Experience of volunteering in Nepal – Mislav Krstulović

Meet the story of Mislav, who volunteered in Nepal as a basketball coach.

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Thinking about the whole experience, it’s difficult to pick a place to start – indicating that it was an incredibly rich experience with so many things happening, truly something that is hard to grasp if you did not live it through. It probably makes the most sense to start chronologically.

Simply arriving was a complete shock – changing multiple cities, means of transportation and timezones took its toll, but specifically the cultural shock of landing to the Kathmandu airport was were the true experience really started. Although I had an incredibly detailed description of how to make the procedure as painless as possible, living it through was really something.

Since it really is a vastly different culture, adjusting took some time. At first, it was a bit frustrating since us Europeans are very accustomed to the Western way of not just living, but more importantly communicating – that was the biggest barrier at the start. I often felt misunderstood, a lot of things told to me had incomplete information, and a lot was simply lost in non-verbal translation. As time went on, of course also with the amazing help of dearest Carlos and Lupe who have been through the same process (just a couple of years back), it improved a lot. Realising I had to communicate more specifically helped immensely – asking constant (and a lot of times stupid) questions was the only way to understand what was required of me. )

Experience of volunteering in Nepal –
The volunteering part had me teaching basketball and English lessons. My spoiled European self expected something completely different, some kind of , methodology, structure, and whatnot. Turned out the best way it could! But I realised I was there to do my thing and to offer something so I gave my best. I was also aware that they were children wanting to have some fun not just basketball, so I tried a healthy mix of drills which should show some improvement as well as just playing casually which had them enjoying the most!

It was a similar story with the English teaching, the starting moment being possibly a bit funnier. I was told to come to the school at a specific time, again expecting to start teaching alongside another teacher for the adjustment period. The thing that happened was the teacher greeted me in front, led me to a classroom that already had another teacher, told that teacher to come out, and threw me in alone. The children started singing the official greeting (something wonderful) I slowly started realising that I had the complete freedom to have fun with them, sharing cultures and teaching a little bit of English along the way – at the end it resulted in them cheering whenever I was about to enter the classroom: something amazing to experience as we created a bond throughout the weeks!

Outside the volunteering part, I had the freedom to organise the time the way I wanted. I used that to the fullest potential – the boys from the school had me joining them in a lot of activities constantly, whether it was playing futsal, going sightseeing with me, having a tea or chit chatting, I never felt left out. My participation in the school activities was really appreciated and everybody did their best to make me feel as welcome as possible! Carlos also set me up with a local basketball team that trained every day – just what I wanted. They were also very welcoming and found me a role in the team immediately. After a couple of weeks, we even won a memorial tournament which was again something special.
Overall, every day was fulfilled to its maximum potential, and I went to sleep with a tired, but wide smile!

It is incredibly difficult to put into words what I got out of the experience. Growing as a person, broadening my horizon, deeply meeting a new culture, understanding that there is a completely different world outside the European bubble, sharing my knowledge and experience with the people, soaking in the beautiful aspects of their culture, making new and long-lasting friendships, becoming a professional basketball player and many many more, it is just one of those experiences that are indescribable. To everyone even remotely thinking about doing something similar, I cannot express how much I would like you to have as invaluable of an experience as this was – something that we all need to do from time to time to realise what we have, how grateful we should be and to experience how different life can be not so far away. Cohope made it as magnificent as it could be, being there every step of the way by providing guidance but leaving you to grow individually, just how it should be.

Big hugs to them for making this possible, and also for making the world a better, more connected, and happier place!

Mislav

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