As I begin my fourth week in the metropolis of Kathmandu, I am finding that fun can be everywhere. So here goes with some of my giggles.

 

1. Rating the spitting.  As I share my walk to and from the monastery with one or another of our volunteers, we give a rating of 1 to 10 (10 being masterful!) of the native hawking, snorking and resultant spitting. Reached as high as a 9 so far.

 

2. Bargaining. Normally this is something I have always hated to do when holidaying. However, there is no doubt that here in the Thamel District of Kathmandu (the popular tourist area) there is a two-tier pricing system.  One for the native Napali and one for pale skinned tourist targets.

The shopkeepers love it and I have taken to keeping it fun and teasing. Here is what works best for me…”I’m just a poor volunteer english teacher, here to teach the monks and I don’t have much money.”  Works every time and it’s true!  They give me their last price and I respond with MY last price and a deal is struck.

 

3.Getting a Massage. Just walking in to a spa (word used lightly) you can be seen immediately.  A young man at the front desk where I had my second massage led me into the massage area and told me where I could put my clothes etc. Not seeing any other staff around I asked him who was going to give me my massage. 

 “Me”, he replied. 

To myself I said, “No way are you  getting your hands on my bod” while aloud I made it clear, “Nope, I want a woman.”

“No worries, very professional”, was his response.

Eyeball to eyeball I stared at him and said one word, “Woman.”

He made a beeline for the phone and called a woman masseur to come in and she arrived within 10 minutes.

 

4. Walking in the Rain. Love the looks I get while walking to the monastery in my rain gear which consists of neon orange rain boots (purchased at home for $5), a pearlized pink rain poncho and a multi-coloured umbrella.  Oh yes, and I also sing along to my iPod.  Hmm, maybe that’s what caused the stares.

 

5. Seeing how many smiles I can get. The Nepali tend to look down or away as you approach on the street.  I look directly at them and if they glance my way I give a great big smile and a cheery “Namaste!”. 

You should see their faces change!  Suddenly there are creases of smiles, toothy grins, sparkling eyes and a returned “Namaste”.  Sometimes I smile and nod and I will get the same back. 

 

6.Welcoming Monkeys to School. Check out video.

 

7. Climbing.  Last Saturday, two Aussie volunteers Charmaine and Rachel along with myself and guide Ganesh climbed to Jamicho, a temple (Jamicho) on the top of a mountain in the Naranjan Forestry Reserve.

We climbed 3000 feet within 3 hours and 45 minutes.  So steep that steps were carved out of the earth for much of the way.  Lots of dead leaves to make footing slippery.  I bought a back pack to haul my water and lunch in and found it caused my centre of gravity to be more than slightly off kilter, and the dang thing was heavy!

To this moment I don’t know from where I found the moxy to keep on going to the top.  I was definitely “Lag Along Lynn”. Mind you, Char aND Rach are in their 20’s and Ganesh can lope up the mountains like a goat.

How can one little person sweat out so much water!  My hair looked like I had just stepped out of the shower and rivulets of salty excretions ran into my stinging eyes constantly. But hey, it was only 1 1/2 hours getting down and I only fell twice! I drank at least 3 lt of water but had no need for the loo until back home!

So worth the view from the top!  The entire Kathmandu valley spread out before us. 

 

It was the following day that my second massage was crucially necessary.  I started with a very stong desire to descend the hotel stairs on my butt, then shuffled, groaned and agonized my way to the spa. Upon seeing a flight of stairs that needed negotiating at the spa,it was only by Herculean mental effort that I forced my screaming leg muscles to function for one more time.

 

8.  A Day at the Himalayan Buddhist Meditation Centre. Irish Peter and I registered for this whole day experience which started with a yoga practice that left me needing a nap and it was only 9 AM!  A combination of aerobics and yoga at a pace reserved for race horses.

A wonderful vegetarian breakfast was then served in the garden after which we gathered for a 2 hour fascinating talk with a senior monk who took us through some of the basics of Buddhism.

Another fabulous meal for lunch again in the garden.  A DVD was next, then tea break and another Monkly presentation. Tea again and an hour of meditation instruction and practice.  The day ended at 6PM.

 

9. Teaching Monks.  Let it be known, that 6 to 10 year old boys are rambunctious, noisy, punch each other, yell, run, ignore you and otherwise truly test their teachers whether they wear monk’s robes or not.  Love them? Yes. Do they have angel faces? Yes. Control 20 of them in a class for an hour? No.

But a-ha! I am older, wiser and trickier.  I divide them into 3 groups.  One group gets a pile of crayons, felt markers and colouring books. The other group gets a fascinating picture book to explore and the final group gets  a stack of Scrabble tiles and me.  We read a simple story and have one monklette at a time spell new words with the tiles as they learn what it means.  After 15 minutes (the extent of their attention spans) we change groups and then change again one more time before the class is over and we form our ‘goodbye circle’.

Just wait until I bring them “Shreck” on my computer to watch tomorrow! Dollars to donuts their attention span magically expands to the whole hour!  We will have to watch  it over 2 classes and I’ll bet all will be in position and quiet for the start of the second installment.

  

10. Garbage Strikes.  I suppose this doesn’t really qualify as ‘funny’, but when you think of it, the fact that at least 6 different factions have to agree on a solution, it could be verrrry long.  In the meantime, one comes across heaps of garbage piled in various areas providing food for dogs, rats, flies and the resultant stink just adds to the soup of olfactory assaults.

 

11. Beggars Tactics. Soft-hearted foreigners beware.  I’ve already told you about the street kids begging for food money which they use to buy glue to sniff.  Next we have mothers with babes in arms beseeching you for milk.  You should have seen the look on one tourist’s face when she bought milk powder in the store for one such mother and a few seconds later the mother sold it back to the store for money!  No doubt the stores are in kahoots and make their bit of profit too.

One will undoubtedly come across some men who have obvious deformities with their feet or legs and they crawl about the sidewalks in tourist sections begging.  It can be very heart tugging until you ask yourself how does he get to this spot every day?  There are no living quarters.  Then you see one riding in a rickshaw on the way to his ‘sidewalk job’.

Then their is the young person who will walk beside you and ask “Hello Madam, where are you from?” Early in the game I made the mistake of responding and he immediately said “Ottawa is your capital city”.  I was a bit taken aback and he followed with “Ask me any country and I can tell you the capital city”.  Many of my fellow volunteers got caught with this same young man and he actually can tell you correctly.  No one could stump him!  Then, of course, he asks you for money for his ‘performance’.

I must say, beggars, shopkeepers, taxi and rickshaw drivers, etc. are all very polite in their approaches.  It is always with a “Hello madam, excuse me madam, do you remember me madam” as a preface. One day instead of ‘madam’ I got ‘Mother’.  I must have been having an ‘old-looking’ day!

 

 

12. Pilgrims Read ‘n Feed. My favorite store!  Two floors of books, Nepali treasures and a veggie restaurant. I keep buying things for my monk students in the way of books, etc. because they have so little.

 

 

13. Shreck for the Monklettes. The delighted, fully focused and absorbed faces were a treat to see when I played the movie ‘Shreck’ for my younger class!

 

 

14. Electricity. We volunteers could make some good gambling money if we started a daily pool for the time(s) the electricity goes off. I’ve had many a cold-water shower in the dark. And I really couldn’t care less anymore.

 

 

15. Riding a Rickshaw. A bumpy ride of course, but the rickshaw owner pulls his ‘carriage’ with his bicycle and the rider gets a bit of a breeze and a good looksee at passing interests.  Great in the rain and very inexpensive.

 

 

16. Nasal treats. My highly assaulted smelling capacity became aware of a slight, strange wafting playing around the edges of my nostrils during the walk to the monastery one morning. A memory of ‘pleasant’ awakened when the fragrance intensified. Then a brain memory cell flashed the word ‘JASMINE’ in flashing neon lights!  Yes, from somewhere the phenomenal scent of jasmine traced by on a wayward breeze. Heaven!

 

 

I am thoroughly enjoying your comments! Please keep them coming by clicking the ‘About’ tab at the top of the page.

 

Cheerio!

Lynn

One thing is certain about life…much as we plan, there is always something around the corner that could knock your plans askew.  Such as this…..I simply cannot solve the problem of not being able to get my videos and pictures onto this blog!!! GGrrrr!

 

 

I have a blog entry all typed and ready to go.  All that was left was to upload the pics and videos.  No go.  SO, that being said, I am going to continue to work on that and in the meantime I can at least send you more news and your vivid imaginations can visualize to the max.

 

 I’m up to my eyebrows in monklettes!  I have two classes in the mornings after I have sweated and puffed my way uphill for most of 5K to the monastery lugging my school books and feeling like a pack mule.  On arrival I am soaking wet and my face is the colour of a profoundly embarassed tomato from the heat and exertion. I’m celebrating today (just starting my third week in Nepal) because I actually had my very first bandaid-less day for my feet!

 

Irish Peter and I teach at the same monastery (Sangye Goling Gompa) at the same times.  I start out earlier than peter because I like to stroll while Peter strides.  He is tall and lanky (built like my son, Dan and younger than him).  We walk back to the hotel together and discuss our classes, what worked, what didn’t and what was hilariously funny that day.

 

The monklettes all have colds and barking coughs (change of season from dry to wet) so Irish Peter and Boston Mike both got colds.  I haven’t and the only reason I can give is that I use a hand sanitizer at least 6 to 10 times during every class and keep my hands off my face. 

 

 My first class is 6 to 9 year olds.  Soooo cute in their little monk robes. They see me coming and hoop and holler “Good morning, namaste” and run into the classroom, set up my chair and tiny table, turn on the ceiling fan (bless them!) and sit cross-legged on the floor in anticipation. Anywhere from 16 to 26 can be in the class.  Completely uncontrollable!  When finished an exercise in their scribblers, they yell ‘finished!’ and swarm me trying to get their book into my hands first to get the much coveted drawing of a star from teacher. All the while hollering ‘Lynn, Lynn, Lynn!’ until I take their book.

 

 

After that class and two aspirin, I make my way to an older class of 15, 16, 17 year olds and the change is like rain to sun.  Don’t get me wrong, I love the wee ones. Again, someone runs and gets the board eraser wet, cleans off the board, another dries it and we are off. This class is ready for very basic grammar and is anywhere from 12 to 30+ on any given day.

 

 

There is one thing that makes teaching monks a bit different.  They learn all their Buddhist teachings and prayers by repetition memorization.  Thinking for themselves is a foreign concept and sometimes feels like giving birth, just to get a conceptualized answer or response! But we are getting there what with my antics, funny faces and cajoling. They are a great group too.

 

School aside, I think I’ll share with you some of the things I would never get used to if I lived here until I am a hundred.

 

1. Spitting.  Everyone spits on the streets! It is considered very normal.  In fact, if they see a foreigner blowing into a tissue they are repulsed by it!  Picture this….a very lovely woman dressed in  a beautiful sari is walking toward you and you are full of admiration.  Then you begin to hear a sound akin to an old junker trying to rev it’s worn out motor.  You look around wondering what this noise is and where it is emanating from.  As she comes closer you realize this lovely woman is the source and you think she must be in distress until she finishes with a drawn out ‘haawwk’ and promptly deposits half a lung at your feet.  Thus the local warning to newby’s “Watch out for the oysters on the streets”.

 

2. Flying water.  As you dodge traffic and other pedestrians, watch for oysters, doggie do, etc., be ready for a bucket of dirty water to be flung out a shop doorway into the street.

 

3.  Street children. Due greatly to the political mess in Nepal, many young children (boys) come into Kathmandu to be safe from being kidnapped by the Maoist soldiers in their villages.  They find there is no way to make income and live on the streets.  They  become hooked as glue sniffers and beg for money. We must never give them any and if you give them anything else they will simply sell it for cash to buy glue.

 

You see these filthy children sleeping on the street on filthy old blankets and most times are cuddled with stray dogs.

 

4. And that brings me to the street dogs.  My first day walking to the monastery I arrived in tears.  Diseased and injured stray dogs are aplenty. Rabies is known in Nepal so we must not approach or touch them.  But as I look in their eyes I see such misery.  So I have taken not to looking in their eyes and simply give them love and blessings as I pass.

 

On the other hand there are many pet dogs I see on leashes and others with collars that show they belong to someone. They are as loved and well cared for as those in our western culture.  We have one in our hotel that belongs to a staff family which lives in the hotel.  Her name is Shessy, she looks like a cross between a tiny polar bear cub and a teddy bear.  A pure white fluff ball with bright eyes with whom I have fallen madly in love.  I can hardly wait until I can send you her picture.

 

5. Horn honking.  Constant, varied squawking.  Absolutely no traffic control in the way of signs or lights.  Honking is considered polite because they are letting you know that they are coming and if you don’t get out of the way be prepared to be road kill.  I am about to buy my own damn horn and blast people and vehicles out of MY way!

 

This past weekend, Irish Peter and I attended an all-day retreat at the Himalayan Buddhist Meditation Centre.  A quiet oasis just 5 minutes from our hotel, hidden away down a side street.  We did an hour of yoga, were served a wonderful breakfast in a quiet garden, listened to a venerable monk speak on Buddhism, were served a lovely lunch, watched a DVD, had a tea break, another talk by the monk, another tea break, then a meditation practice. A long, but wonderful day from 8:00 AM to 6:00 PM.

 

This weekend I will finally get out of the city into the real Nepal.  Myself, Courtenay & Rachel (two Aussie volunteers who have just arrived) Irish Peter and our guide, Ganesh, are going on a day trek into a forest reserve and hike to the top of a ‘rise’ which will take about 3 1/2 hours and return (2 1/2 hours). The following weekend we are taking 3 days to go to Pokhara (a must-see I am told), 6 hours by native bus (ho  boy!). I will definitely visit the Peace Pagoda among many other things while there. I will tell you all about these excursions in a future blog.

 

I shall keep working on the visuals. Stay with me here!

 

Feel free to place comments by clicking the ‘about’ tab above.  I receive them in my email as well.

Cheerio!

Lynn