Thursday, 17 December 2009

first news from Nepal

Namaste all and welcome to blog number one! I have been here in Pokhara, Nepal for a little under a week now, having arrived on Sunday after the usual six hour bone-shaking bus trip from Kathmandu where I flew in on Saturday. Life back in Oxford seems a million miles away now (which I guess it is) and the longer I am here the more it feels as though I have never been away. The streets of Pokhara seem so familiar; the cool Himalayan air, hot sun and incredible views of snow capped peaks sawing up to unbelievable heights, the bustle of daily life with tourists haggling over exquisite and brightly coloured pashminas and trekking goods, fruit stalls piled with mounds of juicy suntalas (tangerines), smells of incense and the sounds of flutes and Tibetan chanting, "omne-padne-hum" while the ever placid cows wander between a myriad of dodging and hooting motorbikes.

Having planned to come here to help get the home set up, furnished and equipped and hopefully having some time to help collect the children Krishna has been finding over the past few months, I was astonished to discover how much has already been done. Krishna was able to get the home officially registered to his existing NGO, Helping Society Nepal in just a few days (which I imagined could take months) and since this required renting the home and having it available for the registering authorities to carry out checks on before registering, we have had the house since November.

In just a couple of weeks it was fully furnished and equipped enough to take on the first nine children. Two from the Southern plains of the Tarai (Eight year old Rupak orphaned and put to child labour, three year old Manju the result of rape to a very young mother and sent to her grandmother who was unable and unwilling to look after her when her mother married), three from the far West of Nepal which is still very undeveloped and receives little social support where Krishna travelled with a community worker who was able to help him select three girls who were living with guardians who were also putting them to hard work each day and had barely had the chance to go to school. Also a brother and sister from the streets of Pokhara where their alcoholic grandmother had sent them to sell newspapers and would force them to sleep there if they did not earn enough in the day. She would drink most of it and obviously fed them very little. Then two tiny three year olds who were living alongside the main road that connects Nepal's two main cities, Kathmandu and Pokhara. It is incredible that they have had such pasts when you see their loving and caring characters, certainly the Benjamin and Abasek who had lived along the road are a little wild but are such little characters and never tire or running at me for hugs and to be thrown in the air and dangled upside down! The older girls are especially good at looking after the little ones.

Although we had initially planned to take on twelve and expand when we are able to find further funding, we have decided to keep it a small family style environment seeing how well the children have already adapted. It is sweet how Benjamin already calls Krishna Papa as do some of the others. We will keep two more spaces free for "Emergencies", children that are bought to Krishna through the authorities who have no other chance or whom Krishna comes across.
Despite so much already being done there has been plenty to do this week. The first day I was made to rest and spent the morning playing with the little ones while the older children were at school doing exams. They were finished by lunch and after their dahl batt (with much enthusiastic slurping and grinning and shouts of "mitco!" (delicious!) we went down to the park with balls, skipping ropes and balloons and had great fun on the climbing frame. The little ones quickly developed a ritual of climbing to the highest point in the park and jumping off as quick as I was able to catch them!
The next day the three little ones went to nursery school while the others went off to do their exams. Unfortunately they haven't been able to go every day as there has been so much government striking for various political reasons. It's heartbreaking seeing them returning home all forlorn after the excitement of getting ready to go to school like today but its lovely to have them around.
When not looking after the little ones Krishna has been busy helping the builder to construct a new toilet block round the back of the home. At the moment all nine are all trooping into the one and only longdrop beside the kitchen which isn't the most hygienic!

I've been doing a lot of painting - rust cover for the water tanks on the roof, brightening up the swings and front gate while the children periodically survey and tell me it is "very, very beautiful!" They've enjoyed doing some watercolor painting too and love the little modelling clay I was able to bring with me.
I have been very privileged to be allowed to cook with the house mother and she taught me how to make momo's which was surprisingly easy and great fun!
After all Krishna's hard work he is definitely ready for a holiday and this week the house mother and secretary will be in charge of the home while Krishna takes some much needed days off. He has offered to take me on the Goropani-Gandruk trail, a beautiful sounding trek around the foothills of the Annapurna Himalayan range. We will be back in time to celebrate Christmas with the children, which will be their will be their first as it is not much celebrated here. I'm so excited!
Hope you all have a lovely Christmas. I'm so sorry I won't be with many of you as usual but will be thinking of you. Thanks for reading, hopefully it will be a little shorter next week!
Lots of love,
Shangri-La family