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A greenhouse in the garden of Balmandir

Written by Joan Fissé, a volunteer at the Children’s Home

To improve the performance of the kitchen Garden of Balmandir and protect plants from torrential Monsoon rains that break the fruits before time, it seemed interesting to build a greenhouse, or more accurately a tunnelhouse, whose function is to work as a giant umbrella. We searched information on similar constructions in Nepal and found out that the most used material is the wired bamboo covered by a plastic. So we started the project!

First we chose the location in the garden and we decided on a barren plot that allowed us to make a 20m x 5m greenhouse. We were conditioned in terms of width by the size of available plastics. There was only one problem: in the middle there was a tree that was used as a support to a cucumber that was in full production. The garden is full of giant cucumbers.  Every day a child or two walks around with a plate with a chopped cucumbers offering to the other children, staff and volunteers.

After several conversations, on the same day in the afternoon, the cucumber and the tree that were in the desired plot had disappeared: Santamaya didi had taken the decision.

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We started the adventure of buy the required materials. For that we had go to Hetauda (around 26 km from Bhimphedi on a bus). Finding the right materials and transportation is not so easy. The most complicated was to carry the sixty 6-8 m long bamboos. But luckily the roof of the bus works for anything so we put them there. Unloading was easier when we reached to the Children’s Home because everyone took part in the event.

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We also cleared the ground of grass with the collaboration of everyone. Pere, a volunteer who came for few days, helped us in that as well. We built the six goals that should support the entire structure, cutting and painting the bases to protect them from the moisture, and began to put the first bamboo. On the goals and the central pillars we fixed the rest of the structure, working as often as the Monsoon rains allowed us.

But what the monsoons didn’t take into account was the arrival of Esther, an expert in agriculture and management of greenhouses, who gave us the push we needed to complete construction of the structure and the following steps till finishing the works.

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After placing some wire to prevent rainwater to make small pools on the roof, it was time to put the plastic. It was an exciting time since it was a real team work. Three people pulling the plastic and other three people, with the help of three sticks with sacks on top, were accompanying the plastic to prevent it from tearing with any of the obstacles.

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After testing the roof with the torrential rains of recent days, we fixed the plastic roof areas where water stayed.

Meanwhile two teams dealt with the two rooted trunks we had to take out of the middle of the greenhouse. We still had some works in mind: to refill the holes left by the rooted trunks, to kill grass and works of the soil using a plastic and the powerful sun of this latitude, add a fertilizer and finally to grow tomatoes, strawberries and other tasty vegetables.

All this would have not been possible without the participation of all including the new volunteers Mireia and Jordi and also the help of the two days visitors, Laura and Pol (volunteers two and a half years ago).

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Bernat, a volunteer who has passed like a lightning, has really helped us with the construction of a germination table and with the works of high-altitude while assembling the structure of the greenhouse. On the table we have already some seedling growing of Moringa. In addition, Bernat has left, as well, the workshop as if it was professional workplace.

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Once children filled the holes of land, the smaller kids take the lead on the sealing of the solarization plastic. A great team effort! With good outcome! Only wait 3 or 4 weeks and already we plant!

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Thanks to the information provided by Maya didi we can now prepare a good program for planting in the greenhouse.

We look forward to the first harvest!

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Janay Purnima, the Full Moon of August

Purnima is one of the girls who joined us in Bhimphedi Children’s Home last April. Her name means “Full Moon” in Nepali. A very appropriate name, because her eyes are as spectacular as the moon in its splendor.

On Thursday 18th there was the full moon of August, and this is known in Nepal as Janay Purnima, a festival which is celebrated throughout the country and India in different ways.

For the Nepalese Hindus of the mountains, priests are rubbing their hands, because it is a busy day for them: they roll a colored red and yellow thread around the left wrist of all people in exchange of some rupies. This type of bracelet will protect them but it can not be removed until Tihar, a festival held in early November.

For the Nepalese Hindus of the plains bordering India, sisters put some bracelet and “tika” to her brothers, as a sign of love and care.

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Beli didi, one of the workers of the Children’s Home, putting the bracelet. Both caretakers of the Home put bracelets to all the kids and volunteers.
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From up to down: Bracelets from Maya didi, from Beli didi and from the priest.

In any case in all the houses people eats “quati”, a mixture of 12 different types of pulses half sprouted with buffalo meat, reach food which provides them the energy to recover from the rainy season.

The day before the Janay Purnima festival, our Purnima had warned us: “Tomorrow is my birthday!”. In the file, the birthday is not that (besides the festival changes the date with the Moon). But her brother, a year elder than her, supported his sister statement. So the day of the August Full Moon, we didn’t only celebrate Janay Purnima festival, but we also celebrated the birthday of our Purnima.

The celebration was pretty beautiful, singing songs and eating cake in the light of the full moon of August (throughout the afternoon we had one of the common energy cuts).

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The gift was a box of crayons, and still another box of plastic colors and little box of paints, with a small notebook of white sheets to draw. All wrapped up among dozens of newspaper sheets, and girl exultant of joy.

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The diversity of festivals of Nepal, and the intensity they celebrate them, is surprising: the very next day of Janay Purnima, we celebrate Gai Jatra (the cow festival of the Newar caste) which commemorates the dead of that year. On next Thursday, we will celebrate Krishna Astami (birthday of Lord Krishna) on Friday Bhimsen Jatra (the big festival of Bhimphedi). The following week the Father’s day, followed by Teej the women’s day. The next week, Indra Jatra and between all these festivals still we will celebrate an Islamic festival, but we can not say the exact date till one day before celebrating. It is a country of festivals.

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One cow dressed for Gai Jatra, the Newari festival to commemorate the defunct of last year.
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Prachande, the funny character of Gai Jatra, who throws water dirty of cow poop to any fool who dares to come near him.
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Some kids dressed for the Gai Jatra, remembering the defunct of the last year.

We must also say that we are not only entertained by these festivals, but we also have bus strike because the traffic police has been very strict allowing buses only to take the people fitting in the seats, which leaves the owners of buses without profit and the villagers without transportation (because there is never any seats available). And of course if there are no buses, teachers can not come to the village to teach, so the school is also closed. As I said, Nepal is a festival of a country…

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See you soon Marcel!

Written by Joana, Bhimphedi’s children home volunteer.

Last Friday we said goodbye to Marcel who, after three months, has finished the wonderful adventure of beeing a volunteer in Balmandir. As usual when a volunteer leaves, Marcel came early in the morning to say goodbye to all of us. Didi Maya was already waiting for him in the kitchen with the obligatory ritual ready: in a little plate, the sindoor, this red powder made with plants used to mark the tikka in the person’s forehead; a handmade flower necklace and a little bunch of wild flowers. With all this, the ones who stay wish a good journey and best of luck to the one who is leaving.

From my point of view, the moment when the didi marks the volunteer forehead with the tikka is always the most moving part. It’s a little gesture that recalls in just few seconds the intensity of all the experiences, feelings and anecdotes lived during the time the live has kept for us in this magic place. This gesture indicates our experience is about to come to an end and that it’s time to pack your bags and fill them with all we have learnt, with the faces and smiles of all the people we’ve met and with the memories of the most special moments shared with Balmandir children.

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Manoj handing a bunch of flowers over to Marcel parents, who came to Bhimphedi to pick him up.
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And Anoj doing the same thing with Marcel.
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Didi Bely was very touched saying goodbye to Marcel, while his parents looked at them (so moved too!)
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Marcel, Bhimphedi’s tower, with Krishna, didi Maya and didi Sushila.

Marcel got this moment over as a champion and maintaining his composure all along (some of the others couldn’t…), said goodbye to the children, didis, Krishna (the director), Kali, Ophsi and Tate (the dogs), Dani, the rest of the volunteers and to this impressive place which is Bhimphedi now that the monzoons has made the mountains reborn and the rivers (finally!) flow strongly.

The ones who stay in Balmandir (even if it’s just for a few time), wish you a very nice way back and the best of luck in the new post-Bhimphedi period that you are about to start. We hope you take always with you wherever you go the best moments of this experience. And… remember… we’ll always have Bhimphedi!

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Marcel and me, the volunteer dúo during these three months in Balmandir.
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Group photo before saying goodbye!
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Marcel and his parents, escorted by Ophsi and Kali in his way to the jeep and with their backpacks well decorated!
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A wedding out of the ordinary

The coordinator of the Children’s Home is getting married with one of the teachers of the school! The children of the children’s home are very excited. All their friends don’t stop asking about the topic that everyone talks about in Bhimphedi.

Children Balmandir are eager to celebrate! We will celebrate our wedding only within the family: Manisha’s family and mine in Nepal (meaning the children and workers of the children’s home).

“When is the wedding?” Here things can not be planned, if someone plans something sure Nepal will make sure your plans change. This uncertainty makes things difficult but exciting. Even five days before the event, when the date was already fixed on Sunday 26th June, and some guests had already hired the jeep to come on Saturday to Bhimphedi from Kathmandu, things changed: the priest told to Manisha’s family that Sunday was not a good day for the wedding, so we had to do it on Friday, two days earlier. Everyone, run…

On Friday morning, accompanied by all the children and staff of the Children’s Home and friends, in a well decorated car and dressed in a peculiar way, the groom moves to the bride’s house.

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After her family welcomes the coming team, we celebrate the ceremony in a small temple and take the bride. Here, when the girl gets married becomes part of the family of the husband. But in this case however, Manisha not change her surname or stop meeting her family.

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4) celebrant la cerimonia

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4) celebrant la cerimonia en el temple

5) despres de la cerimonia ballant

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Friday afternoon the party took place in Balmandir, all the kids had lots of fun: creating the decoration, preparing gifts, eating lots of delicious foods (including lamb, chicken and paneer) and especially dancing.
Boys and girls who no longer live at the Children’s Home this year also came to the party, so this was also a good excuse for meeting friends and brothers. A day to remember!

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One of the gifts that the children and volunteers prepared for us was a video: any resemblance to reality is pure coincidence…

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A tractor comes to visit us!

Written by Marcel, Bhimphedi’s children home volunteer.

Last May 14th a tractor came to Balmandir to help us with the plugging of the kitchen garden. It was easier than ever!

Tractor working on the kitchen garden.
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Work finished!

The children were delighted by this visit and they were the whole time near the tractor looking how it was working. In fact, when it finished the work, without any hesitation, they mounted on it and began to play as if they were actually driving it.

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Kush, Manoj and Raju “driving” the tractor

This visit was a great help for us, because the corn that was planted has been growing and growing very much, we will have a good harvest this year, though you can not say till it’s done.

The corn is growing
It grows very quickly!
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Now the mazes are 2 meters high. In the middle of the field: the “naspati” fruit tree (a fruit between an apple and a pear, very common in the area). The tree is now full of fruits. Always there is some kid on the tree taking some fruits for himself and for his friends.
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On the beautiful mountains of the valley (or hills as they call them) the beautiful clouds, very common in the raining seasson. Now it rains every day…

Meanwhile, the smallest of the house have prepared to the volunteers a delicious dish, they cook for us some kind of grass (“sagh” in nepali) that was growing wildly in some of the margins of the kitchen garden. The most delicious grass we have ever tasted!

Bishnu, Som and Anoj heating the oil.
Cooking the “sagh”.
Almost ready to eat!
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Multilingual kids!

Some weeks ago we started to give Spanish and English lessons to the older ones in Balmandir. Up to now they are acquiring basic notions of Spanish and they can already express some simple sentences to greet, ask the time, the name, the age… It is kind of funny to walk around the house or Bhimphedi and suddenly hearing  “Como estás?” (“How are you?”), “Adiós!” (“Bye”) or  “Buenos días!” (Good morning!”) (even if sometimes they wish you good morning right before going to sleep! We’ll allow them to do so, poor them…) Besides, not only Balmandir kids greet in Spanish. Our boys have taught their classmates some sentences and they also shout in Spanish to us when they see us around.

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Learning how to use the verb to be.
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The new students taking notes.
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Kamal, an advanced student!

Back to the Spanish lessons, the kids are learning basic vocabulary, the days of the week, the months of the year, the numbers, the alphabet, to conjugate some verbs… step by step! Every fifteen days they take part in a Quiz run by Dani. With some against the clock questions we check if they have assimilated the contents during the week and depending on how they manage the situation they can accumulate some points. Those points will be converted into prizes which they will have to choose by themselves. In this way we put their cooperation and effort capacity to the test while they learn a new language.

Concerning English lessons, we are reading every day a fragment from the novel “Momo”, written by Michael Ende. This book narrates the adventures of Momo, an extravagant girl but with an exceptional sense of empathy. Momo has to fight against the Men in Gray, some thieves who steal the time and joy to her town citizens. With this reading we intend the kids to get better English skills and to learn new expression forms and vocabulary. From time to time we watch a part of the movie based on the book. In this way we get away from routine and we clarify some parts of the book that they didn’t understand well. We also place some other activities among the Momo reading, as grammar or writing exercises and more amusing other ones.

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Ashish and Ramraj focused doing the reading exercises.
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Kamal re-reading the text.
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Happy, happy birthday!

Written by Joana, Bhimphedi’s children home volunteer.

Last week we could enjoy a great evening due to the celebration of two birthdays in Balmandir. We celebrated the first of them from a distance, but it wasn’t less important because of that. Enric Recoder, our beloved Amics del Nepal president who made his debut in this position just few weeks ago, was having his birthday. From Nepal we wanted to wish him all the best in this new year that makes him a bit older (and wiser!) as well as in this new adventure as a president! Best of luck Enric! The other person from Balmandir who was turning older it’s no other but me! Now that the day has passed, I can assure one of the best experiences one can live being a volunteer in Bhimphedi is to celebrate your own birthday in Balmandir, in this awesome environment and with the best company.

The day started with a pleasant and touching surprise. When I arrived at morning, the kids came out to welcome me with an avalanche of drawings and greeting cards they had made themselves and they filled me with hugs and “happy birthdays”. During the time the kids were at school I prepared a couple of cakes, putting my improvisation skills to the test since I had to handle the situation with the few and different ingredients that Bhimphedi’s little shops offered me. Didi Maya, Arjun and Ramesh helped me out during the snack time (the school school break at lunchtime), and to be honest I have to say the cakes didn’t  turn out bad at all! The rest of the afternoon, to me, consisted in feeling lucky as anyone else to be able to celebrate my birthday in such a special way and enjoy the marvelous company of the marvelous kids of the marvelous Balmandir!

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Arjun, Ramesh and I after preparing the cakes.
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Here you are the result: chocolate, mango and banana cakes.
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Some of the drawings and postcards the kids gave to me.

And once the evening arrived we took the two cakes out, one in honour of Enric and one for me, we pulled the Cokes, Fantas and Mountain Dews (a kind of soda they love) out and we sang with all our might the Happy birthday song in order to be heard from Barcelona (and in case the sound couldn’t arrive we dedicated a video to Quique!) What came afterwards was an actual pitched battle to get what was left from the cakes, faces covered in chocolate, kids running around and me throwing candies as if I was the king Baltasar in the Three kings parade! An unforgettable and unbeatable day that surely I’ll always remember with the biggest of the smiles!

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The kids waiting impatiently to taste the cakes.
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Group photo of the evening.
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Don’t stop the rhythm!

Written by Joana, Bhimphedi’s children home volunteer.

One of the things that catched most my attention when I arrived to Balmandir was watching some of the kids running up and down the courtyard and playing a pair of ramshackled and out of tune blue guitars (nothing strange considering how much they use them!) Some of them were rubbing the strings frantically and moving their heads with a comic pose, others were  more concentrated and practicing some of the chords that Àlex, one of the former volunteers, had taught them.

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Kamal practising guitar.
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Bishnu and Samir playing guitar in its own way!

It is also so interesting to discover such a new musical context with very different rhythms, melodies, dances and languages: here they dance in a Bollywood style (or better, in a Kollywood style, the Nepali version of this Indian cinematographic industry), the singers hum in a high-pitched voice and the melodies and instrumentation sound so exotic. However, here they can’t escape from the occidental influence either and the own Nepali tunes are mixed and fused together with our Pop ones. Besides, while listening to the kids playlists one can find among Raju Lama, Sugam Pokhral or Anju Panta superhits some songs of Justin Bieber, One Direction or Shakira (they love the Waka waka song!)

Together with Marcel we fast decided with all these musical high spirits we should promote them. Therefore, Marcel keeps on with Àlex’s legacy teaching the kids how to play guitar and I, with some percussion instruments and flutes that I picked up before travelling to Nepal, I’ve started to introduce the kids to the mysterious language of music. Pentagrams, keys, notes, silences, tempo, crotchets, quavers… such a bunch of unknown concepts that the beginner musicians are assimilating bit by bit and with a lot of patience and effort. Ah! And don’t think this is only a children matter… Even Krishna, Balmandir’s center chief, has joined our little orchestra! If this experiment works out we will try to play some songs all together, let’s see how it ends up… We will keep you informed!

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First music lesson with the begginers.
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Bishow, Samir, Kiran and Raju making their debut with the flute.
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Kamal reading pentagrams.
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Krishna, the center chief, also wanted to join us in the music lessons!

Meanwhile… we’ll go on enjoying our walks around the playground and the kitchen garden while we hear, as a background sound, how the guitar players in the bandstand improve day by day and are able to play the chords of their favourite Kollywood songs as they sing them with a melodramatic voice.

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Walking with dinosaurs

Written by Joana Martínez, Bhimphedi’s children home volunteer

It´s been almost a month since I arrived to Balmandir and the kids started school after the April holidays. Here time flies! We all have started working with the new school year. With the younger ones in Balmandir (or not that young anymore…!), we have decided to go deep into the mysterious and unknown world of the dinosaurs. During few days the kids have discovered who those giant reptiles were: how they lived, what they were eating, which was their habitat, the different kinds and species that existed, the huge amount of years that have passed since they lived in our planet and why they were gone for good. We have colored masks of the scary Tyrannosaurus Rex, classified some of the best known dinosaur species, found out the meaning of several complicated concepts and recreated images of our favorite ones.

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Kids painting their masks
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Santa and BIshow cutting their Tyrannosaurus Rex
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And here they are, our frightening dinosaurs!

However… after bringing to an end all the activities we have an undeniable winner concerning the Jurassic world: Patchi, the adventurer triceratops who has won most of Balmandir children´s hearts over! If one walks around the kids rooms and common areas it’s hard to not to find hanging on the wall some drawing related to this friendly dinosaur, the main character of the documentary “Walking with dinosaurs”, such a hero to our explorers!

As we loved making small scientific and historical findings we decided to install a timeline in the study room in order to place all the things that children will learn: how the planets appear, which animals are the most ancient of the Earth, how the first humans were… But that’s for sure; Patchi and their companions will always hold an honorary place!

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The timeline in the study room wall
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The dinosaur corner
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Some of the kids work and… Patchi!
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Welcome!

Written by Eva, volunteer of AWASUKA project.

I have arrived to Nepal with the thrill of returning to a country that fascinated me. Newly arrived to Kathmandu I got some good news: I will share the trip to Bhimphedi with Dani (the coordinator of the children’s Home), Sujan (a kid who is in Katmandú for a dentist visit), Sarita, Susmita, Purnima and Samir.

Dani and Sujan already know well the way. so we follow them with our eyes and steps. The rest of us we will be in Bhimphedi for first time.

I’m happy to share the first moments with Sarita, Susmita, Purnima and Samir. waiting for the Jeep, a mango Juice, listening to them singing songs in the Jeep on the way to a beautiful but still unknown valley.

We arrived after three and a half hours, it felt short to me despite the warmth and the small space that we, 13 people, were sharing.

Just arrived to Bhimphedi, we were curious and anxious. We quickly felt the warm welcome and the joy on the air. We ate the dhalbat and went to sleep, looking forward to the coming brand new day to discover the place where we were and, the place that will be the new home and the family of the Fantastic 4.

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The girls and Samir eating a snack with Kali and didi Maya.
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Sarita and Purnima with Kush, getting to know the buffaloes.
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Samir having fun with Kali and Tate.
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Sarita and Purnima playing at the slider.

Saturday, 6:30 AM: POM! POM! One of the best awakenings. I opened the door and I see Samir, Sarita, Susmita, Purnima with Dani giving me a Suba Prabat  (Good Morning in nepali) and an invitation to go for a stroll around Balmandir… impossible to reject!

“Wooow! We are surrounded by mountains”, we strolled watching the buffaloes, the kids, the garden, the chicks… and on that ride we started knowing everyone; after just being able to sense their faces the previous night we finally could see them with the morning light.

A few days later here they are: playing in the slide and enjoying. They have already started at school, they work hard during the study time and they have their own favorite corners in the children’s home. They also help to prepare the snack on Saturday, they dance and sing in this new home with our new family here in Balmandir… and we’ll keep on walking!

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Purnima and Sarita with their new raincoats.
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Susmita, Purnima and Sarita ready for school.
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Sarita and Susmita made some nice earrings with paperclips for me.
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Samir playing guitar with Bishnu.
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The girls after having a good shower.

 

www.amicsnepal.org/bhimphedi