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.