Tuesday, 26 August 2014

The Final One - Can You Help?

Dear Friends

Thank you so much for reading along with my blog and for the many comments on the blog and on Facebook which have helepd me feel so supported. It's been a wonderful adventure and I hope that I have managed to help a little at the school too and raised awareness of the work they do. 

The money raised before I went has been used to fund the shipping of the books. There is enough left to buy the school a printer as they currently have no internet nor any means of printing, photocopying etc. However, they have concerns about the ongoing running costs. 

I have pledged to raise 6000rs a month (about £50) to fund the running costs and here I hope you may be able to help. There is a scheme called the Worldwide Friends of Kumbeshwar Kids and through this scheme you can sponsor the school. If we can all dedicate even a couple of pounds each month to this cause then this would be enough.

In the UK one off or regular donations can be made to:

Bank details:
HSBC Sort Code 40-13-17 Account Kids of Kumbeshwar No 51377388

Cheques can be made payable to
Kids of Kumbeshwar UK and sent to
Maggie Adams Langley,
52 Osborne Mews,
Sheffield S11 9EG

For the rest of the world, please see the website or contact me and I can put you in touch with local groups.

If you are setting up a standing order, please add "Printer" in the reference line so that they know the money is specifically for this.

I am going to treasure the time in Nepal and, once over the jeg-lag, am determined to help them as much as possible. Watch this space!!

Thank you once again. 

Goodbye for now.


Day 32 - Homeward Bound

Up at 5.20am to yet another bout of unwellness. Final packing and weighing of case then made it down all 30 stairs with 3 bags and case without either dropping anything or falling. It was raining a bit so sheltered under the eaves of the Swotha Kiosk while waiting for the taxi. It was fascinating to watch the early morning worshippers around the Krisha and Radha Temple in Swotha Square who made offerings, pressed their foreheads to the stones and invariably walked clockwise round the shrines.

Taxi arrived just after 6am and headed off the wrong way to the airport. It transpired that the driver had to hand over some keys and a bag to his friend after which we turned round and headed the right way. It was good in a way as we ended up going round a lot of the places I have been recently so I was able to see them for a last time. 

Arrived at the airport in good time and at the third attempt managed to locate the correct door to go in. All doors led to the same place so I dont' really understand what the fuss was about! Went straight to Oman Air check in and realised I was over the weight limit for luggage by about 2kg. I said nothing and neither did they and they tagged the bags and sent them on their way. A big relief.

There are strict import/export rules on Nepalese Rupees so I changed all my remaining rupees into dollars at the bank counter. Then up the escalator to passport control and into the much smartened up departure lounge which now boasts 3 coffee shops, gift shops and decent seating. This is a huge improvement on the bare room of previous trips. I got myself a coffee and bottle of water and paid in dollars receiving my change in rupees. When I commented that I couldn't take them out of the country he took them back!! Spent about an hour reading and drinking my coffee before going through security to the departure lounge no 2 (bare and uncomfortable) and straight to the gate (bare and uncomfortable). After a short delay we were loaded onto the plane and settled down. 

I was delighted that there was no-one in the middle seat of 3 and settled down for the 4 hour flight to Muscat. Given the generally murky weather outside I didn't hold out much hope of a view and certainly there was no view of the Kathmandu Valley or city as we took off. However, once above the clouds I was finally rewarded with the tops of the Himalayas poking their heads into the sunshine. I took many photographs.

The flight was relatively uneventful although due to the state of my stomach I couldnt' eat and just had water. Oman Air are great but they are not generous with their cups of tea! Ate more immodium and then listened to Jennings' Diary on my MP3 player which I had downloaded before leaving. I watched the Skymap and we flew over Nepal into India then turned right and flew over Pakistan, Southern Afghanistan (which is just barren) then over the Oman Sea to Muscat where we landed on time. 

Disembarked quickly then stood in a queue for 10 minutes to get through transit and into the main terminal. I was feeling really poorly by this time and when I tested my blood my sugars were low having not eaten for 24 hours. I headed to Costa Coffee for another milky coffee and a sandwich then to the Pharmacy opposite where I explained my predicament and that I had another 8 hour flight and the immodium was having no effect whatsoever. After a short lecture on the importance of eating the pharmacist gave me two lots of tablets - really not entirely sure what they are but I wasn't in a state to argue - and told me how to take them. I then bought sweets and plain biscuits at WHSmiths (Yes, in Oman!!) and headed to the departure gate. 

At the gate I was informed I could not take my water through security. I pointed out I wasn't well and needed to take medicine but they were unrelenting. So I sat down on the floor by a pillar and took what I needed to before going back to the gate where the security guards made me take everything out of my rucksack and turn on the laptop, take off my shoes and were generally unpleasant.

Had a bit of a melt down then and cried. I got onto the bus to the plane and when I got on the plane I said to the stewardess that I was feeling unwell and if they had any spare seats could I possibly sit on my own. She said she would see. Settled into my seat and we took off late (a connecting flight was late in apparently) and it was a bumpy take off. After about 15 minutes the stewardess came over and said to the man next to me that I wasn't feeling well so would he mind moving. He got a coveted seat by the bulkhead and I had 2 seats to myself which was brilliant. I curled up with the seat rest up and dozed. The stewardess asked me if I wanted to be woken for meals and I said no but when I next opened my eyes and the subsequent times after there was always a fresh bottle of water or juice. They were really kind.

I really didn't think that the flight would ever come to an end. I listened to more Jennings until the battery ran out then tried to read but couldn't. Started to watch a film - The Railway Man - then fell sound asleep for about an hour and a half until we hit bad turbulence over the Czech Republic which was nearly disastrous to my stomach but ok. Then watched the end of the movie (it was very good) and dozed until we finally landed about 30 minutes late.

It was impressive that from arriving at the gate to walking out of departures to meet dad took a little over 15 minutes including passport control where the electronic gates were slower than the real people desks (I went for a real person!). Luggage all arrived then met Dad for a welcome big hug. We went back to the car then out onto the M25 in the rain and dark. It took about 2 hours to reach home where Mum had a hug and a cup of tea waiting. I had a hot shower then drank the tea - bliss - before heading to bed and sleeping like a log.

It was great being away but it's lovely to be home!

Sunday, 24 August 2014

Day 31 - Packing and the part of threes.

Woke up and ran to the bathroom - someone had their revenge! Spent the morning dozing, reading and trying to do the online check in for Oman Air. For some reason the internet here kept going off and then there were problems with their servers but finally managed to check in and reserve my seats.
These are from yesterday's deluge number 1. There was another equally severe about an hour later.

The courtyard at the back of Cosy Nepal

I had planned to pack then to go to Thamel for a wander round ending up in the Garden of Dreams for a meal. I spent a lot of time in the Garden of Dreams with Hilda in 2009 and I was looking forward to reacquainting myself with it and also a good feed as I remember they do lovely food. However, due to the state of my digestive system I deemed it unwise to venture any further than downstairs to the office to pay the bill then to see Lalita in the shop for more loo roll and a packet of crisps...apparently they are good for rebalancing something or other??

Packed and managed to get everything into my suitcase and, despite all the presents, the case was underweight! Result! Then realised I had forgotten bits and pieces so piled them all up on top of the case ready to have another try at packing later on. Ate crisps, dozed, read Harry Potter (number 4) and took loperamide (Immodium) which took a really long time to have any effect. I was getting rather concerned about flying tomorrow so Skyped Mum and Dad and decided that if things were still unstable in the evening I would go to the CIWEC clinic for advice and medical help for insurance purposes if I had to delay the flight.

Went downstairs to Swotha Kiosk for a final pot of tea with Bikesh and a bit of fresh air. I sat in the sunshine and drank the Ilam tea (Nepal grown) and finally started to feel better (I think the caffeine may have had something to do with it!). Everything was grumbling and hurting but I think that finally whatever it is in my system is starting to shift out properly. I even started to consider soup for dinner.

Said thank you and goodbye to Bikesh and took a photo. He has been so lovely and helpful with all sorts of dilemmas and I know he has been keeping an eye out for me too. I hope we will meet again.
This has been a most wonderful place to get a really good cup of tea and watch the world go by. Even better, the alley on the right leads to my apartment....couldn't be closer!

The lovely (and rather scrummy!) Bikesh who has been such a support.

Back to the apartment and it's time for a Southward Family Tradition - the part of threes:

Best 3 meals:
1) Steak and chips at Cheenos
2) Momo making lesson with Prakesh and Anastasia
3) Vegetable Pakodas and Beer at Casa Pagoda

Best moments at school:
1) My birthday surprises
2) Sports Day
3) Teaching class 5 

Best sightseeing moments:
1)  View from Swayambu
2)  View from Nagarkot
3) The Huge Shiva Statue

Best meetings:
So many lovely lovely people but edited highlights...
1) The teachers at the school
2) Harihar and his family
3) Anastasia
4) Bikesh and the Cafe Swotha Team (I know that's 4 but I couldn't leave them out!).

Worst moments:
1) Bus and taxi rides while trying to get to Dhulikel
2) Upset stomach on the final 2 days
3) Bites

Most enjoyable moments (not school):
1) Long lunches and dinners in Casa Pagoda watching life go by in Durbar Square.
2) The Kumbeshwar Festival
3) Wandering round Boudhnath.

Things I have learned (not limited to 3):
1) Buses are fun with a friend but not on your own.
2) Ditto taxis when in a remote area.
3) I can talk to people and make friends.
4) I have started to get to grips with Nepali.
5) I'm not a totally useless teacher.
6) I can travel a long way on my own and survive admirably.
7) Skype,WhatsApp and Facebook are lifesavers for keeping in touch with family and friends.
8) The team at Cosy Nepal have been a fountain of information and help and it really pays to book decent accommodation.
9) I hate shower curtains.
10) You can make decent leaf tea in a coffee press.
11) I am apparently allergic to flea bites!
12) My Kindle and the wifi in the apartment have kept me reading...about 13 books!
13) I have learned to knit....
14)...but the elephants remain unfinished!
15) Buying presents is a lot of fun (asis watching people open them)
16) A smile and a Namaste goes a long way towards making friends.
17) Nepalese streets flood in the monsoon and my walking sandals have been invaluable. In fact, now I think about it, I haven't actually worn any other footware all holiday!
18) I can deal with touts.
19) Silk is ridiculaouly cheap here.
20) I want to come back...

Best things about going home:
1) Seeing family and friends
2) A British cup of tea with a dash of milk
3) My own bed (although I've slept really well here)

If you can think of any more "threes" to add then either comment below or on Facebook and I'll add them in.

This is not the last post, by the way (unless one of the two planes crash tomorrow - yes, I'm still terrified of flying!) so keep looking. I have other things to add once home, including some video clips. I shall also be looking for help with supporting the printer in the school - more later.

Day 30 - acquiring an intimate knowledge of bathrooms...

Up and dressed leisurely and went out for breakfast to Cafe Swotha where I had 2 pots of tea and the healthy breakfast.. Spent almost 2 hours there reading and relaxing. Stomach was sore but ok. 

Walked to Patan Dhoka to the big supermarket there to buy an extra bag for packing to come home. On the way up the escalator I felt unwell and had to rush to the facilities. Bought bag (but no luggage labels anywhere) then walked back to the apartment where I was unwell for the afternoon. 

Spent the time reading, dozing and drinking dioralyte but at 3pm had plain noodles with marmite to rehydrate them - lovely and nutritious.

Had a shower and got changed then watched the rain out of the windows - it was torrential. Luckily it stopped at about 5.45 so I headed out to buy a packet of tea as a present and headed down to Koruna's house where I had been invited for dinner. The roads were wet and slippery.

On arriving I was given a "snack" of chips, cake and Bombay mix then we sat and chatted. I also spent time with her nephew helping him with his English homework but was stumped when he asked me about the present perfect continuous tense....

More chat and water to drink then a delicious dinner of vegetable curry, paneer, puri, chapati, 9 bean soup, chicken curry and pickles. In Nepal it is rude not to eat food so I ate it with enjoyment on the basis that it would either cure or perpetuate the stomach bug and that the chilli might help. 

I left soon after and walked through the dark streets with my torch. The rain had come down again and the streets had been totally flooded...jokes about white water rafting on the streets of Kathmandu. Luckily they were less watery but still wet and slippery. Got in and went to bed with my book. Hopefully will feel better tomorrow.

Saturday, 23 August 2014

Day 29 - Goodbyes and traffic problems

Up at normal time and had a breakfast of a cup of tea and biscuits while packing for the night away at Dhulikel. Walked to school as normal and signed in then went to see the children at assembly. When they went in I went round the junior classes taking photographs and saying goodbye then to the library for the final planning and checking everything was good for the morning's lessons.
Class 3

Class 4 - the girl front left is Jeny (pronouned Jainy!!)

Class 5 with whom I spent a lot of lessons

Had maths with class 2 which was difficult due to the language issue and the teacher was called away. I did my best but they didn't really understand which was a shame. Then to the library where I read some of the old annual reports but was then called to class 5 for the English session - I had got my timetable wrong! Did a lesson on sentence structure and they really enjoyed it and seemed to get the idea. Then to class 3 where I read them We're Going on a Bear Hunt and then we acted it out - very silly and very enjoyable.

That was the end of my teaching so I headed to the library to give back all the resources and planning sheets I had borrowed and to hand over the remaining lesson plans. At 12.25 I went downstairs to be ready to say goodbye to the children as they went home and it was lovely to see them all and say farewell but emotional. I walked to the main building with the staff and they went in for a staff meeting. I took the opportunity to say thank you and goodbye then walked back to the apartment feeling rather tearful.They have been so generous and friendly and I have loved my time at the school.
My timetable and school planning sheet

Sewing training near the school

Class 5 boys

Picked up the last things for the trip to Dhulikel then went to Cafe du Temple for momos and a pancake. Then walked to Lagankel past many lovely material shops a shop selling all manner of different household goods. Eventually I got to the bus park and managed to get on the right bus for Bhaktapur. I had decided to get the bus halfway then a taxi.

The bus set off but got caught up in bad traffic and it took an hour to reach the airport - about 4 miles. There was nothing I could do but sit and take photos of the roadside views. The pollution and dust were thick and the driver rather kamikaze - he kept being stopped by the police for driving on the wrong side of the road.
Lagankhel bus park

Patan Southern Stupa - there is one at each compass point. This one is in a garden tended by the Rotary Club.

Roadside views

We turned right onto the main Bhaktapur Road then immediately left. this took us via the old road to Bhaktapur which was very interesting as it went through small villages and paddy fields. I ended up at the far end of Bhaktapur with few other people around. I asked at the kiosk where I could get a taxi and was pointed up a small road to where there were a small collection of buses. I managed to find a taxi and negotiate a fee. However, shortly after we had set off the taxi driver phoned his friends and then stopped and asked other taxi drivers as he didn't actually know the way to the place I was heading! On finding out it where it was he then decided to increase the fare - I had no choice but to accept.

We drove out towards Dulikehl past Sanga where I was last weekend. About 2 miles past Sanga we came to a complete stop. There was no traffic coming the other way and lots of people walking. After a bit of discussion the taxi driver told me there was "no chance" of getting to Dhulikel as the road was blocked and there was a 4-5 hour delay. I asked him to return to Bhaktapur which he did.

On reaching Bhaktapur I asked him to take me to the bus park. He initially turned down a road I recognised but then down small back streets. I felt really uncomfortable and unsafe and didn't like this at all. I waited until I spotted somewhere I recognised and then got out as soon as I could paying him 2000rs although he tried to tell me he wanted more. It was not a good moment.

We had stopped in the main square and just by a coffee shop so I went inside to have a drink and to see if there were any hotels in Bhaktapur that I could stay in instead. There was wifi in the cafe so I linked up and had a look. There was nothing I fancied and I decided to go back to Kathmandu by bus. I didn't have the guidebook with me so followed my instinct and good sense of direction and walked for about 15 minutes through Bhaktapur to the gate where I found a bus going to Kathmandu. I got on and took the front seat. Two little grubby girls got on and sat just behind me and I kept feeling their fingers trying to see if I had anything in my pockets. I didn't and turned round to give them my best teacher stare but it was not a comfortable ride. We eventually got to KTM and to Ratna Park bus station. This was not ideal as I still had to get to Patan and it was now dark but at least I was off the longer distance bus by nightfall.

Bus stops are often called by the shop name they are near. This is the first one where the address is a bus stop!

After asking around I found the bus to Patan Dhoka. We sat there for ages then suddenly the driver got in, turned on the engine and we went without warning. It was another 30 minutes drive through KTM and over the Bagmati River up to Patan Dhoka. Finally I was able to get off the bus and pay - all the bus journeys, which totalled about 3 hours, cost 75p!

I was not feeling well and thought I was probably hungry so went to Dokhaima Cafe for dinner. This had been recommended by Cosy Nepal and it was clean and the waiters were so helpful. I ordered a fresh lemon soda with salt - lovely - and a virgin mojito then vegetable tempura with soy sauce dip and homemade spinach pasta with chicken. It was a very nice meal and the service and surroundings were great. It came to less than I had anticipated too!

I walked through the dark streets back to the apartment with my torch and stopped only to buy more toilet roll! I got back and found that they had taken the chance of me being away for the night to varnish the floor. Luckily it was dry but the apartment smelled of varnish and I had to shut all the doors against insects. Skyped Mum and Dad then tried to get to sleep but struggled due to the heat,residual anxiety from the journey and lack of fan. The electricity finally came back on at about 10.15 so with the fan going I finally fell asleep.

I have now learned that buses in Nepal are fun if you have someone with you but not so good alone. Despite the costs, taxis are better but be careful who you get as a driver. It's the first time in 4 weeks I've felt unsafe in Nepal and I was very anxious but managed to get myself out of a sticky situation for which I am thankful. It also means I have an extra day in KTM....what to do????

Thursday, 21 August 2014

Day 28 - A brilliant birthday

Happy birthday to me!

Woke up with the alarm and checked my email and  Facebook in bed to find several welcome messages. Up and dressed then went to Cafe Swotha for a repeat of yesterday's healthy breakfast plus a mull over the lessons I had planned but wasn't happy with. They brought me black tea and I requested a small jug of cold milk so enjoyed a "proper" cup of tea with breakfast.

Walked to school via the temple then signed in. I was greeted by the staff who wished me a happy birthday then up to the library to replan the lessons. At about 9.30 Karuna, the head, came in and we proceeded round the school to each class where the children all sang Happy Birthday and I had to wear the special hat. I had bought enough sweets for each child in the school to have one and it was lovely to give them out. One boy in class 1 also has his birthday today (as does Bijayata's brother!) so we had a photo taken together.
Ujjal whose birthday is also today. He was giving the teachers sweets.

In the birthday hat!

Giving out sweets in the Nursery


Me and Ujjal - he is very shy and didn't want to smile.

Class 2

Class 3

Class 5

I was supposed to teach maths but was late for the start of the lesson because of giving out the sweets so the teacher had already started. I helped the children with their work and tried to explain fractions in simple English - not easy. Then a session in the library sorting out resources and chatting to the teachers before an English lesson with class 3 doing spelling by hangman (you have to guess each letter consecutively so have to understand the blends and patterns in English to predict what comes next) then the final lesson on habits with class 5.

At the end of the lesson Anju took me upstairs to the library where, to my amazement, the teachers had decorated with balloons and were all gathered. I sat at a table in the middle and they burst a balloon containing glitter over my head! Then they gave me a chocolate birthday cake and sang happy birthday while I tried to blow out the candles (they were trick ones!!). We had a photo with everyone together then shared the cake. I gave out a woefully inadequate box of chocolates (it looked large but had few chocolates inside) and then was given a gift of a shawl and a card. I was so touched and felt really emotional. I was able to thank everyone for their generosity and friendship over the last month then people scattered to have lunch. I was given a final task of jumping with a pair of compasses to burst the final balloons then was rewarded with a cup of milk tea.
Surprise chocolate birthday cake.

Singing Happy Birthday

Trying to blow out the candles and making a wish.

With all the staff. I shall treasure this photo.

Cutting the cake into 17 - not easy!

With the shawl present.

Still trying to work out how to cut the cake into 17!

With chocolate on my nose

Enjoying the cake.

With a cup of tea - every day at 2pm I have been brought one.

Glitter on the floor from the balloon.

Trying to burst the balloons.

Koruna and I then walked to the hostel where we left a big bag of sweets (I had lots left over) for the hostel children. I was able to meet some of the staff there, many, of whom have come through the hostel and school themselves and to see some photos of the children. Then back to the family home for lunch of paneer curry, buff, chicken, potato, rice and daal. This was followed by fresh mango and King Curd from Bhaktapur - delicious.

I headed back to the school where I was in time for another cup of milk tea and a chat with the teachers in the library. For the final session I went to try and help out but nowhere needed me so I headed to the nursery where I was thrown in front of the senior nursery children (aged 3 and 4) and asked to do an impromptu lesson on counting to 20. I think I did ok! 

After school I went to the office to see Kiran and to pay for the shipping of the books (about £450) and there is enough money left over to buy a printer for the school. I have committed to finding the funds to resources the consumables for the printer each month so will be fundraising again...I'll put the details in a later post if you are interested in helping out. Then Kiran presented me with a hand knitted poncho which is beautiful. I was very touched indeed.

I walked home via the temple ponds where the children were swimming and having a great time and spoke with Bikesh at the kiosk who,on hearing it is my birthday, invited me for a complimentary cup of tea. I gratefully accepted and after putting my things in my room and trying to skype Mum and Dad (both out) I went and enjoyed the sunshine and a pot of delicious Ilam tea (local Nepalese brew).

I manged to speak to Mum and tell her about the day then wrote up the blog. I'm now heading out to Casa Pagoda once again for a celebratory bottle of Everest beer and something to eat. A wonderful and extremely memorable birthday.