A really fantastic Christmas

Monday 24th December 2007
Well hello there all my delightful little munchkins, and a very merry Christmas to you all!
Karla and I had great fun last night, the kids have been SUPER-psyched all week about Christmas and Santa, – I’ve been fielding the same questions over and over again – “Is Santa REALLY coming?”, “Do you know Santa?”, “What time will he come?” etc.
Of course after hyping it all up, I also had to answer some more difficult questions like “Why hasn’t Santa ever come before?” (“He didn’t know where you lived but I sent him a map and told him you’d all been very good this year”), and “Will he come again next year?” (“Well Santa’s very busy and can’t always get to everybody, but maybe he will.”).
Anyhow, on Sunday night, after the kids all ate their rice, we washed and dried the metal rice bowls and I stuck name stickers on them and we put them all out for Santa.
Sometimes when one of the babies is sleeping they put a bowl of rice to one side for them to have later, and when I saw one in the kitchen I asked who it was for. Jake and Martin (two of the oldest boys at 12 and 13) both turned to me and said rather patronisingly that it was for Santa, obviously.
I hadn’t actually realised until then that even the bigger boys really believed he was coming, which was terribly sweet.

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Fa la la la la, la la la laaaaaaa

Friday 14th December 2007

Hello everyone!
I’m getting fully into the Christmas spirit now, and everything’s so exciting!

We’ve got a new volunteer who has come to our orphanage a few days ago, she’s called Karla, and is from Finland, and is really nice, so that’s good.
She and I have been putting our heads together to plan a lovely Christmas for all the children, and I’m so excited now! I can’t wait – it’s going to be so much fun!

I’ve already talked to the kids a lot about Christmas, and we’ve done xmas vocab in English, and made a lovely big snowman and xmas tree to put on the wall in lieu of a real tree – I’ll attach a photo cos it looks really great!
The kids all made paper presents to stick under the tree and coloured nice pictures etc.
Anyway, the plan so far for Christmas is quite elaborate, so I’ll let you all in on my plans (it’s SOOOO exciting!!) Continue reading

A Very Very Bad Day

Wednesday 5th December 2007

Ok, so after all the excitement with Motilal at the hospital, I was pretty shattered, but Priya insisted I go out on Friday as usual.

I wasn’t feeling too well to be honest, I’ve caught a cold and was knackered, but figured I’d just go for dinner and catch up with everyone and then come home. (I also wasn’t feeling rich enough for a big night out, as Motilal’s stay in the hospital cost me 21,000 rupees – about 160 quid, which is quite a lot on my budget, although a kind friend has offered to help me pay it).
I’d tried ringing Alan a couple of times on Thursday and Friday, and he hadn’t answered, but that’s not unusual, and I knew I’d see him at the pub. Continue reading

The Kanti Children’s Hospital

Tuesday 4th December 2007

Well, it’s been a hell of a week, possibly the most intense since I got here, and I’m definitely going to need to have a break soon!

On Monday morning, I cooked the Dhaal Bhaat as usual, but someone said Motilal wasn’t well and wouldn’t have any. I saw Motilal at lunchtime, and he looked alright, said he had a stomach ache, but he was lying in the sun on the roof and seemed pretty happy.

I carried on teaching and at around 2 ish, someone came down and asked for the thermometer, cos Motilal was really ill. I came upstairs and the poor boy was lying under a duvet shuddering uncontrollably. My little thermo-strip thermometer on his forehead went up to 104, which is as high as it goes, and he was clutching his side in pain. It was his right side, and when I gently prodded him, well, I think he would have screamed if he’d had the energy. Continue reading


Saturday 24th November 2007

Well the purpose of this email is for us all to have a good laugh at my misfortune, hence the title (that’s what a 17,000 pound education will do for you, with posh long German words and everything!)

I was at the post office collecting a huge parcel of stationary supplies from my lovely friends in Korea (big huge thank you to Penny, Elin, Suzie, and anyone else who contributed to that – it’s fantastic).
On my way out from the counter to go and get my customs form signed, I tripped over a huge pile of rusting metal that was apparently being stored in the middle of the floor. I stubbed my toe really badly, and you know that intense pain you get when you stub your toe, when all you want to do is swear as loudly as you possibly can? Well, I was leaning against the wall, gripping my toe and managed to avoid screaming abuse. Priya wanted to have a look, and when I eventually ungripped my toe I realised that there was already blood soaking through my sock onto my hand. Continue reading

Tihar and Bhai Tikka

Monday 19th November 2007
Well, it’s already a week ago, but I’ve had so much else to write about, I haven’t had time to tell you all about Bhai Tikka!
The Tihar festival was really fun – it’s a festival of lights, and is a bit like Halloween, Bonfire Night and Christmas rolled into one. There’s loads of firecrackers, bangers and fireworks constantly going off, and it’s really crisp and cold at night now too. Everyone has fairy lights on their houses and shops, which gives it a nice Christmassy feel, and the kids go round people’s houses singing songs and people give them food or money and sweets – a bit like trick-or-treating or carolling.
We made sel, (deep-fried sweet dough rings), although they don’t quite taste like donuts at all! Aamaa prepared special plates of food for all the kids – each plate had an apple, banana, packet of biscuits, a curried egg, some sweets and nuts and coconut, and a donut-thing.
Lots of marigold wreaths

Lots of marigold wreaths

Then on Sunday, it was Bhai Tikka – bhai means younger brother, and it’s the festival of brothers and sisters.

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Nepalese Fighting Monks

Friday 16th November 2007
Just so you all know, my lovely friend Vic has informed me that Ilford is in North London, very probably in Essex, we’re not sure about their football team but apparently they’ve got an ok cricket team, so that’s part of the mystery solved.
I went to Chovar the other day to visit my friend Mari, a Danish girl who’s been volunteering at a Buddhist monastery there.
It’s not far from the city, and is up a steep hill. The monastery is perched on a little outcrop that gives you almost a 360 degree view of the valley and hills.
It is gorgeous, and really peaceful and calm. I took lots of lovely pictures of the surroundings and gardens, the city views and me spinning the prayer wheels etc.
Loads of prayer flags!

Loads of prayer flags!

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The Ilford Mystery…

Monday 12th November 2007

On Thursday I came downstairs after a lie-in (I didn’t get up till 6.30) and discovered to my amazement that Aamaa’s son Anil was up and about.

I’ve never seen him get up before 9 or 10, but apparently he was playing in a local football tournament (marrieds vs unmarrieds) so I bundled up all the kids in hats and jumpers and off we went to watch.
The match was fairly uneventful – there were a lot of manly displays of hawking and spitting – I’m not sure how they managed to play half the time! Continue reading

Latest Update

Friday 9th November 2007

Hey guys,
Ok, so update on the situation so far.

I went to meet with James X at the Umbrella Foundation, which is an amazing organisation with 6 orphanages and over 300 children in their care. They have been running in Nepal for over 20 years and have a LOT of experience with this kind of thing.

I’ve looked around two of their orphanages and they are fantastic – really properly well run and funded – all the kids have beds, clothes, go to school, get well fed etc.
James is a lovely frenchman, who’s Irish wife Vivienne set up the foundation, and he’s got greying-whitish dreadlocks that make him look rather like an ageing fraggle. Continue reading

The Other Orphanage – Part 3

Saturday 3rd November 2007

Ok, now I’ve outlined for you all the basic situation, and while it may continue to change every day (I will keep you posted on any new developments), I wanted to just finish off this 3-part monster of an email by telling you all a few of my thoughts on the whole thing.
Everything that has gone on has really made me think hard and re-evaluate what exactly I’m doing here and what good volunteering can do.

I’ve been well aware for a long time that my orphanage is a very special place indeed. There is so much love and affection between the children themselves as well as with Aamaa, Priya, and all the caring friends and family who constantly visit. I’ve already told you that it’s more like a very big family than an orphanage.
There are lots of willing, helping hands that make it all seem to run smoothly. Continue reading