Friday, 27 June 2014

Friday 27th June

Today was absolutely amazing. Our driver gave us a wake up call at 3.15!!! He then collected us at 4 to head off to see the sunrise over the Himalayas!!! Was this the day I was finally going to see a mountain?! It was just getting light when we reached the viewing point - we enjoyed a cup of sweet white tea before walking to the viewing spot which already had a number of eager tourists. I realisedcthat I would not be able to stand until the sun finally found its way through the clouds so Jennifer and I paid NRs 100 (R1) to join another lot of mainly Asian tourists on the roof of a little eating area- our NRs 100 included unlimited organic tea, we caught a few glimpses of slightly pink glistening snow and then it started to drizzle, followed by quite serious rain. Virtually every one pushed off but I said we shouldn't leave as there was a small patch of blue sky which I felt sure meant that all was not yet lost! So we stuck it out and finally we were the only tourists left and then the show began!! Just a wonderful and  very moving experience as the peaks and mountain ranges almost duly started to reveal themselves. It reminded me of being on the bush where I always say "wait long enough and the bush will reveal itself" well the Annapurna south range. Did just that. It is at least 9 kms further away than another peak called Fish Tail mountain which actually looked much higher because it was closer to us - about 11kms as the crow flies. We were so grateful that we had been patient because the rain stopped and we saw the whole range in the distance. It was not too long before the clouds engulfed the mountains again it vests so hard to take pictures that come remotely close to doing the sight justice. Here is a pic which gives some idea of what we experienced. 

So we enjoyed a light breakfast at the viewing sight before going further up the hill to the paragliding spot!!! YES that's right you heard that correctly, Jennifer and I paraglided today!!! A first for both if us and what a first! I absolutely love it. I even opted for having a DVD made of my experience. So you doubting Thomas can see for yourselves!! Altho I realise there are still folk who day man didn't get to the moon.... All a hoax- trick photography etc!! 

It was truly and extraordinarily wonderful- I was taken up by a big Nepali man who had been doing this three times a day for five years! He was so reassuring and enthusiastic and just told me to sit back and relax and simply enjoy myself and leave everything to him! The take off is the only tricky part it seems where one has to time the rising wind with when one starts moving forward but the next thing I knew wevwete soaring up into the air and experiencing the most amazing feeling of weightlessness. He controlled everything and told me what we were doing all the time - to be in the same thermal as the eagles and to actually see them circling below us!!  Everything looked so beautiful and clear - we could even see parts of the fish tail mountain peak and Annapurna south - I asked him to take a video of them but feat they might have been too far away - we'll see! I was a little concerned that my sandals might drop off never to be seen again but all was well and we stayed connected!! Before we started the descent he asked if I wanted to do some acrobatics!! Well why not... He then launched into action and we hurtled from side to side swooping downwards I'm tummy lurching swoops!! Enough she cried... I was nervous for the landing as well - with thoughts of - will the knees like this and many what if's but all was absolutely fine if not very graceful!! The idea is to land on gently on your feet with a few little steps and to remain standing! Well I was on my bottom and then of course couldn't stand up without rolling over and then getting up in what feels distinctly like a giraffe getting up after a drink!!! 

I was so elated by and thankful for the whole experience. Jennifer had a good paraglide and a wonderful pilot but was a very unhappy camper and could not relax as she does not like being disconnected from the ground but wanted to do it all the same! 

So an incredible tick in the box and certainly not something I had remotely thought that I would do here altho I have wondered about what it would be like. 

We ate lunch in our room and then collapsed for a couple of hours. Jen and I then went off to rent a paddle boat so we could have a swim in the lake asp it was still swelteringly hot. We rented a boat with a canopy that which had two sets of pedals and a rudder. It was great  - I was grateful that Jen was so persistent as for two ticks I would have carried on chilling in the room! The swim was really refreshing but then came the challenge of how to get back onto the boat!! It took all my strength to pull myself up onto a sort if platform where I lay like a beached whale for a while!e! I would've liked to out on the life jacket and float for a while but was nervous to push my luck figuring I had used up all my energy heaving myself up the first time! I had to pull Jen up as she could nt manage it on her own we pedaled back at a fairly leisurely pace, all the while watching the wind and weather which was threatening to change. It was really super. 

We then strolled along the lake side and found a little place right on the waters edge and enjoyed a beer while watching the storm overbid over the lake.

All in all - a truly memorable day! 

Wednesday 25th June

So It's three in the morning ... Can't remember the next line of Leonard Cohen's  song... Anyway here I am sitting under my mossie net which I am sharing with two mossies and a couple more knock knock nocking on heavens door!! Seems my head is full of sixties songs or lines from them anyway!! Has the girl finally lost it here in Kathmandu??

At least the dogs have stopped their infernal   barking!! I lost it earlier - so much for 'being' and stood at the window and shouted SHUTTUP!! Of course nothing changed except maybe ! I felt somewhat foolish and caught as in hooked .... 

Today was great

Tuesday, 24 June 2014

23rd June

Today I joined up with Jennifer to meet a fellow academic from the US with whom she has been corresponding for a while. He then happened to be in Nepal so they have done a number of things together but it was my first meeting. 

We went off to meet a very respected lama called Lama Wangdu who was having a sort of open day where one can meet him and ask him a few questions, or ask for a blessing or ask him to divine if it was a good idea if one did this or that! One takes him a gift and he then blesses you by touching your head and shoulders with different Buddhist icons - I  am not up to speed on all of this. However I absolutely felt his warmth especially as he held onto my hand for ages as the three of us kneeled in front of him. We each gave him juice and a small
Monetary offering. I was very overwhelmed  by whole encounter. He did not speak English but Daniel is fluent in Nepalese and explained the answers to Jennifer's questions later. The lama beamed at me when I asked for blessings on the baby sister for Morgan who is due in late November -  YES - for those who do not know- Luke and Mel are having a baby daughter - so exciting and so much to be thankful for- so she has been blessed by a holy man. We were then given a packet with all sorts of things inside - far more than we had given him!! Plus a couple of tokens - one to put in our wallets, so they always have money in them! the other for power to put under our pillows when we sleep. 

We then had lunch at a restaurant overlooking the Boudha stupa - I had buff. - that is buffalo meat with vermicelli pasta- rather soup likebut very tasty and the meat tasted like stringy stewing steak! 

Daniel lives in a roof top apartment near the stupa so we walked there to enjoy some of the very fine tequila that Jennifer had brought him! Diluted for me, so a bit of a waste! 

Jennifer and I then went off to the BIN office to complete our evaluation forms and have our exit interview, they are very thorough and genuinely want to know what they should change to improve how they run and what they do. 

We had a long honest chat with Dinesh who thanked us for what we had done. He had had good feedback from the teachers who attended the first workshop so that was great! Once again such an enormous thank you to each of you who contributed so generously to my appeal for money. There is no doubt it will make a difference to the children. 

One of the volunteers showed me a photo she took two days after the workshop, in the class room where she had been volunteering. The activities were all set up on the low tables ready for the children!! 

So we were given certificates and then got a ride into Thamel with Akkal the VIN driver who was taking another volunteer to the airport. 

Jen and I then  had supper at a super restaurant she had been taken to by another friend who lives in Kathmandu . A great way to spend the last night before she leaves for Pokhara.  

24th June

Today Jennifer flew to Pokhara where I and another volunteer will join her on Thursday. I caught a taxi with a box full of  workbooks, maps - in fact all the things I brought from SA to take to the girls at the nunnery. They were so excited to see me as was I to see them! I gave Monita the little nun let who gave me a medallion, a little African key ring beaded doll and the head nun, Puja an African bead bracelet. I had lunch with them - the usual rice and dhal, after which all the girls sat at the dining tables and did dot to dot colouring in - numbers and alphabet with the crayons from Karen! I gave them masses  of workbooks that I had collected at VIN office but had not used with the boys. There was also chalk, felt tip kokis , dusters, the African animals, parts of the body puzzle, flash cards, playing cards, scissors and the big ECD resource file that I gave to one of the girls called Uscha who reads English really well and us such a teacher in the making. Puja will show all the books to their Nepalese English teacher who hopefully will find them useful. It was a lovely couple of hours and I left feeling much better and the nunlets were ok to wave goodbye this time- closure is reslly important! 

I then caught the bus into Boudha where the largest Buddhist stupa is and pottered happily for a few hours. I sat on a bench absorbing the scene and compared this Pru with the Pru who first set eyes on the stupa- very different - awestruck, judging, in fact completely overwhelmed. I am so grateful that I had the chance to be here long enough to break through the aversion and confusion I experienced in the first couple of weeks.

I now look with fondness on many of the things  that seemed so strange in the beginning - stray dogs that in fact do have a home, people happily engaging. Mothers playing with children where as all I saw before was unkempt children often sitting on dirty pavements, endless young men sitting around who now appear to be building or selling or delivering or on their way somewhere rather than aimlessly standing in the streets. 

It certainly is strange to think we will flying out of Nepal to Delhi on Monday - suddenly the end of what seemed an endless six weeks is upon us!! 

I have mentioned the dogs before but it is truly astonishing to me how they completely take over at night - there is more or less a continual chorus - it's coming up for 1.30 now and I am up having a cup of tea in our kitchen because I can't sleep and as I sit here writing, the barking has been nonstop for an hour!! As one tires another takes over... And so it goes on! Today I saw a Pekinese type doggie bring combed - all the shops in the side streets have a ledge or pavement space on which there are often people hanging out and there he was being groomed by a lady sitting on her haunches while he stood proudly to attention as if knowing this was a mighty unusual occurrence for dogs in Kathmandu - certainly for those who hang out on street corners! Usually they are fast asleep - not surprising given what they were up to the previous night!! 

There is a black dog called Kelly at the monastery who always greets us as we come home. We have been warned though to ignore the dogs so have not interacted with him at all. 

As I went to the bathroom later this night I saw him scuttlingbawaybfrom me. - obviously very guilty at being found on the 4th floor! He ended resettling on the mat outside the lama's door. 

22nd June

Today I ran the second workshop for the teachers from so called private schools. It was a public holiday as there were elections being held in one district which meant those roads were closed and people would not be able to get to work or school. Seven teachers came plus two interested volunteers. The room was tiny with just enough space for me to lay out the activites. The teachers sat on the floor on cushions and I followed a similar format as before. Once again the women had trouble thinking for themselves and coming up with their own thoughts - maybe because of lack of understanding the instruction? 

Sunday, 22 June 2014

Friday 13th June

Well it certainly started out as Friday the 13th!! Yesterday my phone gave up the ghost - not surprising given what I had put it through!! So I set off to wait outside the monastery for Wangchuk the taxi I had arranged to collect me at 6am so that I could be at the tourist bus station at 7 am. By 10 past he had still not arrived so I managed to ask a guy who was watching the kids from the orphanage (opposite the monastery) play soccer, to phone my taxi guy- engaged!! So I decided I'd better start walking to find another taxi. I found one who was drinking tea so no he wasn't up for business!!! I started running only to be joined by an old guy who thought this was very funny - a western woman with a back pack running grim faced down the road. He skipped and danced along side me while I muttered that this was very serious and that I really could not miss my bus and where the hell were the taxis and where the hell was the bus station!! So thankfully he peeled off after a while and I continued to hot foot it down the road while waving my hand for a car to stop! The first car to come along did stop and a guy (yay he could speak English, asked of he could help. I explained that the taxi had not arrived and that I had no phone and where I had to go. He said no problem, get in, he will take me but he would have to go home first to fetch his driving license!! He was taking his daughter to school. So very thankfully, in I jumped. It turned out his daughter had missed her school bus!! So we dropped her first and he took me all the way and refused to accept any payment! He was an engineer who had trained in India. He had set up an NGO and would love to hear more about the Sustainability  Institute! 

So it was with enormous relief that've spotted the other volunteers and sank into my seat on the pretty upmarket bus (compared to the city busses) which was to be our home for the next seven hours. 

Friday 20th June

What a pleasure - I woke up at 9.15!! And enjoyed a great leisurely start to the day. Jennifer and I sat in the splendid shrine room after which I called our friendly taxi to pick me up to take me to the place where I had left my little note book yesterday ... I am asking myself why ii seem to have a need to leave things behind... Am I needing to mark my territory!!! Or she'd dome stuff... John says simply"iIf you take something out of your bag, put it back again!" Simple stuff.... Well we went all the way, the driver managed to stop at the little shop only to find the shutters down!! So that's it - he then took me to the VIN office for the monthly volunteers meeting. Very fruitful and interesting as most of the volunteers present were teaching in monasteries spread around Kathmandu. All mentioned the difficulty of teaching large groups of different abilities and ages - the most successful experience was a Canadian girl who has based her teaching on the soccer World Cup - so clever. 

So I am to run the next one day workshop for the teachers from the private schoolson Sunday at 10.30. Sadly the numbers of the people in the first Montessori school I visited are in the missing notebook do I can't tell them about it. Once again I will arrive an hour before the start not having seen the venue!  

Wednesday, 18 June 2014

Wednesday 18th June

So today has to go down as motor bike day! I asked Salai Dai's brother if he would mind taking me to the workshop on his bike - no problem so I arrived there at 9.15 after spending about half am hour showing the family the book I brought on South Africa. I fetched the book to show  them as Saila Dai had asked me if my country had money!! I replied we had a lot of gold - well his eyes lit up and he swooned clutching his heart that he "loved the gold"!! And please could I bring him gold when I come  next time - 1 kg of gold - he wants to make gold rings and the gold necklace (all the while sort of caressing his fingers and his neck!! I laughed and said sure - I would tell my husband to work for a year so I could bring him 1 kg of gold as long as the first ring was for his wife - well that brought the house down!!! So that  was it. I fetched the book to show him gold being poured- he immediately kissed the picture and touched it lovingly with his fingers!!! 

Anyway back to the workshop! It was with much relief that I found everything as we had left it. So I set to work cleaning everything as all the activities were covered in dust. The day went incredibly well with me presenting all 24 activities - I surprised myself in fact as I haven't done presentations for some years now but it was a great way of drawing the theory from the practice and showing the relevance of the philosophy in each moment. No doubt having spent 68 years on the planet helps!! Well this time around anyway!!! Hmmmm.....

Each day the teachers were given lunch which it turned out I paid for!! I find so many similarities to our work with the women back home - food at a workshop is really a big issue; that I will be there at the office to organize or do  this or that. Ivsuppose though there is an element of how long is a piece if string and generally I don't reign on the string enough!! 

It really was incredibly satisfying though and I am in my element working with women/teachers who were very receptive and eager to learn- all in all really rewarding. At the end we went over all their challenges and they agreed that they now had a way to get through them - and that they were the ones who would and could do that!! So I would love to see what happens in the next few months. 

The workshop ended with the principle of the school gaaning aan for ever and the tVUN programme manager had his say followed by Om and then I was told to say something. So I told them about how my friends had given me the money to buy all the materials for the workshop and that each school would receive exactly the same set and that it was now up to them. Well this was translated onto a long speech as well!! After many photos we finally called it a day.i got a ride with the VIN guy who insisted we go back to Saila dai's house for tea. So off we went altho I had said my goodbyes that morning and been ceremoniously had my forehead stamped with a deep red dye, called a tikka and had a beautiful red karta (a special scarf given as a greeting or farewell) draped around my neck. So we set off with me carrying my back pack, camping stool and my carry bag hooked onto the front of the bike. I felt on much better hands than last yesterday's guy. Well everyone was overjoyed to see me again - guns and tea  all round when suddenly a guy who had been at the ending if the workshop pitched up and said I was needed at the co-operative centre where we had stored all the schools materials as some teachers wanted to take their stuff todAy and not tomorrow! So off I went on his bike to hand out materials to five of the schools. Much joy and excitement and promises that they would remove the labels and seq around the edges of the small drying cloths!! So we did it - equipped nine schools, trained 16 teachers - all be it for a day and a half!! And created ax extra set for VIN which I will use to train teachers from private schools who can buy their own materials - watch this space for more on that!! 

I was then taken back to drink my tea before I jumped back onto Dr Laxmir, the VIN guy's bike to get a lift to Kathmandu - about 20 kms I guess - so all in all aotor bike day!!!as well as everything else . 

I then jumped grTefully into a taxi to go to the trusty hotel premium to meet up with a bunch of volunteers for a celebration dinner in Thamel. There were 16 of us including kennifer who joined us from the monastery. It is so wonderful to see these - I have to say it - youngsters as that is what they are - all in their early 20's giving up 3 to 12 weeks to volunteer - there really is a growing awareness amongst the youth - of service and giving which is so encouraging. It must be amazing to work full time for an NGO that gets a constant stream of new energy coming through its doors. I know this requires enormous managing as well and a fair amount of mothering which VIN does well - so hats off to VIN and the volunteers. Jennifer has been writing articles about VIN and it's successes and challenges which I am sure give a realistic picture. 

So after a great supper if western food, Jennifer and I caught a taxi back to theonastery. It was after ten and pretty veery as the streets were pretty much deserted except for the dogs which are let loose at night and rule the roads at night - struuring along, tails up as they congregate on corners and seem to socialize and every do often set up barking which goes on through out the night. It's 3.40 now as I write and I can hear them barking - one starts which is followed by a chain of others, then just as suddenly there is silence again. 

Soni'd better get back to sleep. Tomorrow I go into the office to write up the ' books' - who got what at what cost so that'll be in a later blog! I also have an appointment to go to a Montessori training centre at 1pm to meet the people who trained a couple of the teachers from the VIN ECD schools.

So good night from a very wide awake and satisfied Pru who is for sure enjoying herself and keeping very well and getting pretty fit from all this walking - except today of course!!! 

Tuesday, 17 June 2014

Tuesday 17th June

Well as predicted the days are flying past and I am getting behind with my blogging! 

So today was day 1 of the 2 day workshop I am giving the teachers from the 9 schools in Jitpur an area in the hills above Kathmandu valley. I had not seen the venue except to hear it was a big hall. I spent last night with the same wonderful family I stayed with before. Four of the girls I went to Chitwan with are also staying here so this morning they and another Chinese guy (volunteer) helped me carry all the material for the workshop to the school- about 3 kms I guess. The hall turned out to be a big classroom with the usual broken and dirty work surfaces with attached benches all strung out in front of a wide wooden podium with a lectern for the lecturer/teacher! Plus the usual dodgy whiteboard and cms of dust on everything!! So Bahar the Turkish volunteer and I got to work rearranging the space so that all the desks were next to the podium which opened up space at the back of the class. We swept and then put up newsprint on the back wall so I could capture what the teachers had to say in mind maps. Om arrived with long foam matting which we arranged in an L shape so  the teachers could sit on it on the floor on cushions on these mats. I laid all the activites on low benches along the wall opposite the longer arm of the L shape . Anyway it was perfect!!! I had a low bench to present on while I sat on my camping stool. I had been told that the ECD trainer who had sold the teachers the Montessori  materials (which I did not tecognise) was coming tomorrow to explain the materials to the teachers. Anyway he pitched up so immediately the schedule was  changed- flexibility - one of the first ecological perspective principles!! 

He proceeded to show the teachers tangrams and all sorts of different activities, every so often looking at me and saying Montessori... Tricky as maybe most could have passed for extensions but certainly not first presentations of concepts where only one concept is introduced at a time!! 

Anyway finally it was my turn. I had decided to start with them brainstorming and feeding back to me 5 or. 6 challenges (problems) they have in their classes; followed by describe your dream school Ito children, parents, classroom. 

It was a really good way to start as I simply noted what they had to say and will refer to the points as we go along. We then talked briefly about the practical life area, before launching into the presentations. It worked extraordinarily well with me drawing the Montessori principles and info about the sensitive periods from them as I did the presentations. We ended up with the teachers presenting to each other and doing really well for a great first day - no doubt all the years of not knowing what to expect at the learning project and Zama have paid off!! We finished on the dot of four which Om reckoned was not what normally happens as most times, the teachers have left by three!

So a highly successful first day which I thoroughly enjoyed. The women had not really grasped that they would be receiving the same set of resources! Interestingly one of the challenges given was dirty class rooms! I was able to jump straight in with the concept of role model!! 

Anyway I then was given a ride home on the back of a motor bike with om's friend- an enormous relief gratefully accepted but hair raising all the same as he kept on taking one hand off the handle bars to point or wave at something- thats my uncle - wave and swerve: that's Kathmandu - point and swerve!!! Anyway I have been wanting to have a lift on a motor bike so can now tick that off the list!! 

So thank you to all of you who gave so generously to the idea of setting up learning areas In Nepal. Here's hoping the teachers get the plot and are able to manage and maintain all these activities😀. Will try to post a photo of the teachers working with the materials. Whoops won't be able to as took the pics with my camera. Will take tomorrow with my cell phone 😃🐒

Sunday, 15 June 2014

Tuesday 10 to Thursday 12th June

So am writing this very much after the fact as I catch up on these missed days! Tuesday saw me heading off to the office to meet Om to go shopping for practical life goodies. The amazing thing was that I got talking to the young woman I was sitting next to and itvturnedcoutcshecwad doing a Montessori course with the City of Nepal Montessori training centre!! She hauled out her practical life file and there were exactly what I was going shopping for later!!! We had a good conversation and all too soon she had to get off the bus! Love it!! 

I had given VIN the dollars that all of you gave me, and Om and I set off with a fistful of Nepalese rupees which we had been carte Blanche to spend as we chose! 

So Om and scoured little shops hunting for bargains. I ended up spending the night at her home as it was far too late for me to catch the bus back to the monastery and I had to be back with her at 9 in the morning. 

She lives in a first floor three bed roomed flat. So interesting as one accesses the flats through a door on the street, then one walks along a corridor up the stairwell to the first floor landing where the two bedrooms doors that face the steltret are, followed by the bathroom door, then the kitchen door and finally the lmain bedroom. The stairs continue to the next level and the next apartment. So there is no door to ones flat just doors off the communal stairwell. I slept in a single bed next to the double bed that she and her 11 year old daughter slept in!  We crept in under the mossie nets after supper at about ten and wonder upon wonders I slept pretty well!!! The bathroom has a western loo but there is no running water altho the bathroom and kitchen are plumbed.. There is also very little running water at the VIN office which is not far from her home. It seems Balaju is a dry area?? 

The next morning we set off at about eight to finalize the purchases from the little shops near her. We then went home to her house for breakfast, after which we caught the bus into the old bazaar inKathmandu  centre. What an amazing place - a labyrinth of small lanes running in  all directions where we stopped to buy face cloths, scissors, stationary, little carpet sweepers - finally ending up at a place where they sold stainless steel plates that will serve as trays, plus melamine trays, ladles and bowls for spooning; mugs, straight sided stainless steel mugs that they call glasses for pouring. It was a night mare figuring out how many bowls, trays, glasses etc we needed for ten schools!! It took for ever and then finally we gave the guy a deposit and left, with him promising to have everything ready in the morning. It was a case of asking for something, then he or his mate would disappear only to arrive a few minutes later with his version of what you had requested!! Tricky as most of the time Om didn't know what I was wanting either so couldn't translate!!!

I'm losing track of what happened but the bottom line is that when we returned the next day nothing was ready!! Itvtook forever to getvitvorganisedcwith him serving other people amongst it all  and saying he was just waiting for someone to bring this or that! Well a few hours later we finally had it all in a very large box which of course we couldn't carry! Mom problem out of nowhere  a chap arrived with a strap and rope whichnhebtiedcaround the box and put the strap around his head supported on his forehead and off we set to find a taxi😊 Om vary eyed with the taxi drivers while this poor guy stood patiently waiting for us to agree on a price. He then loaded the box into the taxi accepted R 5 from us and  disappeared. 

Saturday, 14 June 2014

Saturday 14th June

So today is with out doubt the very very best day so far in Nepal. We woke early at 5.15am for a 6am breakfast on the lodge. We had a comfortable nights slept in our air conditioned room - sometime during the night I turned off the fan. After a good breakfast  of some rather strange shaped sausages and their attempt at soft friend eggs we set walked to the river to start the cable ride. The canoes are very much the same design as the dugout mocorros (sp?) in Botswana with a man standing at the back with a pole and a guide in the front, with each of us six gals sitting on low individuals chairs thankfully with a back to lean against. It was incredibly peaceful flowing with the river current - sadly the water hyacinth has found its way here as well and is a big problem. We saw many birds- lied kingfishers, eagles, herons, ibis, egrets, dongers (?), doves. We passed local villages cutting grass which they loaded into their canoes to take home for their animals. We were hioping to see another crocodile but no luck. We floated along peacefully for peer an hour then pulled into the shore and started our walking safari. We hadn't gone far when Dane our guide pointed out a crocodile lazily sing down the river!! Much excitement - they are very different to our crocs - there are two kinds - one which we saw with a very long very thin jaw which eats only fish. We came across about three snoozing partially submerged on the bank as we walked along the edge of the river. We then headed inland and walked through the forest. By this time it was incredibly hit so we were all drenched. We saw a few macaw monkeys and some deer in the distance which looked very similar to South African deer - can't remember their names - orange with white flecks - maybe Nyala? We saw a few tiger prints on thee track which Dabe said were made early this morning - also a couple of trees with enormous scratch marks on them made bybthe male tiger marking his territory. Dabe says there are 350 tigers left in Nepal. 125 of them in Chitwan. National Park. Also 500 rhinos left in Nepal. We finally arrived back at the elephant breeding centre to read about the breeding and training of the elephants. A little off putting to hear how the youngsters are trained well I guess broken as it takes about 20 days to egg them used to their handler with the aid of two trained adult elephants which guide the youngster on either side by roles tied to the adults with a mahout(?) sitting on top of the adults. Wether had an encounter with a baby one year olds ellie. Absolutely tame and inquisitive and friendly - great photo opportunities! Morgan I am sure would loved hiim (from dad's arms😍one of the French girls had left her plastic water bottle on the ground nearby. It suddenly spotted it and made a bee line for it- much fun and games as Dabe tried to rescue it and head off the baby- but not before it manages to egg water out of it and stand on it!! 

We the headed pffvto the highlight of the day- bathing with the elephants! This costs the princely sum of R 20. I got into my costume and long loose pants, we were given life jackets and then lead  to our elephant. I went with Bahar the Turkish girl. The elephant sat in the water while I grabbed a rope across it's back and heaved my left leg over its BA ck while levering myself up by placing my tight foot in the trainers hand! Bahar followed and then the Ellie laboriously got to its feet while we rocked rather unsteadily on too! She was quite an old Ellie with lots of pink spots on it's trunk  and ears (apparently a tell take symptom of age) it then slurped up water in its trunk and threw it all over us - wonderful - the very best way to cool down and such fun as Ashe did that many times- as instructed my the trainer who was also standing on her back behind Bahar. It was exhilarating and such fun .. But at a certain pint we both felt wed had enough and wanted to get down! I felt the same as I do most times I am on a horse - very uncertain about what the animal will do next - out of control and vulnerable!!! It sort of lowered itsel and turned sideways and we sort of went with flow by falling off into the water. Wonderful and every thing and more than I expected!!! We then had a wonderful time lying in the water floating with the flow jacket - me in my element!!! 

So we are back from the elephant safari which is four of us riding on the back if an elephant walking through the so called jungle! I have to say that after child birth this is the most extraordinary experience I have ever had!!!! I could not believe that I was riding on an elephant tracking through pretty dense vegetation. The absolute highlight was coming across rhino in the wild - I mean to be sitting on an elephant looking at rhino a couple of meters away! I have some fantastic pics of this and even took a couple of videos of the rhino wallowing in a mud pool all the while watching us very warily!! We also saw deer and just experienced the vegetation at a different height!! The driver of the elephant was very gentle - he had a bamboo stick which he tapped on the elephants head whilst using his feet in behind the elephants ears to drive the ellie. He used verbal commands all the time - all in Nepalese of course   - go forward, backwards, left, right. He had to watch that the elephant didn't spot some tasty food which stopped him from moving and following directions! Rather like a horse!! The rhino are xmaklervyhsnbthe Fricsn rhino with a single smaller horn. Their bodies are still sort of prehistoric with armpit like plating on their shanks and back sides! Stunning! We were told that they are also aggressive and can charge at speeds of 44 kms an hour! We came across rhino three times which was fantastic - really sort of surreal to be sitting on an elephant watching a rhino rep meters away!!

So the day ended with a delicious Nepalse meal at our hotel followed by all if us putting our photos of these two great days onto one of the girls laptop so we can create a drop biz for all the photos. Then to crown it all - a call from my beloved!! Finally as my local cell phone has  died - hopefully temporarily and john finally got through on the third number I gave him!! It makes such a difference to be able to connect with him every few days!! 

So tomorrow will be half way through our time away!! All looking great as I plan the workshop I will be running on Tuesday and Wednesday for the 18 ECD schools from the 9 VIN schools in this area called Jitpur on the outskirts of Ksthmandu.  

Monday, 9 June 2014

Monday 9th June

So another satisfying day ends. After being joggled and rattled and jiggered around all day on Sunday, I decided I deserved to take it easy in the morning to give my body a chance to put itself back together again - talk about a grueling non stop massage for six hours!! 

So while Jennifer went off to teach for two hours to pay her rent as she puts it, I took it easy and looked up this Montessori training centre in Kathmandu that trained some of the teachers. Judging from the number of Montessori based preschools around, they've been pretty busy. I hope they respond to my email asking if I can visit their centre. 

Then Jen and I headed into Boudha to find an ATM and for me to check out prices of items I'll need to set up the practical life areas. We walked all the way - about half an hour- with me popping into little spaza shops to ask prices - all more expensive than the place Um had taken me to on Sunday. At the Boudha stupa we found this restaurant that Jen had been taken to on Sunday when she met a woman called Gloria who is the friend of one of Jen's American  friends. Gloria has lived here for 26 years and certainly knows her way around.  I enjoyed the first red meat since arriving here - a bacon burger with the full monte - chips and a salad with what has become my default drink, coke! It was absolutely delicious - all for R 40 compared to Jen's beer that cost R35!!! 

We then set off to find a four floored supermarket store that Gloria had told Jen about. On the way the heavens opened for what seems to be a regular afternoon occurrence. We had our umbrellas so all was good. The super market was wonderful. I had taken a tape measure so spent a couple of happy hours measuring and or noting the prices of bowls, mats, straight sided containers, trays, brooms, dust pans, buckets, tongs, sieves, drying cloths, dusters. As usual I spotted no suitable jugs - always hard to find. Jen went on a food buying spree and shocked me by spending R 400!! It suddenly sounded like such a lot! Compared to the R12 I spent on two egg cups - R 5 and a sharp knife - R7! We can't eat the food at the monastery as it's too spicy for me and usually has wheat in it which Jen can't eat. Anyway at least we know we won't starve! 

We then caught a taxi home as to catch a bus with all our parcels would have been impossible - we were lucky enough to jump in just as the rain started again- the road was like a river. Check Jen's blog as she took a couple of photos. 

So I then worked out what it might cost to put together practical life areas in the ten classes and it looks like I can create 18 activities for each class for about 4000 NRs each. We'll have to see tomorrow when I go shopping with Um how accurate my gestimates are!! I must now work out how many of each item we will need. I reckon we will need to come back to the supermarket for some things. So tomorrow I'll bus across to the office and how about this. I discovered there is a large swimming pool in a park near the office so I plan to take my costume along with me and check it out! Obviously the important thing to establish is the state of the water! It's bad enough remembering to keep my mouth closed whilst showering without having to do the same while swimming! I am hoping that the pool will be chlorinated so it will be fine. Watch this space! 

Sunday, 8 June 2014

Sunday 8th June

Happy birthday to Luke - thought a lot today of this time 32 years ago when Ramsey and I embarked on this wonderful journey called parenthood! Thank you Luke for choosing us.... 

So I had a long very interesting and happy day. So yes - John, I can at last say I am enjoying myself! 

I am finally getting my bearings as well as growing in confidence in using the busses which are ridiculously cheap. I set off this morning to walk for about 20 minutes down a fairly steep hill to the bus stop. I had been warned to make sure I got onto the correct bus but I didn't need to worry as I was immediately asked by a person nearby where I wanted to go. He then waited until the right bus came along and told me to climb on. Well it is hard to describe the bus experience - it's bad enough driving along side them while sitting comfortably in a taxi but to actually be one of the spilling out the door and windows passengers is something else!! It is well worth it and really made me feel that I was experiencing something local! And all for R2.50 for an hour's ride!!!! I finally linked up with Um, the woman I was going to visit all the ECD centers with - she phoned me twice while I was on the bus and apart from not understanding her accent and not being able to hear her because of the noise on the bus, the toute who screams for fares didn't understand my asking him how much further to my stop! Once I got off the bus I called her only to find her phone was off!! I phoned Dinesh at the office who said he'd call Um - it is really great to know that he is always available to help. So we set off on our adventure in a clapped out truck - Um and I in the front with the driver and - get this - two panes of window glass that were balanced in front of us with us supporting them by clutching the piece of newspaper thrown over the top and sides! I had visions of one of us being cut or the glass breaking as we negotiated yet another pothole or raised manhole cover.  We travelled virtually the whole day holding this glass as the newspaper became more and more mangled! We finally dropped it off at the third to last school - thankfully intact- our hands, knees and the glass!!!

Continued Monday am:
I have to mention that I woke up on Sunday morning bright eyed and bushy tailed (finally as I have been battling to sleep) so the duvet trick and calcium wukked. What a difference a good nights sleep makes ... 

So how to describe our day visiting the schools? We started off collecting all the supplies that were to be delivered. Um took me to a shop to look at practical life goodies - small melamine bowls - 50 nrs,  Divide by10 to get rands. Ladles -  15 nrs. So hopefully I'll be able to set up a number of activities for each class. I  am concerned about where they will be housed in the room - might have to outlay for some shelves or planks to make shelves or find computer paper to lay out on the floor along a wall to define the space. Also need to get mats for the children to work on to define their space. I  am in my element doing this so all good!!!

The classes in the schools are all pretty standard  - VIN has in some cases built the classroom, often added onto or near an existing primary and or secondary school with one exception - a school high on the hill tops reached by two impossibly rutted tracks! This was the first school I visited last week. Most classes have been recently painted by volunteerswith some kind of mural and alphabet and numerals on the walls. They all have at least two low round tables and one set of cubby hole type shelves that currently house the children's bags. The floor is covered by a carpet so sitting on the floor to work will not be a problem. The few toys they have are not sorted and seem to have no 'home'. All schools have pencils and the exercise books in which screeds of alphabet squiggles and attempts at drawing an apple next to an A are found as the children copy what is either drawn on a white board by the teacher or pointed to on a chart on the wall high above their heads. 

Their little fingers are itching to move and manipulate so let's hope that we can achieve that. 

The schools are incredibly remote. I have experienced remoteness in Limpopo and KZN with Phedisang and Woza Bona and heard from Wonderkids about schools they visited in deep rural Zululand, but this was something else. I guess it's not the remoteness but the state of the road to reach them and of course the elevation that is remarkable. Bottom line is vehicles rarely access these places so the track is really for animals and walking humans! So as hair raising as it was - wondering if we'd make it without disappearing down a precipice, it was a unique experience for which I am very grateful as there is no way I could have walked to them. Often the so called road passed cms away from people's homesteads. We saw old men and women cheerfully hoeing and reaping. Um stopped the truck many times to talk to the women to remind them that they need to attend a workshop on  Fertilisation being run today in the last village we went to. The older man running the workshop is called Ramsey Aka - the women cracked up when I explained my name is Pru Ramsey!! Um also asked the pickers for what ever was being picked - ginger and some sort of large leafed green vegetable. She was given a very generous bag and handful - both times the woman refused to accept any money for them. I have experienced that back home as well - I guess a way for the women to express their gratitude. 

We also popped in at the so called Montessori supply shop on the way. I was very keen to check it out having not recognized one of the so called Montessori materials on the lists received from the teachers. Well so much material stored in one small room and the only familiar material I saw was the pink tower!! Let's hear it for the pink tower! They showed me all sorts of things  obviously expecting me to know them but ... Blank! Not even to an eye that has improvised a lot of Montessori material over the years! The man at the shop is facilitating the first morning of the workshop next Monday and Tuesday, to show the woman how to use the materials they have been given,  so I am very eager to hear and see what he does.

 We kept going the whole day without stopping for lunch or refreshments or to find a loo!! As we set off on the main road after the last school, Um stopped and chatted to a spaza shop owner on the side of the road. I asked if I could buy a coke or Pepsi - it seems Pepsi have cornered the market in nepal😀- nope no small cold pepsis but would I like a red bull!! They then pointed to the next shop saying they had Pepsi. The thing is that one has to drink it there and leave the bottle- the idea of paying for the bottle and taking it with one is not an option!! So I  am getting pretty good at slurping down a Pepsi and then paying for the speed for the next hour with many suppressed "exkus vir die bubbles...!"

We drove back to Balaju through a beautiful national forest and wildlife sanctuary with wonderful huge trees and glades- kind of quiet and mysterious after the hub bub of the villages and the chaos of the urban areas. 

Something that fascinated me was noticing these huge buildings with about 3 to 5 stories that looked like unfinished apartment blocks with blue plastic draped along the walls from the floor to about waist height. I was astonished to learn that these were hen houses! - battery farming. As Um said - lucky hens in better houses!!! The noise as one drove past was something else. Interestingly enough when I asked Deepak in whose family's home we stayed last week, why they don't keep hens, he said because they are smelly and make mess and volunteers don't like this!! He did show me whilst walking to a school the next day a building that his family owns but rents out, that has hens in it. 

So we finally got back to Kathmandu at about six and suddenly Um said you can get out here and get a bus back to Arubari- just ask for the medical college. So I jumped out and hovered around when suddenly I heard this guy yelling medical college medical college! So in I jumped making sure I sat right next to the door of the bus on a seat that was parallel with the side of the bus and faced the driver. What a journey! At some point a very young mother carrying a really tiny baby climbed on and sat facing me - we'll I ended up being the baby's protector as I used my arm to shield her from hanging satchels, poking elbows and bulging tummies!! More and more people packed into the bus most standing upright, a little more comfortable than thepeople standing in the combi that I caught in  the morning who had to stand bent over! Once again every one was chilled. There were two 'conductors' - one who collected the fares and knew exactly who had paid - not that anyone tried to get away with not paying - I saw people get off the bus and then hand over bucks before walking away. The toute who yells out where the bus is going while eyeing the young girls standing  on the raid side, has some code that tells the driver to stop or start. There are no bus stops, people wait along the side ofvyhecteachers and wait for the toute to yell where the bus is going. They could do with the hand signals the taxi passengers use in South Africa!! He then pounds onbthecside of the bus - two or three loud thumps forceithercstoppingvor starting. Often he is not on the bus when itcstarts again as he is running alongside looking for more people to shove into the bus whilst dodging other buses, combos, taxis and motor bikes all of whom are continuously hooting to let each other know they are there and also to say get out the way here I come!! All incredibly wntertaining to a novice like me! At some point the heavens opened and in no time the road became a river!! There was no where for the water to go and of course people were now trying to get onto the bus to escape the rain so now we had dripping people and their umbrellas to contend with!!

The traffic was reduced to a halt many times as this was peak hour as well as a monsoon deluge!! I was on the bus for about an hour and a half - squashed into my small corner! Then to crown it all we suddenly drove into a petro station to fill up. No one turned an eye so I figured this happens regularly - the guy collecting the fares handed over the bucks for the petrol. Interestingly petrol cost NRs 134.5  a liter which is pretty much the same as SA but my fare for this journey was NRs 25!!!eventually we reached medical college stop and put I jumped - it was 7pm by this time and just starting to get dark. At least four people showed me the road I had to turn into! All so friendly. I finally arrived back at the monastery at 7.30 - dry and hungry with dirty feet and wet pants bottoms from the puddles!

A great event filled day! Thanks Jen for the supper she cooked - fried potato chips and an onion and tomato omelette!

Then to crown the day, Kathleen phoned me on my Nepalese phone and we chatted for half an hour, after which I got another call from mister Ramsey - so I went to sleep a very happy chappy! 

Saturday, 7 June 2014

Friday 6th June

Well a turning point day in many ways! I had to get back the the VIN office in Balaju in the valley and asked if the recess a bus I could catch so after breakfast Deepak was busy drawing a map on how I get to the office once I got off the bus when suddenly he shouted "here is the bus you must go now!" Well I said very hasty goodbyes grabbed my back pack and climbed onto the bus amid great smiles and laughter from the other passengers! It was a beautiful drive through a national forest with trees covering the very steep hills - they might be called mountains but to me mountains are what i have yet to see as in part of the Himalaya mountain peaks! We drove for about an hour through litter free country - what a pleasure! Until we reached Kathmandu - astonishingly the fare was 20 rupees (R2)! The bus stopped and everyone piled out. So there I wax with absolutely no idea of where to go! I could ask a taxi but normally if Jen and dis this, we would call someone at the officevtobyslkbtobthe driver to explain where we needed to gonand to agree on the fare! Jen has the phone so I stood there thinking well something will show me what to do..... I then showed a man the name of the VIN office which I dinesh hadcwritten in Nepalese and the man pointed down a road and said "there and right!!" So off I set and after some time I started feeling the place looked familiar, except previously we had approached it from the opposite direction. So I was very proud of myself once I finally arrived at the office. 

My plan was to find out if the materials on the teachers lists had been bought yet and if not to suggest I go along to help with the buying. Too late all had been bought but was not at the office so I was not able to see what it was. I was told that it had been bought at the Montessori shop- the thing is I do not recognize one of listed! 

Anyway the up shot of the day is that I am going with Om the VIN lady who did the shopping to take the materials to the schools tomorrow which will give me the opportunity to see the schools and in particular where the material will be kept. 

I had expressed my concern that if the teachers don't know how to use the material it either sits in the boxes or gets broken. It turns out that VIN was planning to run a two day workshop with the teachers this month. So I am going to combine with the guy who oversees all ten schools and hopefully talk about class room management and also setting up and introducing practical life areas. I gave Om a list of what each class would need to set up a practical life area so hopefully this is what the money that every one gave me will be used for. I will give VIN the dollars to deposit in their account, then VIN will pay for all the purchases - all very exciting! So watch this space. I am concerned though about where the activities will  be placed - I am hoping there will be enough money to get some kind of shelves organized?! The dollar certainly stretches a lot further here than at home so we'll see? 

So excellent progress. I am intending to allocate some of the money for a few items for the girls at the nunnery which I will take when I visit them. I want to have fun with them and play games like hopscotch, hoola hoops, skipping and ball games - wish I knew the township games to show them! 

Saturday 7th June

So today was Beulah's birthday and we spoke! So I was able to sing happy birthday to her - YAY as she phoned me. Yep I now have my own Nepalese phone. I was given one at the office yesterday - I guess when they heard that I had potentially been stranded! So it was wonderful to chat / she is about half way through her chemo and doing mainly ok. 

Today was a very chilled day spent at the monastery - washing a mountain of clothes and just regrouping. 

I am catching the bus to the office in the morning - a first from this side. It involves a walk down quite a steep road and then the big trick will be to be sure that I catch the right bus!! I am going to sit up front near the driver - hopefully the bus will not be too crowded as they can be absolutely overflowing with bodies holding on everywhere but I will be getting on I hope near the start of the journey!! When  I get off I will call Om who will come to me rather than me walk to the office which is an awful walk along a road that is busy having it's insides and outsides removed and replaced!!! Ha ha! So watch this space! 

John keeps saying that he is waiting for me to say that I am enjoying myself .... Well maybe now I am about to!! 

The other thing planned is a trip to the Chitwan National Park next weekend 13 - 15 th where we will ride on elephants. Then the workshop is on the Monday 16 th and 17th . Jen and I are also planning a trip to Pokhara where hopefully we'll see mountains at last! 

Thursday 5th June

On Thursday Jen and I went our separate ways - do be sure to look at her blod at for her version and for photographs as I have not yet figured that out!!

I went to observe in two more schools. The first was a disaster - the young girl had 30 3 - 6 year olds and it was very clear she had absolutely no idea what to do with them! It turned out that she was filling in for the teacher who was on a workshop somewhere! All very familiar!! Once again there was very little in the room and she made the children endlessly recite the alphabet in English and Nepalese whole wielding a long piece of hose pipe that she slapped on the floor to get the attention ofwanderers' quite terrifying! My heart went out to her and the children as she really did not know what to do with them!! 

The next school had two teachers whom I could tell at a glance were experienced but once again the only thing happening was little fingers holding pencils or pens and writing Nepalese and English letters in battered exercise books. There was a young Turkish volunteer/girl who asked me what she could do with the children now that they knew their body parts in English which I think most volunteers do with children! She had brought a box of memory picture cards so I showed her how to play the three period lesson with them to teach vocab to small groups of children. She caught on immediately and asked Deepak who was with me to give her all the words for the instructions in Nepalese so the children would understand her. She was starting with another host family and had had two terrible nights because there were rats in her room that crawled on her bed- I was struck dumb!!! She went to sleep with her host sister on the first night and was told that they did nothing!!! Rats or mice who cares- that is tooooo much! I hope by now that VIN has sorted her out. 

The great thing about this school was Anita one ofvyhecteachers told me she had done a 5 month Montessori course 2 years ago. When I asked if she had any manuals she told me they were in the office. I went to see them and was thrilled to find great practical life write ups and illustrations with photos for each step. 

She told me that all the teachers had given a list to VIN of the material they would like for their classes and that this was being delivered on Sunday. 

Deepak and I then walked home to his house - once again- I surprised myself with how far I could walk without my feet complaining!!!

Jennifer had left to return to the monastery. I stayed on and ended up peeling the potatoes for Saili dai's 44th  birthday celebration meal that night. It was a lot of fun - chicken and veggies were added to the usual fare and a small glass of lemonade. Deepak had bought his dad a musth sweet sponge birthday cake with lots of creamy icing and two bi 44 shaped birthday candles which Saili dai blew out while we all sang to him and after his brother had smeared some of the icing on his face - which stayed their all evening. The other interesting thing is that his daughter in law colored his hair in the morning using a toothbrush to carefully colour each hair! 

It was a super evening especially as there were three more volunteers all girls in their early 20's(2 French, one UK) who arrived to stay with the family for about 3 weeks - it's obviously a form of income but also an incredible experience for the volunteers. They had two rooms off the middle floor patio. 

There was a Nepalese man and his wife who also stayed over for Saili dais birthday. He was my age and fascinating as he could speak English because he had been in the British army for some 20 years. A really nice humble man whom I hope might visit SA some time as he has a daughter in the US and another in the UK whom he plans to visit next year. 

Friday, 6 June 2014

Wednesday 4th June

So Jen and I set off for the VIN office to be taken to the ECD sites and for Jen to find out more about the other VIN programmes. Our first stop was a newly built by VIN ECD site made up of 3 small classes and an eastern toilet. Only two rooms were in use by about 11 3-4 yr olds and 3 5 yr olds with two teachers and a French volunteer. Children were writing the alphabet nelalese and English in their books while reciting names of letters with very connection between what was being pointed at of written and what was being shouted out!!so reminiscent of schools in black areas in SA! There were a few pieces of sad looking duplo, some equally sad looking stuffed toys, a hoola hoop, a ball and a few games in boxes - all very much out of the children's reach! 

We then watched a presentation on physiotherapy given to a group of Nepalese woman on aches and pains and what they can do about it esp through exercise. Plus demonstrations on how to lift and postures for working, also info on uterine prolapse which seemed to what most were interested in.

Jennifer has her time cut out for her is getting familiar with all the VIN programmes. We were then shown the  toilet construction. About 150 septic  toilets have been built attached to homes or schools which has made an incredible difference to people's lives and levels of cleanliness and health. They were a little horrified to hear of the pit toilets in rural areas back home! 

We then met our host family - a delightful typical Nepalese family home with 11 family members all living together. Saili dai the dad, his wife, son, daughter-in-law, 45 day old grandchild, school going daughter, his brother and wife and daughter, two aunts, niece and husband and so it went on to 11!! He could not fathom that Jennifer lived alone - called single life or that her mother did not live with her!! He pleaded deeply with Jen to live with her mother and take care of her, even asking if Jennifer loved her mother!!! This living with  ones extended family is definitely the norm and accounts for the big houses which have been in the family for generations. Saili dai often hosts VIN volunteers. It was a delightful home away from home! They have a black cat very like our Loqi, two dogs, two goats, two enormous buffalo cows and a regular cow, each of which has had a calf recently. I loved watching Saili dai bath and milk them. I had my first 'meal' which turned out to what he cooks volunteers for breakfast and supper - rice, omelette, French fries, hot tomato archa type sauce and Dahl soup. Sweet black tea is also handed to one as one walks into the home. Breakfast and supper are served at nine o'clock. School and most work starts at ten. We shared a room which had two hard thin mattresses on the floor, a pillow, sheet and a duvet. Yay - the loo was western and there was a sort of a shower, both  in rooms with no windows so if the power was off one was plunged into pitch darkness as one closed the door. 

The home was right on the main road built on the edge of a valley so the view was incredible. It was absolutely wonderful to be in the country away from the traffic and to be able to look across wide steep valleys onto terraced intensively cultivated land. The women never stopped working - collecting greenery in huge straw baskets strapped across their foreheads to feed the goats, peeling veggies, sifting grain, sweeping, washing clothes, hoeing the fields, making endless cups of tea. The whole family's generosity and warmth was amazing. Sakai dai's son Deepak is a volunteer for VIN so took me all over the show. 

I am amazing myself at how much walking I am doing and also that my feet have not grumbled once! I have to say (probably again!!) that it's thanks to my new very stylish (she hastened to add) crocs!!! 

The food is cooked on a fire which is in the corner of a sort of open plan entrance off the kitchen. There was no table in the home - all food prep is done on the floor with the person preparing sitting on their haunches or on a slightly raised stool. The girls did their homework sitting on mats with their books placed on the same stool cum benches which are probably about 10 cms off the ground. Plates are placed on the floor in front of the cook and food is ladled onto the plates. Only the volunteers and Salai dai's brother ate with spoons, everyone else used their fingers and then wiped the plate with the side of their hands and then licked their hands with great relish and dexterity. Each person washed his or her own plate under a tap close by. They eat enormous portions. Anything not eaten was scooped into the dogs bowl. Peels were thrown over the wall into a drain that ran down the side of the house. There was a large bin for rubbish which I think was burned after a while. There is no such thing as recycling altho one has to pay extra for minerals if one takes the glass bottle away rather than drink it at the spaza shop. 

There are lots of men hanging out at the spaza shops- some playing some sort of betting game, others holding shop, most just lounging around. At many road sides there are watering points where people can fact water to take to their homes on the steep hills. At other places, like in the group of homes high above where we stayed, water is supplied at communal watering points for an hour a day and people arrive with containers to fill up for use in the home. 

Thursday, 5 June 2014

Tuesday 3rd June

So am writing this retrospectively as have not been able to blog for a few days! 

Thanks for the encouraging feedback re blog.

So Jen moved rooms tues - things like this assume enormous importance!!! Moving involves a major cleanup which involves purchases! - mop, bucket, cleaning agents, brush..... Newspaper for the windows and this for a room that Ben the Aussie had just vacated which he had cleaned before he moved in!!! And the monastery isn't a construction site like the nunnery was!!

 I went off to teach - I hit on the bright idea of taking my camping chair with me as there is no teachers chair or desk. It worked brilliantly when I had the children sitting in a group on the floor. No doubt it's getting easier and I finally feel as if I am doing something for the boys. On the afternoon I went off prepared to teach class 11 only to find a nepalesecteacher in there who suggested i teach class 111 where it turned out the French girl Manon was teaching so I gave up and went back to my room! It really is hit and miss - probably a combination of volunteers swanning in and out and local teachers not always showing up!! 

Tum still shakey - but felt like I had turned the corner so was glad the doctor adviced me to wait another day! 

Tuesday, 3 June 2014

Monday 2nd June

Not a happy chappie today - even phoned the VIN doctor to describe what I am experiencing - he was very sympathetic - top marks in the bedside manner department and suggested uvwait another day before starting antibiotics.iraculoudly I felt well enough to teach the second morning session which went pretty well. The boys are understandably very reluctant to talk English. I have decided that it will be very useful if they knew the alphabet in lower case which will help them read without having to rely on memorising everything. So wd are playing games and doing more chalk writing on desks but now using the dusters I found to erase their writing  - a much cleaner affair!!

After lunch Jen and I headed out to the VIN office to tell them that we feel we could be of far greater service to them if I was working more with teachers and if Jen were working for VIN doing editing or improving their website. Well the result is that I am off on Wednesday to stay for two nights with a family in the community where VIN has a number of preschools to observe for three days and ascertain their needs and how I could help the teachers with a view to holding a workshop with them next week. Haleluia! Jen is coming with me on Wed and then at some stage going to visit the other community projects (health, toilet building, waste management) that VIN is involved in so that she can write about them and also interview volunteers and write about their experiences. She is thrilled. We will continue to stay at the monastery and teach a couple of days a week . 

Tuesday 3rd June

So not surprisingly I slept well last night - a relief as generally I have not been sleeping that well. So I went off to class after my baby cereal feeling pretty chipper! Into ok my little camping stool so that I could sit on it while the boys sat on bye floor - worked like a charm especially as I took the blackboard off the easel and      Propped it against the wall next to me soni could write the beginning sounds of the animals I pulled out of the bag. The boys loved it and I felt as if we were finally getting somewhere. YAY! 

Teaching here is very hit and miss - I have read what previous volunteers have said in their diaries recording their experiences   - really a case of being thrown in at the deep end with very few guide lines and the ever present wide range of abilities in English not helped  by the boys reliance on rote learning and total inability to do things as individuals! That said though I am beginning to learn their names and see them as individuals and have more fun with them.  I certainly haven't bonded with them the way I did with the girls. It just feels like too many of them. 

It is incredible to think that it is just overvthreecweeks since we left SAvand in fact just three weeks today that we have been in Nepal. What a roller coaster ride it has been. So many emotions, so many adaptations, so much self reflection and testing of comfort zones and coming slowly to get a glimpse of what Buddhism means by dissatisfaction - Jen read what Chogyam Trungpa had to say about it! Sobering and revealing as one sees how self focused we can be and become! 

Sunday 31st May

A pinch and a punch for the end of the month!!

So this morning Jen and I headed out for brekkies - this time at a place called  the Roof Top Garden - white bread toast with honey and black tea for me, while Jen tucked into hash browns and an omelette- extraordinary how one (well this one!) starts fixating on food when one has to restrict one's intake!!! I then went off to visit the Montessori school. The teachers were so friendly and the little ones so cute in their school uniforms - shirts and pinafores for the girls, shirts and shorts for the boys! . I loved it. But here's the thing  - these little three to four year olds were sitting in rows facing a whit board and copying A - drawing of an apple; B - drawing of a bat. There were no fine motor activities that I could see! I heard my teacher Miss Lena's voice saying" do not put pencils into these fingers before they are ready!

The teacher of the babies to 18 month olds had done a 3 month Montessori course and had pictures at home of the pink tower and knew what I meant by the practical life area, but looked blank when I mentioned the sensitive periods and the long rods! The teacher of the older children who was also the principal of the nursery sat in with us while we chatted. I then told them about the sensitive periods. I then did a three period lesson with them.  The principal  took notesThey were incredibly responsive and very keen to attend any workshops I could give. I was elated I have to say, as in as high as a kite!! We exchanged numbers with me explaining I had to chat to VIN. 

Jen and I then set off for the Garden of Dreams which the ladies at the Tibetan Tea House in Simons Town had said we had to experience. The guide book warns that one should not be surprised by the amorous Nepali couples - well it was not exaggerating! The Garden is truly an oasis of beauty and charm - small but delightfully appealing with different flowers and trees, manicured lawns and walk ways. I met the head gardener who told me he had been head for 13 years - obviously justifiably proud of his gardens. Do check Jen's blog as I am sure she will have posted pics. 

It suddenly started bucketing down as we were about to leave. We managed to grab a three wheeled ricksha back to the hotel. Hilarious - poor driver having to contend with potholes and puddles besides the crazy traffic and water cascading down from the sky and the roof tops!! We managed to stay reasonably dry under his makeshift piece of plastic joining the top of the ricksha where we sat and a sort of frame contraption above the handle bars- yet another adventure!!

So it was with rather long teeth that we returned to the monastery. On top of which I was beginning to feel really rough with more acute tummy troubles! 

Tuesday 3 June