Karl’s Conservation Volunteering in Nepal

Cosmic’s Note: Karl Harrison worked as a conservation volunteer in Nepal in the summer of 2003.

I’ve been back in England for over a month now, but every day I think about my trip to Nepal or Nepali words still go through my head. 

The majority of my stay was spent in the flat plains, jungle and industrial zone of Nepal called the Terai. There’s a lot of Indian influence here (especially since Nepalis and Indians can cross the nearby borders freely) which became more apparent when I spent time in the hill areas in the latter part of my trip.

When in Biratnagar (Nepal’s second city about 5Km from the Indian border) I would stay with Pradeep Banskota’s family. Pradeep is the secretary of the NGO that helped to take care of me when I was in this part of the world. In the city I’d visit the office and help out where I could, such as with English translation and letter writing, and giving support at the training seminars they held.

People in Biratnagar were relatively ‘liberal’ thinking and more accustomed to foreigners, but I wasn’t keen on spending a lot of time in an industrial type city area. Lorries from India would plough up and down the rickshaw-lined highway all day, beeping their horns to clear the road in front. It’s quite a green city but it gets almost unbearably hot…over 40 degrees some days.

But it was good to go and lose myself in the city and be able to email my family (when it worked). One thing I found strange is the mix of ‘new’ and ‘old’. Using a computer, then going home and washing my clothes by hand for example, or watching a Hindi film on video disc while eating flat bread cooked on a clay stove.

I spent a great deal of my time living in Prakashpur with Raju Subedi. A village in the north eastern side of the Koshi Tappu wildlife Reserve. Most of the people here (as in the majority of Nepal) live off the land or are involved with agriculture in some way – whether driving a tractor or selling bananas at the local market. 

The family I stayed with were really good to me, it wasn’t just a house I lived in, but felt like a home. They had lots of foreigners stay there in the past and seemed happy enough to let another one drop by for a while!

Each day I’d wake up with no idea of what was going to happen next, which for someone who’d had the same routine in a job for the last 3 years was exciting but very challenging. I loved the simple way of life in Prakashpur. The family grew fruit and vegetables in their garden to eat and had some more land about 5 – 10 mins walk away on which they would grow either sugar cane, bamboo, rice, maize, wheat, etc. to sell.

A lot of the things we in the western world waste our time and money on – like shopping for the latest, most expensive designer clothes – just didn’t matter.

But to paint life in Nepal as perfect is not true. This was my first time in Asia and first trip away from home for a long period of time. Plus, I was on my own. It wasn’t easy. I wasn’t prepared for time. There was attention I received because I had white skin and was a foreigner, and a lot of people would just stare at me. Nepal is a developing country, one of the poorest in the world, so without going in to too much details there are problems!!

Above all I’m grateful I had the chance to visit Nepal. I feel proud to have made a dream become reality and happy to know that the world isn’t confined to the place you grew up or the place you work. If anyone else feels they need a challenge or change, I recommend you get on the next plane to Kathmandu…

Scott, deepest THANKS for your support and help in getting me out to Koshi Tappu.