Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Before the quake

Myself, Megan & Caryn (fellow volunteers) @ the volunteer house before heading to Thamel for dinner.

Sunday, September 18, 2011


I am way behind on this blog, but I have to bump some previous entries that I'm working on to let everyone know about the earthquake. When it hit I was sitting at Or2K, a restaurant in Thamel that we often go to. I was sitting with Megan, Caryn & Jess, waiting for Travis & Niamh to join us. The room started to sway ever so slightly, and I didn't think too much of it, but then it just didn't stop. It lasted long enough for us to realize what was happening, discuss (very calmly) what we should do, get up and move to a safer location and discuss again if we should maybe move outside. It finally stopped and the room was a buzz with commotion. We found out later that Niamh & Travis had just been entering the restaurant when it happened and ran back outside. The building we were in was on the 3rd story, and had a tin roof. Outside is narrow streets surrounded by relatively tall buildings. I have no idea which would be safer. We did enjoy the rest of the evening, although everything was very surreal. I think we were all thinking about how bad it could have been. We had Internet access where we were and spent a lot of the time checking the news and contacting family to let them know we were ok. There are reports of a few deaths in Kathmandu, at the British embassy where a wall collapsed. I just walked by the building on Friday to get my Indian visa. I think there may have been more damage near the epicenter which I believe was close to the Nepal/India border.

It has been a crazy 2 weeks, lots of highs and lows. I am lucky to be surrounded by such great people. As Celine (a volunteer from France) says. "We are a wee family" And as we experience this new culture, share our ups and downs (from stomach problems to head lice, to "oh my god the kids did the cutest thing today" to understanding how these people can go to the bathroom without using toilet paper???) we get closer. Being together during the earthquake has also strengthened that bond I think. I only have 3 more nights until I leave Nepal. While I am ready to move on and see more of the world, I will be sad to say goodbye to the kids at umbrella and everyone in our "wee family".

Right now I am sitting in the dark in my room typing on my iTouch. It has been raining ever so slightly since we came back from Thamel. The rain just picked up and now it's pouring. I love the sound of the rain. Even though most of my clothes are outside hanging, getting a second rinsing, I am happy that I had a roof to come home to tonight. Had the earthquake been worse, who knows where I would be right now. But chances are I wouldn't be inside out of the rain, safe in my bed.
On the other hand, if the rain doesn't stop for a few hours between now and Wednesday, I may have to travel with wet clothes.

Friday, September 2, 2011


I don't know if this works, but it's an audio recording of a conversation between myself and one of the girls. She was doing my hair at the time, so when we're talking about 'rubbers' we're talking hair elastics. Thought I should clarify that. It's kinda boring, and don't laugh at my broken English. After a few days around the kids it just happens. Sometimes us volunteers talk to each like that too, just out of habit.

Tuesday, August 30, 2011


This is the snake that was killed near our house.

3rd cheek

I was just bragging to someone about how I don't use mosquito repellant anymore cuz the bugs aren't so bad now and I hardly react to the bites that I have gotten. Well today I got bitten and reacted. Right on my bum cheek. It's so big it's becoming it's own cheek. Don't worry, I won't post a photo.

Irrational fears?

Ever sat on the toilet and had some totally irrational thought that a 6 foot long snake might bite you in the a$$? Or sat on your rooftop enjoying the sun, maybe doing some washing and thought that you might be attacked by monkeys?
When I was a kid we had a pool in the backyard. It wasn't huge, but it was awesome. I never swam in it much when I was alone. Why not? Well the leaves and odd hair that would gather in a pile at the bottom of the pool would come alive. I would float around watching it, letting my imagination get the better of me, until there was a giant monster waiting to attack me, lurking at the bottom. And then there were the sharks. Now I know it was totally irrational, and I was completely safe, but still, I was young and wasn't totally sure that sharks aren't commonly found in chlorinated swimming pools, and that monsters aren't real.
30 years later, I'm pretty brave j think. But fears that normally would be totally irrational, are rational in Nepal.
Today, a local man killed a snake next door to the volunteer house. Apparently it was six feet long. I don't know much about our plumbing, but I do know it comes from down below, where the snakes are.
I went to the bathroom tonight during a power outage and found myself having one of those irrational "what if there's a snake waiting to bite my a$$ thoughts" and couldn't convince myself that it's something I SHOULDN'T be afraid of, because suddenly it's not so irrational. And with the power out, my flashlight batteries dead, and being out of candles, I couldn't even check.
And the monkey thing? Well the monkeys are everywhere, they're sneaky and have shifty eyes. I haven't heard if any attacks, but I don't trust them.


Teej is a Nepali festival where women celebrate in honor of their husbands and in the hope of a long and happy married life.
At umbrella it is celebrated by all the women in the houses, including volunteers.
We all wore Sari's, had mehndi done (that's the henna drawing they do on your hand) and went for a night out at the local cafe. It was kinda like going to a wedding of someone you don't know with a couple of friends. Us volunteers stuck together, Some of the didi's played the role of the crazy drunk aunts, And everyone was all awkward and polite with the people you didn't really know. Now there wasn't any alcohol served, but we noticed the women going into the bathroom in groups. I had my suspicions about a bottle of Roxy (nepali moonshine) being passed around. Add to that the language barrier and great fun was had by all.
I think what i liked like most about Teej was how it gave myself and the house mother something to talk about,
The Gauri Shankar house mother is great at what she does. Herself and her husband run the house. I think she has the more active role. Being a mom to 36 pre-teen and teenagers can't be easy. She kinda intimidates me. The fact that I hear her talking about me and laughing alot doesn't help. I'm sure it's all
In good humor, but I have NO idea what's she's saying. I just hear "sister" alot, and I'm pretty sure she's talking about me.
So anyways, she is the one that told me about Teej, what it was and how I needed to get a sari. She tailored it for me, and had one if the didi's take me shopping for a petticoat. Again she laughed at me when I said I'd wear shorts underneath. "hahahaha, No Sister, get a petticoat". In hindsight, that advice was very wise.
Me buying, and wearing traditional clothing was also exciting for the girls. After they heard I was going to buy and wear a sari they asked me about it everyday until I bought it. When I bought it I made sure I brought it right over to show them. They liked it:)
And the day I wore
It one of the older girls in the house dressed me, while about half a dozen watched. Good thing I'm not shy!
"Sister show!" one girl said as she lifted up her shirt a little. Oh god, this isn't good. I had worn the shirt I was going to wear with the sari, specifically, because I knew that there would be an audience. Know I had worn my thickest granny painties for when I had to take off my pants and put on the petticoat and had been really quick about it. So what is this show and tell thing?
After she repeated herself and kept lifting her shirt to show off the tiniest bit of belly I realized they all wanted to point and gawk at my white stomach. The skin they see; ankles and arms, has gotten tanned, but my belly is still white as winter. So i lifted my shirt, just a little, to the sound of giggles and laughter and "sister, you sooooo white"
Apparently it just doesn't get old. I kinda feel like a circus freak, but at least I know they find it attractive, so I'm not too self conscious about it. It's weird, in north America, we sell self tanners and here, there are hundreds of products to lighten your skin.

I also had one of the girls do my makeup. I had no idea what to expect, but knew they'd like doing it, and could probably do it better than me. I bought an eyeliner at the local beauty shop. They only sell one, it's liquid and it's black. I handed over the eyeliner and my mascara, and let them do whatever they wanted. The same girl that dressed me did it. She is our Fashionista I think. She also did all the mehndi. The final result was a very cleopatra look. I put on my pink lipgloss and was ready to go. One of the girls says to me "red lipstick sister?".
Now I think i was pretty open to everything, but I do have to draw the line somewhere. Red lipstick is my line.

Saturday, August 27, 2011

Tan update

I put on a bandaid today and it was lighter than my skin color. That never happens. I MUST be tanned :)

Friday, August 26, 2011

Last day of exams for class 3

Today I only had five girls to walk to school. They were soooo wound up, I swear someone switched their morning dhal batt for Cocoa Puffs. Half way there I had to stop them and request that they try to stay together. They were either running miles ahead or walking slow and beating on each other (in a non-violent sisterly sort of way). I told them the were harder to handle than the group of 24 that there normally was. They apologized profusely and one of the more dramatic girls exclaimed "it would be our great pleasure to stay together and listen to you sister" as she batted her eyelashes and flashed me her best smile. Now THAT is more like it. They were acting a little bit like scolded puppies though so i felt kinda bad. To remind them that we can be good and still have fun we stopped for Tikka and a photo before carrying on to school. The picture isn't great... I know I look terrible, I am running on 3 hours sleep and little patience.
The girls if course always look beautiful.

Thursday, August 25, 2011

Monkey Business

Monkeys have and always will be a problem at the Volunteer House.

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Enroute to Gauri Shankar House

Just a couple of photo's I took on my way to the house this afternoon. By the looks of the dark clouds i thought it was going to rain for sure. It didn't.

Boys playing soccer, or as they call it here 'football'

Monday, August 22, 2011

Night Out Continued.....

Sunday morning I woke up and enjoyed a nice warmish shower. After I left the hotel I wandered the streets aimlessly taking photos. Because I was carrying overnight toiletries I had my packsack which has a Canadian Flag on the back. It seems to give people an opening line to
approach you. Before lunch I heard 'Canada? Capital city Ottawa. Rickshaw? Where you going? I give you cheap rate." from about half a dozen rickshaw drivers. "canada? Capital city Ottawa? You want pashmina? Good price on cashmere!" from the merchants.
And finally, "Canada! Capital city Ottawa! Where you going? I show you a temple if you want?" from an incredibly handsome Indian student, who claimed he wasn't any sort of guide.
I declined them all, and carried on me merry way.
Later on that afternoon I bumped into fellow volunteer Megan who was heading to the spa for a massage. After her appointment we met up for dinner and drinks and then crashed at another guest house that was even nicer than the one I stayed at the previous night. There was also plenty of hot water. I showered 4x altogether on my weekend away. Water is $$ at the volunteer house as it's trucked in every few days, so we donour best to conserve it. It's nice to go out and not have to worry about it.

While in Thamel, I picked up a copy of the "Lonely Planet - Europe on a shoestring" a skirt, and another pair of comfy 'wouldn't be caught dead wearing around town back home'. Pants. I also picked up a few blisters from all the walking. And also maybe because my flip flops are starting to wear out.

Another bonus of staying overnight in Thamel is that most guest houses have free WiFi. I was able to catch up with a few friends online over the weekend, which was also nice :)

Saturday, August 20, 2011

Night out

I came to Thamel last night to get away and spend some time away from the other volunteers. I found a hotel for 500 rupees. Which is about $6.50 Canadian. It's not the Pan Pacific. It's pretty loud. My neighbor Luke seemed to be sleeping pretty soundly though as somebody was banging on his door and yelling his name for about half an hour this morning around 6am. The quieter noises were drowned out by the fan in the room. There wasn't any hot water last night, but I hope that isn't the case this morning. Not bad for the price. So the photos below are the view from the window. I'm on the fifth floor. Kinda reminds me of downtown Vancouver with the mountains in the background.

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

White Goomba Day Trip Video

Eat, Pray, Love

In the Volunteer House we have a small library, made up of books left behind by past volunteers. Monica just finished reading the sequel to Eat, Pray, Love. I saw the movie when it came out last year. But seeing the movie isn't the same as reading the book, and I can't read books out of order. So one day in Thamel I walked into a second hand book store and it was sitting right there waiting for me to buy it. A sign perhaps?

I only just started it, but already knowing the basic storyline, I think i will enjoy it. This women is much more adventurous than I am, but as I follow her on her journey "in search of everything". It reminds me how I am looking for something too.
So I am trying to forget about planning, forget about how many rupees, forget about calories and just enjoy the experiences of life. Yesterday, Megan and I, and our amazing Didi Indu, set off to get out if Khatmandu and see more of Nepal. It was our "holiday" day. It didn't start off too adventurous, we had a destination, we took a taxi and planned to see the sights of Bhaktapur. Although anytime you step foot into a cab in Nepal, it can be the start of an adventure. No shocks, no turn signals, very few traffic laws, and definitely no seat belts. And I've never seen a traffic accident. Ok one time I saw a motorbike run over a dog, but I saw the dog the next day and it was fine.
Ok, back to out adventure.
So we get to Bhaktapur, and it's the annual cow festival where people celebrate the lives of people who have passed on during the previous year. (don't ask me how this relates to cows, I have no idea)
So there was lots to see with children dressed up and dancing and singing. Lots of people where there and it was great to people watch. I also thoroughly enjoyed taking tons of pictures. The rich colors of the costumes and the backdrop of the old buildings and temples were very inspiring. I must say this made me all warm and fuzzy feeling as it's rare that i've been inspired lately.
After a few hours of walking and watching we decided to find somewhere to sit, drink and relax. We found a restaurant with a rooftop terrace, the restaurant was about four or five stories tall, and was all connected with a skinny, dingy dark stairway. If you passed someone they would have to step into the room on a floor to let you get by. When we got to the rooftop there were amazing views so it was all worthwhile. When we went to order they had nothing that we requested. It was quite comical. You would decide on something, request it and be turned down, only to request something else that they didn't have. In the end we settled on sodas and just enjoyed people watching from above.
From our rooftop position we attempted to figure out where we were and set out to see more of the town of Bhaktapur. I'm not sure if we ever found our way, but we did enjoy walking around and seeing a different part of Nepal. We wandered through the roads of a much quieter and cleaner Nepal than that of Khatmandu. We eventually came out on a busier road next to a 'bus stop'. By bus stop I mean there were alot of buses coming and going and some of them slowed down, while others actually stopped and people got off and on, Inside, outside, and sometimes on the rooftop of the buses.
From the distance, Megan and Didi saw something on a hill and began a discussion about it. Before I new it I had agreed to a detour and we were jumping on a bus and heading up the hill. We didn't get a seat, but we did get standing room inside the bus. Feeling like an escaped zoo animal, we stood on the bus, being stared at by the other passengers. Not really in a rude way though. I've gotten used to just smiling at them and offering a hello or a namaste and getting a friendly smile in return. The bus ride was about 15 minutes up a steep and winding hill. The county side was fields of brilliant green. I didn't have the greatest view as I was looking down on the windows through other passengers, bit what I did see was beautiful. At the top we got off the bus and had a steep trail to walk up to get to the tallest Shiva Statue. I think it was about 130 feet tall and was built atop a beautiful staircase and next to a water fountain. We sat there for a while enjoying the clean air and the amazing views of the countryside below.
Back down the hill we walked, enjoying some more displays of the cow fedtival before finding our spot on the road to get back on the bus. While waiting for our bus we watched many other buses pass and on one an older man was looking at us through an open window with the biggest happiest smile on his face. He was waving at us like we were his long lost friends. It was an infectious smile and as the bus drove slowly passed all we could do was return his smile and wAve in return.

This time we took the bus all the way back to Kathmandu and got off close enough to walk to Thamel. Didi was too tired to join us, but Megan and I had big plans. Dinner in Thamel. We weren't going to worry about calories or rupees. We had been dreaming about pizza and heard of this great place. It took us a while to find it, and when we did........CLOSED. Luckily it was next to a bakery that sold incredible pastries covered with chocolate and filled with cream. Then we found another restaurant that had pizza. Inhaled that, and by then it was after 8pm. The bakeries in Thamel have this strange belief to get rid of pastries after 8pm for half price. We stocked up on that. Then found another restaurant to sneak into to order drinks and enjoy our pastries.
So while I am not looking for spiritual enlightenment, I am not looking for love, i am trying to live more in the moment and enjoy the now. And so I will eat, I will enjoy, and pray that I will have the strength and willpower to fulfill all the promises to myself i have made when I return to Canada. No. 1 on the list: start jogging again.

Thursday, August 11, 2011

White Goomba

On Saturday, Nadja and I took the girls for a hike to a place that everyone refers to as White Goomba. The signs at the entrance said something completely different so it's probably some sort of translation gone wrong. We left at about 9:30 with 17 girls one Didi and two Irishmen (Ross & Paddy)
The hike took less than two hours and was mostly uphill. There were some amazing views all along the way. When we got there, there was statues, temples & gardens. The highlight for the girls was definitely the water fountain. After the second trip to the fountain, in the middle of a water fight, the fountain suddenly went dry. I guess we were having too much fun, or were maybe a little too rambunctious.

Yup it's still monsoon season!

Got caught in a rain shower today along with 2 other volunteers. We had walked together to the school to pick up the kids and just as we arrived a torrential downpour hit. The three of us clung to a wall next to a utility pole to try and take cover. I managed to keep my bag and my front dry. Luckily the girls always carry umbrellas with them (obviously they are way smarter than us) so I was immediately offered cover as soon as the first girl came out of class.

Exams are soon so the girls are studying more, and I am doing my best to help. It's good practice for my brain in case I decide to go back to school when I get back to Canada. A group of the younger girls finished studying before dinner so afterwards they dragged me upstairs to their room to play. I was passed from girl to girl like a barbie doll having my hair done and being dressed in sari's. At one point one of the girls lifted my shirt a little bit to tuck some material into my pants. She was shocked to see my pale stomach (the rest if me is getting pretty tanned and they obviously forgot that ALL of me was that white when i arrived) they all pointed and laughed and made sure everyone got to have a look.

They are also doing their best to try to teach me to dance. As most of you know I just don't dance, unless I've had a few drinks, and since drinking around the kids is strictly prohibited....,
Well it isn't pretty but i am trying to show some enthusiasm about if and laugh slot do that they are laughing with me and not AT me.

And then there was one.....

Today, Nadja flew home to Germany. Actually she is probably just boarding her plane as I'm typing this. She was at Gauri Shankar as a lone volunteer when I first arrived, and now I too will be alone until another volunteer arrives in September.
The house tutor is also away to pursue her own studies so tonight I offered to help the girls with their homework. I can't help with much as it's mostly Nepali, but they do have math and English classes that I THOUGHT I could help them with. At first I went to see the older girls to offer my services. They declined (phew, high school sounds hard). So I head to the younger girls who are enthusiastic about me helping (how hard can it be, 8-12 year olds? No problem!). I forgot to take into consideration that while I did pretty good scholastically in elementary school, it was still almost 30 years ago. After about twenty minutes of fumbling through some questions regarding inverse & corresponding angles, I decided I was probably confusing them more, so I bowed out gracefully. I also did not have my reading glasses with me so had problems seeing the numbers in the text books.

Saturday, August 6, 2011

Nepalese torture

Since the Irish group from Terenure College have gone home, things seem to be a bit quieter at Umbrella. One of the lads did decide to stay so he has moved into the Volunteer House. A little more testosterone in the house can't be a bad thing. The kids definitely enjoy having another guy around as well.

Yesterday I saw a dead rat in the lane and a dying mouse dragging itself off to die on the road. Totally gross. The reason I mention it is that seeing the two made me realize that the 'rat' I danced around the bathroom with the other night was actually a mouse. Had it really been a ray I would have screamed like a little girl and stood on the toilet until it left. The rats are the size of cats and the mice are the size of rats. Luckily I haven't really seen many cats.... But I'm sure sure they are also huge.

The girls in the house have given up jump rope for a while and have now found entertainment in hair styling. The girls do each others hair every morning in braids and pony tails of some sort. The always look great and when they asked to do mine i figured I had nothing to lose. The first girl to try my hair was very enthusiastic and so I sat down and let her get to work. After a few seconds I question the girls feelings towards me (to myself of course). I can't imagine doing that to someone you actually don't hate. I do my best not to cry and at one point I ask her if she could try not to pull my hair to which she replies "what do you mean sister? I don't understand". Yup she hates me.
After she's done, she pulls the French braid put (which actually looked really good) and started again. A couple of girls decide to
come watch and they start judging my discomfort by the crimson color my ears have turned to. Luckily the hair dresser realizes the pain she is causing me and tells me to say ouch when it hurts. After I vocalize my 'ouches' a few times and receive no relief, I give up and tell myself that this is making me a stronger person, and what the heck, my hair is thick enough, a few lost follicles will not kill me.
Later that day the same hair stylist went to work on Nadja. I felt bad her and after a few moments went over and mentioned to her stylist that she may want to be sure that she's being gentle as her clients ears were getting a bit red.
Since then other girls have taken turns doing our hair and luckily it seems only one of them is a bit rough. Today one of the girls even took some extra time and pulled out any grey hairs she found.

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

Tan lines


Saturday the Irish put on a carnival for the kids. They had a blast. I will post a video soon.
In the evening the home that houses the oldest boys (some of who have already started college) hosted a performance for the Irish. I snuck in to watch again. Holy smokes can those guys dance. It was too dark to film it, but it was like something out of a dance movie. I'm not up to date on dance styles but I think it was break dancing. There was a lot of flipping and head spinning.
Once that was over we all headed out to celebrate the last night of our volunteer coordinator. A group of about 20 of us started walking to Thamel with hopes of getting a couple of cabs. There was none. We finally saw a bus parked, but saw movement in it. One of the guys talked to him and after some bartering we had a party bus to Thamel. The driver was still getting dressed and dismantling the kids beds when we boarded. I think the family lived in the bus. The partying must have started before we showed up as the driver was a little bit stoned.
He cranked up the stereo and off we went. We ended up at Tom & jerry's for a bit before getting in taxi's and heading back home. We fit 5 or 6 in the cab, I'm not sure which, sitting on the lap of a 6'2" guy I couldn't see much with the angle my head was squished into ceiling/back of the drivers seat. I don't think he was too comfortable either.

Fun day @ Umbrella with Terenure Group

Saturday, July 30, 2011

Fantastic Friday

So today was pretty action packed. The younger kids get off school early on Fridays and the group from Ireland put on a bunch of games for them. If was pouring rain. That didn't slow anybody down. The first game was helicopter. Everyone stands in a circle and the 'helicopter' was one of the Irish guys swinging a rope with a bottle tied to it in circles along the ground at everyone's feet. You are suppose to jump as it passes underneath you. A bunch of our girls were playing and dragged me along with them. Two of them held my hands yas this thing went whizzing past us underneath our feet. I knew I was barely hanging on and watched a few people fall victim to this roped bottle. My instincts were telling me that my older reflexes could not handle this challenge, jumping at the exact right moment was beyond the capabilities of my thirty/something year old body. I suggested to the girls hanging onto me that it would be best for me to bow out of the game before it got ugly. They insisted I stay. I felt obligated to stay in the game. If these children were not questioning my abilities, why should I? We continued. I don't think the bottle made another round after I questioned myself that it took hold of my ankles and flung me to the ground (rather ungracefully I'm sure) and dropped me into a mud puddle, sending my flip flops sailing. The girls then realized that yes, this game was not for me and let me sit it out. Thank god! They were very apologetic for the rest of the day. "sorry sister"
Luckily, I have enough backside to cushion the fall and was completely unharmed. Wet and muddy yes, broken or bruised.... No.
More games and fun ensued, the rain kept pouring down and great fun was had by all. After a bit everything was finally called off so the kids could head home and dry off.
The different houses have been taking turns having a night each of performances to welcome the Irish group and showcase their talents. I haven't made it to any of them as in the evenings I have been teaching the computer class. Last night I was finally able to go to the performance at the Annapurna Hpuse. Everyone received Tikki and a scarf in a small welcoming ceremony. Tikki is this red dye stuff that they put on your forehead. Then the boys in the house (older Umbrella kids) did some singing and dancing, and even some rap. Of course there
Was some Justin Beiber thrown in, and a couple of the Irish guys performed the rap 'Fresh Prince of Bel Air'. Great fun was had by all.

Card from one of my girls

Thursday, July 28, 2011

Rain rain rain

Today we toured the local vegetable market with all the volunteers and the group from Ireland. The market has probably hundreds of stalls selling produce. There are alot of children working there and cows wandering around eating the rotting produce. They don't eat cows here, I don't think they even milk them.
I do have photos but haven't downloaded any yet..... Working on that.
After school the Irish lads met us in the house for time with the kids and dinner. I have gotten used to the bluntness of the culture and it's always amusing to see others experience it.
During dinner, one of the Irish lads was offered food which he declined as his stomach was giving home trouble. The Didi offering food to him said "you sick? You sick because you are fat.". Now this guy is not a tall skinny rugby player like many of them are, but by north American standards he is definitely not fat. This was after the girls had drawn portraits of the boys pointing out any possible flaws. Apparently in the eyes of the Nepalese, this poor guy is not only fat but has elephant ears as well. Another guy was slim bit had a square head. Luckily, they did not make drawings of me,only cards telling me how beautiful I am, that I should always be happy and that they love me. Good thing, my self esteem couldn't handle my flaws be pointed put by a dozen pre-teens & teenagers.
This evening Monica & I planned & hosted the trivia night at the pub. I managed to balance my alcohol intake so that I had enough that I was able to do some public speaking, but not so much that I slurred my words. :)
It's definitelyonsoon season now, Attempting to dry my clothes outside had proven to be a problem.
In the houses, the kids eat off a metal plate using their hands. If kids in Canada were caught eating like this they would get In trouble for playing with their food. Here it is just how it's done. I have chosen to eat with a spoon. It's easier and less messy. Today I was eating next to our youngest girl in the house. If you've read the Little Princes book you've heard about her. Her photograph is in the book and it says how she didn't talk for five months. Anyways, she's about 8 now and talks plenty. Me and her don't always understand each other but she seems to be content to just be near you sometimes. On our walk last weekend she held my hand there and back and we hardly spoke unless I was going to slow for her "tooooo slooooow sister!"
So back to the eating. We were the only ones left and I think she wanted to race me to finish. She made me put down my spoon and eat with my hand. She still won, but only because she made me wait for her when I started to get too far ahead.


Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Kathmandu has some sort of power shortage which causes times of half power and times of no power. When there is half power the lights are dim and the toaster won't work. When theres no power you hardly notice it unless it's dark out. Then we bring out the candles or go
To bed.
Tonight the power is out and the volunteer house is quiet. My back is on fire as I forgot how you can still get a burn when it's overcast (yes mom, I KNOW I should know better.... But I wasn't going to be out long and and.....). Well i was washing my clothes by hand crouched over a bucket and a tap wearing a tank top. I can only feel the burn, I haven't really seen it as it's dark.

Tonight was day two for me teaching computer class to some of the older kids. I'm teaching them Excel. I love excel, but I'm no teacher. All in all it went ok, and I'm really enjoying it. The kids are not from the house I normally in so it gives me a chance to meet more of the kids.

On the weekend a couple of the girls were asking me to teach them games songs or dances from Canada. It's been a few years since I was a kid and I'm totally drawing a blank. So i guess i'm asking for a little help? If you can think of something from your childhood that you think my girls would enjoy.... The simpler the better. Send me an email. The only thing I can think of is the chicken dance and I can't even really remember the moves, and that is pretty lame. I need to redeem myself before I become the MOST boring volunteer ever.

Sunday, July 24, 2011


It is now 12:23 am on Monday morning. I went to bed hours ago, but it's a hot night, the frogs are incredibly loud and the dogs in the neighborhood seem very unsettled. Because of all those things and a mind on overdrive, I'm not able to sleep. So I decide that a trip to the kitchen for some water, a quick visit to the bathroom and maybe I'll be able to get to sleep. Everyone else in the house is quiet and presumably asleep, so I use the bathroom downstairs which is farthest away from the bedrooms. I finish my business on the toilet and stand up to pull up my shorts when I notice movement. I have company in the bathroom! A RODENT! I react before I even get a chance to finish pulling up my shorts and me and the rodent are frantically trying to get away from each other. It is looking for the nearest escape route and I'm trying to stay out of it's way without tripping over my shorts that are still Around my knees. Finally it heads behind the toilet, I manage to get my shorts up and run out of the bathroom closing the door behind me. I know i can't just leave it in their for the next person to find, so my bright idea is to throw a bucket on top of it to catch it. I head back in and grab the bucket. I think it senses my plan of attack and seems to be running back and force at a much quicker pace this time. I make a couple attempts with the bucket and realize this thing is much too quick for me. And I'm also making a hell of a racket throwing a plastic bucket around a tiled floor. While I'm plotting my next move, the thing disappears. I notice the drain cover is off a bit and realize it must have slipped down there. The bucket is now sitting upside down on the drain cover so it can't come back.
After all that I really doubt I'll be able to sleep now.

Getting my fix

Hanging in Thamel. Eating pizza with REAL cheese and a coffee milkshake. Yum!!!

Field Trip

Today was Saturday, so no school for the kids. 4 volunteers ( including myself) took the kids to a park that was about a 45 minute walk away. What do you get when you have a Canadian, an American, a spaniard, an Irishwoman and 29 Nepalese children? Chaos!! I hope the children had fun, and for the most part I think they did. It's hard enough finding your way around a strange place without having to keep track of a bunch of kids that want to roam around and be free. If it ever happens again I will make sure the volunteer to child ratios are a little closer.

I heart danial

Most mornings and afternoons we walk the girls to and from school. Today they finished early and we picked them up at 1pm. The sun was blazing and there were a few girls trailing behind. I always stick with the slow ones to make sure we don't lose anybody. They carry used water and pop bottles with them for water, and the lids have a Tiny hole poked in them so they can squirt the water into their mouth. One of the girls kept running way in front of me to write on the road with her water. When I caught up to her scribble it read I (drawing of a heart) danial. She gave me a drawing yesterday and wrote on it " to danial sister", so I know she was referring to me. I must admit it was very reassuring to me,to see that she adores me on some level. I haven't been connecting with the kids as much as i'd hoped to be, but obviously, with atleast one, I have. :)

Today after school I met one of our girls best friends. She isn't an Umbrella kid, but she also has a sad story. You wouldn't know it to see her though. She Is bright and happy and very friendly. When I was introduced to her she asked what country I was from, her smile grew wide and she started to glow. I was thinking she had some deep connection with our fine country. She exclaimed "Canada!!!? Justin is from Canada! I LOVE Justin Beiber!". I would have loved to have told her I knew him or something crazy like that, but as you know, I only recently learned that the guy was even from Canada......


They DO have twizzlers in Nepal!! This little bag was about 4$ and they didn't look very appetizing. I think i'll just have to wait until I get back to Canada.

A bunch of Irish lads

Yesterday, 12 Irish boys who just graduated high school arrived with their teachers here in Kathmandu. They did some amazing fundraising for umbrella and are now here for two weeks to volunteer.
In our house, Gauri Shankar, we have three of the lads (I think that's Irish for boy)and one teacher assigned. The teacher was here last year with a different group of lads and our girls were soooo excited to see her. Right away she had the girls dancing and singing. Was great fun to see these three guys who are all very tall dancing and playing skip rope with the girls. The lads were shown around the area and also went on a tour of the monkey temple.
The monkey temple is really close to the volunteer house, but i had yet to go. To get there, you climb so many steps you think you're climbing Everest, but sure enough, when you get to
the top it's monkeys & temples. There are also some amazing views, and it appears to be a great place to stock up on Nepali 'wares' with lots of shops and vendors.
Because we had 'company' in the house, our house mother and the didi's put on an amazing spread of food. Roti, which is a fried bread, lentils, potatoes and veggies (spicy of course) and some yummy deep fried sugary thing for desert. Top that off with some Nepali beer at quiz night in Thamel And I'm feeling a little bloated. One beer is about 4$, but They're about 2x the size of what you would normally order in Canada. Good news is, our team won the quiz might and received a 1000 rupee bar tab. We won, despite the fact that I did not know that lacrosse was the second national sport of Canada. I guessed baseball.
I'm quite proud of myself, tonight i managed to barter a cab tide home for a decent price as well as giving the driver the right directions and getting out at the right spot. Not something I thought I would ever be comfortable with two weeks ago.

Sunday, July 17, 2011

July 17th 2011

Did you know that in Nepal, it isn't 2011. I can't remember exactly what year it is, but it's somewhere around 2068. So if you're reading this on Sunday evening, I probably posted it on Monday morning, fifty some years in the future. It's as close to time travel as I'll ever get, and unfortunately I still am as clueless about my future as I was before.

Friday the children had a performance at school put on to entertain the teachers. About a dozen Umbrella children were involved in singing and dancing. The girls are incredibly talented. I will post a couple very short video clips.

Saturday the volunteers gathered up a few of the children from each house and held a music workshop. Instruments were made and then one of our very musically talented volunteers lead them to play their instruments and sing an African song about a monkey. Very cute and entertaining.

Today, Nadja organized a beauty day for our girls. It is some sort of special day where all unmarried women wear green & yellow bangle bracelets. I think it Is for good luck finding a good husband. We went to a shop to get bracelets for ourselves and all the girls. The bangles are made of glass and have no give at all. Apparently, my Canadian mitts are a bit bigger than those of the average Nepalese women. The lady at the store must have realized how much I needed these bangles because she squished, squeezed and manipulated the bones in my hand until she got the bracelets on. I must mention that only 2 bracelets were damaged beyond repair during this process. And the bracelets that I'm wearing, they will probably still be on my wrist when I land back in Canada this fall, unless they break.
Once the bangles were bought and installed, we headed over to the house to hand out bracelets to the girls and start the face/nail painting. Great fun was had by all and at the end if the night both Nadja & I were exhausted.
I am still trying to figure out a way to post my other photos along and will post a link as soon as it is available.

My diet has changed drastically since arriving. I had brought myself a ration of chocolate to last the entire 3 months. On my first visit to the grocery I realized that there is not a shortage if chocolate on Nepal. 3 month supply is 3/4 gone as I know it can be replaced. What I am really missing is cheese. The only kind I have seen is processed. If you're a future volunteer and you're reading this PLEASE BRING CHEESE. Otherwise, I may just fade away to nothing (although due to the chocolate situation, chances of that happening are slim). There really isn't alot that you can't get here, everything is just different. And the drastic difference is that I haven't eaten cheese in two weeks. The dal bhatt isn't bad, but one night I'd love a cheese sandwich.
I haven't seen any twizzlers here either. :(
At night I sleep with earplugs. They help, bit do not completely drown out the sounds. In the evening it is loud with the sounds of nature, people and vehicles. There is a swampish area not far from my window that sounds like it is home to about 4,594,753,108 frogs. In the morning it's the same, but replace the sounds of the frogs with a few dozen roosters. I am really appreciating evening rainfalls. It makes the air almost cool enough that i
need a blanket, and it drowns out all the noise.
Between Communicating with the Nepalese & our Spanish volunteer (who has limited English) I find myself speaking alot of broken English. Sometimes I forget when I am speaking with someone who has a complete grasp of the English language and will say to them something like "you come cafe? We eat?". This is after less than 2 weeks.

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Monsoons & Monkeys

It is definitely monsoon season. Today it started raining while I was on the rooftop washing my clothes, by hand. Yes, luxuries like washing machines and dryers are not part of life here in the volunteer house, but if you time your washing just right you can get it automatically rinsed. My clothes are half washed. And the clothes that managed to get hung up are on an-extended rinse cycle.
There are
Monkeys here. Not just the odd one. I would compare them to squirrels at Stanley Park in Vancouver. Our Didi (housekeeper) will chase them away from the house with a slingshot or a big stick. She is not the only one. I have seen an old lady on a neighboring house yielding a slingshot as well. I think the Volunteer House must be located on a main monkey thorough fare. Yesterday we had about 50 or more passing through. Today, two lucky monkeys found their way into the bedroom of a couple of volunteers. Apparently, they scored some candy. Sweet!
Our room has "monkey bars" on the windows, so my stash is safe.
I didn't spend too much time with the girls at Gauri Shankar today, as I've come down with a chest cold and am sounding kinda manly. Don't feel 100% either.
Right now I am laying in bed and I hear a lot of dogs sounding very anxious, barking and yelping. That is usually a sign of the monkeys being active. I have witnessed a couple monkeys try to take on the dogs at the neighbors house. Luckily slingshot lady broke if up.
I know that thus far I have written very little about the kids. Between getting settled into a new culture, meeting all new people, and now being sick, I haven't spent a whole lot of time with them. During the times I have been with them, I've been surprised at how normal they are. When they heard I was from Canada, it started the debate about whether Justin Beiber is from Canada or the USA. Anyone?

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Kathmandu taxi ride

Sunday, July 10th

I have been assigned to the Ghauri Shankar house, which houses 36 girls. The children all speak English and always great you with "namaste" which means hello, or "hello sister". They are all quite fluent in English, but generally speak so fast I only understand about 20% of what they say. On school days we walk them to school and pick them up afterwards. It's about a 20 minute walk each way, so I know I'll be getting lots of exercise. The other volunteer in the house is Nadja, from germany. Nadja is 20, has long blondish hair and is model pretty. The girls think we look very much alike. Only a few wear glasses, but I think many more may need them.
This afternoon after dinner (del bhat-which Is rice,lentils & vegetables) the girls were skipping rope while others were studying. It was the first time I was there without Nadja and a handful of girls sat down with me to talk and find out about me. The first thing that always comes up is "sista..... You soooooo white" and then they all stick out there arms to compare their own skin color to mine. Then "sista, how old?". I am older than most of their mothers and they have a hard time understanding why I don't yet have my own family.
The girls are very affectionate and are always wanting to hold hands or link arms.
There are currently 9 other volunteers, mostly from Ireland, 2 from the US, 1 from Spain and 1 from Germany. Everyone gets along great and during off time the ones that have been here longer have been showing us newbies around Kathmandu.
Every Thursday evening is quiz night at a pub in the tourist district, Thamel. We try to gather up foreigners to join us and compete. In Canada it would be similar to trivia night. It's a way to let peole know about the Umbrella Foundation and raise $$.

Thursday, July 7, 2011


I arrived in Kathmandu this afternoon around 2pm.  The tax ride to the orphanage was insane.  I tried to take little video clips on my iphone.....I will try to upload them later.
Off to the pub for a fundraiser with the other volunteers. 

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

Indira Ghandi Airport

It's just passed 4 am on Thursday morning, and I'm at the airport in India, waiting for my flight to Kathmandu at noon. 
 I was a little bit stressed out about not having a visa for India since I was told by two separate agents working for 2 separate airlines that I needed one.  I had not gotten one, as I hadn't read anywhere that I neeed once since India was just a stop-over.  One of our Canadian airlines, which will remain nameless, was fully prepared to deny me boarding even.  After some convincing, she agreed to let me fly the first porti on of my flight (from Halifax to Montreal) so that I could atleast get that far and figure it out from there.  Grrrr.  They were stressing me out for nothing.  It was easy peasy, my luggage is waiting to be boarded onto my flight at noon, and i'm wandering around the airport (completely visa-less) and not a soul is trying to harass, imprison, or kick me out of the country. 
The airport is great, there's food, lounges, free internet, tons of shopping, and the bathrooms have one of those hose like things like you have on your kitchen sink for rinsing off the dishes with.  This of course is for rinsing other things off with (I'm assuming, but there were no instructions).  There is also a nice lady standing there to hand you the towel to dry your hands off with.  
While waiting in line at the transfer info place upon arrival I met two separate groups of people who are also flying to Kathmandu this morning to do similar work.  Nice people :)  Both groups were from the US and I believe they are mostly here to teach.  
My clock is completely messed up, it doesn't feel like night or day, and I'm not sleepy or wide awake.  At some point I'll be so tired I won't know which way is up or down, but so far I'm doing OK.  Only 7.5 hours until my flight to Kathmandu.

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

Dinner at YUL

I am finally checked in and on my way, after spending all day pushing my luggage in circles around Montreal airport. Only a few minor hiccups getting this far .....a minor visa issue, some travel sickness and a fogged in airport.

Thursday, June 30, 2011

I've Almost Reach my Fundraising Goal

I am under 200 Euro's away from my fundraising goal of 1000 Euro's.  Thank you so much to everyone that has sponsored me. There are only 6 more days for me to reach my goal.  If you'd like to make a donation to this incredible organization,  you can go to the link below, or send an email money transfer to, and mark it as an 'umbrella Foundation donation" or send monies through paypal to as well.

Saturday, June 25, 2011

Thank you Costco 552!

On Thursday, while in downtown Vancouver to pick up my passport, I stopped at Costco to say hi to some friends and past coworkers from when I worked there a few years ago. While I was there I received amazing support and well wishes. Thank you to all who made personal donations, and thank you to Cliff who donated gift cards on behalf of the warehouse that I used to purchase supplies with for the Umbrella Foundation. Thank you Costco!

Friday, June 24, 2011


Originally, I was scheduled to depart this evening for Nepal. Instead, I am enjoying a nice quiet evening at an airport hotel in Richmond with my mom. Tomorrow we will fly together to Halifax to spend some time with family. I was lucky enough to be able to make changes to flight and am now departing out of Halifax
On July 5th.

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

"The soul is healed by being with children" -- Fyodor Dostoyevsky

While researching my trip I came across some videos on YouTube made by the Umbrella Foundation and volunteers.  

Conor Grennan on the Nate Berkus show

Conor Grennan, author of "Little Princes" talks about Nepal and his book on the Nate Berkus show

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

Little Princes: One Man's Promise to Bring Home the Lost Children of Nepal

If you're looking to read an amazing story, and want to find out more about child trafficking and the situation in Nepal, I highly recommend this book. 

When you purchase this book, a portion of the proceeds go to Next Generation Nepal, the nonprofict organization started by the author, Conor Grennan.

Sunday, June 5, 2011


The Umbrella Foundation is financed entirely by donations and sponsorships.  As a volunteer I am raising money to fund the costs of my expenses at the orphanage as well as sponsor a child for 1 year.  That is what is required, but am hoping together with my generous friends, family and co-workers can exceed the amount required for the trip.  Please click on the "Make a Donation" Link to the right to learn more about donating to The Umbrella Foundation.

Getting Organized

I have just under three weeks to get ready and head out on my adventure. 
Vaccinations - check
Plane ticket - bought
fundraising - getting there
medical insurance - workin on it

I am looking forward to my adventure, but of course, I am sad for all that I will be leaving behind.  I like to think that when one door closes another opens.  This next door is opening wide, and I'm looking forward to finding out what's on the other side.