A Travellerspoint blog

Heading Back Home

sunny 26 °C

It is very hard for me to think that I will be returning home in a couple of days. It seems like a life time since I left - yet it only has been 8 weeks. Has this been a life changing experience? Right now I can't even think about that as my mind has been stretched to the limit - I can not even begin to explain what I have seen and experienced. The constant assault on my senses daily - the sights, sounds, smells, taste and touch have been to hard to process all at once. The sights that have broken my heart due to the effects of poverty to a depth that I could have never thought possible, rag pickers (street children) picking through garbage to sell useable items in order to eat and the beauty of the Himalayas and children playing (20 games you can play with rocks); the sounds of horns blaring, dogs barking and people constant and never ending to the wonderful sound of Tibetan music and children laughing; the smells of garbage rotting on the street and pollution to the wonderful smells of the different kinds of spices and chia tea; to the taste of water buffalo, goat and mutton to the wonderful taste of bananas, squash shoots and mustard leaves; to the heart breaking touch of a street child and a mother desperate to get milk for her baby to the hugs and kisses of the children of the orphanage. In 8 short weeks it has been a lot to process and to fully comprehend.

I was able to gain a better understanding of this country and all the issues it faces. The minimum wage is 125Rs (90 cents) a day Nepal is a country with one of the highest child mortality rates - 1 in 16 children dies before the fifth birthday - in that number a third die even before they are a year old. Education is not free so the poorest families do not send their children to school; there are no teachers in many of the remote villages; children are removed from their parents or given away as they can not afford to feed them; some children are adopted but usually for a profit by the agency placing them - and the majority of the time parents are still alive but say nothing. Health care is expensive when you only make 125 Rs a day - the average hospital visit cost between 2000 - 3000 Rs. Food and fuel prices are going up so more people are ending up in situations of extreme poverty. And I can go on and on. It is a very hard life here as it is in any 3rd world country.

I will do some work for the orphanage in Canada which makes be very happy. Looking for volunteers and fund raising. Volunteers would have opportunities to work in a remote village teaching English or the orphanage. When I went to visit the orphanage this week I was able to meet some wonderful volunteers that really, really care for the children - I am so happy - these children need so much including being loved and cared for. Things will be changing in the next several months that will only improve their living situation. It can only get better for them.

In thinking about all of this I am surprised that my culture shock to a certain degree was a lot less then I thought possible. Most of it had to do with "doing without" - it was more of a giving up of things and working around things - no paper towels to grab when someone spilled something, no appliances, no big supermarkets and department stores, no TV, limited food options, hot water, etc. Really the very basics and I survived. Living with a Hindu family in an orphanage and then with Buddhist nuns - experiencing day to day life that was so totally different then anything I knew. But after living here I can't help but wonder if I took someone from here I brought them to live with me for 8 weeks what would happen?

I remember some wise words someone told me - you have this type of experience and it will change you. You will look at things very differently upon your return - that is when the culture shock happens. Something else to look forward too !!!!

Not a brilliant last blog entry - my excuse is that I have a bad cold and my head feels like a giant cotton ball !!!! I will sign off now and thanks for reading.

Posted by LiseD 00:24 Archived in Nepal Comments (0)

The Nuns and the Monk

sunny 22 °C

I live in a strange place - it's all been interesting so far. I am really not sure how many nuns live here - I think it is around 20 or so nuns. That number changes depending on who you ask. I do need to say as I have gotten to know the nuns that some of the nuns are very committed to their way of life. They are very serious and do devout themselves to their spiritual quest. I still feel this is a small number of them and I still really don't understand fully the reason for this place. However as I learn more I am starting to think their role is to learn the teachings of Buddha and seek enlightenment - and maybe that is all it is - that's my best guess.

In my English class I have 9 nuns and 1 monk - that number changes from day to day depending on what is happening - their ages are from 16 to 30. The one Monk that lives in the Nunnery is the nephew of the boss man of this Nunnery -(I have not met the boss man - I don't think that is the proper term to address him? as of yet as he was in America for 2 or 3 months raising funds - he just returned the other day). I am told that the nephew fell off of something and suffered from a brain injury of some kind - the nuns say he is OK however at times he gets very upset. It really does not explain why he lives here - the nuns say this would not be allowed in any other Nunnery - I am really not surprised. He is an odd sort of fellow- he actually fits right in with the other characters here.

My group of students can memorize really well and appear to do well it class - however without a book or direction they are totally lost. While a lot of focus has been put on copying (writing) grammar I have decided to make them have verbal conversations and have enforced the rule of only speaking English in class (this has not worked so well !!!) In class they can you use the right tense however get them out of the classroom and they still ask - "Where you go?" I always have to correct them - Where are you going?; Where did you go? They also do not understand the meaning of words they copy. It's all been interesting.r

We have hardly had any classes as it has been holiday time and they have had extra Puja days. As they still haven't figured out yesterday, tomorrow and today - it has been difficult to ask them if there is class or not. We are working on that - but it has been slow. I also figured out they can't really tell time or have any concept of time. We are working on that - but it has been slow - really slow. In Nepal the year is 2065 - the Nepali calendar is a little confusing so I have them using a standard calendar as I sort of don't understand that Nepali calendar - it is very confusing. Besides those little issues we have a lot of fun - they really like action songs, fairy tales and drawing. I now have them role playing dialogue - I am hoping they can experience conversations as opposed to just words and sentences. We laugh an awful lot so I think they do enjoy it.

In the evening (when the power is on) I do extra reading with one of the nuns - I did manage to find some really good books that are Nepali and English. As I found out some of the Tibet nuns can not read Nepali so these books have worked well to teach them how to read Nepali as well.

As the boss man (I have to find out how to address him) was coming back the nuns and monk really started to clean - washing floors (they have an odd way of washing the floor), dusting and doing yard work. The place is still pretty dirty and really not cared for at all but every little bit helps. The kitchen is pretty bad - so I just don't go there. Again it is just rinsing things under cold water - pots and pans, dishes, etc. are not really clean.

In the afternoon the nuns sit on the back lawn and have tea - this would be a tea called "salt tea". I had one tiny mouth full - it is like really gross !!! I don't know how they drink it - it is water, powered milk and salt (lots of salt). One day one of the nuns made me Lassie - which was really good - it is made with curd, fruit and powered milk. It is served very cold - it tasted like a milkshake. Mind you the curd did not sit well with me - however I did enjoy it - it was almost healthy !!!

I have not been feeling so great this past week however I realize my time is running out and I still had things I wished to see. I went to a place called Pashupatinath - this place has the most important Hindu temple in Nepal - however non-Hindus are not allowed inside the temple however there was a lot to see outside. I did manage to get sort of a picture of the backside of the golden bull - which is about 300 years old and very big. The temple is located on Bagmati River which would be like the Ganges - a very holy river. It is also the place for cremations - a little different then in the West - the body is covered with wood and then set on fire - right there by the side of the river - afterwards the ashes are put in the river. What luck I was able to see a "burning pyre" !!! At first I wasn't sure what I was looking at - I was on the other side of the river - other people were taking pictures so I did as well - I will put it up on my photo site. I am not sure if the burning body smells or not - I have a bad cold - thank goodness. Anyway I think that would be the worse job in the world to make sure there is enough wood and the body burns fully. The family is in a private area by their burning loved one. After that is finished they actually spend 13 days on the temple grounds in a mourning room. I don't know - if my family had to spend 13 days in a small enclosed space I think by the end of it we would be doing another cremation !!! As well every year after the death you need to return and ask for the blessing of one of the priest - this is very important if it is one of your parents that have died. The only people that are not cremated are the Holy men and babies under 6 months - I really don't know why?

There are also lots of Holy Men - some are really strange looking - I would have taken pictures of some of the stranger ones however you need to pay them every time you take their pictures. They as well live on the temple grounds. I also took a picture of this really strange looking things that had dolls at the top of it - so I asked why are there dolls at the top of those really high poles - I was told that during one of the festivals - I don't know which one - instead of a doll they put a female baby at the top !!!! I really didn't believe that so I went to ask one of the tourist guide people - he told me the same thing. I think my heart skipped a beat with fear - I am glad I did not see that.

After my visit to Pashupathinath I was off to Bodhnath. I will be spending two days here. It is the Tibetan community and I really find it nice, peaceful and relaxing here. I am also hoping that I feel better before getting on that plane next week - 22 odd hours in the air with a cold will not be good as well as a few minor other health things. I thought a nice peaceful relaxing place that has hot water and flush toilets (I am a little focused on these two things !!) will all be good !!!

I will be returning to the orphanage next week for one last visit before I leave for home as I have to say goodbye to the children. They want me to spend my last night with them - I will have to see about that - depending on the transportation issues to the airport this may not be possible.

The next blog entry will be my last as I am leaving to return home next week. So until then take care !!

Oh by the way the winter season has started here so it is much cooler - today it is 22C and will drop down to 17C tonight. It is very chilly !!!! I think I will be in for a bit of a surprise when I return home as I noticed today it is 9C dropping to -4C tonight.

Posted by LiseD 22:05 Archived in Nepal Comments (0)

Dasain Festival

This past week has been the Dasain Festival - many people leave Kathmandu to return to their villages - you can tell as many places are closed and it is very difficult to get a taxi. Dasain is suppose to last 15 days however it has been decreased to 10 days - however schools are closed from anywhere from 15 to 30 days. This festival is really a family affair - people visit relatives and have relatives over just about everyday. The festival celebrates the victory of the goddess Durga over the forces of evil personified in the buffalo demon. Durga is bloodthirsty - so the festival is marked by killing goats, water buffalo and sheep - this the biggest animal sacrifice of the year.

I have been really lucky as I was invited to a number of homes during this time - as well I did go back to the orphanage to share a meal with the children. It was wonderful to see them again and they were all excited to see me. I will see them one more time before I go. They have another volunteer and will be getting another two in the next few days - this is really good as they are out of school for the month.

The trip out to the orphanage was a wild one for sure - Deepak one of the people involved with the orphanage invited to come with him as he was cooking the meal. So off we go - Deepak is a wild motorcycle driver - anyway half way to the orphanage it began to rain - even downpour would not begin to describe the amount of water that came from the sky - I was soak within seconds and the streets became flooded - I thought oh we are going to tip over - as the rain kept coming down faster Deepak thought it best that I go in a Tuk-Tuk - this is a very small 3 wheel bus - so I get in - and my biggest fear came to be - soap was running down my leg and I had bubbles in my hair - I don't think anyone noticed as the Tuk-Tuk kept going sideways due to the little flood on the road people started getting out quickly - everyone accept me of course !!! All at once the Tuk-Tuk stops and says get out - I guess it was the end of his route. I am looking outside and can't see Deepak anywhere - I thought this is great - however Deepak appeared - the rain had slowed down so I hopped onto the bike and off we went. After that ride I said to Deepak - I will take a taxi back thank you. Anyway he called one of his friends to come and pick me up in a car - thank goodness !!!

The next day I went to Deepak's house for lunch and to meet his family. I am always shocked at how people live here - very basic - not much of anything - maybe I am use to having so much stuff around me. Deepak's sister has just come back from Paris with a friend - so it was very nice to speak to them. Deepak's wife was not well at all so I only spoke to her for a few mins - I met his daughter, his mother and other relatives. It was all wonderful until lunch was served - that would goat again - this time I said I don't eat meat, They were very nice about it.

The day after was the big event of the festival - tika - so the oldest relative gives tika to all the younger ones - then the next oldest does the same thing and it goes on and on until everyone has given and received tika from everyone, They also give money to the person giving the tika. Padma invites me to celebrate this event with his family (this is the family that gave me goat the first time) so off I go. He brings me to a relative's house - most of his siblings live in two houses side by side - lots of relatives - all very nice. So they start the giving of the tika - I did not realize you needed to give money - it also has to be new money - I am not sure what to do - I was in luck as if you are a guest they give you money instead of you giving them money. That was a little odd - so tika, tika, tika - I ended up with 250 R which is like 3 dollars. It was all fun until we had to eat - mutton would be on the menu - and how do you say "no thank you" - so I had mutton - or I tried to pretend I was eating it - then one of the relatives asked - you don't like my mutton - Oh no I said it taste so good I really want to get all taste. Anyway I ate my mutton and smiled.

One of the things that the children do during this time is fly kites and build a swing - it has to be the most interesting looking swing and hard to explain so I did take a picture of it.

The following day I was invited to Prakash's house - he has a wife and a little boy. He lives in a small house - actually it is really nice and is in a quite area - so it was very nice afternoon - of course until we had lunch. This was interesting again - they do have a helper - a girl from Prakash's village who wanted to go to school so she is living with them and attending school - she helps out around the house. As Prakash's wife was having her period she could not go anywhere near the kitchen - she is very Hindu - anyway lunch is chicken - I do it eat it - it taste good as long as I don't think of the chickens I have seen in the Market - I am good. It was a very good meal.

Prakash and his wife are a "love marriage" - she is Hindu and he is a Buddhist. It took a long time before they could get married as the families needed to agree to the arrangement - they did after about 3/4 years. We talked about arranged marriages - Prakash said most of his friends who have had arranged marriages are the happiest. The other thing he spoke about was how children ended up as monks and nuns - in most of Nepal - rural area families will send the middle child to become a nun or a monk - if the middle is shared both children go. Again the middle child - how much can a middle child take !!!! Prakash told me a story about his village and a family who had 2 sons - both sons were in their twenties - and set in their careers - then mother became pregnant and the youngest became the middle child and was told he had to become a monk, After much family "upset" he did become a monk as his mom and dad were both elderly and in poor health. His thought was that he could always become a monk and leave at anytime. I guess this is pretty easy to do.

I had a great time and then it came time to leave - Prakash takes his 20 month old son and puts him at the front of the motorcycle - and says lets go - I took a picture of that as well - I said oh in Canada we can't do that - he was surprised - everyone does it here. So often we went - I kept thinking I don't like this much !!!

So that was my social activities during Dasain - I have been really lucky to meet such wonderful people who really what to include me in their families. It has been a lot of fun and very interesting !

Posted by LiseD 01:58 Archived in Nepal Comments (0)

PICTURES - PICTURES !!!

After many tries and many problems - finally I have pictures - the link is:

http://www.flickr.com/gp/31100327@N05/qy0F27

the "0" are zeros - the link must be exact or it will not work

It takes a long time to download however I will try to put as many as possible over the next couple of weeks !!!!!

Have a great weekend !

Lise

Posted by LiseD 01:11 Archived in Nepal Comments (0)

Everyday It's Something New

sunny 28 °C

It has been an interesting couple of weeks - some good and some bad - but it has all been an experience !!! As you will be able to tell by this enter I am a bit scattered !!!

As Ruth was with me the first week of my stay at that Monastery we did a bit of traveling around the Kathmandu area. One of the places I took her was to Patan to see the Tibetan Singing Bowl Center as her daughter is into natural healing - this seem like the place to go. Ruth enjoyed the owner of this store as much as I did - and she even had a bowl on her head. It was a lot of fun and well worth the trip.

We also went to Bhaktapur - this is a place with no cars. It took us about 2 hours to get here - it is only 7 kms outside of Kathmandu. The traffic was so bad - I have never experienced a traffic jam like this before - a little ironic considering we were going to a place with no cars ! It was an interesting trip - as our taxi driver tried to avoid the traffic jam he decided to go down many back streets - we saw a lot of meat and chicken stalls selling things like goat heads - actually the other day I saw a whole bunch of wild boar heads - I have decided goat heads are not so bad. The grounds at Bhaktapur were very clean and we saw a lot of different temples. The sad part is that nothing is cared for - so wonderful woodwork is all left unprotected and will one day rot away. We visited a paper making factory - very basic and again no safety standards. Workers are silk screening in very tiny rooms with no air movement at all - the smell of ink and other chemicals just about knocked me over - I didn't stay long !!!! The trip back was much faster - thank goodness !!!

We also went to a place called Bodhnath - it is a Tibetan village and one of the most peaceful places I have ever been too. We met Troy's friend David (thank you Troy - David is a wonderful person) who is a photographer for World Vision. We had a wonderful afternoon and Ruth & I ate real food - yes !!! I will be spending my last weekend or at least a night in Bodhnath before I leave - in the evening it turns back into a real Tibetan village after all the tourist have left - so I am looking forward to that experience.

Everyday at 5:30 a.m. I have been going to a yoga class - it is interesting - from 5:30 to 7:00 a.m. on the first level of the Monkey Temple over 200 people gather to do yoga. I always try to sit in the middle as the monkeys like to walk around the edges - they scare me. When I first arrive I have to walk up this hill and it is a bit dark - and it never fails those darn Monkeys are sitting on the edge of the path - I do go by them and hope they don't come near me. Even sitting in the middle doesn't help sometimes - the other day a group of monkeys decided to walk right pass me - of course they past by all the other people but I thought they went out of their way to go pass me - I think they know I do not like them much.

Last Sunday I decided to go for a walk (Ruth had left on the Saturday) after yoga - Sunday is my day off - so off I went to the other side of Thamel. Not a pretty sight at that time of day - there was a lot of street children sleeping on the street curled up with the dogs. They are of all ages - some I would guess to be around 3 or 4 years of age. Mother's with tiny, tiny babies sleeping on the street. Later on in the day I heard this child crying - it was a mother with three children - she was hitting the youngest one with a rope very hard. I just froze as I didn't really no what to do - anyway I decided to just walk in-between the mother and the child - as I did this I stopped and looked at the mother and said what a cute child and gave her a couple of rupees - she stopped hitting the child and was very pleased. I walked into a bookstore - she did not hit the child again. About 10 mins later I heard the child screaming again - I looked and some tourist were walking by - as I had given her money she may have thought why not try it again maybe these tourist would give her money as well - I really did not see that one coming. I was very upset as I thought what have I done?

The street children have increased greatly over the past 3 -4 years in Kathmandu - glue sniffing and IV drug use is high even among the very young - there are many different levels of poverty - these children would be the ones that fall under abject poverty without a doubt. Very few of the street children our literate - they come from the rural areas where parents do not see the immediate benefit of sending children to school. There are about 7.8 million people in Nepal that are illiterate - most of them are from the rural areas. The schools were closed a few days ago as they were celebrating Children's day - the slogan was "Ensuring Child Rights for a New Nepal" - Nothing happened and there was no mention of the street children nor for the number of rural children sent to India to become sex workers, workers in the circus and workers in factories - the numbers continue to grow every month. Unfortunately the focus of the government this past month has been the cost of festivals and the number of goats/water buffalo you can kill during this time. I realize the festivals and killing of goats, etc. has to do with trying to deal with all the different cultures and religions - it is a very delicate balance right now - many a strike and protest have happened during the past few weeks - riots and burning tires in the street - not a great thing either.

Anyway another interesting thing - or at least I find it interesting -

One of the things I did find out about TEEJ - the women's festival - that they fast all day - the fast is broken in the evening after drinking water used to wash their husband's feet - this is a tradition that is still being carried out - I still don't understand the concept of the women's festival but all I have to say I am glad I live in Canada !!!!!

Posted by LiseD 23:50 Archived in Nepal Comments (0)

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