Road trips & goodbyes

Mahesh accompanies Lisa to the rice fields for a couple of days. The engineer side of him really likes the process of finding & filling the crab holes, and he takes it one step further by changing the water flow into one of the fields (basically by opening up a “hidden” source). However this new flow completely diverts the stream so it’s not ideal, especially if there is only time for a short visit to the fields. Normally we would just leave the outlets from the streams to the top fields open on those occasions – the other rice farmers would be sure to come & close them for us – but now that won’t be a viable option and also our final set of fields will not get any water! There’s a bit more investigation needed to stem the flow to this new watercourse.

By walking with Mahesh, Lisa is getting a bit more insight into what the neighbours are saying about her. One woman is astonished that this foreign woman is tending the rice fields ;-)
May Sir

One morning, Lisa and May (the dog) head to the rice fields alone, and when they are passing through the village Lisa receives an invitation to breakfast from the man who runs the tiny shop. He presents her with a banana, then finds her a chair (Nepali people generally sit on a bamboo mat on the front porch or on the ground, but they seem to think that foreign guests need chairs!). Finally he gives her a cup of masala tea (sweet and milky, yum). Another man stops by and is asking about Lisa – she manages to make out something about her being a volunteer teacher at the school – and then he sits down to enjoy a cup of tea and continue talking about her ;-) They are soon joined by one of our regular visitors, “chicken grandma” (grandma is the term used for all elderly ladies, and this one is verychatty hence the added adjective!).

The talk soon turns to a favourite Nepali subject…does Lisa have any children? The answer is always a surprise to them – here, it’s impossible to imagine a married woman without any kids. There is really no way to explain our choice to people here (sometimes it’s difficult enough to explain to people from our own countries) so Lisa just shakes her head and smiles at the resulting discussion. It ends with the visitor asking her age (he manages to get his point across by miming his own age – 35 – with his fingers) and then offering her one of his 3 children ;-)
Our excitement about the 3 new chicks is short-lived when 2 of them drown in the same bucket that nearly claimed another chick 2 weeks ago. Lisa is really annoyed that this bucket remained in place to pose a risk to the new chicks, and since we have lots of rainwater for the pigs at the moment, she empties the bucket and removes it from the sink. We have only 4 chicks remaining of our original 7 so we need to do everything we can to keep them safe until they are old enough to have some common sense.
Lisa has been filling in at the school now that we have less volunteers. One day, Niki Miss must take her baby for some immunisations so Lisa covers her classes – she learns the word “arko” from the kindergarteners (it means next, different or another – depends on the context; in this case it was crayons!); teaches B class about “the cycle of rain” (irritatingly, they keep drawing pictures of bicycles while she’s talking about this!); and has a long discussion with C class about creatures that live in the sea or ocean (largely influenced by “Finding Nemo”). On another day, Niki Miss brings her baby to school and it seems that Lisa is expected to look after him! Since she’s never looked after any child under 2, this doesn’t seem like the ideal time to start, so the other teachers take turns and Mahesh has a go as well.We also remember that we’re living in the jungle when Lisa gets a strange bite on her hand. Maybe a spider, or maybe some creature that she’s never encountered before….but the huge oozing blister is certainly impressive, anyways! Luckily it doesn’t get infected – it just bursts and then scabs over, and within a week or so it’s only a little scar – “here’s where some weird Nepali bug bit me” ;-)

On Friday, Manu & Mahesh accept an invitation to dinner at a house “up the hill”. We are going to Pokhara for the weekend and want an early start on Saturday, so we offer to stay behind and keep an eye on the school & farm. It’s kind of eerie being there on our own, and we’re not used to sleeping in the main building (although it ought to feel more secure than a bamboo hut in the woods!!) so we are aware of every little noise – and there are a lot! – not exactly a restful night. It is fun chasing up all the hens & chicks to put them to bed though, and we’re impressed that the other chickens & ducks know when & where to go to sleep!

So, five o’clock the next morning sees the intrepid pair setting out down the hill to town. It’s pleasantly cool and misty, which is lucky as it’s a two hour walk to Damauli. We totter through Beltari and pick up the section of road that is slowly being tarmacked. We eventually get to town and get a seat at the back of the bus to Pokhara (typical!). We don’t have a schedule as such but it is still a surprise when, not far outside of town, the bus stops and most of the men get out to change a tyre.

Apart from that, it’s a smooth (by Nepali standards) ride to Pokhara. We arrive in the early afternoon at the locals bus park, which means it is a fair trot from the centre of town. This is where Chris learns the danger of Nepali pavements as he manages to twist an ankle within the first few minutes of hitting town!

Huge Newari dinner

We enquire at a guest house only to be told that they have no room but her husband runs a place in Lakeside. He, and a friend, duly arrive on their motor bikes to pick us up and take us to the Celesty Inn. After week in a bamboo hut this room seems palatial. It has something that’s pretty close to a mattress and it has warm water. Woo hoo! We make a conscious decision to have a ‘short nap’ and then re-surface in the early evening to check out the goodies available in town. We happen upon a lovely little organic cafe that we duck into just as it starts to rain, and rain, then hail, frickin’ big hail, for about half an hour. Good call! Lisa orders an americano, the availability of which changes several times as we have a series of mini power cuts. We both have items from their bakery. It’s like food porn after so long on a daal bhaat diet. After a constitutional wander we round off the evening in the ‘Newari Kitchen’, which serves traditional Newari (Kathmandu valley) fayre. They even have a sparrows’ nest in the restaurant. Still not missing tv!

The next day we go to the Pumpernickel Bakery (one of the many ‘German’ bakeries’ in Nepal) for breakfast. We continue our food odyssey by ordering yoghurt and muesli, with two yak cheese sandwiches to take away for lunch. The bakery is right on the lakeside and has a wonderful view of the surrounding hills, with mountains in the distance, sometimes hard to distinguish from the pale clouds.

After a very leisurely breakfast we make our way to the dock and get one of the boatmen to row us across to the opposite shore of the lake, where the Peace Pagoda tops the hill. It’s a hot day and a steep climb. We bump into several groups of children on the way up and on our way down who seem overly used to tourists. The first group wants us to take their picture but then asks for money or, failing that, chocolate. There was a belligerent little fellow who demanded our sandwich and a little girl who wants us to give her a ‘writing pen’. We felt bad that these children weren’t learning a bit more pride in themselves – they probably get quite a lot of food, chocolate etc by begging and it doesn’t encourage them to work or learn in order to make their own opportunities for the future. Lisa even encountered a chocolate-begging child near Beltari one day – how he had the chance to learn that white people = handouts was anyone’s guess!

The Peace Pagoda itself is a grand affair. The original pagoda was torn down by the city government in 1973 and only rebuilt in 1992, with assistance of the Japanese and Nepali Prime Minister & Defence Minister. The Japanese have pledged to build 100 peace pagodas around the world; the other in Nepal is at Lumbini, Buddha’s birthplace.

We take the more gradual route down from the pagoda and pass by the dam that gives ‘Damside’ its name. There’s much fishing and many boys swimming in the lake. It looks cool but I would hesitate to take a dip. Lisa was annoyed that girls are excluded from a lot of things in Nepal – the closest they got to swimming in the lake was standing in the shallows doing the laundry!

As there is a bandh going on, the roads are quiet and there are groups of what we later found out to be ‘strike enforcers’ hanging around. However, our real reason for being in Pokhara, the immigration office, i still open. We arrived, are asked searching questions and are told that it will cost the same to extend our visa for 3 days or 15. It’s quite a painless process though and we leave with the immigration official’s wish that we come again, maybe next year! American immigration, you could learn a few things.

That night we learn that there will be another bandh on Monday but we need to get back to school! Luckily our hotelier tells us there will be a ‘tourist bus’ leaving at 7.30am. We duly buy a ticket for that and settle in for another night in the town of brownies and milkshakes. We figure we’ll just have to make the best of it. This time we indulge in a pizza and a quasi-Greek salad. We are also treated to an alfresco film about ecology and then an unplugged session on a stage under a tree in the middle of the main street (remember, bandh equals no cars). We even see a dog sleeping in the middle of the road and a helpful stranger tells us the dogiss probably on strike too!

Early Monday morning we are following other pale people towards the tourist bus park. When we get there we see that it will be a convoy of tourist buses accompanied by police. The tourist busiss a bit of a luxury. It is spacious and has air con! Once we finally get going we are stopped several times exiting Pokhara and at each village along the way. There would be a barrier of some sort across the road (rocks, tyres, something burning) and a large group of young men. One of these gets on each bus and checks if there are any Nepalis on it (Nepalis cannot travel during the bandh and may be subject to rough treatment if found). A German fellow on our bus keeps shouting at the roadblock groups to stop “slowing us down” (personally, we think he ought to stay quiet!) but actually meets with the approval of one bandh enforcer when he shouted that our bus had been stopped and checked only two minutes before – the guy looked rather smug that the enforcement was so thorough. On one occasion a group of young children had set up their own road block too. Cute! The checkpoint in our ‘home town’ of Damauli resembled something more like a music concert – they seemed to be having fun in a good natured way. Unfortunately, the bandh also meant no bus or jeep up the hill – at least we manage to convince the “tourist bus” driver to let us off at the end of our road, but it’s still a long hot walk up the hill to the village!

That night, Mahesh and Manu are proud to show us their new invention – pupati. It’s their answer to our missing bread products, and is a pan-fried bread which is somewhere between a puri and a chapati (hence the name). They take over the kitchen and make a fantastic (although washing-up-intensive) dinner – the pupati and it’s brother, an aloo (potato) version are delicious!

Manjil hasn’t been able to get back from Kathmandu because of the bandh – obviously, the tourist bus is not an option for him. He is also keen to visit the eastern school and thinks it might be easier to do this from Kathmandu, so he arranges to send Surya (now recovered from his chicken pox) back to our school. This was on Tuesday – as of Friday, all we have heard is that Surya is stuck in a town with an ongoing bandh, not far out of Kathmandu…
On Wednesday, Manu is scheduled to leave for the western school. He wants to teach one more art class with each of A, B & C classes so that they can finish their projects on “the human body in proper proportions”. Lisa covers E class (like junior kindergarten) for him in the morning so that he can pack his bags. Really he is happy to have an excuse to avoid E class – they barely listen to the volunteers, since they’re so young, so we are effectively babysitting a class of little ones that we can’t understand; and they don’t understand us either, although everyone knows the word “naughty”! But at least they are hearing a lot of English, and hopefully a bit of it is sinking in.
Wednesday turns out to be a really hectic day. Four of the boys in C class arrive at school but then disappear before class starts. The mother of one shows up and says he didn’t come home on Tuesday night. She says that if he does something bad, or anything happens to him, that the school will be held responsible. We ask some of the other students what they know, and eventually find out that another boy (not from our school) has arranged a picnic in the jungle; the general consensus is that they have probably gone there. This theory is supported by Chicken Grandma, who shows up and says that they stole some rice and her spoon.
Meanwhile, Vishnu appears (he was not at work on Tuesday) and we all have a discussion about food for the pigs. It’s rather frustrating that we only ever seem to buy one bag at a time; each bag only lasts 3 days so it seems like we are constantly running out, and with the current series of bandhs this is particularly awkward. After lots of back and forth, it’s decided that Lisa will go to Damauli and pay for the pig food (which we’ve managed to order by phone) and also buy some much-needed vegetables and spices for our own meals. There is a limit to what is grown locally and we’re getting pretty tired of tomatoes & bitter gourd!
It’s pretty unusual for anyone to be walking around at 1:30pm (too hot!) so Lisa makes a nice spectacle for everyone to stare at while she walks down the hill to the highway. She envies everyone who is relaxing under a nice, shady tree. But at least she lucks out on transport – while she takes a quick water break at the highway, a jeep comes by and two others jump into it. It’s going the right way so Lisa hops it too – it’s that, or another 4km of walking! She arrives safely in town and heads straight for the animal food store; we’ve agreed that if we can get more food on the 3pm bus, then we’ll get an extra bag of pig food and some duck food. It’s 2:45 so she’s just in time…although it doesn’t actually arrive at the school, and we later find out that the bus was too full and refused to carry it, doh! She does manage to get some spinach (Mahesh’ favourite), some goat meat (ah, meat, a rare treat), and all the spices on the list (after many giggly conversations with shopkeepers). It’s quite a lot to carry from the jeep stop at Beltari, but everyone is so pleased with the new ingredients that it’s all worthwhile.
Krishna’s Grandma

Time is running short so we are trying to arrange to see everyone and do everything we wanted to do around the village. Lisa goes for a craft lesson with the grandmother of one of the students (Krishna B) on Thursday after school. It’s a really neat and quite simple craft made from “laani” (something like a thick, dried long grass – apparently it grows in the jungle) and strips of old plastic bags. Grandma shows her some finished products: a small bag, a bowl and a pot stand (maybe not for hot pots, seeing as it’s made mostly of plastic ;-) ).

In return, Lisa teaches Grandma how to make knotted string bracelets. Krishna & his family are also interested, so they all learn; Krishna and Grandma are particularly good at it. Lisa gives Krishna a macrame-style bracelet that she has started, under the conditions that he must finish it and give it to his best friend.
On Thursday we sent a note home with each student, asking the parents & other guardians to help us weed our rice field. Lisa is very impressed when she arrives on Friday morning at 6:45 to find 5 parents already there! They seem to be having a good time (well, as much fun as you can have weeding a very wet field) with lots of chat and gossip.
On Friday, Lisa runs the morning assembly. She and Chris go around the circle giving “good morning” hugs (normally, each child hugs their neighbour, and some of them still do this). Then everyone sings “Father Abraham” with all the actions – it’s a big hit and Lisa hears some of the children singing it later that day. Finally, A class performs the Maya Universe version of the national anthem, and Lisa records it so she can put it on YouTube & Manjil can promote it =)

Chris’ final history class is a big test for the students about what they’ve learned. He and Mahesh painstakingly wrote out 10 copies of the test, the night before (ah, for a printer or a photocopier!). The prize for the top mark is a knotted string bracelet made by none other than “Lisa Miss”, which explains why all the students in A class were admiring her wrist while she was teaching on Thursday.

“A” class

The teachers also like the knotted bracelets, so we have a little “how to” class on Friday at lunchtime. It stretches out a bit longer than an hour, and the kids are restless because it’s Friday, so in the end we have a 2-hour lunch break and just 2 classes in the afternoon. Lisa manages to teach A class the rest of “Blowing in the Wind” and is really impressed with how well they remember the first verse from our lesson on Thursday! B & C classes have learned “You are My Sunshine” but are not so good at following a tune ;-)

During the last class, Lisa goes to the spring to get water and manages to carry 3 buckets at once for the first time =) This is great since it hasn’t rained for 4 days and we have no rainwater left for the pigs. In fact, all the animals are dry – some water she gave to the dog & some of the chickens earlier was very gratefully received, and one of the ducks was swimming frantically in the little pool of water which the pigs receive every lunchtime. So that evening, we decide to treat the ducks – we have always wondered why they stay on our waterless farm – and pour them a dish of water to share. You have never seen such happy ducks!!

Lisa and her rice “weapon”, the codalo

We have a nice chat with Mahesh over dinner and we all retire early – it will be a busy weekend for all of us, in different ways (we are travelling, and Mahesh will be alone with all the farm chores). On Saturday morning, we wake up early for our last trip to the rice fields – Chris hasn’t seen them in a while & it’s also a nice chance to say goodbye to the villagers. It’s a lovely morning for a walk and we stop for tea & biscuits at the shop house, then get a load of free cucumbers from our favourite farmer (the last of the season, apparently). Chris is impressed with the progress of the rice, and Lisa works harder than she planned to plugging up the crab holes – it’s almost 9 by the time we head back home. Consequently we miss the bus, and after packing & enjoying the breakfast that Mahesh kindly made for us, we walk down the hill to Beltari. In retrospect, walking downhill on a hot day with heavy backpacks is NOT a good idea – several days later, Lisa’s knees and Chris’ ankles are still complaining!

In our spare time, we organised the “library”
His house = village shop

It didn’t help that the next jeep from Beltari was at 5pm, so in the end we walked all the way to the highway, much to the amusement of the local folks who are far too smart to walk in the heat of the day. But at least we don’t have long to wait until a mini-bus passes by on the way to Kathmandu; and we are even more in luck that it’s a fairly comfortable mini-van with some decent tunes (mostly dance/club music, but a good change from loud Nepali or Indian music) AND the front seat is free so we are not jolted around too much =) We even stop at the tasty place that we stopped at on our way to Damauli the first time (when Chris was feeling too dodgy to eat – this time, we have some bhaji & pickle – have we mentioned how delicious Nepali pickle is??); and we stop for a toilet break at the “cable car” that goes up and over the hills – we had seen the signs and wondered what it was, and now we have a chance to have a good look. Basically it seems like an opportunity for non-hikers or those in a hurry to have a chance to enjoy some views!

Soon enough we are back in Kathmandu, and having the usual discussions/negotiations with taxi drivers about the price to our hotel. We get the price from 600 rupees down to 400 so off we clatter down the road to Thamel….

OpenPower Nepal Report Source Documents

Source Documents

The Zip Archive contains the following source documents.
Download Archive (ZIP, 312MB).

The PDF file containing the senior project report.

The PDF file containing the project proposal as it was presented to COA, Winter 2011/12

The PDF file of the senior project presentation to the trustees of COA, Spring 2012

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Folder containing the source documents from which the senior project report has been generated.

./Source Documents/Framework.svg
The SVG file of the Open Source Electricity Framework. Created using Inkscape.

./Source Documents/SolarConcentrator3dModel.skp
The 3D model used for the renderings of the solar concentrator. Created using Google SketchUp.

./Source Documents/Timeline.planner
The source document of the timeline. Created using the GNOME application Planner.

./Source Documents/Timeline.svg
The timeline was fine-tuned using Inkscape.

./Source Documents/SeniorProjectV1.8.pages
Source document for the report. The report was created using Pages ’09.

./Source Documents/SeniorProjectV1.8.doc
DOC version of report source document.

./Source Documents/SeniorProjectPresentation.key
Source document for the presentation. The report was created using Keynote ’09.

./Source Documents/SeniorProjectPresentation.ppt
PPT version of presentation source document.

./Source Documents/SeniorProjectReport low quality.pdf
Low image quality PDF for redistribution.

This connect is to be treated in respect to the GNU GENERAL PUBLIC LICENSE wherever applicable to the contents of this package. See LICENCE.txt

Urs Riggenbach
College of the Atlantic ’12
Rosegghof, Switzerland

Back to Senior Project Report

Senior Project Report

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If you have a slow internet connection, consider downloading the low resolution version (PDF, 7MB).

You can download the source documents on this page.

Up, down, in and out

We’re all looking forward to the weekend. Chris & Lisa were planning to walk over the hills in a sort of mini-trek, but the idea catches on quickly amongst Manjil & the volunteers and a group outing is planned. Manjil’s village is at the top of “our” hill so it’s decided that we will all go there on Friday as soon as school is finished. This makes the logisitics much easier, as Manjil has the keys to his uncle’s house where there is enough space for everyone to sleep – no need to bring tents or cooking supplies!

Quite a few of our students live that way (two actually live at the top of the hill and walk over an hour each way to school!), so they wait for us after class and we all walk together. It makes the uphill climb much more fun, as the kids (and Manjil) are pointing out landmarks along the way (the tree where the goddess stepped; the elephant rock – with a handy hole to tie up your elephant; a small cave where you squeeze through the entrance and pop out a different exit…) and picking berries for us to eat. It’s also the clearest day we’ve had since our arrival so the views over the valley & across the surrounding hills are spectacular! Still, even in late afternoon/early evening it is very hot for walking uphill so we are glad to reach the village, where Manjil buys us all a soft drink and we pick up some supplies for dinner. Then it’s a long climb up a track which is more suitable for goats than people, and we arrive at the fanciest house we’ve seen since we arrived at the school – it even has it’s own water, with an enclosed shower in the front yard (cold, of course, but that’s usually welcome in this climate)!
Our Friday pm stroll
up the hill
These berries can be used to make ink
Delicious orange berries

The main component of dinner is a chicken which is purchased from the first shop in the village (there are two, side-by-side, and diplomatically we buy some items from each). This is different from our free-range chickens at the school, as it’s a “broiler” – raised in a room with many other chickens and not much stimulation. The Nepalis in our group say that these chickens are bred especially for their meat and do not put up any fight when you kill them…but Lisa wonders how much of their docility can be attributed to their upbringing, rather than their DNA. Our chicken seems terrified to be in the open air and makes no attempt to escape even when we leave it alone, sitting on a table outside the house. It is certainly plumper & meatier than the village chickens (which are said to be “bones with a bit of meat”), but actually the flavour is not as nice and it seems easier to enjoy meat that had a happy life…

One of the students, Muskan, stays with us at the house and falls asleep on Erica’s lap…until her family arrives and sends her on a few errands. A few of the women take over the kitchen for a hour or so – apparently they are preparing the sauce for our dinner with local raw ingredients! It is delicious – a lemony, spicy chicken dish with rice, washed down with the obligatory raksi, and we all enjoy the evening sitting around the fire & listening to the frogs in the nearby pond.
Unfortunately, something that we ate does not agree with Lisa and she feels sick all night. In the morning, we are all meant to be climbing to the old king’s fort (at the “actual” top of the hill – maybe you never really reach the top, there seems to be more than one ;-) ) but there is no chance that she is going anywhere…and since no one else wakes up until 9am, it’s too hot for them to go either. The others have a lazy breakfast while Lisa stays in bed. Erica also had a restless night – she slept in the kitchen and said that there are angry spirits in the house – maybe the boys made the right choice to sleep outside!
Eventually Lisa manages to struggle out of bed, mostly because she is sore from lying on the hard wooden boards (have we mentioned that Nepalis don’t use mattresses?) and Yadin kindly lets her use his hammock, which Suman has set up in a lovely shady spot overlooking the valley. She dozes for a while, and then finally throws up next to a corn plant, which does make her feel better ;-)
We all end up sleeping the day away – a lovely lazy Saturday in a relaxing place. Around 3pm we are starting to make some noises about going home – Lisa reckons she can make it, if she goes slowly, since it’s all downhill – but a sudden storm blows in and we are trapped for a while. The storm lasts quite a while and the rain is heavy enough that we realise we won’t be able to walk back to the school today. This is bad news for our new German volunteer, Manu, who arrived that afternoon & is waiting for us at the school with Vishnu; and also for our stomachs, since we don’t have any food for dinner that night. Suman & Erica volunteer to go to the shops to pick up supplies, including a cucumber for Lisa if they can find one. They come back almost an hour later, dripping wet (and without shoes, in Erica’s case – she was sliding everywhere and took them off after the first 5 minutes) and laden with snacks & a chicken.
Everyone suddenly realises that they didn’t have lunch, and dives into the snacks. There are even some “plain” biscuits for Lisa (the shops don’t have cucumber) but the Nepali version of “plain” includes butter, sugar, andsalt (it’s called a “twin taste” biscuit, we’re guessing that’s salty & sweet?). She manages a few, with some sweet tea, while Chris slaughters his first chicken. Manjil also makes some “sick people food” for Lisa – rice & dahl with salt, kind of mashed together like baby food. It’s boring and virtually tasteless, just what she needs. She dozes outside while the main dinner is prepared…but when the others start to eat, she heads off to bed – the smell of spicy food is definitely not helpful. Chris stays to chat about important things like what would be the most useless power for a superhero (growing hair, changing colour and being clean amongst others).
The next morning, Chris & Erica set out at 6:30am to climb the hill (the boys are still asleep, and Lisa is not up to climbing!). When they started out they were in the clouds, walking through a tropical half-light. Through minor cack-handedness they took the long way up, though the fields, only seeing the steps once at the top! What a sight from the top though, a sea of clouds with the tips of the tallest hills breaking through. The ruins of the fort were fenced off but made a nice breakfast stop for Chris, Erica and May the dog. Everyone else gets up about 8 and works through the remaining snacks for breakfast. We pack up and lock up the house – it’s time to head home!
We trundle back down the hill, with a stop at the cave for Erica & Suman (Erica didn’t visit it with the kids, and has decided that she wants to see it). Chris is also feeling a bit poorly now so it’s slow going for the Streets – frankly, we can’t wait to lay down on our relatively comfy bed in the hut (amazing how much padding a couple of blankets & the Thermarests can provide!) and eat some cucumber.
We meet Manu, who seems very easy-going. He met Manjil’s brother when they were both in Costa Rica and tried to contact him when he popped over to Nepal during his current trip to India, but Manjil’s brother is living in the USA at the moment so Manu somehow ended up as one of the school’s volunteers instead! He will be placed in the new school west of Pokhara but Manjil wants to spend a few days getting to know him & seeing how he works with the kids first.
Yadin was meant to leave for the eastern school on Sunday morning, but of course we didn’t come home because of the storm. He can’t travel on Monday because there is a strike (“bandh”) in the eastern regions. Bandhs are unbelievably common in Nepal – they can be called by different castes or political groups for all sorts of reasons – and on bandh days, there is no transportation. Apparently people don’t even drive private vehicles because they are likely to have bricks thrown at them or have their cars set on fire! (At least emergency vehicles are left alone.) There have already been 2 bandh days in the previous week, and rumours abound that this entire week could be a bandh – the government & the people are strongly divided on the issue of the constitution (which has already been delayed for a year) so the situation is not likely to improve anytime soon. This makes it impossible to transport the volunteers between the different schools – and also to do any day-to-day tasks such as buying food, visiting the internet cafe etc.

Some reflections on school life (Chris). I hadn’t expected to be doing so much teaching here. I rather thought I’d be doing various admin or manual tasks. However, being short of teachers meant we all had to get stuck in. Most of the children are really outgoing and helpful, which I have found to be true of Nepalis in general. But, like young kids everywhere they are also inquisitive and adept at distraction to get out of doing ‘boring work’. Every day is different and sometimes it is hard to keep them all engaged, especially if we are all struggling through a particularly hot an humid afternoon! But it is rewarding when you see the moment a child seems to understand a new concept or term. And, I’ve got to say that at their age (8-12) my French was nowhere near as good as their English.

The good news is that Monday is NOT a bandh in our region. Suman, Erika & Lisa jump on the bus to Damauli – Lisa to do the shopping & round up more volunteers, and Erica & Suman to go to the school west of Pokhara. Manjil has decided that Erica is a good fit for this school; she has settled in nicely as an art teacher at our school, and also she doesn’t smoke or drink alcohol which makes her a perfect fit for the Brahman family who will host her.
Lisa enjoys a banana lassi & an omelette sandwich for breakfast (and her stomach is happy to have something hearty but not spicy for a change), and then heads to the shops. She picks up an English textbook for Goma, who doesn’t have the same one that the rest of her classmates are using, and a spare “teacher’s copy” for Chris. Then she spends a couple of hours catching up on personal emails (including one about Chris’ Canadian visa application…the High Commission has finally started reading it!), responding to potential volunteers & posting about her experiences on the Lonely Planet forum, which seems like it could be a great place to find international volunteers. The guy sitting next to her says that he has applied for a Canadian visa, and wonders if she can help him to get it – ha ha! She finishes her day in Damauli by buying food for both people & pigs…and convincing nice young Nepali lads to cart her purchases to the bus (ahem, have you ever tried to carry a sack of pig food or a huge bag of rice?). The bus driver even waits for her before he leaves – amazing!
A new Nepali volunteer, Mahesh, was meant to be meeting Lisa in Damauli but doesn’t show up. Happily he makes his own way to the school a few hours later. He is from Kathmandu and has just finished his Bachelor’s degree in Electronic & Communication Engineering. He wants to go to the USA to do a Master’s degree but in the meanwhile, he’s just been sitting around his house feeling bored, so he’s pretty excited to be at the school for his first ever volunteer experience!
Manu is a bit surprised when one of the kids brings a slingshot to class on his first day of teaching ;-) Actually, it’s not unusual to see children here with short scythes or other sharp objects – many, if not all of them have work to do on their family’s land when they are not in school, so they are accustomed to using tools from a really young age. They’re also amazingly acrobatic and you can often find them hanging from the trees…or the rafters of the classrooms!
On Tuesday morning at breakfast, Manjil announces that he will leave with Yadin that day to head eastwards. Manjil has some important people to meet with in Kathmandu and he wants to take the opportunity while there is a Nepali volunteer to cover for him (it’s vital that someone at the school can communicate with the villagers, teachers & parents). It’ll be a big responsibility for Mahesh but he seems like a confident fellow, and he already has some teaching experience so this Is not all entirely new to him. There is still a bandh in the eastern regions, but Yadin will try to take a night bus to the other school as any other prospect seems unlikely in the near future, and the school really needs his help. So, Manjil creates a teaching schedule for the next week (normally he makes the schedule each morning, once he’s sure which teachers & volunteers are available) and spends the morning with Mahesh. Manjil & Yadin leave after lunch and suddenly it seems very quiet – there are just 4 volunteers and Vishnu left to run the place, eek!
That night there is a big thunderstorm, and for once it is accompanied by a lot of rain. We decide to catch as much rainwater as possible – with our reduced numbers, it will be much more difficult for us to go to the spring for water. We find all the buckets and place them in strategic positions; also we discover that if we shift one of the large rainwater buckets slightly, it catches the flow from the guttering outside the kitchen area. The tarp over our dining area is the best source and we have a bit of a giggle trying to direct the cache of water into various buckets – we get it right about half the time, and the other half we get a good shower! After the storm we laugh at how easily entertained we are in the absence of TV. It’s strange to imagine that many of the kids here have never seen a TV; in fact, most of them have little experience of life outside their own village.
Posing pigs
Rice fields
Classroom B

In other news from around our farm: when we arrived there were 2 hens sitting on several eggs, safely nesting in the upstairs bedroom. The first hen now has her chicks – two black and two yellow. Unfortunately one of the yellow ones vanishes after a couple of days, probably the victim of a bird or a small animal. A few days later, the 2ndhen hatches 3 chicks, a matching set of fuzzy black cuties. It’s really sweet to see them all trailing around the yard with their constant clucking (mom) and peeping (chicks). It’s also quite amazing to see how quickly our older chicks have grown up – in the space of a few days they have gone from fuzzy to feathered, and they can fly now which makes them much less prone to danger & hazards.

Presents, parties & scheduling

We’re starting to get into a routine of sorts. Chris’ history class is enmeshed in World War I, and he can remember the names of at least half the children in the school ;-) Lisa has been negotiating with other local rice farmers about the use of the water (rice fields need to be constantly wet, but we are all using the same small stream for our water supply).

One of the farmers knows numbers in English, but nothing else; the other doesn’t seem to know any English. Lisa’s Nepali vocabulary so far consists of mati (up), pani (water), danyabat (thank you), meeto (delicious), and namaste (customary Nepali greeting). This isn’t really sufficient for negotiating! So we draw timetables & the farmers write notes in Nepali for Manjil to translate. Unfortunately it seems that the Nepali way is to change one’s mind every other day, so the scheduling is a bit of a challenge. At least Lisa’s stubbornness is coming in handy – the rice is getting it’s water every day (usually at 6AM ugh).
Our first weekend at the school is brilliant. There are no classes on Saturday or Sunday (normally the only “day off” from work or school is Saturday, but since the school doesn’t take a summer break we can have 2-day weekends!). The farm chores, of course, are still necessary on the weekend but it’s more relaxing without classes to teach.
Saturday is Manjil’s “heritage day” in his mother’s village at the top of our hill – basically lots of people from the same cultural background getting together to renew acquaintances & remind themselves of their heritage ;-) A jeep full of family members arrives bright & early to spirit him away. He has already explained to us that people who are NOT from that heritage can attend, but are not allowed to eat or drink, so we leave him to go on his own!
The school gets lots of visitors during the day – most for Manjil, of course, and we try to explain that he will be back later. One of our chicks falls in a bucket of water – luckily a chick in danger is pretty loud, so Lisa manages to rescue him. We wash him off and leave him in the sun to dry. One of the visitors drops off some Nepali roti, which is a fried pastry (shaped a bit like a pretzel) made with rice flour – it’s nice to have something (a little bit) sweet for a change. Fanny goes to town for the day, and returns with pineapple juice (yay, fruit!) and some spray for the nest that giant wasps are trying to build in our hut.
One of our last visitors of the day is a local man, who drops in around dinnertime for some free food & raksi. He tries to convince Manjil to give him a free chicken or rooster as well, to no avail. Sometimes it’s hard to work out if people are really so poor that they have nothing to eat, or whether they are just being cheeky. Unfortunately, the former is more likely to be correct here.
Lisa & Fanny go to the rice fields on Sunday morning at 6AM. On our way back, we meet one of the local farmers, who gives us a tour of his crops (including a vegetable that’s new to both of us – karella (bitter gourd)) and some free cucumbers. He also offers us some good prices for veg to save us a trip to the market in Damauli (we later find out that we already have a similar deal set up with another local farmer).
Later that morning, Manjil’s father arrives from Kathmandu with new textbooks for the youngest children, and some food for us – two kinds of pickle and some butter rice. Suman has been in Kathmandu for the weekend and comes back with Manjil’s dad. He has a bag full of goodies including some soft drinks, and the remainder of a box of wine from a party at his parents’ house. He also brings some woolly hats for the villagers to use during winter (it doesn’t get too cold here, but even now the mornings can be quite fresh if there has been a storm the night before).
At the same time as Manjil’s dad arrives, we have a visitor from the nearby village of Beltari. He is Lt. Deo Bahadur Ale, an 81-year-old ex-Gurkha soldier, who is the grandfather of one of our students. He is really happy to meet Chris and sing/hum some old British tunes, and they even do a little dance! Apparently he used to come regularly to do marching routines with the students, but he has problems with his blood pressure and finds it hard to walk up the hill to the school.
Then Manjil gets some great news…Enrique, the Dutch volunteer at the eastern school calls to say that his parents are donating some money. They’ll use it to set up a chicken farming business, using some space which has been donated by the local village.
Most of the volunteers were planning to attend a Buddhist puja (ceremony) which Vishnu was going to officiate in his village. Today is the full moon, and the annual day for celebrating Buddha’s enlightenment and ascension.But it is cancelled at the last minute due to some family issues, so we accept an invitation to the local village puja instead. This one is Hindu, not Buddhist, so maybe it’s just a coincidence that it’s held on the same day…? Although there is a lot of crossover between the two main Nepali religions…
Manjil explains that the elderly man who is officiating the village puja is a healer/medicine man; also, since our village population is largely from the “untouchable” caste, other Nepalis would not attend the puja even if invited. The caste system is so complex, and often seems to us to be very unfair – if people from different castes aren’t allowed to socialise, how will the system ever change? It seems particularly harsh that “untouchables” are not even allowed to enter the homes of people from a higher caste – they actually risk getting killed if they do so.
We are the special guests at the puja – everyone is excited to see us and there is a rush to find chairs or baskets for us to sit on. The villagers seem torn whether to watch the ceremony or to watch us! Almost everyone is holding a chicken, and some of the children have two…we’re pretty sure some sacrifice will be involved…
Sure enough, after a short ceremony where each chicken’s head is anointed with water (with special attention for the big rooster), everyone motions us to move back. A minute later, the first headless chicken flaps, kicks & rolls it’s way out of the ceremonial space, through a small fire, and down the hill into the field where we’re standing. The kids are having a great time retrieving the chickens. We’re not quite sure what to make of it – decide for yourself by watching the video:
It’s important to note that the sacrifices aren’t simply ceremonial – in a village this poor, there would never be such a waste of food. Every family will be having chicken for dinner tonight!
The puja finishes with everyone receiving a tika (rice and red paste applied in a giant dot on one’s forehead) and a small handful of snacks – bits of roti & a giant sugar crystal. One of the villagers invites us to her home, where we enjoy some more roti (served with a small pot of curried vegetables – interesting combination of savoury & sweet!) and orange drink. We chat with her oldest daughter (I would guess she’s about 13) who wants to be a doctor or veterinarian, then a “heroine” (movie star). The little daughter, Annu, is about 2 years old and really cute & smiley. There is a son as well – probably 8 or 9 – who passes through a couple of times, and we talk about why he doesn’t attend our school. Apparently he did for a while but was put in the first grade class (Maya’s classes are based on ability/knowledge rather than age) whereas in the “government school” he is in the 3rdor 4thgrade. This is one of Manjil’s biggest gripes – the government school continues to pass children to the next grade even if they are not ready, and tends to place new students according to age. The parents, of course, think it’s better for their children to be in the higher grades so it’s an ongoing argument.
Eventually we head back up the hill to the school, where we decide to do our laundry. Like everything else that involves water (including the water needed for drinking, cooking, and washing dishes), this means a 10-minute trek to the town’s spring. That doesn’t sound so bad but it’s not that easy coming back with several full jugs of water, and the walk back also undoes the effects of having a “shower” (which is a fun process in itself, trying to wash yourself outside while remaining decently clothed, under a rather chilly tap!). We arrive at the spring to find that Sunday afternoon is the busiest time at the spring – a family is showering, doing a large load of laundry, and refilling water bottles; several other families & individuals arrive to have a wash & fill jugs. We’re a bit too polite and therefore wait about half an hour before getting a turn at the taps. Fanny shows us how to wet our clothes without spraying the water everywhere, and then how to soap/scrub each item on the ledges beside the spring. We have brought our concentrated liquid travel wash, which is great for handwashing in a sink, but we soon discover that it doesn’t go far without a container of water to work in. Next time we’ll just use a bar of soap!
As we are finishing our laundry and loading up the “head basket” (a big basket with a strap that fits over the head – most of the weight is borne by the wearer’s neck), one of our students (Goma) appears with her father. They insist that we come to their house for a drink. We are tired but it’s Fanny’s last day at the school, so we let ourselves be convinced to come for “just one drink”.
We discover that our cups “magically” refill when we are not looking, so one drink turns into two or maybe more. Goma’s family is funny – she has been teaching them English as she learns it at school (she’s very smart) so they are practicing on us. Goma’s father takes a shine to Chris’ watch and tries to buy it for 200 rupees (less than 2 pounds!) but he’s out of luck – Chris needs the watch to keep track of the class schedule ;-)
As we are leaving, Goma presents us with a big white pumpkin, which we add to our basket. She takes another pumpkin and walks part-way with us – she is going to her grandmother’s house to deliver it. The white is actually a coating which rubs off on her leg and skirt, and I tease her about becoming as white as me! Suman later tells us that these pumpkins are good for treating illnesses, especially in animals, so I suspect the white substance is a mold akin to penicillin.
After our busy weekend, we’re back to our regular school schedule on Monday. There are a few changes – Fanny leaves on Monday morning (after morning assembly, where the children sing her a good-bye song), and a Lithuanian volunteer (Erika) arrives in the afternoon. Our local bus isn’t running on Monday so Lisa offers to walk to Beltari to collect Erika from the jeep stop. It’s pretty easy to find – just keep heading down the hill =) There is a small shop there, where we stop for a soft drink (which we are not allowed to take home, because the woman insists on the immediate return of the glass bottles). We meet a very philosophical guy who seems to have similar views to Manjil regarding community development & creating more opportunities for locals, but he doesn’t seem to be offering anything concrete (or maybe we’re not understanding everything!). Then we take the long walk up the hill to the school. We stop at the local water tap to refill our bottles, but there is just a trickle of water – a neighbour shouts “pani” at us and refills the bottles from her own water jugs. It seems that the local tap is only on in the evening…? We reach the school to receive the welcome message that we’ve all been invited to Goma’s house for dinner, so we can relax with some raksi & have a night off from cooking & washing up.
It’s a lucky break that Erika is an artistic sort, so she will take over the Arts & Crafts classes that Fanny was doing. She’s even brought a big bag of art supplies! On Tuesday, another new volunteer arrives (Yadin from Singapore) but he will just stay with us for a few days & then head for the new school in eastern Nepal, to replace Enrique who will be leaving soon.
Chris’ week gets off to a good start – he gives out his first “star” to a student (handily, it is Vishnu’s brother, who is sometimes quite lazy about attending school & doing homework). He’s also doing some intensive work with two of the new students to help them catch up in English. One of those students withdraws after a few days (her father doesn’t want to do the two days of labour to “pay” for her education), but this is actually good news for the 2ndstudent, Punina, because she immediately becomes best friends with another classmate and starts participating more. Chris also learns to feed the pigs & ducks, and helps to kill and pluck a chicken for dinner.
Lisa’s keen to get in the kitchen and experiment with all the spices etc. She makes fried rice for lunch one day; cinnamon & ginger tea for breakfast; and a vegetable dish with a (sort of) satay sauce. The last one is a nice surprise for everyone because it’s really different from our usual curry & spicy flavours.
Lisa spends the day in Damauli on Tuesday to start her work on recruiting volunteers. The bus is still not working (we think it’s broken – all buses in Nepal are privately owned by “bus entrepreneurs” and in our area there is only one!), so she walks to Beltari to catch the jeep. It’s already full by the time it arrives, but as usual everyone is very accommodating & shuffles around on the roof to make a space in a prime position, in the front, with a bit of a “seat” on the spare tire. At first it’s a little scary – the jeep is pretty high, and the road is rough – but soon she realises that this is the best seat in the house. A great view, fresh air, no loud Nepali music, and no hitting one’s head on the ceiling! The locals are chatty and one speaks English, so he is translating for the others – soon they all know where Lisa is from, what she is doing in the area, and that she’s not scared to ride on top of the jeep ;-) We pass a big group of nicely-dressed people along the river near town – the English-speaking guy says it’s a wedding.
After a long day on the internet, and some quick shopping (a notebook for one of the students, some fruit juice, and a big pack of toilet paper) she hops in the last jeep of the day. Fingers crossed that it is the right one, as the drivers will say just about anything to fill up the seats in their vehicles! It starts off in the wrong direction, and the fellow sharing the backseat with Lisa says it is going to Pokhara – but she soon works out that he is teasing her. He turns out to be an English student and uses the journey time to practise.
At some stage of the journey, he points out Beltari – which is now below us hmm – and says we won’t stop there, but we are going to Chisopani which is the route normally taken by the bus. Lisa decides to get out when the jeep reaches our village, just in case it takes another random turn – besides, she is too tall for the back of the jeep and has been folded up long enough. She even manages to negotiate a 5 rupee discount on the price (well, it was 30 rupees to go down, but apparently 40 to go up – she DID say she was going to Beltari, and 10 seems a bit steep for the bit of extra distance to the village!). Unfortunately she forgets the toilet paper which was on top of the jeep…but the next morning, it appears in the schoolyard with the message that it isn’t useful to anyone else (only us weird Westerners use toilet paper!) ;-)
Much of the rest of our time this week is spent retrieving water (there have been a couple of storms, but there is not nearly enough rainwater for our needs and everyone takes turns to trundle back & forth with bottles & jugs…water is such a huge issue here argh). Manjil has a plan to set up a water line for the school & some of the village farms from a source higher up the hill, but it will take time, manpower and of course money.
Wednesday is a huge day. At 7am (1 hour early!) a jeep arrives, with a group of people from a charity called the Underprivileged Girls Education Support Program who will sponsor all of the female students in our school. We are all on our best behaviour, despite the early hour, and the meeting goes really well (we hope!). The students also arrive early, with their parents in tow (they usually walk to school on their own), and everyone gathers in one of the classrooms to receive new schoolbags containing notebooks, pencils, and vitamin B syrup.
Luckily for the boys (or maybe it was planned), our Gurkha friend also drops in that morning and does some marching drills for the boys only. It helps to keep them busy while the girls are measured for new uniforms & shoes, but still it must be difficult for them to understand why the girls are getting so much attention & free stuff. Still, it’s great news for the female students & the village to have this sponsorship, and we hope that someone will step up to do something similar for the boys soon.
Other bits & pieces from our week: Lisa sees a rather large snake in one of the local fields (but she likes snakes, so that’s OK ;-) ); Chris is competing with our little rabbit, the caterpillars, and a host of other pests to save our cabbage crop; both of us try to sort out the “library” (which currently has no sense of order – but does have more than a dozen copies of Animal Farm!); the local leopard nabs one of our small pigs and possibly a chicken as well; and we all have dinner at Tilu Miss’ house (one of our teachers). This meal is particularly delicious – starting with local “beer” (jaar) served with a soybean pickle, and then a main course made with pumpkin that is just the right level of spicy for our palates.
Next instalment: up the hill to Manjil’s village…..

Our first days at Maya Universe Academy

Nepali “local bus”
We have a fairly easy trip from Kathmandu to Damauli (the nearest large town to the school) – there is an empty taxi outside our hotel that takes us to Kalanki bus station (really just an area where minibuses constantly circle around an insanely busy roundabout, until they are packed to the rafters with customers). Someone pounces on our taxi as soon as we pull up, and herds us into a minibus bound for Pokhara – he seems to understand that we want to go only part-way, to Damauli. Our backpacks are strapped to the roof and we board the bus, to find all seats taken except 4, 3 of which are on the back row. We had noticed on previous journeys that many people refused to sit in the back row, especially women, but we’re not too sure why. We’re about to find out.
The driver refuses to leave Kathmandu until the last 2 seats are filled – his “salesman” and his “bag boy” are working hard, and find one customer quite quickly – but no one will accept the last vacant seat at the back of the bus. One elderly lady even goes so far as to sit down on this seat, have an argument with the salesman guy, and then storms back out of the bus. Finally, the driver faces facts and starts to head out of town with the one back seat still empty (leaving more space for us, hurray!). The salesman stays behind but the bag boy is shouting out the window “Pokhara, Pokhara” as we drive along, even at groups of 3 or 4 people – I’m sure they could squeeze in somewhere…? He does eventually pick up one fellow who squeezes in next to us, but gets off a couple of hours later.
We soon identify the issue with the back seat. As well as having no brakes, the bus appears to have no shocks. Every bump, stone & pothole (and there are a lot on Nepali roads) is felt by us as we fly up in the air and back down with a thump. Here I was thinking I’d catch up on some sleep during the 4 hour journey – not a chance.
After a toilet break at a random roadside toilet, and a lunch break at a particularly lovely restaurant overlooking the river, we bump & jolt our way into Damauli. Our timing is perfect, 2pm, as the bus we need should depart at 3pm. We disembark and set out to find “Mr Bupal” at Bupal Hardware – Manjil has assured us that he will help us to find the right bus & stop for the school. Everyone is helpful and points us in the right direction, and one of Mr Bupal’s customers is going to Chisopani (very near the school) so we follow him to the bus. A small lad who looks about 12, but is much stronger than me, hauls our backpacks on to the bus roof and straps them in, and we set out in search of lunch. The restaurant we choose has very welcome fans (Nepali buses are invariably hot & sweaty affairs!), but as usual there is no cheese, so our cheese sandwich dream is abandoned in favour of banana lassis.
We trundle back to the bus to find that all the seats are claimed with bags, clothing or delicious-looking snacks (giant cheesie sticks?!?, in bags that are the size of a small person). A 2nd, older bag boy appears and assures me that “this seat is free” as he moves someone’s bag from it; he does the same for Chris (once again in the back row). An elderly man who’d greeted us very enthusiastically when we boarded the bus comes back to have a conversation with us – in Nepali, so it doesn’t go too well. We THINK he might have some grandchildren at the school – he clearly understands we are going there, and he keeps making small & medium signs with his hands. He’s also really keen to touch us (we later notice that he has this habit with other passengers too – clearly someone who doesn’t need personal space!). A few more passengers appear and we are shifted around accordingly, but then two passengers who had claimed seats offer to sit on the roof so that we can have seats. The 3pm bus doesn’t leave until almost 4pm, and is fully loaded (including several people on the roof with the luggage and 3 boxes of one-day-old chicks peeping away at the front). The bus heads uphill over a crazy excuse for a road.
Main building – home for volunteers, as well as a storage for books, toys & food, and the kindergarten classroom
Bamboo classroom
We arrive in front of the school (after some debate amongst the passengers about our desired destination) and head up the small access road. We are greeted by Manjil and a few students who have stayed late to work on homework (or perhaps just to meet us – they’re really excited and take our hands, sit on our laps, and ask a million questions). We also meet some other volunteers & staff – Vishnu, a local fellow who used to be Manjil’s bodyguard & driver, and now does lots of useful things around the school’s farm (and makes delicious food, as it turns out); Suman, another Nepali who studies in Thailand for most of the year; Fanny, a French girl who has been in Nepal for several months and has mostly been WWOOF’ing, but has been at the school recently and came back for a week after they requested her help (they are very short of people right now). Missing is Suriya, who is sick in bed (we later find out he has chicken pox ugh). He is also Nepali but will soon leave to study in the USA.
Our new house in the woods!
We settle into our beautiful bamboo hut in the forest (reserved for couples apparently – other volunteers & Manjil sleep upstairs in the main school building), and then it is time to walk up the hill to the home of Krishna, one of the students. He lives with his grandparents, who are too old to come to the school and help for 2 days per week (this is the agreement made with parents, because the school is free but needs lots of help). So they make dinner for everyone once per week.
The walk is really interesting because the path passes directly in front of each house. It feels like walking through a dozen front gardens! There is plenty of opportunity to say “Namaste” to the local people =)
Dinner is on the front porch of the house – we take off our shoes and sit on a mat. We start with raksi (local alcohol – very mild) and some small pieces of chicken. Mine includes a piece of the chicken liver. The main dish is dal baaht (lentil & rice) with more chicken. Everything is eaten with our hands – Fanny shows us how to use our thumb to scoop the rice on to the tips of our fingers. We all enjoy the dinner, have a nice getting-to-know-you chat, and head back down the hill to sleep.
The next few days are spent getting used to the routines at the school. Chris will teach some British history to the highest level students (A class). Both of us will teach reading & writing to this class & also B and C classes. There is a kindergarten as well, but for now we will not teach there. Altogether there are about 50 students, including 10 new ones who start on our first day- children whose families live at the top of our hill, on land given to them by the Christians.
Teachers & volunteers
Lisa’s main jobs will be to look after the rice fields, and finding more volunteers & getting some international media attention. This will mean regular visits to Damauli, which is good news for the blog!
Also we need to get used to the food – often curry for breakfast; lots of rice (usually dal baaht); no milk products and very little meat. The spicy food is particularly worrying since we have a typical Nepali toilet – ie. squatting over a hole, no seat!
We get to know Manjil & the other volunteers a bit better on our 2ndnight, when we play a game of “Vampire” where one person in the group is the “evil anthropologist”, and everyone must guess which one. This mainly consists of accusing people & gauging their reaction, forming “alliances” where you agree to vote against the same person; or “taking responsibility” in a bid to get EVERYONE to vote with you against one person- if your accusation is wrong, you will be the next to get voted out. It reminds me of “The Weakest Link” game show ;-)
In our next post, we’ll detail our first weekend in the village, which included a puja (a ceremony, which in our village involved a large number of chickens), lots of visiting the neighbours for drinks, and an influx of presents!