So I had a long very interesting and happy day. So yes - John, I can at last say I am enjoying myself!
I am finally getting my bearings as well as growing in confidence in using the busses which are ridiculously cheap. I set off this morning to walk for about 20 minutes down a fairly steep hill to the bus stop. I had been warned to make sure I got onto the correct bus but I didn't need to worry as I was immediately asked by a person nearby where I wanted to go. He then waited until the right bus came along and told me to climb on. Well it is hard to describe the bus experience - it's bad enough driving along side them while sitting comfortably in a taxi but to actually be one of the spilling out the door and windows passengers is something else!! It is well worth it and really made me feel that I was experiencing something local! And all for R2.50 for an hour's ride!!!! I finally linked up with Um, the woman I was going to visit all the ECD centers with - she phoned me twice while I was on the bus and apart from not understanding her accent and not being able to hear her because of the noise on the bus, the toute who screams for fares didn't understand my asking him how much further to my stop! Once I got off the bus I called her only to find her phone was off!! I phoned Dinesh at the office who said he'd call Um - it is really great to know that he is always available to help. So we set off on our adventure in a clapped out truck - Um and I in the front with the driver and - get this - two panes of window glass that were balanced in front of us with us supporting them by clutching the piece of newspaper thrown over the top and sides! I had visions of one of us being cut or the glass breaking as we negotiated yet another pothole or raised manhole cover. We travelled virtually the whole day holding this glass as the newspaper became more and more mangled! We finally dropped it off at the third to last school - thankfully intact- our hands, knees and the glass!!!
Continued Monday am:
I have to mention that I woke up on Sunday morning bright eyed and bushy tailed (finally as I have been battling to sleep) so the duvet trick and calcium wukked. What a difference a good nights sleep makes ...
So how to describe our day visiting the schools? We started off collecting all the supplies that were to be delivered. Um took me to a shop to look at practical life goodies - small melamine bowls - 50 nrs, Divide by10 to get rands. Ladles - 15 nrs. So hopefully I'll be able to set up a number of activities for each class. I am concerned about where they will be housed in the room - might have to outlay for some shelves or planks to make shelves or find computer paper to lay out on the floor along a wall to define the space. Also need to get mats for the children to work on to define their space. I am in my element doing this so all good!!!
The classes in the schools are all pretty standard - VIN has in some cases built the classroom, often added onto or near an existing primary and or secondary school with one exception - a school high on the hill tops reached by two impossibly rutted tracks! This was the first school I visited last week. Most classes have been recently painted by volunteerswith some kind of mural and alphabet and numerals on the walls. They all have at least two low round tables and one set of cubby hole type shelves that currently house the children's bags. The floor is covered by a carpet so sitting on the floor to work will not be a problem. The few toys they have are not sorted and seem to have no 'home'. All schools have pencils and the exercise books in which screeds of alphabet squiggles and attempts at drawing an apple next to an A are found as the children copy what is either drawn on a white board by the teacher or pointed to on a chart on the wall high above their heads.
Their little fingers are itching to move and manipulate so let's hope that we can achieve that.
The schools are incredibly remote. I have experienced remoteness in Limpopo and KZN with Phedisang and Woza Bona and heard from Wonderkids about schools they visited in deep rural Zululand, but this was something else. I guess it's not the remoteness but the state of the road to reach them and of course the elevation that is remarkable. Bottom line is vehicles rarely access these places so the track is really for animals and walking humans! So as hair raising as it was - wondering if we'd make it without disappearing down a precipice, it was a unique experience for which I am very grateful as there is no way I could have walked to them. Often the so called road passed cms away from people's homesteads. We saw old men and women cheerfully hoeing and reaping. Um stopped the truck many times to talk to the women to remind them that they need to attend a workshop on Fertilisation being run today in the last village we went to. The older man running the workshop is called Ramsey Aka - the women cracked up when I explained my name is Pru Ramsey!! Um also asked the pickers for what ever was being picked - ginger and some sort of large leafed green vegetable. She was given a very generous bag and handful - both times the woman refused to accept any money for them. I have experienced that back home as well - I guess a way for the women to express their gratitude.
We also popped in at the so called Montessori supply shop on the way. I was very keen to check it out having not recognized one of the so called Montessori materials on the lists received from the teachers. Well so much material stored in one small room and the only familiar material I saw was the pink tower!! Let's hear it for the pink tower! They showed me all sorts of things obviously expecting me to know them but ... Blank! Not even to an eye that has improvised a lot of Montessori material over the years! The man at the shop is facilitating the first morning of the workshop next Monday and Tuesday, to show the woman how to use the materials they have been given, so I am very eager to hear and see what he does.
We kept going the whole day without stopping for lunch or refreshments or to find a loo!! As we set off on the main road after the last school, Um stopped and chatted to a spaza shop owner on the side of the road. I asked if I could buy a coke or Pepsi - it seems Pepsi have cornered the market in nepal😀- nope no small cold pepsis but would I like a red bull!! They then pointed to the next shop saying they had Pepsi. The thing is that one has to drink it there and leave the bottle- the idea of paying for the bottle and taking it with one is not an option!! So I am getting pretty good at slurping down a Pepsi and then paying for the speed for the next hour with many suppressed "exkus vir die bubbles...!"
We drove back to Balaju through a beautiful national forest and wildlife sanctuary with wonderful huge trees and glades- kind of quiet and mysterious after the hub bub of the villages and the chaos of the urban areas.
Something that fascinated me was noticing these huge buildings with about 3 to 5 stories that looked like unfinished apartment blocks with blue plastic draped along the walls from the floor to about waist height. I was astonished to learn that these were hen houses! - battery farming. As Um said - lucky hens in better houses!!! The noise as one drove past was something else. Interestingly enough when I asked Deepak in whose family's home we stayed last week, why they don't keep hens, he said because they are smelly and make mess and volunteers don't like this!! He did show me whilst walking to a school the next day a building that his family owns but rents out, that has hens in it.
So we finally got back to Kathmandu at about six and suddenly Um said you can get out here and get a bus back to Arubari- just ask for the medical college. So I jumped out and hovered around when suddenly I heard this guy yelling medical college medical college! So in I jumped making sure I sat right next to the door of the bus on a seat that was parallel with the side of the bus and faced the driver. What a journey! At some point a very young mother carrying a really tiny baby climbed on and sat facing me - we'll I ended up being the baby's protector as I used my arm to shield her from hanging satchels, poking elbows and bulging tummies!! More and more people packed into the bus most standing upright, a little more comfortable than thepeople standing in the combi that I caught in the morning who had to stand bent over! Once again every one was chilled. There were two 'conductors' - one who collected the fares and knew exactly who had paid - not that anyone tried to get away with not paying - I saw people get off the bus and then hand over bucks before walking away. The toute who yells out where the bus is going while eyeing the young girls standing on the raid side, has some code that tells the driver to stop or start. There are no bus stops, people wait along the side ofvyhecteachers and wait for the toute to yell where the bus is going. They could do with the hand signals the taxi passengers use in South Africa!! He then pounds onbthecside of the bus - two or three loud thumps forceithercstoppingvor starting. Often he is not on the bus when itcstarts again as he is running alongside looking for more people to shove into the bus whilst dodging other buses, combos, taxis and motor bikes all of whom are continuously hooting to let each other know they are there and also to say get out the way here I come!! All incredibly wntertaining to a novice like me! At some point the heavens opened and in no time the road became a river!! There was no where for the water to go and of course people were now trying to get onto the bus to escape the rain so now we had dripping people and their umbrellas to contend with!!
The traffic was reduced to a halt many times as this was peak hour as well as a monsoon deluge!! I was on the bus for about an hour and a half - squashed into my small corner! Then to crown it all we suddenly drove into a petro station to fill up. No one turned an eye so I figured this happens regularly - the guy collecting the fares handed over the bucks for the petrol. Interestingly petrol cost NRs 134.5 a liter which is pretty much the same as SA but my fare for this journey was NRs 25!!!eventually we reached medical college stop and put I jumped - it was 7pm by this time and just starting to get dark. At least four people showed me the road I had to turn into! All so friendly. I finally arrived back at the monastery at 7.30 - dry and hungry with dirty feet and wet pants bottoms from the puddles!
A great event filled day! Thanks Jen for the supper she cooked - fried potato chips and an onion and tomato omelette!
Then to crown the day, Kathleen phoned me on my Nepalese phone and we chatted for half an hour, after which I got another call from mister Ramsey - so I went to sleep a very happy chappy!