Nepal – the final instalment

After a short break, I am back – I decided to take a little holiday from blogging and the likes… And today I shall bring you the final (and overdue) instalment of my times in Nepal! I may have mentioned, that they have a one day weekend in Nepal, unless there is a public holiday. So on my first Sunday “off” I was invited by Hari SR to spend some time with the kids at about 12pm in the common room. I thought that this meant it was study time but nope, two Nepali volunteers had come to teach the children about sexual and reproductive health. I really wished I had more input to share with the group but as most was in Nepali, and my Nepali hasn’t progressed passed a few random words I was totally lost. Not only that but I was afraid anything I might share might be from my wild, wanton western viewpoint (comparatively speaking) and be detrimental to the rest of my stay here.

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Learning about sexual health, and reproductive rights

After though, I spoke with the little nurse Luna and asked her a few questions. She had thought the class was excellent and much needed as the volunteers had answered her questions on what to do if being harassed by a man in public, or by any of the boys in the home. I thought I had made out some talk around abortion and asked (quietly) if it was legal here. “Yes sister, but only since a few years” smiled the little nurse. Well done Nepal, you’ve outdone Ireland on women’s rights on one extremely important topic. (Ireland, get your shit together and REPEAL THE EIGHTH). I went on to explain that in Ireland, abortions are illegal, unless there is a fatal foetal abnormality, or the mothers life is at risk… and even then doctors won’t carry out the procedure for fear of reprimand. I explained that if you wanted to have an abortion in Ireland you had to pay about €3000 to travel to the UK. If found out you would be risking prison time, and of course on arriving home you would receive no counselling through that time. Needless to say, my little nurse looked quite shocked.

The afternoon was spent strolling with Renu and Pragati. We were headed to the Golden Buddha, but we had left quite late. After about 1hr 30 walking, we came to what looked like a shanty town bar. The girls attitudes changed as a drunk guy teetered his way off home, saying something to us in Nepali. Quickly they grabbed an arm each and went from their normal confident selves to looking quite worried. They asked me to hurry sister as we went past the bar, also filled with men. It was getting late in the day and I asked the girls how much further. Pragati, the quieter of the too had been saying things to Renu in Nepali since we passed the bar, she seemed quiet concerned. Eventually my friend turned to me and said that they did not know how much further, but it would be dark and we would have to go home by the road as the route we came was not safe, the men might follow us in the dark. As we wandered further on the path I could see their tension grow and decided whilst it was still daylight we should call it a day and head for home. We walked back quickly at first, and once we got closer to familiar surroundings the girls relaxed and we spent the journey home picking lapsi from the ground for Mami to pickle, and eating these delicious brown date berries from trees (despite having been told not to risk unwashed foods by VSN, I decided to risk it. YUM!)

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View of a smog-bound KTM in the distance

And then before I knew it – my final week was underway. Well underway in fact. I settled into a good rhythm, teach yoga, teach at the school, ride the bus home, nap/read/study devanagari/help where I can/shower/wash clothes. I had broken my project down per class and all seemed to be en route to finishing on time. The project plan was this:

Day 1 (and for some classes day 2) Tell the class the story of Etain and Midir (the legend from whence my name sprouts) – variant available to read here.

Days 2/3 Go over new words, grammar through the story and test comprehension of the story with questions.

Days 4/5 Introduce the kids to some examples of different fonts, and lettering (thank you Dalton Maag :P)

Days 5/6 Over the weekend have the children write up their own Nepali legends and create a large decorative letter to begin their story with.

All of this went pretty well – each class had their cheeky trouble makers, and it turns out I can be a very stern teacher – not shouting, but stern. Remarks about my just visible tattoo and my martial status vanished when met with my now finely tuned resting bitch face. On our final day the kids produced their finished stories with their letter – though sadly not everyone understood that this was supposed to be a Nepali legend, and just invented stories – but hey creative writing is creative writing right. One of the younger kids however decided to use it as a platform to bully his larger class mate – insinuating he had eaten his family in a fit of hunger. I was pretty shocked that there was no real reprimand to this but I guess different places have different rules.

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Walking up to temple

The weekend in between their assignment however, if I may say so, was the tits pyjamas. The plan was for me to go meet Renu at school where the kids were sitting an exam, and go to the temple. I got to ride a motorcycle! (Sorry Mom). We went to Renu’s friends house, where we had some chiyaa and guava… and they got all dolled up for the festival. I guess this is how you meet boys? We went up the steep hill to a temple thronged with others making the pilgrimage, took tikka and left. We stopped at another children’s hostel for Renu to see an old friend and drop off a birthday card, then walked to her friends mamaghers house where we ate peanuts roasted in the shell and some sort of orange lemon hybrid. This house was a small mud hut with an iron roof, and simple panelling for walls inside. But still had a television with satellite.

We moseyed on to BFTC where we were given more peanuts and seeds. Then a shortcut across another temple back to the base of the hill we had walked up. Renu and her friend wanted some pani puri and chat pati. Pani puri are these crispy balls filled with a hot and sour liquid, with some potato floating in. They crack the ball, fill with liquid and you chuck it back in one. Chat puri is a mix of puffed rice, onions, other crispy nuggets, blow your mind chillies and peanuts. Totally yum, who cares about the guidelines for not getting food poisoning right? Street vendors woo hoo! After this we went back to her friends house where we ate some pomelo with sugar and spice – more food, more chiyaa!

We walked most of the way back home and took the bus from the base of the hill, to find Wendy sister had arrived. A lovely, larger than life Canadian lady. The “grown ups” all had Dhal Bhatt together and as I stood up  I felt I familiar stab in my guts… I knew I had pushed the limits on the food boundaries and now, I was being punished. Side of the road street food vendor? Peanuts? Copious amounts of fruit… who is the culprit? Who knows… all I knew was that lying down is the best and I didn’t get very much sleep that night. At least I had a day to recover before more school – but eating was out of the question for sure. Every bite induced nausea, as I picked on some rice during my last evening. As I cleaned up for the last time the kids told me that I had to come to the common room right away – they were going to throw me a little party to say good bye! They sang, and danced, and then we all danced before heading off to bed.

Packed and prepared I came down still a little worse for wear to face my last morning with the kids, and final day in school. I was to be picked up and taken back to Thamel as soon as my classes had finished. I came downstairs to be doused with flowers, tikka and the sweetest bunch of leaving cards before heading to school, as well as plenty of hugs from my little sisters.

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The little one takes a break from her morning papers to say goodbye

The school day passed in a blur, the kids recited their stories and proudly showed off their capital letters. I picked winners from each group and shared some sweets out amongst them – and in turn each winner shared their sweets out amongst their class – such a generous group of kids!

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Lining up for assembly and the National Anthem

My stomach still agitated, I warily departed and said goodbye to Kamal who had become my right hand teachers assistant during the week. The road to Thamel was jam packed with traffic and took a lot longer than the road out, but eventually I arrived back in the hotel it all began in. I lay there in blankets, post what could probably be one of the best showers I have had in this lifetime. The noises from the streets of Thamel rose up outside my window, smells of spice fill the air. I could hardly believe it is over, two weeks went by in the blink of an eye. Sure, there were times when I wished I was home (mostly due to food poisoning), and certain creature comforts missed (meal time variety and toilet paper ftw!), but the time was incredible. The kids were incredible. In fact everyone I met was incredible. Resilient, kind, hard working, and so loving despite what they had all been through. If I ever get the chance to do it again, I would in a heart beat.

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