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!

 

 

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Cheerio!

Lynn

Breakout the popcorn and settle in for entertainment!  Remember, this post was written, but not posted prior to the recent published post so they are kind of backwards as to the dates of their occurrence.  Enjoy!! 
 
 
 
It’s time to venture out.  Our coordinator, Chris, takes us for a lesson on how to maneuver the streets of the Thamel district of Nepal and at the same time shows us some important locations we may need or want to use during our stay.  Best thing he did was provide us with a street map as we were so confused and turned around within the first 10 minutes I felt like hanging on to his shirt tail so I didn’t lose him in the crowd.
 
First stop and foremost, the medical pharmacy that doubles as a doctor and medicine dispensary.  Simply sling your cut foot on the counter, he takes a look, treats it and gives medicine if needed and you are on your way. They are very good at treating and recognizing the various intestinal problems us foreigners are prone to get.  Listen to Chris on this video giving our new group of volunteers the “It’s not whether, but when you will fall prey” lecture.  (I finally figured out how to post videos!)
 
Next video is Thamel Chowk (pronounced ‘choke’) and very aptly named.  These chowks are intersections wherein as many as 6 streets can come together. No traffic control and remember ALL traffic, wheeled or on foot, fights for a few inches of progress at a time.  This one is not too bad at the moment, but I have seen them come to a complete gridlock wherein nothing moves, no one will give in and the only movement there is, is a flurry of fists hitting horns. Madness.
 
 
The following day Chris takes new volunteers to their placements for teaching.  It appears ‘Boston’ Michael and I will teach in the Bouddha district and we travel there by cab and walk a fair distance thereafter.  Part of that walk is on this video:

 

 
My Monastery is up first.  There has been a change of boss monk and things are very vague as to when I am to start or if I am to start. Seems the person we were to talk with is not there even though he said he would be during a phone call that morning. Very common in Nepal. Appointment? Maybe, maybe not.  We leave that hang and go on to Michael’s monastery.  Again person to talk to is not there.  Home again, home again jiggity jog.
 
After seeing the local public transit (and I use that word veryloosely), I immediately panic when Chris tells me this is the means I will use to get to and from the monastery.  There isn’t room for a shadow on this dilapidated tin can on worn wheels and I am claustrophobic!!  Result?  Chris has now decided to see if he can get me a placement in the Swayambhu area which is walkable and next day he takes me and ‘Irish’ Peter on this ‘walkable’ saunter. Gawd help me.  It feels like 7 to 10 km but I learn later it is only 5, mostly uphill.
 
 
Along the way is this daunting staircase. 55 (count ’em) stairs almost perpendicular to the street. The lure is a breeze and a beautiful Jacaranda tree at the top.  First day I needed 2 rest stops, second day 1 rest stop and third day I made it all the way to the top!  Mind you I have bandaids on 6 blisters not to mention the sprained toe done on the first day in class when I smashed it into a chair leg. No shoes worn in class. Still having a challenge with posting pics but will show you the one of the stairs when I fix this.
 
Walking in Kathmandu.  One must keep looking down for potholes and unmentionables on the street and, one must keep looking ahead, sideways and behind all at the same time or risk being walked over, body checked and at least losing a limb to some form of motorized smog belcher. Then we must also be looking for landmarks to stay on course. I tell you, if I manage to keep both ankles intact I’ll be celebrating. 

 

Final upshot, I will buddy teach two classes with Peter while Tamsin Lama tries to find me a placement.  Swayambhu area has many monasteries.

 

The next day we are on our own.  News flash…both Peter and I are direction challenged. More than once we pass the same landmark twice and cross the disgusting river (doubles as a landfill), but we handle it with fits of hysterical laughter.  What else can you do when it is 35 C and the humidity has you wishing you could buy clothes made of absorbent diaper fabric?  I drink 3 to 4 lts of bottled water per day with little urgency for the loo.

 

More about the bridge over which we must travel to and from class.  I can’t even describe this river, so you must wait for the picture.  As you look at it, imagine limburger cheese, sweaty feet, rotting carcasses, an overfilled outhouse and any other unearthly stink you can think of and mix it all together.  It’s too far to hold my breath so the next best thing is to cover my mouth and nose with a tissue and mouth-breathe. Even the locals are covering faces.  I am told that after a month of monsoon it runs clear, clean and much higher.  Where everything goes I don’t know and do I even want to?

 

What makes all this worthwhile??? Take a look at Peter and me in the classroom. Monklettes sit on the floor so teacher finds her or himself on the floor much of the time as well. So eager to learn, so attentive, so appreciative. We just love these kids!

 

 

On the second day Tamsin Lama invites Peter and I to join in the Puja (pronounced Pooshuh), a ceremony in the Buddhist temple.  Awesome!  No headgear for women necessary.  We are shown how to do the obeisance (three positions of the prayer held hands, then kneel and place forehead on the floor – do this three times).  Now we sit on the floor against the wall during chanting, bells, horns, drums, tea drinking and walking around the temple altar holding incense.  We can take pictures or video without flash, so enjoy!

 

 

Within a week Tamsin Lama tells me I can teach a class in the same monastery.  The class is Little Ones and I start right now!  I am transported immediately from the familiarity of our buddy class to another room to be greeted by 5 to 10-year-old’s and I have no idea what to do with them, I’m not prepared.  Then I see their big brown eyes and expectant grins and I immediately drop onto the floor with them and we have a great time for the next hour.  No doubt….I’m in love!

 

Here is one of my earliest joys…Little Shessy lives on the top floor of the hotel with a family who are part of the staff.  A cross between a polar bear cub and a teddy bear this wee one covers me with puppy kisses and I suddenly my world is upright again.

 

 

 

It gets even better!  More next time. 

 

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Cheerio!

Teacher Lynn