Sunday, 24 January 2010

Hi everyone,

Just to let you know I am back safely if you haven't seen or heard from me yet and to fill you in on my last days in Nepal. It all seems so long ago now, trying to believe that I was there only just over a week ago is the hardest thing!

As planned we finished off a lot of bits and pieces in the last week, including brightening up the drab lamp post outside the home with huge "Shangri-La" letters which can be seen right from the end of the track a few hundred metres away! definitely helps people find us and now everyone in the area seems to know where and what we are.

The poor old memory game I made a couple of weeks earlier was on its last legs so we made a new one and took a trip down to the local carpenters who kindly let us have some scraps of wood and used their tools to cut them into backings for the cards. Hopefully they will last a few years now.

It was good to spend some more time with the children at the weekend and we had another trip to the park for the usual frisbee and ball games and some enthusiastic wheelbarrow races!

I had been longing to speak with the children and give some counselling about their pasts and to find out how they were getting on in their new home. We managed to speak to Sita, who we knew had been orphaned after both her parents had committed suicide, and three year old Benjamin who had been living on the streets.

It was wonderful to see their smiles as they told us how they enjoyed their comfortable new beds, food and friends and family. Having to delve further into their pasts wasn't easy but I know there is a lot of hurt there which for many of the children is never expressed or spoken of. After Sita's parents chose to end their lives under the strain of trying to bring up a family in such poverty, Sita had tried to look after her two younger siblings. They found a little support from their grandparents, but because they were so elderly Sita ended up doing all the work. Her face clouded over as she began to recall how she spent her days walking a long way to collect water, to the forest to find leaves to feed the animals and tried her best to find enough food for her siblings. She began to cry as she told us there was never enough, she didn't have time or money to go to school and had no hope. Until now I don't think she had imagined a future, and her face lit up when she announced she would like to be a doctor (probably inspired by her trip to the eye hospital the other day!) It really struck me then how much I take for granted, and how much her education and food as well as her new supportive family must mean to her.

Benjamin told us he used to be beaten by his older brother and drunken father on the streets, how he didn't see his mother since she had re-married. He and his friend Abasek have already decided they are so happy here they never want to go anywhere else. It was very encouraging to hear.

Benjamin on the street

...and now

I was able to do all the final admin (collecting all the details of the other children from Krishna, seeing what needed updating on the website, etc) in Kathmandu, which left a day free in Pokhara, while the children were at school, to do what I had always wanted to do and hadn't had time: Krishna and I walked round the bottom of the lake and up a steep hill the other side, coming over the top to an incredible view over the lake, Pokhara and a snowy Himalayan panorama behind. Beautiful.

The last evening I was persuaded to make a goodbye meal, and managed to change the children's view of English food (after the less successful Christmas meal!) with spaghetti and veg in a tuna sauce... None of the children had tried spaghetti or tuna before and it was quite an experience!

I said goodbye to the children as they went off to school, just the same as usual. I'm not sure if the younger ones understood I wouldn't be coming back (at least for a while) but in a way that made it easier.

Thank you to all who have been reading, I have appreciated your comments and support and interest and also incredible generosity. I always say that work like this can be heartbreaking and emotionally draining, but is always balanced by the kindness of others. Without you it honestly wouldn't have been possible, your thoughts and interest has been an inspiration and every penny donated has been appreciated immensely!

Lots of love,
Shangri-la family