Wednesday, May 21, 2003

The paradise that was destroyed in the movie 'the beach' has been rediscovered in the Kathmandu Valley by me! Okay, perhaps I didn't discover it, yesterday a friend of mine took me to visit his family 'at the bottom of the hill'. We walked for about an hour from the school, dirt roads and smiling school children the entire way (as well as some 'naturally' growing marijuana fields) and as we slowly left the valley, the architecture changed, everything changed - we went from 4 story, rough exposed brick houses, to small two story mudbrick houses that looked like they were stolen from Spain 300 years ago and planted in a field. Admist the green crops, there were these bright orange cottages, all sitting at the base of a jungle, and perched at the top was a Buddhist temple under construction.

The locals (and there were very few of them - but they were so friendly), were making handmade paper and still celebrating the new year (which happened last month). Then the entire family, grandparents and all (with bangles, koutas and scarves) marched into the jungle to collect firewood for the house. I laughed so much - there was such a sense of community - and it was even more hysterical (but very encouraging) to see the grandparents volt over fences which all the 'nanus and babus' had trouble getting over...

The entire place was so peaceful - seriously there were butterflies and dragonflies fluttering about, no pollution or cars and I really can't describe it. It was just so perfect.This small piece of paradise is called Ranibaan. It will be the first place we go if any of you every decide to come and visit me!

Thursday, May 15, 2003

The private boarding schools seem to all be trying to outdo each other in the fanciest and biggest
English words they know or to imply that their school s absolutely life-changing. So here's my personal
best list for the ...

Top Ten Private School Names in Nepal - all over Nepal

10. Crystal Knowledge English Boarding School (Is that clear? Crystal...)

9. Sun Rise English School (Is that correct English for an English School?)

8. Future Brighter English Boarding School

7. Galaxy Boarding School (out of this world)

6. Little Step Higher English Boarding School (we wouldn't dare suggest anything more...)

5. Rib English Boarding School (mmm mmm, tasty rib...)

4. Highway Garden Secondary School (isn't that an oxymoron)

3. Fluorescent English Boarding School (we need a real big fancy English word for our school)

2. Ozone English Boarding School (this one I really don't get)

1. New Life Boarding High School (Just because it's mine!)

Runners Up: Heavenly Garden Boarding School, National Inventive English School, Motherland English School, Dewy Dawn Boarding School (I hear a song coming on...)

Tuesday, May 13, 2003

Guess what?

I am sitting in an internet cafe around the corner from the school and riots have started again. So, the metal door has been pulled down, the lights have been turned off and I suppose we're stuck here for the duration. I wish I could honestly tell you what was happening, why people were rioting and what was going on - but no one seems to really know. Usually it's something to do with police violence and student protests.

Everyone seems quite calm actually. They're making Steve Waugh jokes admist comments that 'yes, there's a few problems with this country'. They seem to so calmly accept the fact that there is a problem as if it doesn't phase them, yet everyone here seems to want to move to another country. 'Can you help me' is the phrase I most often here, after 'have you taken your food?'! :-) And what should I do? Help the entire population of Nepal immigrate to Australia? Or let their requests fall off me like so many others? I suppose again, it's a matter of level. Surely the starving people in India are in more urgent need of attention... but then again, I know these people individually and I know what can and can not be done for them here. Once you've made the decision to do something - it's very difficult deciding exactly what to do.

Right now there are two very interesting boys sitting next to me... Who seem strangely intrigued by the climate in Australia. Dipendra and Ankit - now famous in the land of people who read this web log. Dipendra plans to come to Australia to study his MEng - like so many others - everyone is leaving this country! Another perfect example of what it's like to speak to strangers here. Of course, everyone is friendly, although I did feel my heart drop to the bottom of my stomach when I went to retrieve washing that had fallen off the roof into someone's vegetable garden - and a woman with a baby took one look at me and said 'tourist' - it wasn't what she said - it was how she said it - with such malice and hate, that I instantly felt like I didn't belong. It's strange - because I feel so much a part of the culture everywhere else, that I forget that I look so different.

Anyway, I am still working on a plan to stay here a little longer - which will mean not doing some of the other great things I had planned to (including young achievers australia - which I was accepted into!) - but it will mean that this experience is all the richer.

Once again, I'm missing you all heaps! Write often (I'm sorry for not writing more often).

Thursday, May 01, 2003

I am living in a country that seems to be perfectly suited to my personality. Where the national stone is my birth stone, where emerging from a classroom covered from head to toe in chalk dust makes me an 'ideal' teacher rather than a grub, where my simple western upbringing makes me an artist and innovator, where I am considered the expert in every subject and situation, where it's simple to strike up conversation with anyone in the streets, where I am invited into homes and showered with gifts just for being me (and white) and where it's an honour to go on an outing with me.

On the flip side, there are some negative aspects to my popularity here. Under the surface of the Nepali culture are some evils that are commonly accepted, but which I can't stand by. Involving people who are considered 'lower', family networks, and caste. I simply can't stay silent about some of these issues, and occasionally it's taken out on the people around me. Certainly, my influence has been put to good use on some occasion, but one certain person is now using my departure as an imminent threat for the end of the 'good life' for the people I've been speaking up for. Evidently I've been doing more harm than good... short term gains and long term detriment. I'm now at the point where I must decide how to act and how to fix this mess I've created.

In other news, it was my host sister, Anusma's, 7th birthday on tuesday. The celebrations that are had here still suprise me a little, and it was no exception. The birthday involved inviting the other teachers and their families over to the house... we sacrificed an apple to the gods, mashed red rice into Anusma's head, and gave her very tacky snow domes with taj mahals inside as birthday presents. Apart from her brother, I think I was the youngest guest! (And a few stray hostel students who came in for a free feed)... yes, the Nepali sit, eat and leave parties are still thriving, although wedding season is now over (it's 18 days into 2060 and two zeros are bad luck, so I think I've been to my last wedding!).

I'm afraid I will have to end this spiel here, as visa extension officers at the immigration office are waiting for me. But I hope you are all well, SARS free and enjoying the benefits of Australian culture that I know I will appreciate all the more when I get back. Thinking of you, but still not ready to come home! love Lauren