Saturday, March 29, 2003

Well, I've finally found a solution to all my problems. For 5 months of the year I will live in Nepal, for 6 months of the year I will live in McLeod Ganj in India, and during December I will come back to Australia!

This place is absolutely incredible. The Dalai Lama obviously would choose the most beautiful place on the planet to live in. I just don't understand why I didn't think to come here sooner. McLeod Ganj is set in the foothills of the Himalayas. It's like an alpine village actually, with the snow capped peaks on one side, the slowly descending foothills on the other, and the township right on the river.

I feel alive simply walking down the street here. The people are mostly monks and students (here for the teachings), with a few locals spread further down in the villages. There is also a large (and very bold) monkey population which is thriving on stealing people's oranges. But the air is crystal clear and breathing it in is like cleansing your soul.

Occasionally I have to laugh though, to see the monks bargaining for runners, or playing cards in the 'beer garden' (which is actually a vegetarian cafe).

Because of the proximity to the Himalayas, we've decided to do an overnight trek up to the snowline... which should be amazing (tomorrow), and then head back down to noise and pollution of Delhi (sadly) to see the Taj Mahal, and organise the trip back.

Well, the Dalai Lama is giving a teaching soon, so I'd better go and grab a good cushion before the monks steal them all!

Still missing you, but finding myself rather adjusted to life in the moutains.


Sunday, March 23, 2003

Namaskar from Varanasi, India!

Yes, that's right! I've arrived :-) At 5am yesterday morning we crossed the Indian border on a rickshaw. The journey so far has been more exciting than India itself, but I'm sure that will change soon. Only 5 minutes ago an enormous World Cup Cricket Gang flew down the street on their motor bikes with painted faces and flags...

Honestly, India seems very similar to Nepal, but with more pollution, more people and much smarter con men. That's right, you simply can not get where you want to go in a rickshaw, taxi or auto. You tell them where, they say yes, they take you to some 100% commission hotel and dump you. Luckily we've been able to get a good sense of where we are, however, walking around with a pack in this heat is like trekking!

The main difference I suppose it that in India, the men all seem to be in traditional dress too. I suppose because Varanasi is home to the most famous silk silk sari makers in the world it might have something to do with it.

As for the plan - I don't think I will spend as much time as I originally thought in India. We'll head to Delhi, and close by the Dalai Lama is giving a talk which we will try and get to. See the Taj Mahal, maybe go for a few day hikes and then back to Kathmandu. Some of the other volunteers want to get a trek together for the beginning of the Nepali new year, so I'd like to be back for that.

The lonely planet guide to India has dealt a severe blow to Indian tourism, but now that I'm here, I can see what it means. It's just like Kathmandu without the charm. Here every person is in on the scams, even the children! Whereas in Kathmandu it's mainly the taxi drivers, and children actually want to say hello to you! The weather here is also terrible - I think it's about 40 today and it's not even summer yet.

Okay, well I'm going to try and find somewhere with air conditioning (Although the city is at a standstill for the World Cup) - hope to hear from you soon.


Saturday, March 15, 2003

To those who were concerned - I'm sorry! But slowly I have moved onto Nepal time, which is an entirely different concept to any that you might stumble across in Australia. I am sincerely sorry, I'm not lost, I'm not dead, and I'm not in India (yet), and I'm having a great time!!! :-) You see it was the last week of school this week, and I have accumulated many responsibilities - like typing exams, taking class, tutoring maths and physics to class 10's (like year 12's), taking photographs of everything in the school (it's suprising what a snazzy camera can do for your photography skills and reputation!), and generally having a good time - attending weddings, coming of age ceremonies and other events every night, and helping some of the other teachers with their computer skills... In return they're helping me to read Nepali. Yes, that's right - in the past week I have not only learned all 432 different letters in the Nepali alphabet, but I can (very) slowly read the words. Now I just need to learn enough Nepali to be able to understand what I am reading!

We've had some great festivals too - I think I already mentioned Shiva day and sacrificing popcorn to the Gods - and on Tuesday it's Holi - which means for 15 days before everyone throughs water bombs and coloured paint at you from rooftops or anywhere... And EVERYONE wants to get me! All my clothes are covered in red tikka paint and I can't go outside without getting soaked. Luckily I stocked up on water bombs last week- because you can't buy them any more! But, they're terrible - in a packet of 30 only 7 will be any use. Of course they're only 3 rupees for the pack, so I'm not complaining!

I have also cooked 'Australian' food for my host family, which was a compelte success (suprisingly) - we had cheesy spaghetti, tomato/veg sauce and mashed potatoes with butter and milk! I thought they wouldn't eat any of it, but they wolfed it down and asked for more. I have also mastered the art of the vegetable curry, rice and dhal and speaking of skills - I have learnt to juggle! In the mornings some the students and I play with bean bags, and they love to watch me juggle them every morning! Then we play hot potato :-)

As for India - yes I'm going next week - on condition that I can get a visa... The embassy is closed for holi and has been for ages. Anyway, I just wanted to reassure you all that I was fine and alive - although I'm sure mum has told you all by now. Please don't send interpol to look for me if I don't write for 7 days - things simply getso busy over here!

Anyway, I'm missing you all heaps, I'lltry to write more frequently, but it might not be until after holi!


Monday, March 03, 2003

Hello from the land of blu-tak theives!

That's right - the blu-tak that was holding up many of the classroom pictures has been STOLEN by students who are completely in love with it... I have been running around classrooms all day repairing the damage with sticky tape (which they do have here, so hopefully it won't be stolen as well). It makes me so sad to see how much the children thrive on praise - it's even better than stickers! And how they want a piece of blu-tak to take home, or even a piece of sticky tape - but when they steal... I no longer feel sorry for them. They're ruining their own classrooms that way. No more blu-tak. It's a shame, because I've just found a place that sells it here too - and it's SO useful! In school news, my fast typing secret is out, and I have been recruited to type up the exams... (I figure, at least my students will get good grades on the english sections if I am finally able to get some direction about what I should be teaching them). I'm still arriving in class to a standing ovation and cheers - which invariably means I'm a softie and sometimes we get to play cricket instead of write poetry... Of course the cricket bat has no handle and you can't buy them in Nepal (only rounders bats) despite the incredible popularity of the game.

Adventures are continuing. On Friday night I was taken to Dhulikel by the neighbours to see the mountains - after expressing so much enthusiasm for a glimpse of single snow capped peak on our one clear day! The drive was eventful to say the least - this is a wealthy family and we were still pushing their car a lot of the way.... It was fun though! (And they'd never heard of eye spy or car cricket). It was cloudy when we arrived, but we explored for a little bit. It's a real village, I loved it! And my lungs felt so light, like a vacuum cleaner had sucked out every speck of dust (ironnic really, considering dhuli means dust in Nepali!). I was banned from telling ghost stories - no-one does it in Nepal - and no-one understood my jokes (apprently they're not so funny when english isn't your first language) - I didn't understand theirs either - but we still had a blast, playing cards and having pillow fights all night. At 5am we woke up for the sunrise (but due to high clouds, it didn't actually rise until 6:30am) and it wa spectacular. It rose SO fast as well. The peaks were highlighted in different colours, but there was an enormous cloud covering most of it... I loved it, but they all thought it was disappointing. After a lot of pushing, stopping, cooling down and re-starting of the car we arrived back in Samakhushi in time for an outing to the forest with San Thapa and her family. Very nice - and on Saturday it was the festival of Shiva, so we lit a huge fire, sacrificed popcorn to the gods, and played games on the roof well into the night.

The other Australian volunteer came back on Sunday from her trek (which was a complete white out - ending with their guide compeltely lost and praying in the snow)... So we went out to meet some of her trekking partners on Sunday night, ate WAY to much chow mein and got home at 9:30pm (VERY LATE)... The school gate was locked too, so I had to jump over the fence, and the gatekeeper who was sleeping (who I couldn't see in the dark) thought I was a burglar and chased me around the playground.

Apart from the fun I am having, I feel as thought I'm not acheiving as much as I would like school wise. The school is very strange. It has the longest hours and the most days of every school in Nepal. Often it's a 7 days a week venture. Most of the teachers are single, and on their day off (Saturday), they all come to the school and play volleyball with the hostel boys. All the teachers seem to be always at the school - except for the principal, who I can never reach to discuss important things! For spending so much time their, you would expect some level of commitment - but not a single teacher takes responsibility for ANYTHING. Not even the volleyball net. I really can't understand it. They love to play badminton and volleyball or anything physical, but you can't seem to have a serious discussion about anything with anyone. And when I try to talk about what I can do for the school, they want to buy playground equipment, which invariably gets lost or stolen after 2 days.

I am not complaining - and I'm not depressed or sad - I'm having a great holiday, but that's really not what I'm supposed to be doing here, and it's not why I came...

Well, I hope you all are having a great time in Australia, and having as many adventures as I am! As usual, it is time for me to go. It's Tibetan New Year tonight... :-)