Friday, 8 January 2010

Hi everyone and happy new year!

It has been a busy couple of weeks for us since last writing to you, lots to say as usual but I will be limited to how long my fingers still have feeling in them! I am back outside under the stairs up to the rooftop. The children are happily playing cards next door and it’s already dark with smells of wood smoke and garlic and ginger frying from households all around. It’s been particularly cold today as the sun didn’t come out until mid afternoon and actually drizzled in the morning – the first during the day since I arrived which provoked a lot of grumbling amongst all the locals who buried themselves in even more layers than normal and barely surfaced from their homes until the sun shone. I’m enjoying what would be an extremely good British summer apart from the chilly nights.

We’re having eight hours power off a day now, though luckily it doesn’t affect us too much since spending one of our donations on a big battery which supplies enough for all our lighting, plus a few hours other electricity during the power cuts. It makes a huge difference, we’re certainty very thankful for it and I’m sure the envy of everyone else who at the moment are all in darkness. There’s so little rain the local hydro power stations can’t produce enough to supplement the main supply coming in from Kathmandu so all the neighbourhoods in the area are on a tight schedule to share the little there is.

The children all went back to school and nursery after the holidays a couple of days ago which has left the house very quiet until lunchtime when the little ones come back. Krishna and I have at last finished many projects, including the toilet (well, not quite – it still needs a door, flush and light) but is already being used (pouring water down while we wait for the flush) and appreciated by all.

A second water tank was eventually installed on the roof after days waiting for the welder to fix it to its frame and a plumber to connect it to the water supplies. The first one wasn’t providing enough and needed to be pumped several times a day so now we can relax and know we’re not going to run out of water!

The budget was a nice surprise when we went through it carefully a day last week. I was imagining we might have up to a couple of thousand pounds deficit by the end of the year, but it turned out we have actually saved money on the opening costs and are able to put this towards the rising monthly costs (higher than initially planned because of inflation and various extra expenses we hadn’t anticipated). According to our new estimate we will just be under 500 pounds short by the end of the year which I’ll be able to fundraise for during the year.

I’m looking forward to the last day of painting, which I have expected to come "tomorrow" all week but at last the day seems near and it will be good to spend more time doing the admin things I planned to do with Krishna while here and spend more time with the children. They have been playing the memory game I quickly put together last week in their every spare moment and still get very excited at the mentioning of it.

They have also been learning Ludo and snakes and ladders which Krishna bought them earlier in the week and have been enjoying the newly painted swing!

The older children have been happily helping with various gardening, in our well cultivated veg patch in the field next to the home and planting the flowers I decided the garden needed to make it the “mountain paradise” Shangri-La means.

We have had a few more trips to the park and the other day everyone came down to the river for the afternoon. We set out on the bus which was an experience for many who had never traveled that way before, holding on tightly with wide eyes.

It’s great how well they were able to entertain themselves, skimming stones and building homes from the river rocks, all being careful that no one strayed onto their territory!

The little ones joined in with great seriousness and creativity, adding gardens, stacks of firewood and even a bucket of water from a bottle top! They were excited to see monkeys on the opposite bank, a lizard and bright blue-tailed kingfisher. On the way back we dropped in at a hydro power station, and saw some planes landing at the airstrip just the other side of a fence!

The home’s teacher, Dipak, continued to come during the holiday and we took a few classes together, introducing “I spy”, hangman and sherads – anything a bit more interactive than reading from their workbooks and not understanding the meanings!

Three year old Abasek had been suspected of having leprosy by the doctor, and we took him to the local leprosy hospital to get it checked out. He had lived on the streets before coming to the home and had developed white marks on his face. His mother had suffered the disease so it seamed likely. Unfairly we were fast-tracked through the huge queue who had traveled across the country to get there and maybe even waited a day or two…only a third of everyone got to see a doctor each day but seeing my white skin they gave us priority and Abasek was inspected with a sensation test – by pulling his hat over is eyes and being pricked on the white spots to see if he could feel anything (which he could) and then skin tests taken from each spot – he was very brave as they made slits and took the samples.

After a while sitting in the sun waiting for the results he was given the all-clear and told that it’s a common skin disease from living on the streets and will go away now he’s washing properly, and won’t spread to the other children.

We also took Sita, one of the older girls who is suffering an eye infection, to the eye hospital. Luckily it turned out to be no more than dandruff in her eyelashes (I didn’t know that was possible!) which is irritating her eyes and they proscribed us baby shampoo to wash her eyelids with!

We celebrated New Year with a fish stew and fire in the garden. Unfortunately no fireworks and it was impossible to find anything like sparklers other than incense sticks but the fire was very welcome and we had a bright sky full of stars.

This morning Krishna took me up Sarangot to see the sun rise, a hill on the edge of Pokhara with fantastic views of the Himalayas. Incredible as always.

Time for dhal batt.

Hope you're all well,

Lots of love,

Esther xxx