Tuesday, August 30, 2011
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.
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
Friday, August 26, 2011
The girls if course always look beautiful.
Thursday, August 25, 2011
Wednesday, August 24, 2011
Monday, August 22, 2011
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
Wednesday, August 17, 2011
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
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.
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.
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
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
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.