Tuesday, 15 July 2014

Tuesday 15th July

We set off for Agra as arranged - love it when a plan comes together- I say that lightly but I have realised on this trip that it's true and I guess not surprising! What's more relevant is how one responds to the plan that doesn't come together!! 

Jennifer found the following quote by Elizabeth Mattiesnsmgwel which for me sums up so much,"To be able to pause and not react to your mind is a super power. Implicit in it is questioning whether the things that trigger us are real or not."

We were very very comfortable in our spacious airconditioned car which Jen informs me was an SUV!! The trip to Agra took about three hours of driving through flat farm lands of mainly rice paddies and maize with straw rondavel type dwellings dotted around. There were also many tall chimney type kilns used in brick making. As we sped past, It all looked extremely peaceful with people and cattle working in the fields. 

It's dIfficult for me to see if this pic taken from the window shows much except how flat it is!! 

Agra or rather whatever we saw of it was teeming with people, small spaza owners, hooting cars, three wheeled auto rickshas, fearless drivers of scooters and motor bikes, cyclists carrying enormous loads of anything from mountainous piles of precariously stacked card board collected for recycling to dangerously long bamboo poles!!  In a word the same as we had seen everywhere else in this vast continent. See the pic below! 

I'll continue later with our experience of the Taj Mahal.

It was swelteringly hot - we were in a continual bath of drips from the face and down the back! But us us breathtaking. Raj, our guide, was very informative and passionate about both the Taj and the Red Fort which we toured later. The spaciousness and symmetry and extraordinary attention to detail is absolutely amazing, as is the story behind the whole concept and construction. Raj told us that it cost $1.7million in the 1600's to build and was completed at much the same time  as The honorable Jan van Riebeck hit Cape  Town!!

The Red Fort where the king and his family lived was incredibly opulent - also many stories abound - the two daughters        
who were not allowed to marry as there were no suitors rich enough! Once the Taj Mahal was completed the king decided to build a black Taj  Mahal on the opposite bank to house his tomb overlooking his wife's burial place and in memory of himself - well the oldest son didn't like this idea so impridoned his father in the Red Fort in extremely luxurious conditions which effectively prevented the king from " spending the kids inheritance"!!' There were 12 sons as well as the 2 daughters who both married after their father died!!!

We raced home along the very modern non stop freeway. We then went out for a very upmarket meal in a great restaurant - courtesy of George, the doctor from the Phillipines. We even had a great Chardonnay from  Chile with our meal. We caught an auto ricksha to get there- pretty dam hair raising! They are similar to the tempos in Kathmandu - basically a three wheeled vehicle that rattles along with you sitting under a coveted frame behind the driver.  

A truly super day - much because of the comfort and air conditioning and us finding ourselves back in our comfort zones!!! Had we learnt nothing!!!! Hmmmm...., 

Monday, 14 July 2014

Monday 14th July

Well here we are at Leh airport having been checked and full body frisked a number of times. They even require one to check one's luggage against one's boarding card before it is loaded onto the plane- at least we know the bags will arrive with us!! Miraculously or rather auspiciously the combined weight of our check in bags was 30.1kgs - absolutely on the nail!! 

So last night was hopeless - I am really learning stuff about myself on this trip!!! One's  petty but real neuroses are constantly being shown up!! So I find I often get into a state if there is, in my opinion, not enough air in the room!i or if there's not enough light, or if my mouth is dry! Or if the dogs are barking or there are people talking outside the window or if the extra pillow supporting my legs is too big or hard!!' So all  of these frustrations cause me to get up and wander sround!! Add to that the trips to the loo, plus Jen's coughing (which is actually the least of the issues!)! and it equals a night without much sleep! 

Oh woe is me - just retread the above - such an unhappy camper! And as the Buddha says everything changes, nothing is permanent and so it was! 

We had a super flight enjoying the mountains and the good service of Jet airways.I enjoyed tea as I like it and gobbled down some outrageous chocolate chop cookies and acknowledged, without guilt, that I am a first world gal!!!!

It was great being back in Delhi airport - so clean and clear. Because in ordered food on the plane, I was given a free "gift" either a wonderful pearl necklace earrings set (not quite me!!) or some kind of recharging device and all I pay is I Rupees 999 (about R200) It turned out it was incompatible with my I phone do I left it but not before the guy tried very hard to sell me some gold bling!! 

We found our driver waiting outside who brought us through pretty heavy but very controlled traffic to our BnB. So thank you thank you Muxsie from Stellenbosch who put me onto the BnB Chrysalis- the only place to stay in Delhi!!! Absolutely a home from home and so what these two rather jaded women needed!! After unpacking - well my pattern, Jen's pattern is to connect up her PC- we headed out  into the extreme heat for a walk up to the wait for this - local mall!! So not what either of us would do normally but we needed to find an ATM but here's the thing - we were like two kids in a candy shop as we wandered around oohing and aahing  at the familiar sights - Starbucks, eating places, even clothing shops all so western!!!  We completely surprised ourselves! 

Mony, the BnB owner, had invited us to join him and a couple of other guests for an Indian meal at the BnB. It was wonderful - especially as he had asked us previously about any dietary requirements! So the food was wheat free for Jen and not too spicey for me!!! We even had wine which is the first wine I have had since the flight to Kathmandu! A wonderful evening capped by my receiving phone calls from my sisters Beulah and Kathleen and later a call from John. 

Mony  is in his early 70's and is utterly charming - well travelled and eloquent. We met George or rather Jorge a neurologist specializing in stroke patients who is from the Phillipines who stays at the BnB and is able to walk from here to his hospital. Sandra, from Columbia, completed the party - she has stayed here in the past. 

Mony arranged for us to be picked up by a driver at 6.30 to be taken off to Aggra - oh the joys of organization!!! 

So we slept well in our great beds in our great airconditioned room in our great home with our great full little tummies!! 

Sunday 13th July

Well it's now our last night here, the Kalachakra empowerment is over and we leave Leh tomorrow morning. We were hoping to get an early nights sleep but there is a whole gang of men outside chatting and playing a guitar and singing!!! We're on the third floor but they are in the terraced area outside and are getting noisier and noisier! Interestingly enough it looks like there is only mineral water bring drank - I can't figure where they are from and there is no TV in sight!! Have had another look and there is some golden liquid doing the rounds?? Jennifer just shouted out the window"go to sleep!" We then heard another voice shouting  "we're trying to sleep!!" Our taxi arrives at 5am and this morning we were fetched at 5.30 as well for the last day of the teachings. Jennifer's not well - has developed a hefty cold and cough so she didn't come through today. She 's not been well for three days now and is dosing herself with all the homeopathic meds we have between us. 

I am still trying to assimilate what the last four days have meant to me. The whole empowerment ceremony and teachings  by the  Dalai Lama has been quite something and my feeling is I'll write about it later. The sheer effort of getting to and teturning from the venue was incredible and the numbers moving before and afterwards was extraordinary. Wecwerectokdctodsyvtherecwere 150 000 people there of which some 6700 were foreigners from 73 different countries!! The whole two weeks went off without one untoward incident- quite something. 

I am having a lot of difficulty staying in this moment as everything inside me is saying "This time next week all the time!!" And where will I be - with john at Luke and Mel's house getting Morgan ready for bed!!! Mel has sent me pics of her new room - it looks fabulous I can't wait to see it and of course her in it! 

We fly to Delhi in theorning and are being collected by Moony the guy who runs the B n B a friend from stellenbosch told me about. 

Well it sounds like the men are turning in so I'm going to follow suit and leave my spot on the passage! I moved a chair from our room outside so I don't disturb Jennifer. 

Saturday, 12 July 2014

Wednesday 9th July

Have just spent the last hour doing a majorcrehaulbof our hotel room here in hotel Panarama in Leh. I hear Ponty's (my mom) voice saying"If a job is worth doing, it's worth doing properly!" 

I woke up yet again with an incredibly dry mouth - in fact I wake up at least 4 times during the night with this - it feels as if my tongue is swollen and thereby not a drop of saliva anywhere. Mia our new found  Australian nursing  friend told us to give the room a good dust, to sleep with the windows closed, to dampen surfaces and to take some rehydration mooti. During the night did actually take two lots of some  powdered stuff we brought from Nepal but she reckons that it is so dry here and as well as dusty so it is easy to get dehydrated. So I am on a mission to drink more and to get some decent rehydration tablets. 

Today we have a free day from the Kalachakra so Jen and Mia are off to visit the Royal palace and then to do quite a hefty walk up to the Tsepo Gompa a monastery overlooking Leh. I'm planning to chill at the hotel, do some reading on the teachings and catch up on my blogging. 

So I an now sitting outside in the sunshine having had the remains of last nights really good cashew encrusted breast chicken for breakfast. Here is a pic of what I can see from my seat in the shade in the terrace in front of our section of the hotel. Our room is on the top floor just right of the window on the top right . 

I am now blogging on a couple of days before today.

So as usual the rest  of my day turned out differently. After some reading I set off to watch the movie I had heard was being shown at a meditation centre about 15 mins walk from the hotel. I got there to discover it was being shown at their other centre on the other side of town. So I mosied around and took a few pics. I will see if I can load them here with a little explanation as needed. 

A guy lives in this tent and runs a laundry business outside his tent. Note the washing festooned all over the bushes and fence and his electrical system plus where the water from his washing machine ends up- in a hole under the board in front of the  machine!!! He has a two plate hot plate in the entrance to his tent powered by a cord from his washing machine and the light bulb hanging from the tree. And we thought it was bad in the townships!!! I hope you can see the detail - that's my shadow in the first photo!

This calf was eating the piece of card board right on the side of the road. 

I had to include this advert! And this one

So eleven sleeps left and stilluch to experience! What a lucky girl I am. 

Tuesday 8th July

So we caught the taxi again at 5.30 am - the other couple in the hotel sent a message to say they wouldn't be joining us! It had been incredibly hot according to Jen the day before and today threatened to be even hotter. HH walks the final section to get to the stage and so I joined the throngs to get a glimpse of him lose up. I took a video which I have not yet down loaded but is isvyhrilling to see him this close - I keep on thinking of Madiba at times me how incredibly fortunate we were to have lived at the same time as such a man as him. 

I found the second part of the teachings pretty heavy going as they are all about a letter written to someone which HH explains which we hear translated   - we have been given a book with the same content but the book does not follow the same order, nor are the verses mentioned my HH numbered on the book.  We had arranged for our taxi man to pick us up at 12.30 but sadly it was well after 1pm by the time we found each other - we arrived back at the hotel exhausted and hot - one has to wall with an umbrella all the time. In fact we sat under Jen's umbeltella during the teachings even tjough we were under shad cloth! 

We were on line when we returned - miracle of miracles! So I whattssapped Mia's cell number to john as we had still not spoken since a few nights before we left Nepal. Wonder of wonders, he got through - so great to catch up - he pointed out to me that I have lost 10% of my body weight!! I would not be surprised if it is not more by now - I feel as if I am wearing a body skin two sizes too big for me!!!! Not the prettiest sight!! Will have to hit the Blue Water Cafe and the Lighthouse and Dixie's and Deniz's  cooking as soon as I get home!!!! 

I spent the rest of the afternoon reading a commentary on the kalachakra empowerment which we bought here. It is really clearly explained and I am quite excited by it. 

We went out for a super meal at a place called Bon Apetit and ate like kings. - no liquor though - all for the princely sum of IRs 500 which is about R80. We walked home in the moonlight and fell into bed very happy chappies. 

Tuesday, 8 July 2014

Monday 7th July

Jennifer and Mia caught the taxi at 5.30 whole I slept in. I woke at about 6.45, looked out the window and spotted Sanghitta the girl from Mumbaai. She waived to me and on hearing I was not going to the kalachakra asked me to come with her to the Hemis festival being held at a monastery further along the road to the kalachakra venue. I was feeling better by then and so threw on some clothes and set off with her. She is here with a group who were all sleeping in so she had the car and driver to her self for the day. What a win! 

The Hemis monastery is really old and set in a valley high in the mountains above the Indus River. It was wonderful to be out if Leh and to see something occur countryside and to motor through the villages and see how the people live - so once again that is what in doing and loving it!! 

The festival was to celebrate the birthday of the guru who had run the monastery who had died a year or do ago. It was pretty crowded with westerners whose guides had kept them seats so everywhere we tried to settle we were moved and shunted on!! Sanghitta took some super photos with her very fancy camera - I was using my cell phone as Jen took my camera to the teachings. We watched as the monks dressed up in amazing head gear and robes and performed ritual dances while accompanied by all manner of musical instruments - long oboes, drums, bells, caste nets, flutes, horns with flags and pennants hanging from everything! The masks were amazing. I loved the way the performers seemed oblivious to the onlookers as they performed for their own enjoyment. I found a place at the top of the steps to the open courtyard/ arena where the performance took place. The monks in different regalia for each performance all emerged from the shrine room behind me so I was able to see them up close before they headed down the stairs. I then went inside the shrine room. What a feast - very old with beautiful murals on the walks - once again I wished Jennifer had been with me to explain what was being depicted. 

The monastery with I guess monks living quarters set into the mountain side. 

Above are a few snaps from the morning.

Very hard to give you a real idea of what it was like. We had to remember the number of the taxi's number plate in order to be able find him. We then set off to visit another monastery Thicksay monastery which is set highly up on a mountain spit skip and boasts the highest Buddha in Ladakh - 40 feet high!!  We had lunch there as we were both hungry by now having had no brekkies. We then did the your of the monastery - absolutely spectacular with the most amazing views of the country side and surrounding mountains. Sanghitta has loaded all her photos from the day on Jennifer 'a laptop and I think Jen has included some of them in her blog, so do check. 

So it turned out to be a fabulous day with no sign of a misbehaving tuy!! Maybe my t knew I actually wanted to watch the final (not a happy camper that roger didn't pull it off,  especially after winning 5 games in a trot to take the fourth set!!) and also that I couldn't face another hike at sparrows to the teaching. Anyway we passed Jennifer and Mia walking back into town after their midday nap. I as happy to be back home and did some reading. A really super day - thank you Sanghitta.

Sunday 6th July

We got up in time to set off at 5.30am to find a taxi. Once again - auspiciously(!) we found a taxi waiting outside for a couple staying in the hotel. It turned out there was room for us as well - a win win all round. So we all set off and arranged that the taxi pick us up at 5.30 each day so we could get to the venue well before teaching started at 8am. What a pleasure to not have to walk and hail a taxi and then haggle over the price! 

We found our tarp happily where we had left it reserving our spot and settled down for the prayers and celebration of HH the Dalai lama's 79th birthday. A whole bunch of dignitaries spoke, giving thanks for HH and then there was Richard Gere speaking on behalf of the west! 

So that went on for a while - we heard the translations on our head sets. HH then thanked everyone when suddenly there was a commotion - some woman was approaching the stage in a trance. - it was so interesting as she was allowed right up to HH where she did full body prostrations before becoming unconscious -  she was carried off the stage by the guards - fascinating as at no point was there a feeling of fear or panic that she might be out to harm HH. 

Amazingly soon after that another man came bumbling up to HH, escorted by more guards, he too was in a trance and this time it seems HH recognized him as the reincarnation of some 7th century person- he too was carried off unconscious! All in a days work!!

HH then launched into the first of his teachings on the understanding of emptiness which is critical to receiving the Kalachakra empowerment. He speaks in Tibettan which is simultaneously translated into 12 languages which we hear by tuning into our particular frequency. It is then translated over the loudspeaker into Ladakhi. 

The teachings ended at about 11.30 and we joined the masses to move with the flow to the agreed upon meeting spot. Well I waited for ages for Jennifer and Mia but no sign of them, I then went to where the taxi had dropped us - no luck then back to the original meeting place. I figured they were together so were fine - Jen could rely on Mia's sense of direction as Jen's is not great!! I then started walking in the hopes if finding a taxi. Some old Tibettan guy on a dodgy but working car stopped and offered me a lift - I asked if he was going to Leh - no but on way!! So on I jumped and was treated to a your of the Tibettan resettlement village with throngs of colour fully dressed Tibettans engaged in selling, socializing, eating together, and doing household chores. The women and especulislly the little children dress up in all their finery wearing colorful Tunis made of beautiful rich brocade fabrics in deep blues, turquoise, read , and greens, decorated with dragons, birds and Buddhist icons. Amazingly most of the women wear quite ornate and very impractical shoes with heels!! 

Well my old man took me way out of his way and dropped me at a bridge over a river. With some difficulty we managed to close his passenger door snd then he was gone! I asked for directions to Leh and was pointed in two ways - one a road the other a dirt track - I chose the road altho I thought I recognized where, on the main road, the dirt track might emerge. 

I walked for ages, stopping on the way to buy a coke - cheapest one thus far! I continued walking til the road turned right into what liked like the outskirts of the built up area. There was a sigh stating there was a IRs 500 fine for washing cloths and vehicles in this water!

I stopped walking and when vehicles drove past indicated one person to Leh!
A couple of young Ladakhi guys picked me up - there was a very old Tibettan  looking man in the front. They drove through the village which seemed to be a  pretty up market area,. We exchanged pleasantries as best we could. They then dropped off the old guy at the bus station  and took me right into the town. I went off to Jet Airways in the centre as Mont the guy at our  guest house in Delhi who is collecting us on the 14th said we should check our flight as he reckoned the time had been changed. Anyway surprisingly it was closed. - it being Sunday n all!! 

Do I caught a taxi back to the hotel, and minutes later Mia and a very tired Jennifer arrived! She was quite distressed about us missing each other altho she kept telling herself that she knew I'd be fine!! We have been joined at the hip for so long and this was the first time that we had no communications or idea of where the other was! 

We all slept for a whole but then my tum started playing up again so I opted to stay home while they headed out on what turned out to be one hell of a buying spree- not good influences on each other those two gals!! They then met up for supper with an Anerican contact of Jen's from the research she is doing. I in the meantime spent the rest of the day watching tennis and being kind to my tummy!! As it was the Wimbledon final I was, all things considered, a very happy camper! 

I went to bed deciding that I would be kind to myself and lie in and give the teachings a miss in the morning. 

Saturday 5th July

Another great nights sleep. I wake up to blue skies and low clouds slowly burning off the mountains in the distance. As I sit here looking out the window I realise that in fifteen days we will be back home. I think about the view I will wake up to on the morning of the 21st - The blue  sparkling waters of False Bay. The yachts lapping in the water, dogs running on Long Beach or maybe a driving winter rain - who knows but that is then and this is now and I am here so this is where I am - here in this present and in this moment and I rejoice in this being here now. Thank you ....  

It is a week since I have spoken to John as the SIM card Jennifer bought in Delhi works only in Delhi and our hotel surprisingly has no contact number. I am so grateful for the contact with home through whattssap altho even this is reliant on my being in a place that has wifi. Jennifer is able to get on line in our hotel room but for some reason my I phone doesn't pick up the signal. It's wonderful to have contact with Josh who posted a video of himself singing happy birthday to Morgan on Wednesday. He and KL have moved in with a shaman and his family. KL's broken arm is mending - she took a tumble on her bike a couple of weeks ago - so hard as it is her right arm but they are good and happy. Luke and Mel are thriving. Mel is now showing her pregnancy and looking so beautiful and glowing with health. I continue to be treated with greatly appreciated and much anticipated photographs of Miss Morgan  - such happy shots of her always busy! I can't wait to see her kitchen which was her second birthday present. I do wonder where it has been installed?? 

I miss contact with Beulah as well, especially as she is going through a particularly challenging time as she undergoes this third lot of chemotherapy. I am so grateful to her wonderful friends and of course Zorah who I know are there to support her. I spoke to her on my last night in Nepal which was a gift especially as she sounded so upbeat and full of courage. 

I am still reading The Snow Leopard  by Peter Matthiessen and in some ways feel that Jennifer and I have too climbed a mountain and are now coming down on the other side except in our case the next  eight days potentially represent the highest peaks of our mountain? However having said that, one thing I know I have learned on this journey has been  to do with expectation and expectations and how they play out in my life! So, as much as I can, I consciously attempt not to expect something to be this or that but rather go ahead and make a plan or have a goal, as small as it might be, then be open to how 'it' plays out ... 

The cloud is lifting so here is a photo of what I see from our window- certainly the name of our hotel lives up to expectations!!! Hotel Panarama!! 

I will continue to write about today later...

But in the meantime I include this photo of what is stuck on the back of the door into our room. This is especially for you John!! 

I am about to enjoy a cup of tea and breakfast. We bought a small immersion heater which I put in my metal water bottle to heat up the water. I will then have rice baby cereal mixed with warm water, sugar, nuts, raisins and a little cream bought in a cartoon! Delicious! 

Thursday 3rd July

Our taxi guy fetched us as planned at 6.30 am. We wanted to be at the kalachakra venue early. Well as early as it was, Leh was already buzzing with bumper to bumper traffic all the way of the 8 kms to the site. We then followed the flow of bodies as we walked the 2 kms to the venue. We were directed to our gate where we were frisked and asked if we had a camera, cell phone, lighter, matches, knives, nail clippers in our back packs. She opened my camera, turned it on and looked at it then gave it back to me. Jennifer had her nail clippers  taken but was able to retrieve them on our way back! 

We found a good spot where we could see the raised seat that his holiness the Dalai Lama would be sitting on the raised podium as well as having a clear view of the large screen showing all that was happening. We had our camp chairs but pretty soon had to put on our rain ponchos and unfurl our umbrellas as it started raining. We were under shade cloth but the rain still came through. We spent the first few hours listening to the monks chanting and praying while volunteers brought around hot tea which they poured into our cups. I forgot my cup but had a coke bottle in my pack which I used for my tea. Later they brought around flat bread for everyone.

The atmosphere was amazing with more and more people pouring in quietly, sitting in the various designated areas- covered areas closest to the podium for foreigners, VIPs and monks, with 200 meter by 260 meters reserved for 150 000 so called common devotees, namely Tibettans and Indians. 1/4 million people are expected to attend!! The ground is flat and even and in fact was a little soft because of the rain the night before. 

The Dalai Lama started talking at 10am - unfortunately the English translation didn't come through in the beginning. Eventually we were able to hear which was great but in some way I enjoyed hearing HH's voice even if I couldn't understand what he was saying. I especially liked his laughing and chuckling! It was super to watch him and what was happening on the podium through the binoculars as well. 

I took notes on what HH said. Fortunately the rain stopped but it was pretty chilly. We left after HH finished his talk and managed to find a taxi to take us all the way back to the hotel. Once again the mass of people leaving was calm and peaceful and in fact there was a wonderful feeling of lightness and joyful ness. 

We hung out at the hotel and then went down to hear Andy Weistrich, the guy who explained the ceremony to us earlier. He gave a review on the Dalai lama's teachings and then explained what the whole initiation is about and what is involved in taking part, either as an observer or as an initiate. A bunch of us hung out afterwards having fun at a coffee bar with much lively discussion on the days teachings. So our first actual day of the Kalachakra ceremony. Exciting and inspiring and a relief to finally know what was involved in getting to the venue, how it is sitting for long times and how the day will pan out. 

We had an early supper and walked back to the hotel. I was keen to watch some Wimbledon but unfortunately managed to short the tv and blow the power in our room!! No trouble - it was 9.45 pm and it didn't occur to us to do anything other than phone reception. Durshand, one of  the young guys who runs the hotel came up and fiddled around with the wiring to no avail. It is incredible - two pieces of wire pushed into the wall plug and held in place by another plug!! He then called another chap who finally sorted out the tv and the power in our room!  We watched a bit of tennis then I turned in and slept like a log after a really great day. 

Friday, 4 July 2014

Wednesday 2nd July

Morgan turns two today! Happy happy birthday darling child - I do miss my family so much and realise how important it is for me to be in contact with them! Thank goodness for whattssap as this is now my only means of connecting. Jen bought a SIM card for her extra phone in Delhi but it turns out it only works in Delhi!! Our hotel phone is totally hit and miss - I think it's reliant on the power supply which is off more than it is on!! 

We woke up latish - I felt very flat, feeling that our hotel is so far from the centre of things and that I didn't have the energy to walk - the power was off so the bathroom was too dark to see to shower,  how did we register for the kalachakra and where and when - I just wanted someone to tell me what to do!!! I felt incredibly restless and pretty claustrophobic - a feeling as well of not getting enough air into me. Jen suggested we watch some tv to take my mind off my discomfort and disquiet, which helped but eventually I decided to walk all the way down to reception to see what I could find out - and it happened again - I asked a guest if she knew any details and long story made short - she was taking people into to register in a couple of hours! So we got a ride with her into the centre of town, she told us what we needed to have to register and showed us where to register!! So success - once again the universe supported us with me meeting the right person at the right place and time and asking the right question!! 

So things changed from then - we had direction and assistance - we sorted out registration, then bumped into some guy English guys who directed us to get head sets, then we went grocery shopping but once again I felt so very tired I had to find a seat in the store! We then walked to a hotel where we had been told that a talk ion the kalachakra was being given. Well what a find as well - it was very informative and it lifted me completely. - so much so that I was fine to walk all the way home/back to the hotel!

We watched Rafa play Nick Kryios from Aus. We turned into bed before it was over, with me feeling very contented and pleased to be here. I was able to sleep well under the down duvet, setting the alarm for an early start in the morning. 

Friday 4th July

We were told that we need not attend the ceremony again until Sunday when the teaching resumes. So we decided to have a chilled day. 

We woke up latish and spent most of the day talking about the teaching and the review we listened to. I so enjoyed the reading and having Jennifer's input, experience and understanding. 

We then set off at about four o'clock to climb to the top of the Shanti stupa near our hotel, which I can see while lying on my bed. One climbs to the top via hundreds of steep concrete steps which have been laid on top of the rocks that form the steep slope . It was exhausting and I really doubted whether I would make it! But it was worth every second of exertion- spectacular views as well as another stunning stupa which it turns out is another peace stupa built by the same Japanese survivor of the two atom bombs. 

Here is a picture of the Shanti stupa taken from our room. 

The stupa is as beautiful as the one in Pokhara. While we were walking around on the top level we noticed this young guy being really strange - sort of weird hyped behavior - we then realised that he was about to prise open the donation box on the top level. It was so bizarre - Jen said to me as we walked past, "hy lyk n niekie mal!"  My reply was "for sure - let's get out of here" I watched through the balustrade and there he was forcing open the box!!! 

We bid a hasty retreat and saw him later twitching and shuddering  - I guessed he was an addict needing a quick fix - another English chap we told, said he had also seem him and concluded he was mentally unstable! 

Well we spent a really enjoyable time at the stupa enjoying the incredible views and the very peaceful feeling so similar to the Peace  Pagoda in Nepal. 

We went into the Buddhist shrine near the stupa to sit quietly for a while when unexpectantly a monk came in and started lighting candles and incense sticks. He was followed by another monk who went into a corner of the shrine room where a couple of huge drums were in place- he started striking thm, then the other monk started hitting another two drums on the opposite corner. They were both chanting while striking the drums. The sound was amazing, reverberating deep into our bones. We very reluctantly left as it was getting late and we still had to climb down the hundreds of steps! 

On the way down we noticed a temple built underneath the shrine room we had been sitting in. We went in and found the most ornate and beautiful shrine with amazing artifacts and Tankas and wall hangings and photigraphs of the lama who was in the small temple with the Dalai lama. It was a beautiful space, very moving with a feeling of deep peace and solid energy. The lama was seated and talking to two young woman, answering their questions about meditation. 

We then set off to walk down the steps- once again I amazed myself by the ease with which I managed the descent! 

I think I am continuing to loose weight on this trip - and realise that it probably is more the result of all the walking I am doing than because I had tummy troubles or because of the diet!! When I weighed myself in Nepal I had lost 6 kgs!! 

I took masses of photos today, mostly of the mountains and scenery and the changing light, 

We then ate supper - tuna fish, freshly shelled peas and in my case a roll, in Jen's case corn biscuits. After that we repeated the verses recommended by HH before watching the Doko  Dimitrov match followed by federer and Raonic. Jen is getting quite enthusiastic about tennis as I explain it all to her!!

Another great day full of contentment and peace and inspiration. We are sooooo very fortunate to be here. 

Wednesday, 2 July 2014

Saturday 28th June

So another really super and satisfying day! Our driver took Anita, the Swiss volunteer who is spending the weekend with us, and me to the Peace Pagoda situated high on a steep hill over looking Pokhara and Pewa lake. It's an amazing place - not actually a classic Buddhist stupa but very close to one in appearance, completed in 1999 and erected as one of 100 peace pagodas built around the world by a Japanese man who lived through the Hiroshima and Nagasaki atom bombs. 

It is in an absolutely incredible location with breathtaking views from all sides and...... Get this- we were treated to another splendid view of the snow capped  Himalayas - so awesome and still and solidly present. I can't get enough of them. Sadly I took pics with my camera and not my phone so can't insert some here! Our driver insisted on solicitously holding my arm on all the steps - very sweet, he also insisted on carrying my water bottle! The pagoda cum stupa is beautiful with magnificent statues of Buddha in various postures. One could only feel peaceful there and send peaceful waves out into the world. 

We then returned to check out of our very comfortable hotel - $9 each a night
And said goodbye to Pokhara reflecting on, as in Chitwan, how much we had done in such a short time. There is no doubt that from now on I will always travel with or use guide books like The Lonely Planet, to get information about places we visit. We used Europe on $ 1 and then $10 a day a million years ago so what changed? 

We then drove to this absolutely delightful place called Bandipur which is a village "strung out like a scarf across the top of a range of steep high hills(which as an English girl said would definitely be called mountains back home!) 

We followed the advice in the book and checked into the Bandipur Village resort - spotless and well located. There are no motorized vehicles in the main section of the village - what a pleasure! So we spent the afternoon exploring the village and just observing how the villagers spend a day off work  - it being Saturday their one day weekend on Nepal! Sadly the women don't seem to get the day off - we watched three women fill dozens of plastic 2 liter bottles at a really remote water source at the edge of the village. Here they are. We saw them later carrying the water in the enormous baskets which hang on their backs from a strap across their foreheads. 

We had had a good lunch at the restaurant in our resort before our walk so just collapsed on our beds for a late afternoon snooze - after all we were in holiday! 

I am astonished by what the women carry on their backs in these baskets - we watched another two woman having sand loaded into their baskets which they then carried steadfastly up the hill through the main section of the village. On reaching the sand pile where they had to leave the sand, they sort of turn sideways so the basket slides off their backs while simultaneously twisting it to 'pour' all the sand out!! The men in the meantime stand around waiting for them to come back so they can shovel more sand into the baskets - this went on all afternoon- they were still at it when we returned from our long walk!!

Above are the water bearers!

Anita and I decided to try our luck with dessert in the village as we were not hungry. We found a super little place snd ordered fruit salad and curd - delicious!! It was delightful sitting outside at tables under the stars - a beautiful balmy evening - still very warm. In fact weirdly the whole ambience reminded me weirdly enough of Monte Casino in Jhb!!! Pebbled walkways, restaurants spilling out onto the through way, candle lie tables overlooked by two story homes with curtained rooms back lit with silhouettes of people going about their business. Flower pots of geraniums hanging from balconeys, birds cooing, dogs asleep in doorways and men hanging around watching the World Cup. 
Children scampering around and women finally testing and chatting in little groups. It was delightful and wonderfully peaceful hearing no hooting cars and peeping accelerating motor bikes! 

Sunday 29th June

 So I am sitting on the roof top of our guest house hoping to catch another glimpse of the mountains but no such fortune yet!! 

Earlier I caught this shot of lower Bandipur before the mist rolled in. I am on the palisade roof top looking south but to the north - where the mountains are there is just white sky as in cloud! 

Tuesday 1st July

So we are now in Ladakh. It's been a really long day. We arrived in India yesterday at about five in the evening. Delhi airport was a surprise - ultra modern with great signage in English. The flight from Kathmandu seems like it happened last year - I am even having difficulty remembering it! 

While we were waiting for our cases, a young nun asked us if this was the carousel for the Kathmandu flight. Well it turned out she was catching the same flight to Leh as us. She had not arranged accommodation and was planning to stay in an airport hotel. So we invited her to join us at the Hotel Sunrise Blue that Jennifer had booked on line. After Jen had bought an Indian SIM card and airtime, she phoned the hotel to find out why they were not at the airport to pick us up! Well eventually some one came along who asked us if we were waiting for the taxi to the hotel sunrise blue... So we didn't get into the wrong taxi and end up being kidnapped!! Well I wish you could have seen the hotel!! They were quite ok for the nun called Ani Diki to join us and informed us the stay would now  cost 1950 Indian rupees instead of ithevoriginsl 1500 . So they showed us to our room which had an enormous double bed in it and nothing else!! We pointed out that we could not all sleep in the double bed!! Especially as we were now paying extra!!

They ended up bringing a mattress which the nun slept on. We ordered a taxi to take us back to the airport at 3am for our 5.40 flight.

Before we left the airport I explored the possibility of leaving a suitcase at the airport as we had realised that we could only bring back 15 kgs each!! They have a left luggage section but we were not sure if it would cost less of if we would incur higher costs by paying the airline surcharge or the cost of left luggage!? I then had the brilliant idea of asking Mony the chap  where we would be staying in Delhi after Ladakh. Great! So Jen and I reorganized our stuff . After not much sleep - yep you got it - barking dogs and cars hooting in what sounded like the next  room, we were picked up and taken to the airport. The security at Delhi airport is incredible - we were not allowed into the airport building without showing our passports and our tickets!! Hmmmm ... Problem .... Eventually the security official told me to go through another door to the airline counter and ask them to print out my ticket! So finally we were let in and successfully checked in and boarded the plane. Jennifer and I were allowed to check through together - with her large bag and another smaller carry on bag which together weighed 30 kgs!! 

The flight was truly beautiful with amazing views of the snow capped Himalayas. . - 

I am off to bed now -it's 2.50am . I have been sitting a on a bed in the passage wrapped up in the down duvet from our room and listening to the distant sound of someone's chanting echoing across the valley! 

So back to our flight - as we got closer to Ladakh we started getting glimpses of mountain peaks through the layers of beautiful clouds. Slowly we saw more and more mountains and steep valleys covered in glistening strips of snow - a sort of zebra skin effect - we were treated to this spectacular landscape for some time with everyone jostling to taking pictures and videos. As we descended we saw barren brown mountainous landscapes interspersed with low lying green valleys. The pilot skillfully  navigated the plane through the mountains - quite something to be flying lower than what we could see through the windows!   

As we landed everyone burst into applause - reminded me of landing with Trek airways in the seventies!!! It felt like we might run out landing strip !!  Leh airport is small and is surrounded by moon like landscapes! Brown craggy
hills with snow capped mountains in the distance. Jen managed to figure out how to get some kind of prepaid taxi to for us to catch to the hotel. So once again we found ourselves in chaotic hooting traffic with drivers of various two wheeled and four wheeled vehicles vying for space!! 

It was an enormous relief to check into our hotel - our room is on the third floor and has an amazing view to the south of Leh valley with a high stupa to our right and a very steep walk up a steep slope on the left.  We look onto a snow capped brown mountain which is completely free of vegetation. We collapsed onto our beds and slept for a few hours. 

We then headed out to get some lunch and to see what we could find put about the kalachakra initiation. So funny - we had a good lunch and noticed there were second hand books for sale. So Jen found a couple - I started reading one and decided to get it - all rather confusing though - they wanted to 250 Indian rupees and when I pointed out that it cost 200 new they wouldn't budge!!' We walked into the centre only to discover we had missed registration. I managed to find an ATM to draw some bucks them we headed home. I was exhausted - out of breathe and feeling as though I had had enough of seeing how other people live their lives - all I wanted was to get back to living my own life!! 

I was incredulous when I asked Jennifer in the evening how many nights we had been here and she replied none!!! I guess it was getting up so very early, then napping during the day and schlepping into the town centre!!   Anyway not a very happy camper!! Our vroom is on the third floor and I had to rest on the second floor before embarking on the last leg!!! 

Sunday afternoon 29th June

I am continuing the previous blog here as I can't figure out how to write after the photo! So we reached a place called manakana where there is a cable car that goes from the river to the top of the very high hills to a village which has a Hindu temple. The cable car is very modern and for Nepal, amazingly efficiently run. The views of the valley and the river and the winding road were spectacular. It boggles the mind to consider how the stones and everything else needed to built the small bustling village at the top were got there! 

The temple was absolutely a smallish structure with all the usual ornate statues and bells and little fires and candles burning. This is apparently a very holy place for worshiper so to come and give their thanks to the gods - there was a wonderful feeling of peace and quiet joy in the people who were waiting in a long queue that snaked its way back up the streets. Everyone was holding gifts of food, flowers, and get this hens and roosters and goats. In fact there were lots if goats at the entrance to the village at the top of the cable waiting to be bought by the faithful. There was no sadness that they were about to be slaughtered as to be sacrificed firvhe 'cause' is a great honor sobthey goat was receiving really good karma for it's next life. 

We wondered around this rather shabby place filled with stalls selling cheap toys and trinkets - it astonishes me that all these shop owners can make a living selling virtually identical things! 

It was swelteringly hot by this time so wecwere very grateful to get back into our airconditioned car for the last leg bsck to Kathmandu. This was the fourth time I had driven this road and I was very pleased to be in the car and not a public bus especially as we saw a  couple of trucks and a bus that had somehow ended up upside down at the bottom of the bank next to the river! 

It really is pretty hair raising driving here even though our driver was a careful driver, one overtakes on bends relying on being able to see if it is clear or on the driver of the vehicle one is passing giving one the all clear!! 

Once again though the drivers are so amicable - road rage doesn't seem to happen here as the drivers constantly accommodate each other giving way and  taking the gaps- impossibly narrow as they are!!

On the way back to theonastery, we picked up Jennifer's outfits being made by her trailer. Easiercsaidvthan done as the trailer is on a one way street and it took us ages to find the correct access to it. In fact at one piping the driver who had already been given directions by the tailer  whom we phoned, asked a couple passing lamas  (monks) the way - the older lama told the younger one to hop in and take us!! He ended up driving with us for about 15 mins until we finally ended up in front of the tailed shop. It would have been far easier and certainly quicker if Jennifer had walked! 

So finally home again after a great few days away. This was when I realised that I could not remember what I had done with my travel voucher with all my tickets in it!!! Panic stations as I thought back to when I had last had it!! Anyway in the morning Pema the head monk phoned the nunnery toasks them to look on the drawer of the desk in my room / but no such luck; hotel premium said they didn't have it so that was it!! Jen pointed out that with that it wasn't a train smash as I had my passport and we had the e versions on her lap top!! Honestly it seems I am he'll vent on leaving bits of me all over Nepal. I then discovered that I had left my diary in the room at Bandipur!! Loskop!! On reflection I reckon that I am not sitting regularly enough and so sm not as centered or together as I am when my practice is happening. 

So I ended up not getting much sleep that night as I started to pack at midnight because I thought I might have to go to the nunnery in the morning to fetch my travel pouch! 

Monday 30th June

So our last day on Nepal is finally here - it seemed like this day would never come! IBM readybtonleave but I have been experiencing over the last couple of days, feelings of " this is probably the last time I will do this - ride in a bus and hear the assistant guy yelling our the route to get passengers; or walk up this street or see the order in the chaos ... It has been a truly amazing experience. I have learnt so much/ realised how much extra stuff I have, learnt much about myself- felt gratitude, seen much that I would normally not notice, experienced the warmth of exchanged smiles and greetings with strangers, been humbled by how people live and interact and the levels of contentment. My experience with the two groups of teachers was really satisfying as well so without doubt I leave Nepal happy and fulfilled and immensely grateful for all the opportunities these six weeks have afforded me. 

Fortunately there was a scale at theonastery used to wegj the enoous masses of food brought on to feed the 270 boys who live here! I had to do a whole lot of rearranging so that my check on luggage weighed 20 kegs which of course meant that my carry on luggage once again weighed a fortune!! Akkal took us to the airport where we checked in without a probl - I simply waived my passport under the guys nose and that was it. We couldn't see much from the plane portholes(windows??) and the next thing I knew, we were landing in Delhi.  

Friday, 27 June 2014

Friday 27th June

Today was absolutely amazing. Our driver gave us a wake up call at 3.15!!! He then collected us at 4 to head off to see the sunrise over the Himalayas!!! Was this the day I was finally going to see a mountain?! It was just getting light when we reached the viewing point - we enjoyed a cup of sweet white tea before walking to the viewing spot which already had a number of eager tourists. I realisedcthat I would not be able to stand until the sun finally found its way through the clouds so Jennifer and I paid NRs 100 (R1) to join another lot of mainly Asian tourists on the roof of a little eating area- our NRs 100 included unlimited organic tea, we caught a few glimpses of slightly pink glistening snow and then it started to drizzle, followed by quite serious rain. Virtually every one pushed off but I said we shouldn't leave as there was a small patch of blue sky which I felt sure meant that all was not yet lost! So we stuck it out and finally we were the only tourists left and then the show began!! Just a wonderful and  very moving experience as the peaks and mountain ranges almost duly started to reveal themselves. It reminded me of being on the bush where I always say "wait long enough and the bush will reveal itself" well the Annapurna south range. Did just that. It is at least 9 kms further away than another peak called Fish Tail mountain which actually looked much higher because it was closer to us - about 11kms as the crow flies. We were so grateful that we had been patient because the rain stopped and we saw the whole range in the distance. It was not too long before the clouds engulfed the mountains again it vests so hard to take pictures that come remotely close to doing the sight justice. Here is a pic which gives some idea of what we experienced. 

So we enjoyed a light breakfast at the viewing sight before going further up the hill to the paragliding spot!!! YES that's right you heard that correctly, Jennifer and I paraglided today!!! A first for both if us and what a first! I absolutely love it. I even opted for having a DVD made of my experience. So you doubting Thomas can see for yourselves!! Altho I realise there are still folk who day man didn't get to the moon.... All a hoax- trick photography etc!! 

It was truly and extraordinarily wonderful- I was taken up by a big Nepali man who had been doing this three times a day for five years! He was so reassuring and enthusiastic and just told me to sit back and relax and simply enjoy myself and leave everything to him! The take off is the only tricky part it seems where one has to time the rising wind with when one starts moving forward but the next thing I knew wevwete soaring up into the air and experiencing the most amazing feeling of weightlessness. He controlled everything and told me what we were doing all the time - to be in the same thermal as the eagles and to actually see them circling below us!!  Everything looked so beautiful and clear - we could even see parts of the fish tail mountain peak and Annapurna south - I asked him to take a video of them but feat they might have been too far away - we'll see! I was a little concerned that my sandals might drop off never to be seen again but all was well and we stayed connected!! Before we started the descent he asked if I wanted to do some acrobatics!! Well why not... He then launched into action and we hurtled from side to side swooping downwards I'm tummy lurching swoops!! Enough she cried... I was nervous for the landing as well - with thoughts of - will the knees like this and many what if's but all was absolutely fine if not very graceful!! The idea is to land on gently on your feet with a few little steps and to remain standing! Well I was on my bottom and then of course couldn't stand up without rolling over and then getting up in what feels distinctly like a giraffe getting up after a drink!!! 

I was so elated by and thankful for the whole experience. Jennifer had a good paraglide and a wonderful pilot but was a very unhappy camper and could not relax as she does not like being disconnected from the ground but wanted to do it all the same! 

So an incredible tick in the box and certainly not something I had remotely thought that I would do here altho I have wondered about what it would be like. 

We ate lunch in our room and then collapsed for a couple of hours. Jen and I then went off to rent a paddle boat so we could have a swim in the lake asp it was still swelteringly hot. We rented a boat with a canopy that which had two sets of pedals and a rudder. It was great  - I was grateful that Jen was so persistent as for two ticks I would have carried on chilling in the room! The swim was really refreshing but then came the challenge of how to get back onto the boat!! It took all my strength to pull myself up onto a sort if platform where I lay like a beached whale for a while!e! I would've liked to out on the life jacket and float for a while but was nervous to push my luck figuring I had used up all my energy heaving myself up the first time! I had to pull Jen up as she could nt manage it on her own we pedaled back at a fairly leisurely pace, all the while watching the wind and weather which was threatening to change. It was really super. 

We then strolled along the lake side and found a little place right on the waters edge and enjoyed a beer while watching the storm overbid over the lake.

All in all - a truly memorable day! 

Wednesday 25th June

So It's three in the morning ... Can't remember the next line of Leonard Cohen's  song... Anyway here I am sitting under my mossie net which I am sharing with two mossies and a couple more knock knock nocking on heavens door!! Seems my head is full of sixties songs or lines from them anyway!! Has the girl finally lost it here in Kathmandu??

At least the dogs have stopped their infernal   barking!! I lost it earlier - so much for 'being' and stood at the window and shouted SHUTTUP!! Of course nothing changed except maybe ! I felt somewhat foolish and caught as in hooked .... 

Today was great

Tuesday, 24 June 2014

23rd June

Today I joined up with Jennifer to meet a fellow academic from the US with whom she has been corresponding for a while. He then happened to be in Nepal so they have done a number of things together but it was my first meeting. 

We went off to meet a very respected lama called Lama Wangdu who was having a sort of open day where one can meet him and ask him a few questions, or ask for a blessing or ask him to divine if it was a good idea if one did this or that! One takes him a gift and he then blesses you by touching your head and shoulders with different Buddhist icons - I  am not up to speed on all of this. However I absolutely felt his warmth especially as he held onto my hand for ages as the three of us kneeled in front of him. We each gave him juice and a small
Monetary offering. I was very overwhelmed  by whole encounter. He did not speak English but Daniel is fluent in Nepalese and explained the answers to Jennifer's questions later. The lama beamed at me when I asked for blessings on the baby sister for Morgan who is due in late November -  YES - for those who do not know- Luke and Mel are having a baby daughter - so exciting and so much to be thankful for- so she has been blessed by a holy man. We were then given a packet with all sorts of things inside - far more than we had given him!! Plus a couple of tokens - one to put in our wallets, so they always have money in them! the other for power to put under our pillows when we sleep. 

We then had lunch at a restaurant overlooking the Boudha stupa - I had buff. - that is buffalo meat with vermicelli pasta- rather soup likebut very tasty and the meat tasted like stringy stewing steak! 

Daniel lives in a roof top apartment near the stupa so we walked there to enjoy some of the very fine tequila that Jennifer had brought him! Diluted for me, so a bit of a waste! 

Jennifer and I then went off to the BIN office to complete our evaluation forms and have our exit interview, they are very thorough and genuinely want to know what they should change to improve how they run and what they do. 

We had a long honest chat with Dinesh who thanked us for what we had done. He had had good feedback from the teachers who attended the first workshop so that was great! Once again such an enormous thank you to each of you who contributed so generously to my appeal for money. There is no doubt it will make a difference to the children. 

One of the volunteers showed me a photo she took two days after the workshop, in the class room where she had been volunteering. The activities were all set up on the low tables ready for the children!! 

So we were given certificates and then got a ride into Thamel with Akkal the VIN driver who was taking another volunteer to the airport. 

Jen and I then  had supper at a super restaurant she had been taken to by another friend who lives in Kathmandu . A great way to spend the last night before she leaves for Pokhara.  

24th June

Today Jennifer flew to Pokhara where I and another volunteer will join her on Thursday. I caught a taxi with a box full of  workbooks, maps - in fact all the things I brought from SA to take to the girls at the nunnery. They were so excited to see me as was I to see them! I gave Monita the little nun let who gave me a medallion, a little African key ring beaded doll and the head nun, Puja an African bead bracelet. I had lunch with them - the usual rice and dhal, after which all the girls sat at the dining tables and did dot to dot colouring in - numbers and alphabet with the crayons from Karen! I gave them masses  of workbooks that I had collected at VIN office but had not used with the boys. There was also chalk, felt tip kokis , dusters, the African animals, parts of the body puzzle, flash cards, playing cards, scissors and the big ECD resource file that I gave to one of the girls called Uscha who reads English really well and us such a teacher in the making. Puja will show all the books to their Nepalese English teacher who hopefully will find them useful. It was a lovely couple of hours and I left feeling much better and the nunlets were ok to wave goodbye this time- closure is reslly important! 

I then caught the bus into Boudha where the largest Buddhist stupa is and pottered happily for a few hours. I sat on a bench absorbing the scene and compared this Pru with the Pru who first set eyes on the stupa- very different - awestruck, judging, in fact completely overwhelmed. I am so grateful that I had the chance to be here long enough to break through the aversion and confusion I experienced in the first couple of weeks.

I now look with fondness on many of the things  that seemed so strange in the beginning - stray dogs that in fact do have a home, people happily engaging. Mothers playing with children where as all I saw before was unkempt children often sitting on dirty pavements, endless young men sitting around who now appear to be building or selling or delivering or on their way somewhere rather than aimlessly standing in the streets. 

It certainly is strange to think we will flying out of Nepal to Delhi on Monday - suddenly the end of what seemed an endless six weeks is upon us!! 

I have mentioned the dogs before but it is truly astonishing to me how they completely take over at night - there is more or less a continual chorus - it's coming up for 1.30 now and I am up having a cup of tea in our kitchen because I can't sleep and as I sit here writing, the barking has been nonstop for an hour!! As one tires another takes over... And so it goes on! Today I saw a Pekinese type doggie bring combed - all the shops in the side streets have a ledge or pavement space on which there are often people hanging out and there he was being groomed by a lady sitting on her haunches while he stood proudly to attention as if knowing this was a mighty unusual occurrence for dogs in Kathmandu - certainly for those who hang out on street corners! Usually they are fast asleep - not surprising given what they were up to the previous night!! 

There is a black dog called Kelly at the monastery who always greets us as we come home. We have been warned though to ignore the dogs so have not interacted with him at all. 

As I went to the bathroom later this night I saw him scuttlingbawaybfrom me. - obviously very guilty at being found on the 4th floor! He ended resettling on the mat outside the lama's door. 

22nd June

Today I ran the second workshop for the teachers from so called private schools. It was a public holiday as there were elections being held in one district which meant those roads were closed and people would not be able to get to work or school. Seven teachers came plus two interested volunteers. The room was tiny with just enough space for me to lay out the activites. The teachers sat on the floor on cushions and I followed a similar format as before. Once again the women had trouble thinking for themselves and coming up with their own thoughts - maybe because of lack of understanding the instruction? 

Sunday, 22 June 2014

Friday 13th June

Well it certainly started out as Friday the 13th!! Yesterday my phone gave up the ghost - not surprising given what I had put it through!! So I set off to wait outside the monastery for Wangchuk the taxi I had arranged to collect me at 6am so that I could be at the tourist bus station at 7 am. By 10 past he had still not arrived so I managed to ask a guy who was watching the kids from the orphanage (opposite the monastery) play soccer, to phone my taxi guy- engaged!! So I decided I'd better start walking to find another taxi. I found one who was drinking tea so no he wasn't up for business!!! I started running only to be joined by an old guy who thought this was very funny - a western woman with a back pack running grim faced down the road. He skipped and danced along side me while I muttered that this was very serious and that I really could not miss my bus and where the hell were the taxis and where the hell was the bus station!! So thankfully he peeled off after a while and I continued to hot foot it down the road while waving my hand for a car to stop! The first car to come along did stop and a guy (yay he could speak English, asked of he could help. I explained that the taxi had not arrived and that I had no phone and where I had to go. He said no problem, get in, he will take me but he would have to go home first to fetch his driving license!! He was taking his daughter to school. So very thankfully, in I jumped. It turned out his daughter had missed her school bus!! So we dropped her first and he took me all the way and refused to accept any payment! He was an engineer who had trained in India. He had set up an NGO and would love to hear more about the Sustainability  Institute! 

So it was with enormous relief that've spotted the other volunteers and sank into my seat on the pretty upmarket bus (compared to the city busses) which was to be our home for the next seven hours. 

Friday 20th June

What a pleasure - I woke up at 9.15!! And enjoyed a great leisurely start to the day. Jennifer and I sat in the splendid shrine room after which I called our friendly taxi to pick me up to take me to the place where I had left my little note book yesterday ... I am asking myself why ii seem to have a need to leave things behind... Am I needing to mark my territory!!! Or she'd dome stuff... John says simply"iIf you take something out of your bag, put it back again!" Simple stuff.... Well we went all the way, the driver managed to stop at the little shop only to find the shutters down!! So that's it - he then took me to the VIN office for the monthly volunteers meeting. Very fruitful and interesting as most of the volunteers present were teaching in monasteries spread around Kathmandu. All mentioned the difficulty of teaching large groups of different abilities and ages - the most successful experience was a Canadian girl who has based her teaching on the soccer World Cup - so clever. 

So I am to run the next one day workshop for the teachers from the private schoolson Sunday at 10.30. Sadly the numbers of the people in the first Montessori school I visited are in the missing notebook do I can't tell them about it. Once again I will arrive an hour before the start not having seen the venue!  

Wednesday, 18 June 2014

Wednesday 18th June

So today has to go down as motor bike day! I asked Salai Dai's brother if he would mind taking me to the workshop on his bike - no problem so I arrived there at 9.15 after spending about half am hour showing the family the book I brought on South Africa. I fetched the book to show  them as Saila Dai had asked me if my country had money!! I replied we had a lot of gold - well his eyes lit up and he swooned clutching his heart that he "loved the gold"!! And please could I bring him gold when I come  next time - 1 kg of gold - he wants to make gold rings and the gold necklace (all the while sort of caressing his fingers and his neck!! I laughed and said sure - I would tell my husband to work for a year so I could bring him 1 kg of gold as long as the first ring was for his wife - well that brought the house down!!! So that  was it. I fetched the book to show him gold being poured- he immediately kissed the picture and touched it lovingly with his fingers!!! 

Anyway back to the workshop! It was with much relief that I found everything as we had left it. So I set to work cleaning everything as all the activities were covered in dust. The day went incredibly well with me presenting all 24 activities - I surprised myself in fact as I haven't done presentations for some years now but it was a great way of drawing the theory from the practice and showing the relevance of the philosophy in each moment. No doubt having spent 68 years on the planet helps!! Well this time around anyway!!! Hmmmm.....

Each day the teachers were given lunch which it turned out I paid for!! I find so many similarities to our work with the women back home - food at a workshop is really a big issue; that I will be there at the office to organize or do  this or that. Ivsuppose though there is an element of how long is a piece if string and generally I don't reign on the string enough!! 

It really was incredibly satisfying though and I am in my element working with women/teachers who were very receptive and eager to learn- all in all really rewarding. At the end we went over all their challenges and they agreed that they now had a way to get through them - and that they were the ones who would and could do that!! So I would love to see what happens in the next few months. 

The workshop ended with the principle of the school gaaning aan for ever and the tVUN programme manager had his say followed by Om and then I was told to say something. So I told them about how my friends had given me the money to buy all the materials for the workshop and that each school would receive exactly the same set and that it was now up to them. Well this was translated onto a long speech as well!! After many photos we finally called it a day.i got a ride with the VIN guy who insisted we go back to Saila dai's house for tea. So off we went altho I had said my goodbyes that morning and been ceremoniously had my forehead stamped with a deep red dye, called a tikka and had a beautiful red karta (a special scarf given as a greeting or farewell) draped around my neck. So we set off with me carrying my back pack, camping stool and my carry bag hooked onto the front of the bike. I felt on much better hands than last yesterday's guy. Well everyone was overjoyed to see me again - guns and tea  all round when suddenly a guy who had been at the ending if the workshop pitched up and said I was needed at the co-operative centre where we had stored all the schools materials as some teachers wanted to take their stuff todAy and not tomorrow! So off I went on his bike to hand out materials to five of the schools. Much joy and excitement and promises that they would remove the labels and seq around the edges of the small drying cloths!! So we did it - equipped nine schools, trained 16 teachers - all be it for a day and a half!! And created ax extra set for VIN which I will use to train teachers from private schools who can buy their own materials - watch this space for more on that!! 

I was then taken back to drink my tea before I jumped back onto Dr Laxmir, the VIN guy's bike to get a lift to Kathmandu - about 20 kms I guess - so all in all aotor bike day!!!as well as everything else . 

I then jumped grTefully into a taxi to go to the trusty hotel premium to meet up with a bunch of volunteers for a celebration dinner in Thamel. There were 16 of us including kennifer who joined us from the monastery. It is so wonderful to see these - I have to say it - youngsters as that is what they are - all in their early 20's giving up 3 to 12 weeks to volunteer - there really is a growing awareness amongst the youth - of service and giving which is so encouraging. It must be amazing to work full time for an NGO that gets a constant stream of new energy coming through its doors. I know this requires enormous managing as well and a fair amount of mothering which VIN does well - so hats off to VIN and the volunteers. Jennifer has been writing articles about VIN and it's successes and challenges which I am sure give a realistic picture. 

So after a great supper if western food, Jennifer and I caught a taxi back to theonastery. It was after ten and pretty veery as the streets were pretty much deserted except for the dogs which are let loose at night and rule the roads at night - struuring along, tails up as they congregate on corners and seem to socialize and every do often set up barking which goes on through out the night. It's 3.40 now as I write and I can hear them barking - one starts which is followed by a chain of others, then just as suddenly there is silence again. 

Soni'd better get back to sleep. Tomorrow I go into the office to write up the ' books' - who got what at what cost so that'll be in a later blog! I also have an appointment to go to a Montessori training centre at 1pm to meet the people who trained a couple of the teachers from the VIN ECD schools.

So good night from a very wide awake and satisfied Pru who is for sure enjoying herself and keeping very well and getting pretty fit from all this walking - except today of course!!! 

Tuesday, 17 June 2014

Tuesday 17th June

Well as predicted the days are flying past and I am getting behind with my blogging! 

So today was day 1 of the 2 day workshop I am giving the teachers from the 9 schools in Jitpur an area in the hills above Kathmandu valley. I had not seen the venue except to hear it was a big hall. I spent last night with the same wonderful family I stayed with before. Four of the girls I went to Chitwan with are also staying here so this morning they and another Chinese guy (volunteer) helped me carry all the material for the workshop to the school- about 3 kms I guess. The hall turned out to be a big classroom with the usual broken and dirty work surfaces with attached benches all strung out in front of a wide wooden podium with a lectern for the lecturer/teacher! Plus the usual dodgy whiteboard and cms of dust on everything!! So Bahar the Turkish volunteer and I got to work rearranging the space so that all the desks were next to the podium which opened up space at the back of the class. We swept and then put up newsprint on the back wall so I could capture what the teachers had to say in mind maps. Om arrived with long foam matting which we arranged in an L shape so  the teachers could sit on it on the floor on cushions on these mats. I laid all the activites on low benches along the wall opposite the longer arm of the L shape . Anyway it was perfect!!! I had a low bench to present on while I sat on my camping stool. I had been told that the ECD trainer who had sold the teachers the Montessori  materials (which I did not tecognise) was coming tomorrow to explain the materials to the teachers. Anyway he pitched up so immediately the schedule was  changed- flexibility - one of the first ecological perspective principles!! 

He proceeded to show the teachers tangrams and all sorts of different activities, every so often looking at me and saying Montessori... Tricky as maybe most could have passed for extensions but certainly not first presentations of concepts where only one concept is introduced at a time!! 

Anyway finally it was my turn. I had decided to start with them brainstorming and feeding back to me 5 or. 6 challenges (problems) they have in their classes; followed by describe your dream school Ito children, parents, classroom. 

It was a really good way to start as I simply noted what they had to say and will refer to the points as we go along. We then talked briefly about the practical life area, before launching into the presentations. It worked extraordinarily well with me drawing the Montessori principles and info about the sensitive periods from them as I did the presentations. We ended up with the teachers presenting to each other and doing really well for a great first day - no doubt all the years of not knowing what to expect at the learning project and Zama have paid off!! We finished on the dot of four which Om reckoned was not what normally happens as most times, the teachers have left by three!

So a highly successful first day which I thoroughly enjoyed. The women had not really grasped that they would be receiving the same set of resources! Interestingly one of the challenges given was dirty class rooms! I was able to jump straight in with the concept of role model!! 

Anyway I then was given a ride home on the back of a motor bike with om's friend- an enormous relief gratefully accepted but hair raising all the same as he kept on taking one hand off the handle bars to point or wave at something- thats my uncle - wave and swerve: that's Kathmandu - point and swerve!!! Anyway I have been wanting to have a lift on a motor bike so can now tick that off the list!! 

So thank you to all of you who gave so generously to the idea of setting up learning areas In Nepal. Here's hoping the teachers get the plot and are able to manage and maintain all these activities😀. Will try to post a photo of the teachers working with the materials. Whoops won't be able to as took the pics with my camera. Will take tomorrow with my cell phone 😃🐒

Sunday, 15 June 2014

Tuesday 10 to Thursday 12th June

So am writing this very much after the fact as I catch up on these missed days! Tuesday saw me heading off to the office to meet Om to go shopping for practical life goodies. The amazing thing was that I got talking to the young woman I was sitting next to and itvturnedcoutcshecwad doing a Montessori course with the City of Nepal Montessori training centre!! She hauled out her practical life file and there were exactly what I was going shopping for later!!! We had a good conversation and all too soon she had to get off the bus! Love it!! 

I had given VIN the dollars that all of you gave me, and Om and I set off with a fistful of Nepalese rupees which we had been carte Blanche to spend as we chose! 

So Om and scoured little shops hunting for bargains. I ended up spending the night at her home as it was far too late for me to catch the bus back to the monastery and I had to be back with her at 9 in the morning. 

She lives in a first floor three bed roomed flat. So interesting as one accesses the flats through a door on the street, then one walks along a corridor up the stairwell to the first floor landing where the two bedrooms doors that face the steltret are, followed by the bathroom door, then the kitchen door and finally the lmain bedroom. The stairs continue to the next level and the next apartment. So there is no door to ones flat just doors off the communal stairwell. I slept in a single bed next to the double bed that she and her 11 year old daughter slept in!  We crept in under the mossie nets after supper at about ten and wonder upon wonders I slept pretty well!!! The bathroom has a western loo but there is no running water altho the bathroom and kitchen are plumbed.. There is also very little running water at the VIN office which is not far from her home. It seems Balaju is a dry area?? 

The next morning we set off at about eight to finalize the purchases from the little shops near her. We then went home to her house for breakfast, after which we caught the bus into the old bazaar inKathmandu  centre. What an amazing place - a labyrinth of small lanes running in  all directions where we stopped to buy face cloths, scissors, stationary, little carpet sweepers - finally ending up at a place where they sold stainless steel plates that will serve as trays, plus melamine trays, ladles and bowls for spooning; mugs, straight sided stainless steel mugs that they call glasses for pouring. It was a night mare figuring out how many bowls, trays, glasses etc we needed for ten schools!! It took for ever and then finally we gave the guy a deposit and left, with him promising to have everything ready in the morning. It was a case of asking for something, then he or his mate would disappear only to arrive a few minutes later with his version of what you had requested!! Tricky as most of the time Om didn't know what I was wanting either so couldn't translate!!!

I'm losing track of what happened but the bottom line is that when we returned the next day nothing was ready!! Itvtook forever to getvitvorganisedcwith him serving other people amongst it all  and saying he was just waiting for someone to bring this or that! Well a few hours later we finally had it all in a very large box which of course we couldn't carry! Mom problem out of nowhere  a chap arrived with a strap and rope whichnhebtiedcaround the box and put the strap around his head supported on his forehead and off we set to find a taxi😊 Om vary eyed with the taxi drivers while this poor guy stood patiently waiting for us to agree on a price. He then loaded the box into the taxi accepted R 5 from us and  disappeared.