A Night at the Northfield

Monday 21st April 2008

Well, it’s over.
Thank god!

It was actually a wonderful evening, but soooo stressful beforehand!
We had a rehearsal on Tuesday afternoon, so that the kids could get used to the restaurant, see where the bathrooms are, learn where they can and can’t go etc, and also practice on the actual stage area.
The kids were due to come down at 4pm, and Karla, Amy and I had a meeting planned for 1pm with the manager to go over the sound equipment that he’d assured us they had. We arrived, and waited.

By 1.30pm we started asking around and were informed he wasn’t coming in until 6pm!
So I called him, and he said he’d had an emergency, but I could speak with the day manager instead.
So we duly spoke with him, who informed us that there was no sound equipment!

Anil Shahi, our celebrity guitarist, was there to see if the equipment was alright, and they had a long discussion, culminating in the fact that we could hire it out for 5,000 rupees!

I was furious that the other guy had just blatantly lied to us about having equipment, as we now only had 3 days to find some and hire it, not to mention having to pay for everything ourselves! I pointed out that this was a fundraiser and we couldn’t really afford that – and had we known there wasn’t anything we could have sorted something out for free if we’d had more time.

Anil was terribly sweet (and a little bit scared of me in angry mode) and said he could get it all from his mate for 3,500, and mentioned that Sudesh, our friend who owns the bar across the street, had talked about wanting to contribute something, so he suggested we ask him to donate money for the sound equipment.
So, it all got sorted out, and the rehearsal went really well. The kids were great, sooo well behaved, and there were only a handful of people at the restaurant, but they were all entranced by our show, and almost all of them insisted on giving us on-the-spot donations.

We hadn’t really expected that at all, but we came away with 13,000 rupees – almost 100 quid! It was perfect timing – enough to cover our sound stuff, plus the extra costs we’d already paid for like photocopying flyers and posters, making banners and hiring costumes etc.
So, we were effectively back at zero, and any money we make on the night will be pure profit!
On Wednesday and Thursday we spent all night going from bar to restaurant giving out flyers and telling everyone we could find what was happening. For some reason Thamel is packed with tourists at the moment, which was really good timing.

On Friday we arrived at the restaurant early to set up the banners and start handing out flyers. The restaurant had agreed to give us 20% of the money from each bill but only if they presented our flyer. Despite asking the manager several times to make sure the waiters understood that, they still didn’t have a clue, which was quite annoying.

Anyway, we handed out TONS of flyers and loads of people said they’d come along.
One of Aamaa’s friends, a very eccentric elderly Tibetan lady, called Guru Princess (a nickname I gather she gave herself!) called me to check that I’d booked a table for her, as she was bringing about 8 or 9 friends. I assured her that we had, and then she started going on about needing a special chair, as “His Eminence” was coming.

I said “who?” and she said “His Eminence!”, and I said “who?” and she said “His Eminence! His Eminence!”
We eventually established that I didn’t know who she was talking about, and he turned out to be a high tibetan lama (buddhist monk type), and she wanted a throne for him!

I calmly explained that we were holding this event at a restaurant, and I suspected all of the chairs would be roughly the same. Then she asked us to at least drape his chair with a white cloth to show respect, but as I don’t carry respectful white sheets around with me, I told her she’d have to sort that all out herself.

Then at 1pm, the manager came over to inform us that there was a problem and they couldn’t give us 20% after all. There were some extremely high stress levels at this stage of the day, and a heated argument ensued involving what they had promised versus what they were now saying. They were concerned about losing money, even though we had promised the place would be packed full – it’s a huge venue and is never more than half full even on a busy night. Also all of our promotion had been based around the fact that this restaurant were giving us 20% and that was WHY people were coming to eat there tonight!

Total disaster, and I came close to committing several murders, but eventually it dawned on us what was really happening. The manager had been dealing with us from the beginning and had always agreed to the 20%, however the owner had showed up, and clearly disliked the idea (his brother the other owner had originally ok’d the idea, but was conviniently absent).
So the owner was being super-nice to us, while instructing his manager to screw us over!
The poor manager would have probably lost his job if he hadn’t done it, so we weren’t so angry at him. We managed to sit down with both of them together to clarify what they WERE going to give us, so there couldn’t be any confusion.

They agreed again to give us the 20%, except for their special clients, who already got a 20% discount, and therefore they’d lose money giving it to us – or some bollocks like that!
It all got sorted out, but left us feeling uneasy about how much they would really give us after it all finished.

However, we moved on and had very few other dramas – a weird german volunteer stopped by to tell me that I shouldn’t be trusting the orphanage at all – after all she’s been here for two whole months and knows how corrupt Nepal is. I tried to assure her that I understand but this place is different – I have been living there for 9 months and I’d know!

She was utterly condescending and rude – SHE works with street kids, and appeared to be insinuating that “my type” of volunteer were a waste of space. One of those awful people who feel that if they’re doing something good, it’s wonderful, but anyone else tries it and it’s a total waste of time!
As we were talking her dog took a massive shit right in front of the restaurant entrance where I was trying to get people to come in! I asked her if she normally carried a plastic bag to clean up after her dog, and she said “Oh yes, but I don’t like this place, or what you’re doing, so I’m going to leave it there.”


I thanked her very politely for leaving her shit and asked her to leave. Then of course I had to clean the crap up, but even weirder was that she showed up to see our show anyway, and brought 3 filthy street kids with her to make her point. Our nice manager sent them over some free food, and when I asked her if she’d enjoyed the show and gotten the free food, she just said “Yeah.”

Not a thank you in sight.

Anyhoo, the rest of the night went beautifully – the kids were fantastic – utterly brilliant, and the restaurant was so packed the waiters didn’t know what to do. We’d warned them several times it would be busy, but they were useless, and quite a few people complained to us that they wanted to order more food and drinks as the money was for a good cause, but the waiters were nowhere in sight!
Also, Guru Princess informed me during the break that “the children” had requested some buddhist prayers at the end. They soooooo hadn’t, and there was no way we were going to bring religion into it! (Also I’ve seen Princess praying with the kids before, and they chant “Om Mane Peme Om” for HOURS!).
Luckily I put Priya in charge of sorting that out, and it was quickly avoided!

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After it was all over (it went by in a bit of a blur, as I was so nervous! – I was the MC and there were over 200 people there!), we managed to relax and have a drink or two. The kids all got ice-cream and watermelon that we’d bought for them as a treat, and when they left around 8pm, they got a standing ovation as they walked out through the tables! Loads of people showed lots of interest and we hope it has rasied some awareness and might help us get some more permanent sponsors in the future.
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It was a huge roaring success, and we went out to celebrate afterwards, with lots of drinking (it was also Amy’s 35th birthday too).
I’m afraid I caved after 3 months and smoked – the stress of not smoking was killing me – I had thought it would get easier, as the first two months were fine, but for the last month I’ve literally wanted a cigarette every day and there was a bit too much stress for me to take!
So, sorry to disappoint, but I’m no longer a non-smoker, although I’m still a vegetarian!

We counted up the money from our donation box, which came to a whopping 31,815 rupees, (about 250 quid), far more than we’d expected!
It took us a couple of days to get the money from the Northfield, and as we’re suspected they did try to screw us over royally. The manager complained that they’d actually lost money, because some people moved tables and their bills didn’t get paid properly.
Also he said the waiters and till-guy were struggling with all these flyers etc – which was their bloody idea, not ours – we just wanted 20% of the night’s takings.
Then he informed us that they hadn’t given us any money from the breakfast or lunch crowd, as no-one handed in flyers, which is bullshit, because we were there all day telling people what to do, and we know tons of people did.

We sat and argued that the problems they were complaining about were due to their staff being crap and under-prepared, even though we’d asked several times that they tell the waiters what was happening.
Then came the negotiating – he wanted to give us 14,000, which is way below what we should have made from there. He tried to tell us that only 53,000 of the total takings were with flyers, which is utter crap – EVERYONE had flyers and they made way more than 100,000 that night. Then he kept changing his story – saying they’d only made 85,000, and then he admitted they’d made 95,000, but 10,000 of that was for their clients with discounts. I pointed out that if it was 85,000 then 20% would be 17,000, not 14,000, and he just looked utterly lost, and said “um, yes, sure, ok.”

It was very very clear that they’d made a shit-load more than that, but the cheapskate owner had obviously told the manager to try and get us to settle for as little as possible.
It made us all so angry, as it’s for a bloody orphanage, and it was only for 1 night, and we put sooo much work into promoting them and giving the restaurant such good press etc.
Anyhow, it was easy to catch him out as he kept changing his mind and wouldn’t atually tell us how much they really made, so eventually we had to settle for 17,000, although it should have been a lot more.
However, Amy wanted to make a donation for her birthday and decided to make it up to 20,000, so altogether we made 65,000 rupees, from donations and the restaurant (around 515 pounds). After our costs we made just over 400 quid in profit for the orphanage, which will go a very long way over here.
Also, Karla, the finnish volunteer, has rasied about 400 Euros to add to our money, so we’re doing really well.

Now that it’s all over the kids had their first day of school today, which was fantastic – they were so excited and looked so smart in their new uniforms and shoes!

We are all winding down a bit now, and I’m off tomorrow to go trekking for a week, so I’ll tell you all about that when I get back!

tons of love

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