Friday, 16 October 2009

Going Dutch

Hello all,

I have absolutely no idea what I wrote about last time, but I think it had something to do with the school at Nagarkot, and with the fact that Jill was expecting a Dutch volunteer to arrive.

So, to keep you all up to date, this is the news this week. We eventually determined that I wasn't going to Chitwan last week, for various reasons which I won't go into but were infurating at the time. Jill and I, therefore, both went to the airport on Monday to pick up Elise, who is a volunteer at Oxfam in Newcastle who wanted to do a bit of volunteering in Nepal before her boyfriend arrives and they go off on a trek. We took her up to Nagarkot Cottage, and met the new manager there, Shri Krishna, and also the staff, two of whom were at the cottage last time we were there. There have been some changes since we were last there; the "mouse" rooms have now been demolished (we used to stay there sometimes when the place was full with a tour group) and they are starting to build new rooms, and the garden is being extended and a vegetable patch being created. It's still a great place to stay, however, and most mornings this week we've had views of the tops of some of the himalayan peaks which have made a good start to the day.

Jill has been introducing Elise to the school and health post, whilst I've been catching up with some of my students - Rupa and Sakul. We also took Elise down to Bhaktapur one day to show her the local "town".

It hasn't all been restful and fun though, as this morning we had a meeting with the Headmaster and the Chairman of the School Committee and some of the teachers at Shree Gadgade School to look over the accounts for the building of the new school and to ask a few questions about whose money has gone where. It would appear that the government has provided some money, we have provided another tranche (from donations and from selling the calendars last year), and a Norwegian group have provided a third sum. Some of the government's money was spent on the new library as the charity provided matched funding for it. And once we'd done the sums, we worked out that the school has probably spent about 1000 pounds more than they have on the school building. So that's going to be interesting for them! No doubt we will be having yet more discussions.

Today we came back to Kathmandu so that we can show Elise around. Despite having never been to Asia before she hasn't experienced too much of a culture shock so far as we took her straight up to Nagarkot. The busy-ness of Kathmandu, however, may take a little longer to get used to, as will finding her way around.

It's holiday time again in Nepal - the Tihar festival, which is more commonly known as Diwali. Today is crow day, when people put food and other things out for crows as they are the messengers of the dead. Tomorrow is dog day when dogs get the special tika mark on their foreheads and are garlanded with mallas of marigolds (if they stay still long enough). It's probably the only day in the year when dogs are treated really well in Nepal. It is also Laxmi Puja tomorrow which is when people clean out their homes and shops and decorate them with lights and flowers in order to welcome the goddess of wealth, Laxmi, into their homes and businesses. Needless to say, there won't be the usual 2 hour power cut tomorrow! Sunday is cow day, when cows get the special tika mark on their foreheads etc etc, and on Monday is Bhai Tika when sisters worship their brothers.

Jill and I and Elise have been invited to worship our Nepali brother, BP (and yes, he did ask if we wanted to go and worship him), so we are going with him on Monday to his sister's house to join in the celebrations. There's quite a ritual involved, including placing seven different coloured tikas on his forehead, so I hope there will be someone there to show us the ropes as we haven't done it for three years. There is also an exchange of gifts involved, so Jill and I are frantically wracking our brains trying to decide what to buy (Elise has brought some crocus bulbs from Holland and is going to give those to him). At the moment the favourite is Walkers Scottish shortbread (which you can actually buy in Kathmandu) because he likes sweets and liked the shortbread we bought last time. And then it will back to Nagarkot for more meetings.

So that's me up to date for the moment. I'll add a few pictures to this when I get time, and also some Bhai Tika ones, but I have to say that I can see now why people do bring their own laptops to Nepal - every time I put my USB drive or camera card reader anywhere near a computer something or other reports a virus.

Take care all of you and Happy Tihar!



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