons to tourists, which the women run. They also sell handmade products to different countries such as Australia. These help cover their costs of providing year long scholarships to children for attending school. The center hopes to provide scholarships to children so that their parents will not pull them out of school and send them away to become monks, or child labourers. Anita told us how this is a common problem and that parents are persuaded they can’t afford to look after their child and send them to these places where they are often at risk, especially girls.

As we learned Nepali and cooked Nepalese tarkari (vegetable curry) and kiri (rice pudding), we were able to experience the Nepalese culture in depth and really connect to the women who were teaching us. The stories told by Anita allowed us to step into the shoes of the women in Nepal and sympathise to them. By the end of the session, everyone was empowered to make a difference. We purchased several crafts from the Seven Women’s store and made plans to promote what we learnt in our own school community. We will be selling these crafts in our booth in the RCHK College Fair where all profits will go back to the people in Nepal.

We were deeply inspired by the difference that one determined individual could make and that we can be empowered to make a difference of our own.

Find out more information and donate at http://sevenwomen.org/donations.html

Day 1: the sights of Kathmandu!

Day 1:

Starting the first day of our trip, we filled up on a delicious buffet breakfast at the Kathmandu Guest House. After breakfast we walked through the streets of Thamel, taking in the sights and sounds of this busy area of the city – with street art, chickens and dogs! We headed to Durbar Square and took a tour with a guide around the multiple religious temples in this royal square. We encountered many religious symbols of Buddhism and Hinduism such as the living goddess – who made a quick appearance -and the Kasthamandap Temple. Some of the structures were destroyed in the earthquake 2 years ago, but repairs are underway on several through support from countries like China and USA. We also walked to the ‘monkey temple’, Swayambhunath. Although the walk up the monkey mountain was steep, everyone enjoyed the beautiful scenery and the mountain living up to it’s name!

We are all looking forward to tomorrow where we will be visiting the school for the first time and going to the seven women’s centre, to learn some Nepali and how to cook! Many of us haven’t much cooking experience and we’re a bit worried about eating what we make, but we’re ready to learn!

Author & photo credit monkey temple: Nathan

We’re off!

After months of preparation, we’re at the airport ready to head to Nepal!

Students have been preparing for this by researching and planning lessons which they’ve tried out with Mr Hogg’s year 4 class. They’ve researched about Nepal’s cultures and customs and are ready to put their preparation to good use!

It’s just over 5 hours to Kathmandu so we’ll be looking forward to getting to the guesthouse for a good sleep before the exploring begins tomorrow!

© 2018 CAS Week 2018

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