Photo courtesy Shiloh Luvon
Shiloh Luvon, a recent graduate of the Independent Learning Center, teaches English in Nepal.

Shiloh Luvon, a recent graduate of the Center for Independent Learning, didn’t know what to expect when he arrived in a remote Nepalese village a few weeks ago. Teaching English in a chicken coop was not part of the job description.

But if the pandemic has taught the world anything, it’s how to adapt quickly. So when the government cautiously closed schools to stop the spread of the Omicron variant in Nepal, teachers and students at Heaven Hill Academy in Ganjahar, Nepal, took the class to the chicken coop where a whiteboard appeared, and Shiloh spent a day reading English storybooks to elementary-aged children.

For Shiloh, a local Methow child, homeschooled and raised on a farm amidst the wild backdrop of the rugged drainage of the Twisp River opposite the mouth of Poorman Creek, landing at the base of Anapurna with the view of the eighth tallest mountain in the world the front door and crouching in a chicken coop reading books in the rural hillside village was an easy, if foreign, adjustment.

The biggest challenge so far has been the separation from his family, with whom he is very close. It was his first international trip without his family and after an incident with the timing of COVID testing, he finally arrived at his post after four days of airports and a nine-hour jeep ride.

Shiloh is one of a handful of European and American volunteers who help teach English at the small private academy dedicated to a nonviolent philosophy and free education. Most schools in Nepal still use some form of corporal punishment for obedience and school fees can be high for the majority of subsistence farmers and herders who aspire to educate their children.

Heaven Hill Academy was started by a local teacher who wanted to provide an alternative education. The academy therefore relies on volunteers from the west to provide English, math and social studies classes as well as a cross-cultural experience for families, students. and the teachers with whom the volunteers interact. The volunteering will be three months for Shiloh, and so far his first impressions of village life have been “magical”.

When asked what surprised him the most, he said, “I was blown away by how little people have, but how happy they are.” He is in love with children who are “so kind with a light in their eyes”.

Despite the rural location, Siloh spoke to me through the VOIP app on his What’s App phone and he says the Wi-Fi is excellent. He even got to watch the Super Bowl and competed in a few Olympic events. But he spends most of his time with the children and other volunteers exploring the area on foot, shouting over the rice terraces and enjoying the simple but tasty local cuisine.

The surrounding bamboo jungles are home to tigers and leopards, and sightings are frequent, so Shiloh takes the locals’ lead on where to explore. When we spoke he was planning an escorted group night walk to a local waterhole where big cats are often seen in the evenings.

So while he may not be paid for his teaching time, he is rewarded tenfold with not only the opportunity to see tigers, but more importantly with lots of hugs and smiles from the kids so that he is developing a new place in his heart for this place in the world.

Once Shiloh completes his time in Nepal and COVID restrictions ease, he will pursue his passion for cross-cultural education and attend school in Japan at a language school and immerse himself in Japanese culture.