Saturday, December 30, 2006

The Big Move

So what does one do after one's children have been abducted?

One moves on to another orphanage of course (whilst keeping up the visits with the other younguns). The new orphanage is in Narayanthan, just up from my old stomping ground in Hattigauda. We have 29 kids ranging in age from 4 to 12. Quite a difference from the old place. They are little ruffians that require a bit of taming but I'm sure I'm up to the task. Living with 29 kids and a Nepali manager should be and interesting wee challenge, and as the new place is the one that we helped set up, I've already met some of the locals.

Not bad for a couple of days on the job!

Tuesday, December 26, 2006

Kathmandu Kristmas

It was an interesting afternoon and evening. A call home in the morning, followed by a glorious afternoon spent having a beer or two in the sun, and topped off with a traditional Christmas BLT at a local restaurant. Complete with Santa.

This was pretty much how the VSN volunteers spent their Christmas Day. Of course plenty of us were crook aswell. Not hungover. Fair dinkum crook. Dinner saw quite a few of us having to disappear to the toilet after every drink or after we'd had a bite to eat. Santa (James) got hounded by the Nepali kids at the restaurant for presents, but all the adults thought it was great, and a lot of "Merry Christmas"'s were being thrown about the place.

The sun drenched afternoon on the roof of our hotel was most reminiscent of home. It was scorching up there, and the beers were going down like water. (In my case it was just water, anything else resulted in a hurried dash downstairs to the loo). Will had bought some fake snow and the stuff was getting sprayed around like crazy. Course with it ending up in people's drinks, spraying it over the table was a quick way to get yelled at or hit. More than once was a lamentation at the lack of a barbie and some steak, the vegetarians among us however did not share the despair of the carnivorous few.

A disappointing dinner at Northfield's, the company was great, the service lethargic at best and the food way below average, was followed by a night on the town. Again a much abbreviated one due to the abundant illnesses floating about. Santa proved to be as great a hit on the dance floor as he had in the restaurant, and with little persuading managed to get us into a club for free.

Merry Christmas!

Friday, December 22, 2006


Where once you fail, so shall you try again. That at least was the thinking of the Umbrella Foundation, when they "rescued" our kids the Wednesday before Christmas. (By the way they excel at creative writing)

The Boys El Luchador and his sidekick Bay and Badrush Saran

Now they are a very well funded and very well connected organization here in Nepal. And there is no doubt that they provide excellent facilities for the kids, but what happened that Wednesday night amounted to nothing short of kidnapping.

I rocked up to the orphanage to find a vast majority of the kids in a state of near panic, and discovered that the manager and his wife had been imprisoned. The kids had been told at school that they were to be "taken" that day and had been detained at school for that purpose. The principal of their school (wisely) decided that the school should not be involved and sent them home.
My fellow cohort James, I was later to learn had also been at the school trying to find out what was going on. He arrived at the orphanage just when all the drama began to happen.

I had been trying to tell the kids that they wouldn't be going because there had been rumours almost every week since the last time there had been a rescue attempt. But around 5pm ish, a very angry adolescent girl pointed out two very officious looking people and exclaimed "See! See!", in a tone that only an indignant juvenile can manage. They then disappeared for some chiya and were quickly replaced by two government officials and a dude who looked like he'd just walked off the set of the Nepali remake of "The Bodyguard". With his earpiece in and phone at the ready, shades on, arrogant swagger, he was not quite as smooth as Kevin Costner but he was trying, hard. Turns out he was a reporter.

Rajani Gurung Anita Rai Sunita Nepali Sushila Rai Anita Tamang Eman Gurung

The government dudes introduced themselves and wanted a quick tour of the premises. I obliged. All the while trying to calm down a dozen children or more. Most of whom loudly proclaiming their unwillingness to leave. Upon asking said officials if the kids were going to be taken or not, I received "Maybe", "We are unsure about the situation" and more such bollocks. Politicians everywhere can never give a straight answer.

So now we had, me, the kids, two government lackies (one of whom was apparently a "Head of Division"), the reporter, the police had arrived (minus their weapons this time) with the manager and his wife in tow, James, and the entire village looking on.
There was still no sign of any representative of from the Umbrella Foundation. It was starting to get dark, the kids had started cooking the evening meal, the police were standing over them whilst they were trying to pack, there were tears, there was a lot of anger and confusion (not only from the kids). Oh, and there was no transport as yet.

We had to witness most of the hardest parts from James' room opposite the orphanage. When it was pitch black our hungry kids got packed into taxis to be taken to their new homes. It was at this point that a rep from Umbrella rocked up. On his phone. Throwing namaste around at the kids like he'd known them forever. But, where was he when a couple of sisters started screaming? Where was he when they clung to the pillars of the house because they did not want to go? Where was he when they had to be escorted by the alleged "enemy" (the manager's wife) out to the waiting taxis? Not in bloody sight. That's where.

Karmalal Soni Gurung Krishna Sarina Gurung Deepak Hilal and Som

Oh and as we didn't know about the "rescue" do you think Umbrella tried to find out any pertinent information with regards to medical history/allergies/problems that may be plaguing the kids? Of course they bloody didn't. Too wrapped up in being the "Knight in Shining friggin Amour" they were. We were later to learn that said representative had sent out an email declaring that the kids had been "happy" to see him and that they had been "liberated". Yes I'm sure screaming and crying fearful children can always be seen as "happy to be liberated".

It was a crap night that saw me and James head into Thamel and get right royally plastered. Can't remember much of what happened after the "liberation", but the actual event is still a very vivid memory.

Thursday, December 21, 2006

Nepali Nuptuals

A beautiful day. Music and dancing. Prayer and ceremony. Lots of food. Lots of colour. A Nepali wedding in a nutshell.

the happy coupleAnd it is a whole day affair. Starting early in the morning, people arriving bearing gifts, the caterers have been cooking their wee hearts out since first light, kids running around, women fussing over the bride, decorations up and about. Sounds "same same" as a European wedding yes? However, there are a few differences:

(i) the bride is sequestered in a room until the groom arrives
(ii) the bride can't speak to anyone or show any happiness or emotion
(iii) the groom can socialize to his little hearts content, so long as he performs the ceremonies properly
(iv) the bride makes an appearance after the groom has arrived (around lunchtime) is there to receive gifts, then buggers off back to her seclusion, only to reappear some hours later to actually "get married", then seclusion again.
(v) guests can rock up and eat the whole day (they don't even have to bring a gift or know the couple) cool huh?!

So we had a band heralding the arrival of the groom at about lunchtime. He looked quite dashing all decked out in his traditional Nepali garb, although I personally thought the excess of pink was a bit too much. The bride was equally eye catching in her red sari and veil. Bits of gold adorning her ears and nose, her eyes dark with kajal (khol), lips ruby red and exceedingly demure.

The wedding we went to was of a rich family. The food was great and abundant. The gifts never ending, and ranging from small bowls to a fridge (quite uncommon in the average Nepali house). The guests happy. The music infectious. The dancing continuous.

Sometime around sundown the groom left (I can only assume the bride went with him as I didn't see her leave but neither did I see her again). The band played on.

All in all it was a pretty cool afternoon. My host family had fun. The orphanage kids had a decent feed and got to run around and see how "the other half live". I got to experience a different part of Nepali culture. Ramro chha!

Tuesday, December 19, 2006

The White House

the White HouseNot the famous office of the Clinton-Lewinsky escapades, but the new home of some orphans under new guardianship of VSN (the organisation I'm with over here).

Now the kids aren't from my orphanage but another whose manager was/is under suspicion of child trafficking. Fun, fun, fun to be had here with errant managers!
So the preparation of the house was left to those with a bit of extra time on their hands. Its a huuuge house. Three floors and untold space. Feel sorry for the volunteers - these kids are gonna run wild! Although the plus side for the volunteers is that there is a pretty cool temple close by and untold chhiya places. Not too shabby really. There is a little garden oasis of sorts aswell- a four star hotel/resort that you can chill out in and listen to the birds in the avary or watch the carp in the ponds. Surprisingly enough although its on a main road, its really quiet inside. Nice.

Three days we spent there getting the place ready. And of course it wouldn't be a truely Kiwi (Nepali) affair without a fair bit of drama....

First: the lino was supposed to be laid on a Tuesday so it would be ready for the Wednesday big furniture arrival. Nepal being a somewhat superstitious country, Tuesday lino laying posed a bit of a problem. You see with a new house, you can't do anything on a Tuesday 'coz its bad luck. Sweetaz. Respect the culture. No problems.

Second: the lino is layed and all the manchester (bedding/linen) and the metal beds have been bought in. Problem was; the glue for the lino was utter shite and it didn't hold the lino down at all. By the time we rocked up to do some work, the lino was buckled and in some places was coming up. Sweetaz we can work round that or try fix it or just rip it up and have no lino at all. Myself, I was in favour of the latter. Turns out so were the powers that be, corse they had to discuss through all the various channels and wotnot first.

Third: the situation at the old home has gone to hell in a hand basket and the moving day has been postponed for one day.

the common areaFourth: the moving day. The second floor's lino has been ripped up but a piece is still needed to cover part of the floor for the cushions to be put on. Taking the initiative and assuming that the lino was now not at all useful, I cut a piece to fit the area. Well! You would have thought I'd just killed someone with all the kafuffle that ensued. But tough. T'was done. T'was sorted.

Fourth (part II): at the old home; two of our reps were cornered by the manager of the home and a number of other recruits, and told to pay the back rent or the kids had to be returned. One of our reps is a Brahmin (highest Nepali caste) so he didn't get pushed around, but the other, a wee Irish chap did get the odd shove or two. However, unlike our orphanage debacle no armed police showed up, and our reps left unarmed and without paying the rent.
The kids moved into their new home. There was a collective sigh of relief.

So how does one conclude a somewhat eventful day? Getting toasted at K-Too! (a Thamel steakhouse) of course! Drunken frivolity cures all. Huzzah!