Roosters crowing children growing, got big plans but dirty pants, with kids to teach life is sweet!
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August 19, 2010Posted by on
Hello everyone! I am alive – just trying to get back into the swing of things here in the US and as of Monday, Dallas, my city of semi-permanent residence.
School starts next week and I’ve been making some last minute changes to my schedule. Spent a few days in New York visiting good friends and buying books for the school! 😀 😀 😀 never had so much fun swiping a credit card.
I woke up yesterday morning with inexplicable hives. Dr. Frank – where are you when I need you? Been taking anti-histamines and using some cortisone cream – but I just think it’s weird to come all the way back from Nepal to have an allergic reaction to…laundry detergent? dogs? American culture?
I want everyone to know that this isn’t it for Arambha. I have devised some masterful ways of working for Kopila from afar, including writing an official curriculum for the school! and preparing for a return trip in March.
So please don’t delete me from your RSS feeds or your favorites bookmark – you haven’t heard the last of me.
August 6, 2010Posted by on
June 28, 2010Posted by on
Today we started another week of school, and I got to spend all day with our fabulous fifth graders. We read Shel Silverstein poems, identified prime and composite numbers, and still had time for future-tense conversational practice!
Went to the market after school with Gail and Erin, who are here for a little more than a week photographing and filming Maggie, the kids, the school, et al for a documentary called Opening Our Eyes. They’re traveling the world to tell the stories of people who are changing the world.
The roof is up on the second building at the school, which means floors and carpet are soon to follow. The school looks so beautiful from the roof of the house. I’m so proud of Maggie and the staff here, and the kids. They are honestly just really incredible people. They make me excited to be around, you know? Life is better when there are good people in it.
Sometimes when I walk down the hall to my room in the evening my mind wanders (actually my mind wanders all the time – but) as I walk toward my room, my brain tells me, “Lisa, you’re in Nepal!!!” And then I tell my brain, “Brain, I know!!! How did I ever get here? How did this ever happen?”
And then I run through it in my head…’you were on Facebook and saw Maggie’s Do Something profile….and then you spent the rest of the work day furtively reading her blog…and by the end of the day you wanted to volunteer there. Then, you got laid off’ – thank you EDGE Tech – in all sincerity it was exactly what needed to happen. I sent in my application to Maggie thinking that if now wasn’t the time, there would never be a right one.
That was what really got the ball rolling and things began to fall into place. I found a subtenant, people let me borrow their cars after mine died, they let me live with them for practically nothing so I could save money…then others who knew my family supported me by donating airline miles for my travel, work told me I would still have a job when I came back…everything just worked out.
My good friend Erin said to me at one point – “You see Lisa, when you follow your heart and you do what you feel is right – the universe helps you.” And while I’m still a novice in quantum physics, maybe its true. Maybe the universe does help you. If I can be in Nepal helping open a school, then anything is possible – even a helpful universe.
PS – here is a picture of me enjoying a FANTASTIC cup of black tea made by fellow volunteer Christina. In case you can’t tell – it is delicious.
May 23, 2010Posted by on
I have lots of pictures to share but can’t get them uploaded to save my life. The internet connection here is just too slow it seems. I’ve tried emailing them to friends also, but to no avail.
Bummed and sorry,
PS – will ask around and see if the internet cafe in town is a viable option. There has to be a way – Orr and Maggie have been able to upload photos.
May 20, 2010Posted by on
Ok sorry – I decided to just write about the whole trip. I can’t split up the story and still have it make sense, so this will just be an extra long post. There are still some things I want to say separately but I’m sure this will be sufficient for even the most voracious reader of banal minutia. Here we go…
As we descended toward Indira Gandhi Int’l Airport I could see how expansive New Delhi is. The city proper is huge for sure, but then you have the metropolis that surrounds it as well. The population of the Delhi region is over 22 million!!! Yikes! All the buildings are flat roofed and extremely close together, save for a few small areas that are very affluent or house government buildings. It was about 94 degrees when we deplaned and over 100 before I left the city at 1:00 p.m.
There’s a haze that hangs in the air, from pollution I’m sure, but also from the dust. It’s very dry, and most of the streets are dirt roads, plus each street is lined on both sides by street vendors and people’s dwellings, so there isn’t any grass to keep the dirt down. Imagine living in a snow globe filled with coriander and cinnamon powder but no water, and you’ve got Delhi.
When I deplaned and got through immigration (not difficult at all!) the airport seemed really small, especially for an international. Turns out that there are two separate terminals, one for int’l and one for domestic, and the domestic is the shiny, pretty, fully staffed, English speaking terminal. Just my luck! Though the signs are all written in English and Hindi, there weren’t any bus schedules or guides as to where to go. This is mostly because there isn’t really much of a schedule – the driver just waits till the bus is full and then you go.
I was a little intimidated by everything, mostly because I wasn’t sure who, if anyone, I should trust – but everyone was very helpful. I was very lucky in that respect. When we arrived at the train station the walking path was blocked off by a huge construction zone (Delhi is hosting the Commonwealth Games later this year). I started marching in that direction when this young guy, probably no more than 20, told me I would have to walk a few blocks around and had I already booked my ticket? I wanted so badly to figure everything out myself but I was very unsure of what was going on, so I decided to walk with him and let him explain the process to me. I’m glad I did because the ticket office was actually through an India Tourism branch office about 5 km away! We walked a little further and he asked me what Texas was like and told me his favorite movie star was Tom Cruise. Then he hailed down a cab (which I was again worried about) and sent me on my way.
All the trains ended up having wait lists for the next several days, so there was no way I could leave Delhi without flying or taking a bus. I knew I would have plenty of bus rides ahead of me so I opted for a commuter flight from Delhi to Lucknow, where I would then take a bus to the border. The guys (there were no women to be seen anywhere the whole time I was there – it was so weird) in the office made me tea and let me use their computer to send a few emails while I waited for my flight confirmation. Another rule broken! I knew I should’ve only had bottled water but how could I refuse when they had been so gracious in explaining everything to me? It would have been insulting and rude so I went for it. I haven’t gotten sick yet so fingers crossed! Then they put me in another cab and I was off to the place I had just come from – the airport.
Lucknow is like Delhi but of course smaller: still very hot, still very crowded, and of course very poor. As you drive down the street you have to negotiate rickshaws, pedestrians, mini-buses, taxis, and trucks with provisions for the shops. There are no stop signs or lights. Chaotic, yes, but everyone seems to manage just fine, and I learned to keep my eyes on the sides of the street instead of head on so I wouldn’t have a near death experience every 3 minutes. They really cut it close sometimes!
In Lucknow I was helped by a cab driver who translated for me at the bus station and introduced me to the station manager. From the time arrived, til the moment I got on the bus, employees from the station waited with me. All in all they spent over 8 hours helping me walk through the market to find lunch and a internet cafe, making tea for me, and explaining what would happen when I got to the border. They even let me nap for a while in one of their offices. We traded stories about our families and where we were from. I took their pictures which they got a big kick out of, and one guy sang a song for me which I recorded. I’ll upload it as soon as I have more batteries for the camera.
The overnight bus was pretty comfortable considering it wasn’t air conditioned. There was a nice breeze and I got to sit by a window right up front. We arrived in Nepalganj just as the sun was coming up on Monday the 17th after driving for about 7 hours. Total travel time at this point was 36 hours.
At the border you take a bicycle rickshaw through customs and immigration for India and Nepal, stopping at each building along the way to get your passport stamped and fill out information cards. At the end of the road there are buses to take you to the city proper, and this was where I had my first really tough moment. As I stepped off the rickshaw I was approached by 3 or 4 bus drivers and cabbies at once. While I tried to speak to them a girl, probably no more than 14, with a tiny screaming baby came up to my side and pulled at my sleeve and pant hem as she made a sign for food for her baby. The cab guys started pushing her away and scooting me toward the cabs before I could say or do anything. No matter what you think would have been the right thing to do, it’s much harder to turn away from someone who you know can’t go to a homeless shelter or a food bank, or a welfare office. Especially when the money that could help them is the equivalent of 1 USD or less For the rest of the journey I played that scene over and over, asking myself what I should have done, what was right or wrong, and if that even mattered. Mostly I felt bad because I let the cab guys be my excuse for doing nothing one way or another. I copped out of making a decision by letting them scurry me away.
Once we were in Nepalganj on the Nepali side, I waited for a micro bus. As the name would imply, they’re smaller, and theoretically faster. I was so ready at this point to be in Kopila, and not in transit. Nepal was green and friendly, not as crowded as India, and somehow just nicer. I can’t really explain it, but I immediately felt more at ease. Even though I knew I was still 80 km away from Surkhet, I kept looking out the window hoping to see the house I know from pictures just around the corner. 🙂
Finally – finally finally finally – after 4.5 hours, a flat tire, stops to pickup people on a bus so full there were already people on the roof, a stop for home made lunch in a village as we drove OVER a MOUNTAIN RANGE (I mean like, mountains, real ones), 3 days of wearing the same dirty sweaty dusty pants, and enough squat toilets to last me a lifetime, we arrived in Surkhet. I could see little houses in the valley below, painted in yellows and reds, trimmed in pinks and blues, and I just wanted to jump. off. the. bus. and start asking everyone I saw – “Do you know Maggie?” “Can you show me where she is?” “Do you have a phone I can use?” I totally felt like I was going to pee my pants – mostly because I had been holding it for over 10 hours, but also because I was just so excited and so ready to be there.
And then it happened. It was so nonchalant and anticlimactic. The bus stopped. The porter handed me my pack. I walked up to a shop keeper and made a ‘can I use your telephone sign’, called Maggie, and in 5 minutes there she was on her scooter. Five minutes later I was in the living room shaking tiny hands and saying ‘Namaste, Namaste” to tiny faces and within the first 30 seconds of sitting down with Maggie and Orr (he’s the architect for the school!) for lunch Maya was sitting on my lap.
I was home.
May 19, 2010Posted by on
I arrived in Surkhet on Tuesday around noon, after traveling by bus for about 14 hours. If adventure is what I wanted then adventure is absolutely what I got. From the second I got off the plane in Delhi I had no idea what was going to happen next.
There is so much to tell – I have 3 or 4 trains of thought running through my head, so I’m going to divide my “first post” into a few parts: 1. The Trip 2. The People and Places 3. My first night at Kopila.
So – while I write three more posts, here’s my first official picture from Kopila. 🙂
May 14, 2010Posted by on
I’ve been working on and off on at least three different blog entries but I can’t seem to make any of them convey what I want them to. So for now – just a status update.
I am in Rye Brook, NY with my sister Laura. We’ve had a nice work week together. I’ve met her colleagues and learned tons about Camp Twin Creeks, where she works. It’s cool to see my little sister grown up with an office of her own (I’ve never had my own office!) and lots of responsibilities.
I have reconfigured my pack and, fingers crossed, I think I can get it to fit as a carry on this time. Think small thoughts for me 😀
Tomorrow evening is the big send off from JFK. I’ll arrive at Heathrow 9:35 a.m. local. Just enough time for a shuttle into Piccadilly Circus so I can have fish, chips, and a pint! Then it’s back on the plane for the haul into New Delhi.