Thursday, June 2, 2016

Back to Kathmandu - and goodbye to Nepal

Day 42.
Went to a Tibetan refugee camp tour - these guys are very interesting people - they’re refugees from Tibet, which was occupied by China on 1959. They built a bunch of refugee camps inside Pokhara, and even though they have no legal status in Nepal, they’ve managed to build a thriving community, and seem to be living in better standards than their Nepali neighbours, which is quite not typical of refugees. I got the chance to talk with a Buddhist monk about the meaning of life, the universe, and everything (he claims it’s not 42, and he’s obviously wrong). Overall, the day was very good.

Day 43.
Taking the bus back to Kathmandu, wanted to go by plane, but, annoyingly, my card didn’t work at the agency’s office, and I didn’t bother finding an agency which does work with Amex… The bus ride was not as bad as the ride to Pokhara, we stopped only twice, and the bus had A/C. Entering Kathmandu is hell, basically a 1 hour standstill, passing a 500 meter street. The hotel I booked through booking.com was absolutely horrible, but I was too tired to look for another one with all my bags on me.

Day 44.
Woke up, put my stuff in the Chabad house, and went to the Garden of Dreams, just sat down for a while, enjoyed the peace and quiet. At noon I went to the restaurant in the garden, and enjoyed a good steak. Then, I went shopping for some souvenirs, and took a cab back to the orphanage. Funny thing - I brought the price of the cab quite a bit, and the whole way there the driver kept bitching about the ride being long (it’s just a 6KM ride), I guess he was hoping that the price we agreed upon when I started the ride might get bumped a bit if he kept bitching. Kind of a silly bargaining technique, I don’t imagine it work :P

Anyway, when I got to the orphanage, the kids were so happy, hugging and kissing me, saying how they missed me, etc. Definitely worth coming back for this :)

Day 45.
At 4:00 in the night we had an earthquake, not strong, just enough to wake me up, and confuse the hell out of me (it felt kinda like what it felt like to be woken up by my mom when I was a child). Couldn’t go back to sleep afterwards, for some reason. I was kind of bummed out that there’s school on Sunday, for some reason I expected Sunday to be a holiday. I just slept when the kids were at school, and when they came back we watched a movie - The good dinosaur. It’s a movie about a world where dinosaurs don’t go extinct, and they’ve evolved to agriculture. The movie describes the life of a kid dinosaur who loses his father and later gets lost, and goes on a journey back home. At the end, most kids were in tears. I’m happy I showed this to them, it’s a very simple movie, doesn’t have a lot of English in it, so they could enjoy it.

Day 46 - 49.
Staying at the orphanage became a routine - wake up, read a book with the kids (like, in the same room as them, not together), say goodbye when they go to school, and work a little bit (didn’t even complete a full day’s work on this week, this isn’t a good way of working)

Day 50.
Decided to take kids on a field trip

Day 51.
I’m about to leave Nepal, and thinking about how to summarise it. It began with me feeling relieved, after being stuck at Delhi for 6 days, the calmer, more inviting Kathmandu was so refreshing. Suddenly, the food is really good (and then it gets better when I stop being afraid of eating in local restaurants), and there’s less noise, and I can stay at a 10$ hotel and feel comfortable, then the trek, where I learned to appreciate the aesthetic beauty of life in Nepal (I’m a tourist, I have no knowledge of how life really looks for Nepalis, I just know how it looks), and appreciate the fact that I’m a fat man, and fat men are not designed for walking a half marathon in a day. Then the orphanage, which did give me a glimpse of the daily life in Nepal. And the brief commercial break for Pokhara.
Anyway, I’ve been thinking, about what I’m doing in this orphanage. I don’t feel like I’ve done much. I’ve not made the kids feel very happy. Hopefully, a few I did make feel happy. But basically, I was there just as background noise for their daily routine. I didn’t disrupt anything, I didn’t teach, except maybe by practice of English, and I didn’t play with them as a group much.
And today, I went and bought a box of legos - just 500 assorted lego blocks. And we told the kids about the water park plan (which might be a mistake if it rains and we have to cancel). I’ve never seen the kids play, they usually just do homework and then watch TV. And now, when they had something to play with, they were all just so happy and excited.
My point is this - Things do matter, when you give a lego set to 11 kids who don’t have many toys (mainly card games), and give them some good toys, you can make them happy, even if temporarily. And these moments are precious. I dare say, that this is as important as giving money to the orphanage for day-to-day livelihood - life in Nepal is going to be hard, whether or not this 40$ got donated to the orphanage, and giving the kids something to play with and be happy about, is giving to the kids more than just their routine.
And the moments I’ve had here in Nepal are precious to me. Even if I got stuck in my comfort zone too much, and even if I figured out I haven’t played for a long, long time, and playing made me feel happier than I felt in a while.
Yay, my conclusion from Nepal is that I’m a child, and playing makes me happy.
If I was 7, that would have been a great conclusion.
:)
I’ve also gotten the thought of going back home for a couple of weeks, to celebrate my birthday at home. Just a crazy idea. Which made me take the time to check flight prices.

Day 52.
We woke up, did our normal routine, and went on a field trip. The weather was our friend - it stopped raining in the morning. We went to the Kathmandu Fun Valley, a water park not far from Kathmandu. The kids had a blast, there were a couple of fun water slides, nice pools, etc. We came early enough to have the place uncrowded for about an hour. After, the kids went on a few other attractions, 11 tired and happy kids went back to the bus. We stopped for mo:mo on the way back to Kathmandu, and decided not to go to the monkey temple because it started raining. It was pretty amazing, that the day went so well, I was really afraid that we would get rained on, but it didn’t, and I was so happy to see all those kids have a great time for a change.
If I learned anything from that experience - giving to those orphanages’ everyday operational budget, is extremely important. But providing for such activities, buying toys, directly to the kids, is just as, if not more important.
Life isn’t going to be great for those kids, materially, it’s worth giving them some good experiences, rather than to just invest in their routine, because these happy moments of childhood are priceless.
Oh, and on the way, I got my passport (forgot it in the Chabad house), and bought the ticket home, flying to Delhi and a few hours later, getting on a plane home.

Day 53.

My last day at the orphanage, we built legos together, and said our goodbyes. I got on a bus to Kathmandu, and to my hotel room. Now, let me tell you my experience with places to stay at in Nepal - I’ve been to some bad places, and I’ve stayed in some good places, and oh my god, this place was nowhere near the good places. I get to the Mums Home hotel, the front desk guy is like one of those hotel clerks in the movies, uniform and all, greets me, upgrades me so I can get a ready room immediately, and somebody takes my bags there for me. At night, unlike the hotel staff in other hotels, who just chill in the lobby, these guys were working (or, pretending to be working, what would they have to do at that time…) and the whole place was just awesome, and for a really great price.

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