We arrived Monday afternoon to be shown two very dusty (read dirty!) rooms with a bed, a large township type blanket, a very full pillow and a bedside table. Jen's room also had a table. Dinesh, the VIN rep, soon found another table and desk chairs, and a rope to hang our mossie nets from. We got the girls to sweep and clean the room and the burglar bars - felt rather like a bossy school ma' am but as there are no cupboards or drawers we need to use the floor!! The next major challenge for me is the loo story! First of all we share the ablution block with the girls- cold showers, thankfully separate, and eastern loos with no rails to cling onto!!! Majorly challenging in every way! We feel very grateful for what we take for granted back home. The water useage continues to need vigilance, so for instance we keep our own crockery and spoon, wash it under one tap with scouring powder that is tipped onto the kitchen window sill, we then rinse everything in the ablution block upstairs, dry it in our rooms and finally spray John's magic Solosan solution on it before the next meal is ladled onto it! Jen has not been well - tummy and fever so has yet to eat from the kitchen, Tthankfully she is feeling better today. I am having to get braver about eating spicy food - I guess about time! So there could well be less of both of us when we get home!!
The girls range in age from about 6or 7 to about 15. There are a couple of men who seem to oversee the place but from what we can work out this is a teenage headed nunnery! There are three classes who are grouped according to how long they have been in the nunnery., so all have a wide age range with varying degrees of knowledge of English-we are still trying to figure out the different levels so we can work out what to do with each group. - very hit and miss at the moment but I must be patient! There is a really bossy girl in one group - she drives Jennifer mad with her stick and pushing and disciplining of the children - I'm on a mission to get her on my side. Jen is getting the translation for My religion practices kindness - so we should get her sorted soon!!
The first evening we went to pooja which is evening chant time. Once again just the girls leading the resting the children who we're sitting opposite each other on either side of the shrine room. One of the older girls was the Frau Bluker in charge - she held a thick white stick which she used the smack the little one's palms every so often - it wa hard to see what they were doing wrong. The final straw for me was when she slapped a girl on the cheek. I was so mad and so saddened by her - I had travelled far to get away from this sort of abuse only to find it very much the culture here! It literally reduced me to tears. Two reps from VIN visited us yesterday to see how we were settling. When we raised it we were informed that it is a cultural thing but said they would take it up with dinesh - we haven't been back to pooja since!!' Bottom line this place could not be further removed from any ideas we or rather I might have had about a Buddhist nunnery! First of all it's a building that is being renovated so there is building going on all over the place with rubble and dirt and dust everywhere. To get to our classes we have to climb two floors then dodge wheel barrows and piles of cement being mixed and piles of sand waiting to be made into concrete- the stairs have hose pipes trailing over them, there is bamboo scaffolding everywhere, rooms are filled with glass, window frames and doors - not a thought that this might be a hazardous place for children!
The nunnery has completed or nearly completed parts with beautifully carved doorways and an impressive entrance archway but on the whole it falls far short of being an uplifted place with quiet walkways and gardens to meditate in!!! We meditate in our rooms overlooking the house next door and a sad looking field of beans or something similar. There is a Hindu temple beyond the cultivated plot which people often enter. Today I saw the hills that we walked down on Monday - for the most part, it is hot with low cloud cover and poor visibility.
So very far from any romantic notions I might have had but that said the girls are so sweet and incredibly receptive- rote learning is definitely the order of the day- there are absolutely no resources or teaching aids - just a classroom with no door and wide open spaces for windows with no windows - in fact very cool except when the wind blows and sends all the labels flying that we had placed next to the objects whose names we were learning! So the things I brought with me have already been put to use as we attempt to establish levels of understanding. Jen is particularly challenged and has come up with the idea that she take a group of children to the shrine room and teach them the names of things there and then start giving Buddhism lessons. We teach together which certainly helps. Six lessons a day of 45 mins each - quite demanding but I have to say I am finding it exhilarating to be back with children and am beginning to see differences in their faces and characters and so learn their names- quite a task as obviously they have very foreign names.
I have just popped down to the kitchen to see what was for supper and happily found plain rice and a soup like mixture which the girls said was dal which I enjoyed. The beans with it were far too spicy so my little tummy is satisfied! Ken and I are off to find another cheaper place that has wifi so hopefully we'll be able to publish the last couple of blogs.
In case you're wondering how the hike went - put it this way- I survived. It turned out to be about 11 Kim's. I ground to a halt at about 9.3 kms as my kness said that it as far as we can take you!!! I was very glad to have done the hike as we hikd from the top of the range through villages and single humble homes right to the bottom. I have still to figure out how to load my pics on the blog so do check jen's blog as she is loading pics as well. So maybe I will give more detail later but it is spectacular altho depressing to see the erosion and littering- the curse of plastic and so called civil station