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Next 22 days in Nepal + HK and Vietnam

VIETNAM | Wednesday, 14 December 2011 | Views [793]

School yard

School yard

After the first few days at Harihar school we settled into a comfortable routine of arriving each day around 10am and working (or playing in Brian's case) with the children. Although they have very little (in some cases a family cannot even afford pencils or pens), the children are cheerful, fun, polite, intelligent, smart, desperate to learn and absolutely adorable.

When you take into account that the classrooms have no windows or doors, the

blackboards are splintered wrecks and the desks would not even qualify for firewood in most western schools, you have to admire the teachers and children for their dedication to schooling.

Brian spent most of his time either teaching them new games (like Hopscotch, Simon Says and the English version of Hokey Pokey) or playing cricket, football or any other game they wanted to play. He did turn his hand to teaching a couple of times, which resulted in a comment of "natural teacher" from Dawn.

(Brian remembers enough Cricket to bowl)

Dawn taught the children, had a session with the teachers explaining the latest thinking on teaching practises and organised the library (quite a task that was!). 

We also did some things to benefit the school; buying supplies for the stationary cupboard and arranging for some building work to be finished which would give the school a room big enough to accommodate all the children, which had the benefit of windows and doors.

(Brian helps carry one of the SOLID WOOD doors up the hill to the school)

Uday, the Principal of the school, is an inspiration. To guard the school, he, his wife and their two fantastic children sleep/live in one room of the building. A second room is for cooking and eating. Their 'bathroom' is the school squat toilet and a cold water tap outside on the school grounds. Yet he is one of the happiest men I have ever met.

But I could fill a page on the traumas he's suffered in protecting his school, including being attacked with machetes by people trying to steal the school money. He believed he was going to die before he could reach the local hospital. His brother and other villagers carried him through the village, across a valley on a suspension bridge and 3 miles to the nearest hospital. As a reminder of this ordeal, his body is covered with vivid scars.

Because educating girls (which has only recently become accepted in Nepal) is critical to getting rid of illiteracy, he encourages families to send girls to his school and currently has more girls than boys.

            (Uday, Dawn and some of the girls)

The large room project was successfully completed the day before we left and on our final day we were asked to arrive a 10am as usual. What a blast the day turned out to be! Some of the children were so excited they walked the 4 kms to school arriving at 6am, waking up the Principal so they could start decorating and practising their dance routines. When we arrived there was much activity.

     (The new room all finished and ready for a party)

We were taken to the new room, given flowers and asked to sit in chairs. Before the entertainment started Uday said we were to be honoured with a Tika (the red dot on the forehead). Trouble was every child wanted to give us a Tika so our "dots" became "full face".

                     (Extreme Tikas!)

The children danced for us,

we were presented with more gifts and flowers,

   (Uday presents us with a beautiful carved photo frame)

then we all danced.

               (Best school party of the year!)

That colourful new room (pink was the children's favourite colour) was well and truly christened. It was a wonderful day, ending with happy sadness and lots of love from the children, with requests that we do not forget them.

                    (Brian's angels)

During the weekend when the school was closed we did a trek, with guide (well we were in Nepal!!). Avoiding the popular tourist treks we walked up (2 days) and down (1 day) the mountain Panchase (at 2500 mtrs a mere hill in Nepal). On the way up we stayed in a mountain village and met an English Twitcher.

                     (Leech country!)

He advised us to watch out for leeches as it had been raining. Our guide didn't seem too concerned, but Brian decided to glance down occasionally. After walking through some dense grass Brian stopped and glanced down and had the illusion that his shoes were still moving. He told Dawn, who looked down and squealed.

Our shoes were covered with leeches all looking for a way to reach bare skin. They were in the shoe eye-lets and between the laces. Some had made the top of the shoe and were heading in. Others were making the longer trek up the socks. Having cleaned them all off our treking experience became more looking down than up, at least until we reached an altitude the leeches did not seem to like.

        (On the more basic end of tea-house trekking)

At the top of the mountain we stayed in very basic accommodation in temple grounds that had only in the last few months been opened to the public. We ate in the kitchen, along with some workers who were improving the facilities for future guests.

(Fire in the middle of the kitchen floor makes for a SMOKEY evening)

The caretaker cooked for all 7 people on an open fire old clay cooker. The room was warmed by a pit fire in the centre of the room. The food was delicious and we discovered our grumpy guide liked his local liquor, becoming very happy and chatty.

       (Traditional Nepali Kitchen at our guest house)

The walk down, in one day, was challenging. Neither of us realised there were so many different ways of taking steps to try and avoid the discomfort (Englishman's word for agony)in our knees. The steps were also very slippery, which helped us understand why so many tourists were on crutches in the local town. Although a beautiful walk,

   (Hmmm, leeches or downhill steps...which is worse...)

we were both relieved to get to the bottom. So much so, that we let the first bus go without us so we could celebrate our achievement with a beer or two. Catching the next bus, we off-roaded for an hour into town, with a bus full of smiling locals who shared their snacks with us.

After Nepal we spent a couple of days in Hong Kong where we experienced "Dialogue in the Dark". This is an experience in total darkness where, led by blind guides and trainers, one learns to interact and communicate by relying on other senses. It is well worth a visit if there is one near you www.dialogue-in-the-dark.com

Vietnam was next. What a wonderful country with warm friendly people! We stayed with Tamara (our London wedding photographer) in vibrant Hanoi. And on a peaceful island in Halong Bay.

(All we needed was Somebody yelling 'The Plane, The Plane' to make us feel like we were on Fantasy Island)

A six hour boat trip with kayaking through caves into secluded lagoons was magical.

Well, that's about it. Sorry it's a bit long this time, but lot's happened. Wish you all a wonderful Christmas and a creative and successful 2012.

Brian and Dawn                

 

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