Days 35-39: The Tikka
Trip Start May 20, 2008
77Trip End Aug 19, 2008
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I tried again and again to reject the meal, explaining that the kids needed it more than I did. The didi (cook/nanny) & Dave were initially a bit insulted and mistranslating my English as "I don't like your cooking, it doesn't taste good." ala Middle Eastern cultures, it's bad manners here for a host to not offer anything and everything to their guest and equally bad manners for the guest to reject. In this instance though, I didn't give a frak about manners. It took many awkward and irritating back & forths but Dave finally understood my reasoning. He insisted I chow down anyway on the basis that if they gave veggies to one kid, they'd have to give veggies to all the kids and there wasn't 45-orphans-worth of servings to go around. Again I was like "wtf?" and redistributed my saag (spinach) to the sixish adjacent children, though I only had enough to give a pinch to each. Dave had already eaten his, I hope I taught him a lesson. I spent the night with him at my side sharing his storage room bed-thing, it was only slightly awkward. The discovery of what was being stored in all the sheet-covered boxes in this storage room did not come until Friday, so... yeah more on that later, though it's nothing particularly shocking.
Wake up came at 6ish. As I mentioned in the last entry, I slept a bit uneasily for obvious psychological reasons, but had enough energy to be jolly through the rest of the day. The orphanage's morning routine was interesting to say the least... There's this huge stack of shambled, jagged wood piled up in the middle of the stairwell, which all the kids, young and old, skinny and muscular, began caravaning up into the only half-built third floor. I'm guessing they were construction materials for Mr Construction Worker to build with, though he really should have been the only person doing the carrying (and if it would take too long for one or two adults to carry the wood up, then he should've done it the previous day instead of spending most of the night twiddling his thumbs.) It was a baffling image, one that would've given any paranoid soccer Mom a heart attack... 5 year olds carrying two meter long planks with jagged, rusty nails jutting out at random, 13 year olds with stacks of wood on their shoulders that must've been at least half their total body (under)weight. My "ya know, I know they need exercise, but this is a really bad idea" pleas fell on deaf "my English bad" ears, with the kids seeming perfectly happy to carry the wood. I made the best of it and carried as much as I could, but my cargo loads were consistently dwarfed by this one buff preteen boy who I think is the silent, introspective Samurai warrior of the bunch. I've seen other young children doing similar heavy lifting work during walks through the countryside, it might just be the norm around these Soccer-Mom-free parts.
The five kids who go to the VSN school back in Pepsikola asked me to join them on their morning commute, so I joined them for their earlier-than-the-others breakfast and packed up my wittle bag. They were, thankfully, given a full meal + veggie curry for breakfast, thus eliminating the need (temporarily at least) for me to make some heads roll. Just as we were all pumped for a fun school bus ride though, Dave brought the news: the bus drivers changed their minds, the bandha was reinstated. The kids would therefore not be attending school that day, and I would therefore be leaving ASAP to get an early start on the long limping hike that awaited me. I bidded everyone farewell, promised to return the next day, and turned toward the door. This one darkish skinned twelve year old girl beckoned me back for one final order of business. She asked me to kneel, and with a warm smile typical of her proceeded to rub a 'tikka' (red dot blessing thing) onto my forehead. With Shiva now on my side, I thanked her and disembarked completely.
The rest of Thursday = walking back, trying & failing to not worsen my injured foot, and then just lounging around Pepsikola giving said foot a rest. I spent most of this lounging time reading, doin scattered SE Asia research and playing with the fam. An evening electricity cut sent us all up to the roof, where I taught the three sisters and Ladina how to play BS (the card game.) Sonu won both times by playing it safe, passing when she didn't have the correct card and letting us do the bluff calling. Gosh darnit.
All of Friday was spent at OCRC, complete with bus roof ride #2 as our transport up there (no more bandha.) Danny-Boy gave me a welcome phone call while I was on the bus roof, but I had to hang up quickly for fear of losing my grip and falling to my death. Poor Dan, every time he calls I'm either holding on to railing for dear life, battling monkeys, or some other nutty thing. We brought the orphans some more veggies and played with them for a long while, though there weren't many new tales to tell of the playtime. It's been good training in the art of multitasking though. With so many kids all clamoring for our attention, we've had to learn how to keep several of them amused at once. I was taking on two simultaneous thumb wars at one point, and playing tag with three while darting in and out of a "kick the soccer ball around at random" game at another point. Great fun all around. This particular orphanage shift ended with Christina & I meeting with the nearby Kathmandu Medical College's principal in an attempt to talk them into sending their students to do regular health check-ups on the kids. Her English was spotty but not completely hopeless, I'd say there was a 65-70% chance she got the message. Something else fun happened later Friday night, but my memory fails at the moment.
Now, for Saturday... A big day. Finally we were getting a car to bring the donation suitcase, the swing seats, and Dr Laxmi + the Jap Encephalitis vaccines I'd bought up to the orphanage. Ladina, being a medic, was tagging along to help give the injections. I approached Tej about the car, and while the car was finally available, the gas tank lacked gas & there was a week-long queue for more at the local petrol station. "Frak it, we're hiring a taxi." The taxi ripped us off but whatever, we got the supplies to OCRC without incident. Ladina and I split the cost of a half a billion bananas to give to the kids as post-injection treats. They were brave... all of them winced upon being pinced, but only the youngest of the children cried. The rest shrugged off the needle pain and went on about their daily business. Kudos to them. Next up were the swings. We hooked them up to the swing bar, and watched everyone go crazy over them whilst making sure they didn't break anything. I told the two oldest present to make sure no more than one child sat on one seat at a time, and they did a good job of keeping the chaos in order. After the swings came the donation suitcase. David Neumann's USC Badminton shirt had gone MIA but was located the next day, the rest of the clothes and nick-knacks were given properly. To my surprise, there was no mad rush of kids battling for everything and everything we brought, and instead they came in a controlled trickle, inspecting each article to see if it fit their fashion sense. All but the sweaters were claimed, which the Didi stocked away in a chest to be called upon when colder weather arrived.
Running out of time here, ermm...
Yeah, orphanage work, then it was off to Thamel (again, argh) to celebrate Lindsey's birthday. Emily's German friend Tom tagged along, he was a cool guy doing surgery work in a local hospital. He showed me some lovely bloody pictures of the operations. We ate dinner in this Korean place where I had my first taste of kimchi (Korean pickled cabbage.) It was one of the spiciest dishes I've ever eaten in my life and there were no kleenex present to wipe the tears away. It was good practice for Thailand though, as was the fiery chicken burrito I got from El Taurino my last night in LA. Lindsey popped her pirated copy of "Sex and the City: The Movie" into the restaurant's movie projector, causing all of us to endure two hours of horror, pain, and misery. Even she agreed it was among the worst films she'd seen in a while, and she's a fan of the show. It was also weird watching a movie about superficial, tacky models living their frivolous lives while us viewers were in Nepal. It made me wonder if I'm in for some reverse-culture shock when I land in wealthy antiseptic Singapore in a week's time. I probably am to some extent. Speaking of which, I should probably update my hostel reservation there... d'oh.
Uhh, Sunday, what happened Sunday... Oh yeah I wrote the previous blog entry on Sunday, and almost spent another night at the orphanage though this time there wasn't any room for me to sleep (another English teacher called dibs on the other half of Dave's bed.) I scrambled onto the last bus out and headed back to Pepsikola. Again, I mainly helped the kids with their English homework, lost several thumb wars, and cheered up as best I could the crying ones. Monday brought a much more noteworthy orphanage shift though, which I will talk about in the next entry (to be written ASAP, for fear of falling even further behind in my journalizing.) Out of time, stay classy.
---Image of the Week---
A young Nepali woman blazing past on a motorcycle, her sari blowing in the wind.
...followed by two Buddhist monks, also on a motorcycle, their robes blowing in the wind.
Yetis Hunted = 15
Foot = Almost Healed
Food Poisonings = 0
Possible Lice = Wasn't lice, just a dry scalp.
Days Remaining in Nepal = 6 at the time of writing (Wed)
Gift Status = Two secured, two other requests almost secured