Yaknak Projects

Nepal Diary - 2005/2006

21st September 2005 - Arrival in Kathmandu

Written by Keith

We arrived in Kathmandu on Monday night and this is the first chance to send email/post... (I did try before but there was a storm and the power went out for the night - and apparently the monsoon has finished).

As we approached Nepal the peaks of the Himilaya could be seen poking through the clouds and as we came in to land I got my first impressions of Nepal. It reminded me of war torn Eastern Europe news reports from the 90's. The city is 7000ft above sea level... higher than anywhere in Scotland, I believe? We took a taxi to Chabahil where we are renting a small apartment and even though Kathryn insisted he was a relatively good driver and the roads were quiet, I thought it was bit like a stock car race - but with no bumping thankfully.

The city is so noisy at night - it makes it very difficult to sleep if you are not used to the noise. The city's dogs bark all night and every vehicle which has a horn uses it every three seconds. We are going shopping for earplugs today. This morning at 5am, after listening to dogs barking, horns honking and people shouting, there was a screech of brakes and a big crash: "It is like a Carry On film - but not funny." - KP.

Yesterday evening we met with Lea Wyler, Vice President of ROPKA. They have a home in Kathmandu which has around 50 children. She had some very good advice for us and some suggestions for our project. These were mainly to do with where do children go when they leave a house and what can they do? She felt that formal education was not always the best route and apprenticeships and vocational training are more useful. There is also no opportunity for children to get an insight into independent living before leaving homes. These are all very interesting ideas, which we feel will not only help children make a life for themselves but also benefit Nepal in the long term.

Lots more people to see in the next few days so I am sure we will have lots of more suggestions/ideas which, with those we already had, will give us a lot to think about

25th September 2004 - Exploring Kathmandu Valley

Written by Keith

We have been up to Devi Baal school where Kathryn taught last year and to visit the family she stayed with. I cannot have fully adjusted to the Nepali way of life as I couldn't finish a huge plate of Tarkari, Dahl Baat, etc at 10am for breakfast.... of course Ama, the grandmother, was trying to give me seconds and Diro as well.

We have had many conversations with Dorje over the past few days about the project. Some with beer and last night with some whiskey. No chang yet though. We are exploring the idea of renting on the outskirts of Kathmandu, just outside the ring road. Here you can get more for your money but there are still transport links and shops, etc. There has been lots to discuss and we are hoping to find out more information before Dashain, which starts in just over a week. This, I think, is the biggest festival in Nepal and is followed shortly by Tihar.

No photos uploaded yet but we have some from Durbar Square yesterday and are planning a trip to Nagorkot, where the views of the sunrise over the Himilaya are meant to be amazing.

27th September 2005 - Photos

Written by Kathryn

Prayer flags which can be seen all over Kathmandu. And Durbar Sq - old Kathmandu.

30th September 2005 - Patan and Thamel

Written by Kathryn

It is not always possible to stick to plans in Nepal (we still haven't been to Nagarkot). We were meant to go yesterday but bumped into Dorje and went to Patan instead. We had another good chat about the project with him and Tashi, another New Hopes member. We are now hoping to go to Nagarkot via Bhaktapur on Thursday, watch the sunrise on Friday, then head back for the weekend for the Rotary Club football match.

Today, we went into Thamel where there was meant to be traditional Nepali dance and music. This turned out to be some sort of international tourist day. The area was very busy with tourists, street traders, street kids and a massive police presence. On the streets at night, the police mostly carry guns (all sorts - handguns, shotguns, rifles, machine guns). Today, in Thamel, they were carrying 3 foot long sticks. This created a bit of an atmosphere so, after sheltering from some heavy rain in a cafe, we headed to Swayambhu instead.

Swayambhu is a Bhuddist stupa and temples which look down onto Kathmandu Valley. I am sure during the day it is very busy with tourists but we went at sunset and it was quieter. Unfortunately, the pictures of the stupa were not that great because of the light fading.

30th September 2005 - Bhaktapur and Nagarkot

Written by Keith

Just back from an overnight stay in Nagarkot with Ajit. We caught the bus from Chabahil to Bhaktapur and spent the day there. Bhaktapur is a short distance from Kathmandu and there is very little traffic, which makes it a lot more relaxed. Bhaktapur has the largest temple in Nepal (picture) - it is 30m high and has five stages. To protect the temple there are the statues running up the stairs - each one 10 times more powerful than the previous.

The bus from Bhaktapur to Nagarkot was the most bizarre transport experience so far - apart from maybe the three wheeler tuk-tuks. It was around 5pm so all the school children were heading back up the hill to their village so the bus was full. Children can travel for free, however, because they don't pay, they are not the buses priority passengers - so they were hanging out the doors and on the roof. There was also a goat - Ajit told us this was probably sacrificial for Dashain.

As if the bus spewing with people was not enough, the road up the hill was little more than single track and the drops were pretty steep as we climbed to Nagarkot.

We hoped the rain would clear the sky for a panoramic view of the Himilaya the next morning but this was not to be. We got up at 5am to watch the sun rise but there was too much cloud. We waited a couple of hours and at about 7:30am we got our only glimpse. A single peak for only for 10 minutes then the view again disappeared. There will be plenty more opportunity and at least we saw something. I am hoping we go to the other side of Kathmandu Valley where you can see Everest.

Project News:
We have some information about various costs and are trying to work out a budget for Ketaketi house. A few days ago, we went to Gokarna to have a look around and see the availability of house rental. Gokarna is on the outskirts of Kathmandu near some protected land owned by Pashupatinath preservation - it is nice to know this will not be built on.

12th October 2005 - Project Update, Solar Eclipse and Weddings

Written by Keith

Project news:
We put an advert in the Kantipur press to try and find a property for Ketaketi house. We have had a few replies but nothing so far has been suitable - too expensive, above a shop and too far outside Kathmandu. Hopefully something will turn up soon and we can really get started - the time is starting to pass very quickly. We have a long list of things to get through, making the house habitable, finding Ama, Didi and of course the children, but nothing we can really act on until we find a house. This is a little frustrating but "what to do?" as they say in Nepal - we need to be patient.

Other things which have been happening...

Monday was a government holiday as there was a Solar eclipse. I thought I was really lucky as it had only been a few years since I saw an eclipse in Durness, which was spectacular so I had high hopes.

Unfortunately, we had the same luck as we did in Nagarkot and the clouds covered everything. It resulted in some nice photographs but obviously wasn't the same as seeing th eclipse.

On Thursday, Dolma's niece Sangay got married to Santosh. This was a fantastic day - and not just because we got to wear traditonal dress. It must have been very tiring for everyone involved - especially Sangay. The ceremony started about 9am when Santosh's family arrived. After the families spoke and the ceremony and blessings, everyone headed to a restaurant in Durburmarg for the party where there was traditional dancing and more food. Oh, and lots of people got Rangi Changi! This is one of the Nepali words for drunk, the literal translation is multi-coloured.

Hopefully Chris and Julie, who will also by now be married, had just as great a day.

Congratulations to Chris & Julie and Sangay & Santosh.

I have been trying to get Kathryn to blog since we got here. I keep telling her that everyone wants more of the excellent reading she provided us last year.


12th October 2005 - Update

Written by Kathryn

Monday evening

Predictably late. Three weeks here and this is my first blog.

It's good to be back! I'm enjoying seeing old friends, visiting Devi Bal school where I taught and seeing all the changes, in particular the addition of a library, roaming around Kathmandu again and, of course, making plans on how to spend the £12k that YakNak has raised.

We're living in Chuchepati near Chabahil for those of you who know Kathmandu. It's near some of the places I like best: the Hindu holy temples at Pashupatinath where Ajit works as a guide and the Buddhist stupa Boudhanath. We're renting some rooms from the Lama family. Dorje, who I got to know well last year and who is giving a lot of help to Ketaketi house, is the eldest son. His mum Dolma also lives here with his sister Chenjum, his brother Sonam, his cousin Nima and a girl from their village, Mylee, who helps around the house. It doesn't sound like a lot but with cousins, 2nd cousins, uncles, aunts and numerous others somehow related constantly coming and going, it's a busy household. Dorje's sister, father and several aunts, uncles, cousins are also abroad in various parts of the globe. It's hard to keep up. As Dorje says it's not a family tree, it's a family jungle.

Daal, bhat, tarkari. We've landed on our feet here. We rent the top floor of the house (two small rooms, bathroom and kitchen with absolutely nothing in it except cockroaches) but eat downstairs every evening with the family and enjoy the typical nepali meal of lentils, rice and curry. But just for a change Keith and I cooked tonight. Mashed potatoes with fried onions, cauliflower cheese with a few string beans to bulk it out (as every time I looked up someone else had arrived for dinner - we grew from an expected five diners to nine) We'd also planned to make that good old Scottish-staple mince to go with our tatties. However, this is a Hindu nation and so beef is illegal. The closest available substitute was buffalo mince but we couldn't get gravy stock anywhere so abandoned the idea and Dowa made spicy meatballs instead. The spuds and cauliflower cheese were described by Donnie as "exotic" and by Dorje as "evolved without piro" (piro = hot/spicy). We're having porridge for breakfast. Hope it proves as exciting for everyone.

Dashain. It's the main Hindu festival of the year and it's happening now. Think Christmas but add a sacrificial element. A walk down any street will reveal many more goats than usually found. Tethered and looking dejected as if all too aware of their imminent fate. A goat for Dashain is like a turkey at Christmas. The main difference being we'll buy ours ready wrapped, nasty giblety bits removed for our convenience and cooking instructions enclosed. Here they buy it, feed it up, cut it's head off and get down to some serious butchering. And all on the pavement for passers by to enjoy. I suppose it'd make a bit of a mess doing it in the house though.

The Lama family are Buddhist and therefore don't celebrate Dashain to the same extent so we're off to partake of the main festival days with our Hindu friends in the village of Pakathuk. That's the Bhandari family who I lived with last year. They're vegetarian so there'll be no goat and instead the somewhat less-bloody sacrafice of a coconut.

Goats again. Keith has already blogged on the subject of the all-night howling of dogs, revving of engines, crashing of shutters, banging of pots and general, if not deafening certainly insomnia inducing, racket of Kathmandu. This came as quite a surprise to me after the peaceful nights in the village last year. Just as I was getting accustomed to blocking out the city's noise along comes Dashain and the night long bleating of those poor beasts crying out for escape from a certain fate in the curry pot.

YakNak and Ketaketi House.

An example of how our "research" invariably comes about: Saturday evening on the way to the cyber (internet shop) bumped into Gopal at the front gate (a cousin of Dorje's visiting for his sister Sangay's wedding which took place at the house last Thursday) He was carrying a birthday cake and bunch of flowers for his niece but was pretty busy as he was leaving for the UK the following day so requested that we take it round to her as he had no time. Of course, we had no idea where we were going so Nima (brother of Gopal and Sangay who lives here) came along too.

The cake mission was very fruitful. At the house Nima introduced us to a couple of people (2nd or 3rd cousins somewhere) who had heard that Keith and I were involved in a project with street children. They told us about their father who has a home caring for and schooling about 40 children with funds from overseas. So we're off to meet him on Thursday. It also transpired that the house we'd delivered the cake to was up for rent. So we're considering it as a possibility for Ketaketi house.

But aside from stumbling upon properties we've also had a "House wanted" advert in the Kantipur press. We've received quite a few calls but most of the properties have been unsuitable either being too expensive, too big, flats or above shops. So we're still looking. Several conversations with people have confirmed that buying land and building would be too time consuming, risky and expensive for us at this stage but a definite possibility for the future.

Tuesday morning

Breakfast time. I think everyone enjoyed the porridge. I'd caused some confusion by stewing apples last night (we've got about 300 left over from the wedding). I repeatedly heard Dorje say "Hey dude, have you ever seen a cooked apple!" but they seemed to go down well with the porridge.

During breakfast we heard a bit of a commotion from the street and going out to investigate discovered a large crowd, a man in a blood soaked shirt wielding a large knife and our neighbour yelling at the top of her voice from her balcony. The neighbouring community of carpet factory workers (not the most affluent social group in Nepal) had clubbed together to buy a buffalo for Dashain. Apparently it works out cheaper per kg of meat than goat. The time had come to slaughter the beast so armed with a khukuri knife the local slaughterman set about his bloody task. Unfortunately, after the first blow the buffalo escaped. Pursued by our neighbours, the buffalo, bleeding from the gash in it's neck, was chased down a dead end alley at the back of our house. There the slaughterman finished the job much to the dismay of our Buddhist neighbour whose angry shouts made clear, even to those of us who don't speak Nepali, that she was seriously unamused with the slaughter of a huge buffalo on her doorstep. Once the head was severed the slaughterman headed off casually swinging his khukuri and leaving a splattered trail of blood along the street behind him. Meanwhile the other men set about lifting the huge beast onto the back of a battered pick-up which appeared from somewhere. No easy task but they managed in the end watched eagerly by the local children climbing onto walls, gates and fences for a glimpse. I don't know if anybody is charged with clearing up the large pool of blood by our neighbours house or if she's just to wait for rain.

We're leaving for the Bhandari's house in Pakathuk now and will no doubt see a few more slaughters on the way. Kind of glad we'll be eating vegetarian tonight

19th October 2005 - Nagarkot II

Written by Keith

On Sunday morning, we visited Maiti Nepal - an organisation which helps vunerable women. We were hoping they might be able to help us find Ama. After a short meeting, with Dorje doing a great job translating as usual, it seemed they were not going to be able to help us. Most of the women they help are younger than the Ama we need. Also, today we received an email confirming that the house we viewed in Phaika is available to rent if we decide it is suitable.

After Maiti Nepal, we decided to go back to Nagarkot. The journey up to Nagarkot was my most eventful so far. Seven of us got on the bus in Chabahil, which wasn't too busy, but this only took us to the bus park where we had to change. The first bus to Bhaktapur which passed we tried to get on the roof until a Traffic cop spotted us and we had to get down. He gave the driver a stern talk while we tried to look innocent. The next bus was busy but it was rush hour and it was already dark so we squeezed on. I was not even able to stand up straight. I was about 6 inches too tall for the bus and after staring at my feet for 5 minutes started to get a very sore neck. One thing I have noticed about buses in Nepal - they are never full. There is always room for one more. I have often thought, "This is the most packed bus I have been on," but then I think this on most bus journeys. When we got to Bhaktapur it was getting late and we soon found out that we wouldn't be able to get the bus up the hill to Nagarkot. However, "Where there is a will, there is a way," Ajit keep assuring us and after a few failed attempts, we asked a shop who had a pickup parked outside. This was going to be expensive but the only other option was to walk 20km up the hill in the dark. A price was agreed and he told us he had another vehicle we could use as the one out front was full of goods. Another pickup appeared out of the darkness to the sound of Silent Night. The most bizarre reverse warning I have ever heard - especially in a country where Christmas isn't really celebrated. The ride up the hill was quite quick and we were in bed early, after rakshi and dal baat, in preparation for getting up at 5:30am for the sunrise.

I woke up and immediately looked out the window panicking in case we had overslept. Other than a darkened room the first thing I saw was this panoramic silohette of the Himalaya. We were up quickly and went to the hotel next door which had a higher roof. There really isn't that much to say - the pictures explain everything. The views all day were spectacular.

More spectacular views on the way down - the Himalaya were almost never out of sight. We walked all the way down the hill, via Changu Narayan, to the outskirts of Kathmandu and caught a microbus home. Again the bus was packed. Microbuses are about the size of a people carriers, with two bench seats running the length in the back. I counted about 25 people. It was difficult to be accurate when there were 2 sacks of spinach in with us as well. With everyone crowbar'd in, and the conductor and another bloke hanging on the outside, we came to a police check point and everyone had to get out. Amazingly, everyone got back into almost exactly the same position on the other side.

21st October 2005 - Update

Written by Kathryn

Dashain. After the standard "stomach troubles" holding us back in the morning we finally got going. I blame the lassi we'd drunk at a buddhist monastery the day before. It's a drink of yoghurt and water. The yoghurt's fine, it's the water that gets you. Anyway, a delayed start meant, as usual, walking uphill, without shade during the hottest part of the day. So we arrived at the Bhandari's house in Pakathuk pretty burnt but spent a great day with my nepali family. It was great to sleep in "my old bed" again. The next day we got dressed up in our nepali glad rags courtesy of the family - see below! We were all waiting to receive tika from ba (grandfather). Tika is a blessing which is made from yoghurt, uncooked rice and red vermillion dye and is placed on the forehead with some ceremony - again see below. It's the highlight of the day and before tika is given no-one can eat any cooked food. We'd been up since 5am but mid-morning ba decided to take a short walk (2 hour round trip) to a local temple. We amused ourselves by playing cards - a typical dashain pastime - and listening and dancing to live music from the tabula drums and harmonium. I'm sure Keith will happily don his dhaki topi (hat) and dance again for you folks at home! We staved off hunger with fruits and fresh coconut. Finally the time came to receive tika. After everyone had received tika from ba it was the turn of us all to give tika to anyone younger than ourselves. I realise it may sound odd to the uninitiated but it really is a strangely enjoyable experience! Both the giving and the receiving. As his elder I also gave tika to Keith.

After dal bhat (You'll have realised by now that dal bhat - lentils and rice - is THE meal of the day in Nepal. In fact the meal twice a day. Every day. Yes, 14 times a week. Fortunately it's very tasty!) it was time to head back to Kathmandu. In Nepali clothing and with tika we elicited quite a number of stares from amused Nepalis along the way.

roject. Our "House wanted" notice brought forth several more phonecalls from interested landlords. Properties ranged from tiny flats above commercial premises to three storey "bungalows" (there are a few anomalies in Nepali-English) quite out of budget. The only suitable property we've seen so far is situated in Phaika which is about fifteen minutes walk from where we're staying in Chuchepati. It's a two storey house with a very small garden and has 2 rooms, a kitchen and bathroom downstairs, 4 rooms upstairs and ample room on the roof for drying clothes and a wee rooftop garden. Best of all, the house has its own water supply in the form of a well so doesn't suffer the typical water shortages Kathmandu is prone to on an almost daily basis. We'll let you know how negotiations progress.

House hunting aside, we're also looking for our amma (mother), our didi (big sister) and, obviously, our children. We've had two interviews for amma so far and are in the process of contacting organisations who can help us find someone. Same goes for didi. As for the children, we visited CWIN (child workers in Nepal) yesterday. Dorje and I got a lot of useful information from CWIN last year, including a contact within the organisation who is involved in a project connecting the various shelters for street children around the city. Through CWIN's transit homes for street kids undergoing rehabilitation programmes we hope to find the right children for Ketaketi house.

1st November 2005 - Ketaketi House

Written by Kathryn

We now have a house. Not the house in Phaika that we previously talked about but another nearby. It’s a newly built house and is therefore completely empty of furniture, carpets or indeed any sign of life. It also means it’s very clean and newly painted throughout. It’s a good size, has running water and a lovely garden with vegetables, flowers, two guava and three banana trees. Mec, the owner, doesn’t seem too fussed about signing any rental agreement/lease (though we’ll get one for our paperwork!) but the house is definitely ours. We have keys and, more importantly, we had our “new house pouja” there this morning.

Pouja (blessing)

Today at 7.30am Keith, Dorje and I jumped in a taxi to collect the Lama (monk) who would perform the pouja. We took apples and uncooked rice for offerings and stopped en route for prayer flags and incense. At the house we were met by Tashi and Donnie from New Hopes and Ashes, a friend. Unfortunately we’d left our flask of tea by the roadside (an integral part of the pouja!) and had forgotten plates and a water jug. However, our new neighbour proved most friendly in supplying everything we’d forgotten. The ceremony took about an hour during which we drank tea, listened to the Lama’s prayers, scattered rice and water and then hung the prayer flags on the roof. Hope you agree it looks lovely!

As it’s Tihaar – another festival – we also hung a garland of flowers from the front door. Tihaar has a much nicer atmosphere about it than Dashain. Rather than slaughtering, this is a festival of light and also tika. People are busy decorating their houses with candles and fairy lights. Yesterday dogs could be seen everywhere wearing mala (floral garlands) and tika and today it’s the turn of the cows. Thursday is brothers day when all boys and men will receive tika from their sisters. We’re off to the Bhandari’s house in Pakathuk again to celebrate Tihaar. Tonight girls will be dancing and singing as they go around their neighbours houses collecting sweets and money. In that sense there’s a similarity with Halloween and since this is also a festival of light we carved a pumpkin last night. Belated Happy Halloween to all at home! Unfortunately we won’t be celbrating guy fawkes as fireworks have recently been made illegal here due to the terrorist problem.

11th November 2005 - Ketaketi and Haircut

Written by Keith

Neither of us have blogged in a while so here is a quick project update - Kathryn will update on Tihar in a day or so.

It was very difficult trying to decide what we will need to buy for Ketaketi; Nepali households are very different to Scottish households. Everything we need for the kitchen will have to wait until we can find a Nepali friend to help us shop (and get us a good price – western faces raise the price of most things fairly quickly). Other than this, the carpenters are building the furniture as I type and we will be ordering the carpets in the next day or so.

In preparation for the carpets, we were at the house this afternoon cleaning. We also took delivery of a water filter. There are many places in Kathmandu Valley which don’t have street names never mind house numbers. You would think that this would make deliveries difficult. Amazingly they found the house using our new address:

The Blue House (with the prayer flags),
Next to Mount Kailash School,

I have also had a haircut. After a spontaneous decision and a quick translation from Dorje, to ensure I didn’t end up looking like Kojak, I am again looking presentable. However, as with most things in Nepal, it was absolutely nothing like Scotland. The haircut itself was not too eventful; the cut-throat razor and the head massage widened my eyes a little and not only because my scalp was being pulled about. It’s not the best haircut I have ever had but what do you expect for less than 20p?

21st October 2005 - Update

Written by Kathryn

After a day of cleaning the house top to bottom (see last post) we got our carpets fitted. We bought carpet from a shop in Baneshwor but discovered they didn't deliver. So Dorje, Keith, the carpet fitter and I, with a massive roll of carpet and four tubs of glue, waited on the pavement to hail a taxi. A squash certainly but nothing compared to Thursday's furniture collection. After hiring a truck we headed off to the furniture workshop to collect 2x single beds, 2x bunk beds, 2x settee/beds, 1x dining table and a kitchen dresser. After much loading, unloading and reloading we finally set off with three people in the truck cab and Dorje, Keith, myself and three guys from the furniture shop perched on top of the goods. I should explain at this point that Ketaketi house lies at the top of a steep-ish hill and the "road" up to it is comprised of mud and rubble. Actually it looks less like a road and more like a landslide. But amazingly we all arrived intact, as, thankfully, did the furniture. A few days later we made our second bumpy trip up to the house in Kapan this time with 8 mattresses, 8 quilts, 8 pillows and four people on top of a tractor trailer. An even more exciting ride as once we hit the slope the tractor went into reverse of its own accord and slid back down. We made it up on the second go and unloaded everything into the house. It looks great!

So great we couldn't possibly leave so we spent our first night there and tested everything out. Keith and Donnie made delicious daal bhat on the new stove but unfortunately our rice cooker came with a Japanese plug and blew up the adaptor we borrowed from a neighbour. Nevermind - it's "kinks" like that we want to iron out before the children arrive. And after sleeping there we can report that all beds are very comfy. Even the top bunk which Keith tried.

Some more good news ... we now have our amma and our didi! Bijuli Ji (amma) and Rama (didi) will be moving into Ketaketi house on Sunday. Dorje, Keith and I will have daal bhat with them, see what they think the house in lacking and then leave them to settle in. So this week we're finishing off our shopping for the house, sleeping there to try out the gas, plumbing etc and also make sure nobody breaks in and nicks our stuff!

And more importantly contacting CWIN to send children to us any time after Monday which is a week from today.

24th November 2005 - Photos

Written by Kathryn

28th November 2005 - Update

Written by Kathryn

We're very happy to write that as of yesterday Ketaketi House is now a full house! Amma, didi and six boys Dil Krishna, Tek, Deepak, Sushil, Hemanta and Sante are now in residence.

It's been a busy three days. We collected our final batch of furniture on Saturday and unloaded it at the house after another bumpy truck ride. On Sunday amma and didi moved in as planned. On Monday Keith, Dorje and I went off to visit Mr Pradhan at CWIN who said he had six children between the ages of 9 to 12 years ready to be re-homed with us from their rehabilitation hostel for boys. He made a quick phonecall and within ten minutes the boys appeared like the seven dwarfs minus one with plastic bags containing their few belongings over their shoulders and all wearing large farewell tika on their foreheads. We squeezed into two taxis and headed off to Phaika from where we walked up the hill to the house with all the boys seeming very excited about where we might be going. After meeting amma and didi and seeing round the house we spent a very happy afternoon playing with a packet of balloons, marbles and had a game of football in the field next to the house. (Though it felt like we were playing against the cow pats rather than against each other - Keith) After daal bhat the boys seemed even more excited about getting into their new beds with their new blankets and duvets so we left them to, hopefully, a good nights sleep. The boys came with very few belongings and one had only the clothes he stood up in - shorts, t.shirt and flip-flops which isn't a great outfit for chilly December in Kathmandu. So today we're off shopping with the boys to get them kitted out with some decent clothes.

3rd December 2005 - Shopping and Games

Written by Keith

After almost one week, it is hard to imagine the house quiet. The boys have brought the house to life after us knowing it as empty for so long. Whether we trek up the hill through Phaika or arrive in a Taxi, we always hear the boys before we see them.

The morning after the boys arrived we went shopping for clothes. Most of them had very little belongings and winter in Kathmandu is not exactly warm, e.g. this weekend’s overnight temperature is –1 degrees C and most houses have no hot water or central heating. Two very tiring shopping trips later and all the boys have shoes, jacket and everything else they needed.

Tek seems to like his hat very much and has not been seen without it since it was bought. It is sometimes hard to not laugh as he tugs at it to make it as high as possible.

The boys can’t start school until the new term starts so we are trying to fill their time before we arrange a tutor for the next five or six weeks. A few days ago we visited Boudhanath, one of the World’s largest Buddhist stupas, and on our day off after all the shopping we spent the morning playing various games and enjoying a walk. Connect4 and Guess Who? were bought for the house while out shopping and Connect4 has turned out to be a hit with the boys. Guess Who? proved a bit more difficult to explain but the boys have made up their own game and both Kathryn and myself now know the Nepali for glasses, bald, moustache, beard and hat. Our walk took us to a small memorial park near the house where the boys surprised us with their gymnastic ability. In particular Dil Krishna and Sante entertained with headstands and cartwheels with no hands. Ramaillo.

7th December 2005 - Tiger Arrival

Written by Keith

As of tonight there is someone else sleeping at Ketaketi house in Kapan; A puppy called Tiger.

Mhairi is now also in Kathmandu so this morning we walked up to Kapan so she could meet the boys and see the house. Within a few minutes of our journey, whilst still in Chuchepati, a very small puppy crossed our path. Dorje checked with a few surrounding houses and the response from all was that it was a stray. To say Kathmandu has a problem with street dogs is an understatement. Everywhere you go they are hanging around; by day, sleeping in the sunshine or rooting around in the rubbish for something to eat and by night, barking and keeping foreigners awake. So, one less dog on the street is a good thing. The boys were very happy to see him and they quickly named him Tiger. After a nervous journey and a shaky start, Tiger had some milk and a sleep before having a small run around in the garden. In true Nepali doggie-style, he even barked at Hemanta.

It is difficult thinking of things to keep the boys occupied before they get their tutor. Over the last few days there have been many games of football, badminton and curram - a Nepali 2D pool-like game. We have also been on an afternoon trek in the hills surrounding Kapan.

I am not quite Bhaji yet but I have nowhere near the energy level of these children.

28th December 2005 - Merry Christmas

Written by Keith

The Friday before Christmas I received a telephone call from Pourna Sir, the Headmaster at a local school. He was explaining how he had arranged a Christmas party for the younger children but that they were missing one very important person. At this point I had a feeling what he was going to ask me. How could I disappoint 150 children at Christmas? So, for the first time in my life, I was Santa Claus for the afternoon. In true Nepali style I travelled to the school on a rickshaw. After a quick tour of Chuchepati giving the locals a laugh we arrived at Ideal school where I made a grand entrance, complete with a fake beard made that morning (thanks must go to Kathryn, Mhairi and Dolma for that). Hopefully, all the children enjoyed the afternoon.

Christmas day for us was a little different from Scotland. We had stockings on the roof with mince pies and tea at 11am, before heading to a local hotel for lunch. Friends and family numbered 17 and the hotel did a fantastic job of providing the closest thing possible to Christmas dinner in Nepal. Kathryn made a trifle that was very tasty despite concerns over every single ingredient not being quite right. Everybody even wore the homemade paper hats. From the hotel we headed to a friends roof where we had tongba and sang Nepali and Scottish songs till late.

On Boxing day we had planned a small Christmas party for the boys. They had an advent calendar so excitement was growing as they were counting down to the party. Kathryn had taught the boys Jingle Bells and We Wish you a Merry Christmas and most of them have picked up the words if not the tune. They sang loud and good enough for Santa to show up (or Christmas Bagi as the boys call him) and they received a few small gifts for the house.

After dancing, balloons, games and playing with the new lego the boys had their Christmas tiffin, which included more of Kathryn’s trifle.

Although different, we have all had a very Happy Christmas here in Nepal. We hope everyone had fun back in Scotland and best wishes to everyone for the New Year.

January 2006 - Update

Written by Kathryn

The boys are still kept busy in the mornings with their teacher. Manoj ji comes to the house every day from 8 - 11 am and is tutoring the boys in Nepali, Maths and English in preparation for starting school when the new term starts. As well as hard work though we've been out and about enjoying ourselves.

Roller skating (see photo) - On only our second trip to the skating park the boys are thankfully managing to spend considerably more time on their feet than their backsides.


February 2006 - Update

Written by Kathryn

We spent a night in the Kathmandu valley hills. Nagarkot is known for its views of the Himalayas but misty weather obscured all but a few peaks. This didn’t stop us from having a great time though. Friday night was spent barbecueing chicken and chocolate bananas on the fire followed by dal bhat and a late night. Despite this the boys were up at the crack of dawn. They spent the morning “swimming” in the bath tub, playing at a nearby park and then we all headed up to the local temple to take tika. After a good breakfast of Bhaktapur curd, beaten rice and potato curry we set off on our downhill trek to Sanku. It was a long and tiring walk but the boys ran down the hill at speed leaving Dorje and I in their trail of dust. We arrived in Sanku with the sun going down, revived ourselves with tiffin and squeezed on a bus to Kathmandu where the boys promptly fell asleep.

This week is Lhosar, the buddhist new year so best wishes for a happy new year to all. To celebrate we cooked capsi, a fried bread. All enjoyed both the cooking and the eating.

March 2006 - Happy Holi

Written by Kathryn

Yesterday was Holi, the festival of colour. This is celebrated by dousing each other in coloured powders, paints and water. The playing was fun - the washing it all off afterwards wasn't so great! Home-made samosas for tea.

March 2006 - Update

Written by Kathryn

New arrival. There's a new family member at Kapan - Chaku, who the boys have taken under the wing. They love him but I'm not sure how he feels about his new home.

Some more photos ... The boys at "my" house in Chuchepati for their daily 10 am English class. Glad to report good progress! And up at Kapan doing an early morning yoga session - suriya namaskar and the corpse.

June 2006 - Update

Written by Kathryn

The boys on their first day at school.

Some of them have never been to school before and I think you can really see their excitement!

It was great to see them finally start as schools had been closed for several weeks during the political strikes and I was worried it would be time for me to leave before they reopened.

After the fiasco of buying material for 6 uniforms, having the boys measured up, having shoes made at the cobblers etc I'd have been really dissapointed to miss the big day itself!


December 2006 - Update

Written by Kathryn

How to get 18 of us and Nepali picnic gear (gas cylinder, gas stove, sacks of rice and vegetables, pots big enough to bath in ...) right across town and out to our countryside picnic spot? Easy - ring up the local school the night before ask if you can borrow their bus. No problem!

After all they owed us a favour from Keith's turn as Santa.

Godawari was our destination and all had a great day preparing curry, pickles, tea and sandwiches, playing football, dancing to Dorje's Uncle's guitar and a game of hide and seek.

A good memory to take home with me tomorrow.