Well, school is going well, the first week was exhausting, but it’s been very successful and the kids seem to love it. I’ve timetabled lessons from 10am til 3pm, and I’ve never seen kids so eager for school before!
I think because they’ve been literally doing nothing for months, and have been so bored (their tv’s been broken too!) so the idea of anything organised, even lessons, is quite thrilling.
I was downstairs at 9.30am on the first day, getting things ready, and the kids all filed in and sat down in silence waiting. I told them they still had half an hour to go to the bathroom/run around outside etc, (plus I was waiting for the two trainee teachers to come!) but they were so keen they just sat there, waiting quietly!
There’s really no need for discipline – the kids are good as gold, and the mere threat of being sent to Aamaa is enough to send the whole room into at least half an hour of silence!
At break times, I tell them to go outside, run around and generally get some air/have a break, but yesterday Aamaa immediately shouted at them for being too noisy and made them sit in silence until the next lesson started!
I’m managing to keep up with the planning and photocopying, and even bought candles so I can carry on planning during our regular power cuts on Sunday and Monday nights.
Aamaa herself is thrilled with my little ‘school’ and has promoted me to principal, which I’m quite proud of actually!
The kids at school…
I’ve been chatting with Alan, another volunteer, and it seems I really have hit the jackpot with my orphanage. His only has 12 orphans, no running water (they have to walk down a steep narrow path and fill up buckets) and they don’t even eat dhaal bhaat every day – instead they have rice with dried spinach in water (poor Alan’s lost at least a stone already!).
I’ve been rather lucky, and although the first few days I found the food very salty and a bit boring, I’m already quite used to it and actually started craving dhaal bhaat when it’s dinner time! They keep asking me if it’s too spicy, and it’s really not, but it’s just so salty!
I was very lethargic the first few days here, and had no energy at all, but I think that was my body adjusting to the lack of sugar and general crap I usually eat! Eating actual healthy food was a real shock to the system!
I do worry that the kids aren’t eating enough of a balanced diet – rice and lentils everyday isn’t terribly varied. They make tarkari (cooked vegetables) but only for the adults and oldest children, and even we only get a teaspoonful with our rice and soup.
There’s almost no fruit/vegetables for the children, and when Pramilla hinted rather heavily that I ought to throw the kids a party, like the other volunteers did, with chocolate or sweets, I said I’d rather make a giant fruit salad!
It’s not that the kids couldn’t do with some chocolate mind you, but they do get sugar put in their water at breaktime – something I’d usually never approve of for children, but these kids hardly have any sugar in their diet, so I think it’s probably a good thing.
So, fruit salad’s planned for Thursday, as we are apparently feasting, because Friday is the Teej festival, which is just for women and we have to wear saris, go the temple and fast all day!
I’m not so keen on the fasting, so may have to stash some food in my room!
Hopefully I’ll be able to sneak off on Friday night to meet up with some friends and have a proper dinner, as well as a glass of wine or two!
As for the temple, it’s going to be rammed, and Aamaa said quite seriously that we’d need to leave here at 3am to get in the queue at the temple. I’m not entirely sure if I’m allowed to go or not, as Aamaa seemed to think I was going, but Priya said as I’m not Hindu I won’t be allowed. Something tells me I won’t be that bothered at 3am if I’m not allowed to go!We also ran out of gas about a week ago, so they dug out an old kerosene stove with a burner on it – it’s so old and rusty it terrifies me – they have to keep pumping it to keep the flame hot and aside from the fumes it looks like it’s about to explode any minute! (my fears were not at all reduced when Priya told me these kind of stoves are commonly used as bombs!).Anyway, I gave Priya some money for a new gas bottle, but the problem isn’t actually money – it turns out there’s a gas shortage!
All their gas bottles and fuel come from India, but there’s been some trouble down south and the borders are closed, so no trucks have been allowed through (apparently it’s something to do with illegal fertiliser being smuggled across the border – very bizarre!).So, tomorrow’s feast may take an obscenely long time to make, as each dish has to be made on the single burner – all week the boys have been cooking from about 6am and the food isn’t ready until 10am!
However, I’m going to buy the fruit in the morning, and that side of things shouldn’t take too long.
So, Teej starts tomorrow with the feast and then Friday is the actual holiday, when we fast, and I think on Saturday we feast again, but I’m not sure about that!
I’ll let you know how it all goes!
tons of love and kisses
Oh! I almost forgot!
I have been given the most HILARIOUS book by Priya to help me understand Nepalese customs. It’s called “Nepalese Customs and Manners”, by Kesar Lall, and was written in 1976.
It’s full of hysterical proverbs and bizarre hints, so I’m planning to add a few to each email from now on to give you a taste of Nepali culture!
(I should point out that very few of these customs are still upheld, although it depends who you talk to!)
Here’s the first little extract for you:
“When a woman combs her hair, she must spit upon the hair that has come off before throwing it away. This is to prevent a witch from taking possession of the hair with the intention of doing her some harm.
A girl must comb her hair in the morning. If she does so in the daytime, she will become lazy and if she does this at night she will become a whore. She must not comb her hair standing up.”
Proverb 35: A dog stricken by a bolt is frightened of lightening.