Chitwan National Park

Sunday 26th August 2007
On Tuesday (21st) we woke up early to go on an elephant ride through the jungle. It was a bit bumpy going, but within 15 minutes we came across a wild rhino with her baby. They allowed us to get surprisingly close (on the elephants) so I got some great pictures before they munched their way into the undergrowth.

Mummy and baby rhino

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The Perfect Day

Saturday 25th August 2007
On Monday, (20th August) we left Kathmandu bright and early to travel south by coach to Chitwan National Park.
We wound along the edge of the hills, in and out of valleys, marvelling at the drop off the edge of the road, in awe and in fear!
After about an hour and a half we stopped and de-boarded (I have no idea what the little town was called I’m afraid). We were given helmets and life-jackets and walked down to the edge of the huge Trisuli river, swirling lazily past us.

Suited up and ready to go!

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Village stay in Lamataar

Friday 24th August 2007
It’s been a very busy week so get ready for lots of emails!
(This one’s an epic, so get yourselves a cup of tea now!)
After our language course finished (guess who came top of the class with 49.5 out of 50??) we left on Thursday morning (16th August) to drive up to a village in the hills called Lamataar for three days.
We stayed with lovely guy called Sulav and his family, who were really sweet and very welcoming. It was definitely what you might call rural, with proper squatter toilets and no chance of toilet paper. I had originally been worried about getting things wrong and eating with my left hand by accident, but in a country where toilet paper isn’t a possibility, and you literally eat with your hands, you learn very fast what you’re doing with each hand!

Sifting the dhaal

Nepalese people eat Dhaal Bhaat twice a day every day, which is a lentil soup with rice. They also mix it up a bit by having Achaar (pickle) and Tarkaari (cooked vegetables) with it, but they eat dhaal bhaat every day at about 10am and 7pm for pretty much their entire lives.

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Mangoes, Monkeys and monsoon

Monday 13th August 2007
It’s now day 5 and after the first two days of relative dryness, the monsoon has made it’s appearance. It’s rained at least twice a day for the last three days, and it’s incredible to watch it sweeping over the mountains dumping down rain as it comes (I managed to get one reasonably good shot of this).

Monsoon rains dumping down on the hillside

So, doing my laundry has been impossible. as aside from standing in the rain to do it, it’s not going to get dry hanging on the line!

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Waking up in Kathmandu

Thursday 9th August 2007
Namaste Everyone!
I have arrived safe and sound, the flight was fairly average, (Gulf air is NOT the greatest airline ever, and the hostess was downright rude a few times!) and I have no idea what the time difference is, – I think it’s either 4 and a half hours ahead or 4hrs 45mins ahead!
Anyway, the airport was crazy, as soon as we walked out of the doors there was a mass of people pushing and shoving, trying to grab our bags and get us taxis etc. A policeman was attempting rather ineffectually to beat people back with the butt of his rifle, and for a minute I thought there might be a fight breaking out, but it turned out to be apparently quite normal.

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Off once again to pastures, well, wet really

Monday 6th August 2007

Hello again all,
I am leaving tomorrow for Nepal to start my latest adventure, and am so overwhelmed with stuff to do I’ve decided to put it off by writing a big long email!

I’ve had a fantastic time the last few weeks, I’ve seen just about all of my friends (I think!) and spent a gorgeous couple of weeks looking after my lovely nephews as well.
The highlights of my summer are as follows:

I’ve had many a lovely drunken night out with friends, in Bury, London, Nottingham, Oxford and Sudbury. We’ve taken the boys to the races at Newmarket (Jack managed to pick out two winners, even though he’s only about 18 months old!!), to the Colne Valley Railway to go on a proper steam train, to the Zoo (Ollie fed the giraffes), and lots of trips to the park etc.

At the zoo

I have become an expert on Thomas the Tank Engine, as Ollie is currently completely obsessed with him, and I’m rather proud of how knowledgeable I am on all of their names and jobs! Jack prefers the Wiggles, an obscure Australian phenomenon involving four fully grown men who sing songs and tell stories. Three of them freak me out completely, although the blue one (Anthony) seems vaguely sane!

I have been to a pre-departure camp in Oxford, where I met lots of other volunteers going to loads of different countries, and we did lots of cultural awareness role-playing etc.
It was fun, and I’m now in contact with loads of people doing the same kinds of thing as me.

The Hill End massive!

As I prepare to depart, I gradually realise how little I’ve actually done!
Packing seems impossible, and although I’ve bought a posh new rucksack for this adventure, I keep making endless lists and forgetting crucial things like mosquito nets and antiseptic creams!

I looked on lots of websites, and there didn’t seem to be any one that agreed on which vaccinations I should get, so I figured it was fine, and I’d just get yellow fever (lots of countries require a certificate of vaccination to enter). I went to see the practice nurse last week, and she was a terribly fierce lady who told me off royally for not coming in sooner.
Our conversation went a lot like this:
“You mean you haven’t had your rabies shot yet? But you need 3 weeks for that one!”
“I, um, I’ll try not to get rabies then?”
“But you can catch it from saliva you know, not just bites!”
“Well, I’ll be extra careful not to let any dogs dribble into my mouth then.”
“What about Japanese B Encephalitis??”
“Well you’ll have to have Cholera, and Typhoid, and Hepatitis A,….”
and so on.

It turns out that there has been a recent outbreak of cholera in Kathmandu, due too monsoon flooding and a political strike in the South (something to do with chlorine not being delivered into the water supply) so I agreed on that one, but I had to drink it instead of an injection!
So, having ingested Cholera, (raspberry flavour by the way), I’ve had a rather unsuprisingly bad stomach, but it seems to be clearing up, and hopefully I’ll be fine for the journey.

I’m ironically flying with Gulf Air, with a stopover in Bahrain, a place I never thought I’d be going back to again so soon!

I’ve been in touch with a girl who’s just left the orphanage I’m going to, and she said that due to a lack of funding, the kids are no longer able to go to school, so they will be there all the time, which is a bit daunting! However, I am only a volunteer and I’m allowed to take a break if it gets too much! I also have a two-week orientation when I arrive to have some basic language classes and be shown around the city a bit, which hopefully will be quite fun!

So, on that note, I suppose I shall have to go and start packing, although I’m not sure I’ll have room for clothes once all the medical supplies are in!
Wish me luck!

tons of love

Ah, to be 15 again…

Monday 9th July 2007

Hello everyone,
I know it has been a while since my last update, but I’ve been a busy little bee since I got back!

After the intense drama that involved leaving Kuwait I finally made it back safe and sound.
I’ve been out drinking almost every night I can, and have caught up with absolutely LOADS of people I haven’t seen in years which has been really great.

I have discovered that, apart from one particularly nasty hangover, in which my numerous Appletinis came back to haunt me for a record 3 days, I have been left unscathed by my epic drinking!

It would appear that my long stint Continue reading

Leaving Kuwait

Saturday 16th June 2007

Hello there all,
Well, leaving Kuwait has been a hell of a drama, as predicted, but thankfully it’s almost over now!

I was due to receive my summer pay and gratuity, which amounts to three half month’s pay altogether – a fairly hefty chunk of money, and I had been nervous for a while that the school were somehow going to screw me over.
Last year there were some members of staff who didn’t get paid at all, and it was all very stressful and difficult.

So, for the last few weeks I’ve been gearing up to leave, but also getting increasingly paranoid that something would go horribly wrong.
And then it did.

Mishra, our school administrator (and our boss’s son) told us that we would need to have our civil ID cancelled, and to do this we need to go to the Ministry of Education and sign a document to receive our gratuity cheques.

He insisted that the document (written in arabic) was only to say that we had received the correct amount of gratuity, but almost everyone else we spoke to told us we were signing that we had received all pay due to us from the school.

Now, obviously we weren’t going to sign this piece of paper before we received our pay, as it would effectively waive our legal rights to our money, and getting the school to pay us after signing it might result in hiring a lawyer. Every member of staff leaving had agreed not to sign the paper until we had been paid.

So on Saturday (the beginning of the week for us), Mishari tells us we are going to be paid on Sunday and we’ll go to the Ministry on Tuesday.

Betty, Bryn and I went to see Mishra and explained that because we were with a different bank, it would take an extra day or so to clear into our accounts (just like every pay day), so he will need to pay us early enough for it to go through before we can go to the

No problem, he tells us.

On Sunday, no-one has been paid.  Tomorrow, tomorrow, says Mishra, no problem. On Monday, no-one has been paid. By the end of today it will go through, Mishra assures us.

On Tuesday morning, no-one has been paid.  11am, says Mishra.
Nothing happens, although all of the staff are frantically checking their bank balances every ten minutes!

Mishra tells us we’ll go to the Ministry on Wednesday, which is the last day of term.
By 2.30pm, everyone’s money suddenly goes through.

Except for me, Betty and Bryn. (of course)

So the next morning, all the staff members gather to go to the Ministry, except for us, and Mishra hasn’t come in to work so we can’t ask him what to do.
Thursday and Friday is the weekend, and the Ministry won’t be open again until Saturday. However I’m supposed to be on a plane on Friday night.

We waited around for 2 hours outside Mishra’s office, and eventually tried to talk to him about our situation. Betty and Bryn had booked their flight for Saturday anyway, but I would have to change mine. We arranged to go on Saturday morning, but then realised
that banks here are all closed on Saturdays, and we couldn’t cash our cheques anywhere. Mishra was insistent that we had to receive cheques, not cash, and was really unhelpful – he seemed to imply that this mess was somehow our fault for being with the wrong bank, rather than his own incompetence!

We had to go to Madame (our boss) a very scary french lady who’s close to seventy and had so much plastic surgery her face is pulled back tight in a constant manic grin. She came down and started yelling at screaming at us for not trusting her and the school to pay us and asking why didn’t we go with the others etc.
We tried to explain that it wasn’t personal, and we did trust them (not!) but we simply couldn’t sign a legal document in a language we don’t understand regarding pay that we haven’t yet received.  Madame was unimpressed, and getting yelled at didn’t help matters at all.

(It was particularly unfortunate that on our way out, Bryn accidentally kicked her on the foot too!)

Eventually we worked out a compromise, and Mishra promised to let us exchange our cheques for cash back at school, and later that night our summer pay went through to our banks.

I managed to successfully change my flight without too much aggro, and things were looking up.
On Thursday Betty and Bryn went to collect their flight allowance along with everyone else and discovered that their names were not on the list. Poor Betty broke down at that point, and was pretty much inconsolable. She was convinced that it was deliberate and very personal, although Bryn maintains that it’s pure incompetence once again.
Eventually they got their flight money, although Betty was in tears most of the day poor thing. (I came on the group flight so the school bought my ticket for me).

So, Friday was a bit miserable, because I was supposed to be going home but was stuck in crappy Hawally, so we all decided to go to the Hilton and spend the day in the Spa, which was lovely.

This morning we got our cheques, changed them for cash and for once things went smoothly.

I am now at the airport waiting to check-in (my flight doesn’t leave for 6 hours, but I couldn’t bear sitting in my flat doing nothing, so figured I’d come here and wait instead).

It has been an incredibly stressful week, as I predicted it would be, and it’s such a shame to end on such a miserable note, but then, I’ve known the school were like that for a while, so it’s not too much of a surprise sadly.

Anyway, that’s about it really, I should be back in lovely England on Sunday morning, and will be found sitting in the garden, rain or shine, with a large glass of wine, should anyone wish to contact me!

hope you’re all well and looking forward to seeing you

tons of love

down-with-incompetent-fuckwits-(and scary french people)-Maya