In Nepal Saturday is the only day off. But do not think that this makes the children to go to school more often or the offices to open more days than in other countries, on the contrary, there is always a good reason to take a holiday: a festival, a general strike, a competition sports, holding a summit…
Nepal is a relatively small country, it hardly reaches 30 million people, but it has a huge cultural diversity. To give you an idea of that diversity I speak, in the census was in 2011, it was determined that there were in Nepal 123 different languages as first language. You can also observe the various factions of the inhabitants, some Mongolians and other Indian… To respect this diversity of cultures in the Nepali calendar there is a long list of public holidays. Most festivals are celebrated only by one of the ethnic groups, and if you ask someone of another ethnicity he will most probably do not know the name of the festival, but anyway the schools and offices close.
So the mornings the children are not in school, we split into groups and each group is responsible for the cleaning and improvement of a different area of the children’s home. Last week the kids have had three free days: a festival and two strikes, so we have been able to do some work: improvement in the area of waste, cleaning of plastic and herbs, stones removal of the playing area, and the biggest challenge: creating a super-channel to carry the water from kitchen and sinks for washing clothes and hands until the end of the garden.
Till now every day there was a pool in the garden area and mud was made on the toilets’ way, we hope that it will work, at least for a while…
It’s been almost two months since we brought chickens from Hetauda, and although we have not got a single egg. Every morning we go to the henhouse full of hope and leave it with our hands in the pockets.
Didis tell us that if we don’t have a cock, hens will not give eggs very soon nor very often. Really? So we need a cock… but here they are so big and scary! After negotiating it with Kush, we decide to buy a cock, but not very grown up, we do not want him to break the peace of the henhouse.
For one cock is not worth going to Hetauda, so we buy it for 3 euros per kilo (the animals are not cheap here). We place immediately put him with the hens. The first day the cock is a little intimidated by these ten hens older than him that don’t stop biting him. But the next day they are already friends.
Now there is no excuse, We Want Eggs! If not, you all might end up together in the pot and served on Saturday Dinner!
Two days later Kul comes with a huge smile from the henhouse saying he has good news! We got the first egg!
Kush and Maya didi argue that having ducks would be a very good project: “Ducks eat rice and worms (no need to buy them food), they like water and therefore they will have no problems with summer rainfall (monsoon) and eggs are highly valued (three times more expensive than chickens’) especially Nepalese New Year, mid-April.
So this time we go to Hetauda with the mission of bringing six ducks, 2 males and 4 females. It seems a fairly simple task, but with the experience we had with hens, we don’t want to be overconfident, although we have been told of a place where they sell ducks.
We take an electric tricycle. Oh, it is farther than I thought, after 15 minutes we’re not there yet. Finally the tricycle goes in one way next to a huge pool. Ram tells us that it is a fish farm. At the entrance of what appears to be the office, a woman welcomes us. We ask where we can get our six ducklings. She looks at us as if we were asking for hummingbird chicks… but in every street in Bhimphedi or Hetauda chickens and ducks are walking all around… it can’t be that hard getting 4 females and 2 males… Ram insists that they must have ducks in this center, we have heard that someone had purchased some here… “No, we only have fish” she says…
We go back with the same tricycle stopping and asking. Everyone looks at us like we were asking for hummingbird chicks… I think we will not fulfil our mission today… What if we go again to the same place where we bought the chickens? 15 minutes more of electric tricycle.
We reach our destination and ask whether we can buy ducklings… Nothing, just like if we were asking for hummingbirds… how can it be so difficult? We enter to one of the courtyard, no one there, but from one corner 5 ducklings come running, all together. Oh! We go out excited and ask where the owners of the courtyard are (and what is more important, of the ducklings). From a dark room comes a didi. We almost have it! She says that chicks cost 175 rupees each (one euro and a half). “Deal! We take all five!” (we wanted 6, but 5 is pretty good!). “Oh, but how many of the five ducklings are females?”. Well… we can’t know yet¿? They are too small to differentiate … No matter, we put them in a box very fast before she can change her mind and we go back home!
We arrive at the Children’s Home and everyone is excited. To avoid stress for the ducklings, we don’t allow the small children come near the animals, so they have to watch from the distance. We put the ducks into their new home. I turn and I see none of the small kids… Maybe they got angry…
After a while one of the kids come with a plate. Behind him all the other kids with expectant faces. The child shows us the dish, it’s full of worms for the ducks! “Ok, you can come to see the ducks”. Kush, our expert on animals, feeds the ducks and the others look at it from the door.
But a few days later we realize that something is not right… two of the ducklings do not walk with others as they used to. They just sit and rest…
We only have three ducklings… Was it too cold for them? Perhaps they were too young to get wet… Or maybe we touched them too much… Children decide that ducks need a box like hens and from now on only Kush will take care of them.
Fortunately, two weeks later we still have three ducks, and they have grown a lot! I think they will give us eggs after some months! if there is any female… if not at least we will eat “duck à l’orange”!
Days pass and nobody calls us to go to Hetauda to buy the cable, phone and router. We begin to worry… But suddenly, a car stop at the entrance of the center, and two gentlemen say they have come to install the phone-line…
– But you bring the necessary equipment for installation – Ask a surprised Ram, the cook of the center.
– Oh, still haven’t you bought the cable? – asks an even more surprised technician.
– You told us you would call us so that we could go to Hetauda to buy everything you needed and then the technicians could come with us. – Assures Ram.
– How could we have called if we didn’t have any contact number on our papers? – Protest the technician.
– I gave my phone number – Ram answers.
There is nothing we can do now, maybe some other day we will be more successful… but at least we make the technician to tell us exactly what we need to install the phone-line: 120 meters of cable, a phone, a modem, a couple of line boxes (or something similar)…
– Sunday we will go buy everything! – Ram says.
– Uff, but we will not be able to come till next week, on Friday… – says the technician.
Ram protest a little bit. But I would be very happy if we get the internet connection next week…
On Sunday it rains, on Monday Ram has a meeting with “neighbours” (he lives on a mountain, in the middle of nowhere, I do not know who will show in this meeting…), Tuesday is a holiday, so on Wednesday we go to Hetauda to buy the cable…
After all the shopping we go to the office of Nepal Telecom to confirm that the technicians are coming this week. The bureau chief sees us there again and asks us if we have not yet Internet. “It can not be!” says flatly. And he asks for an explanation to the technician. The technician explains the misunderstanding, and says he will go on Friday to finalize the work. The boss asks “Why Friday? What work do you have to do tomorrow? Go tomorrow”, the technician says “Hunchha” (meaning “ok”), so he will come to install Internet tomorrow morning.
Friday morning the technicians come to install Internet.
When they finish to connect the cable and equipment, we are asked to sign some papers, and then they will go to the office to activate the line. Signed, they leave, and after a while we have phone-line but no Internet… It was too good to be true…
After two weeks of repeatedly calling different employees of Nepal Telecom, ask a computer technician to try to solve the problem and even change the year, the head office of Nepal Telecom decides to send a technician “Thursday, Friday morning or Sunday. “Maybe someone will come Sunday, if we’re lucky…
Surprisingly on Friday they tell us that a technician is on the way! I just do not believe it until he reaches the center.
After two hours, we have phone line and Internet. It seems that this 2015 will be a good year!
From the Bhimphedi Children’s Home, through our new ADSL, Happy 2015 to everyone!
Miguel and Montse from Petit Món have come to visit the Bhimphedi Children’s Home. Petit Món is a Catalan Foundation, it has a Children’s Home in Jorpati, Kathmandu, called “Sano Sansar” among many other projects. It makes us very happy that they could finally come to visit us, but they brought still another surprise. At night, Miguel becomes Santa Claus! Although Nepal doesn’t celebrate Christmas that much, everyone recognizes the character at first glance and in a second the entire center is upsite down. Children come from everywhere, running with a huge smile on their face, to meet Santa Claus.
Once we are all in the room, Santa Claus takes out of his bag plenty of paper cups containing candies for all boys, girls, didi and volunteers. There are of all flavours and even some chocolate! This gift was prepared by the Seolmi, a Korean girl living in Nepal (Thank you!).
Finally, when everyone has his candy cup. Santa Claus takes out a final gift from his sack: A projector! (donated by Andrea and Jordi from Terrassa). There is a ovation in the room. But just when the ovation is over, younger children ask older children in nepali “What is a projector?”, when the big boys explain, the second ovation comes, louder than the first.
Just after few minutes, the projector is already working to show “Chicken Run”, although the sound is not very good. But no matter, no child misses the first film of the new cinema. They don’t look away from the screen (a bedsheet) until the popcorn comes.
A few days later the projector has a good sound system and it’s ready to project television, DVD, flash drive… From now, every Saturday, the only holiday of the week in Nepal (apart from a infinite number of festivals and holidays), we will watch a movie as if we were in the cinema.
After the arrival of hens and fixing the henhouse door, kids decide they want to further expand the family: Saturday we will go to fish! Kul and a couple of assistants repair the old eating place in the area of animals, to use it as a fish tank.
Saturday we eat breakfast, consisting of a huge bowl of rice with fresh seasonal vegetables and lentils (this is called “dalbhat”, all Nepalis eat it twice a day, and we are not exception), and we gather the expeditionaries to fetch the fish: 19 children and two adults, will it be enough to catch any fish?
In Nepal, winter is the dry season, almost no rain at all in half a year. So the river next to the Children’s home does not have water, and we go about 3km away, where there is another river with some water, near there is a small dam where children are convinced that we will find fish, and bigger kids will swim for a while in this wonderful sunny day.
Older children walk ahead, and once Edu and I arrive to the place the kids have already caught a few small fishes. After one hour, they have 10 fishes and three crabs. Now we eat the picnic and return home trying to leave no plastic behind…this will be more difficult than collecting the fish…
The cement of the “tank” is not dry yet, so the fish will stay in a bucket for a day. We leave the bucket at the door of the room of the volunteers, but the next day it’s not there! Weird… It’s 7 am and I go to wake up the kids with a “good morning”. I go room after room, some smiles and some sceptical faces not believing it’s already time to wake up. In one room, surprise, I find the bucket with the fish. One child say “it’s too cold out there” … Okay, but today we put them in the tank.
Finally time tells us the kid was right… one day after putting them to the fish tank all the fish are dead! Some have jumped out of it, other lie inert… Small failure… Why has this happened? Children make their hypotheses: the water is too cold in this tank, or perhaps we should put a net so they can’t jump out, or perhaps the cement needs some extra days to get dry…
We decide to forget the project until it’s not so cold, but in the same evening kids have already another idea. “This idea is really good!” they say. Even one of the caretakers, Maya didi, looks eager for it. We have to bring ducks!
In the third terrace of the garden, the largest of all, we grow three types of vegetables during the year. In June we plant corn, in September beans and in December potatoes. So now time for potatoes!
This time we have decided to cover more area than ever with potatoes. Will we succeed? First we get rid of the huge grasses occupy the entire field, some are really annoying and leave your hands and clothes covered with spikes.
The second step is to plow. So we called the “man of the oxes”. After trying few days, finally, one morning, he appears. Everybody is happy! But at twelve o’clock he has to go to another field… but he has almost finished the work, we will do it ourselves.
On Saturday there is a group of children who help in the kitchen-garden and extend a bit the area to plant potatoes. Everyone is happy enough. For now we will leave it like this.
Is it time to plant? No… we need to put fertilizer so potatoes can grow well… For now we have some buffalo compost, but it will not last long.
The next day we go in search of fertilizer, this time chicken fertilizer, it is more expensive, but they say it is better. We decide to go to bring it ourselves. After walking for about ten minutes we arrive at a house made of mud and stone (like many of the houses), we go to the rear where there is a chicken farm. Further there is a pile of manure in rice husks. After some months we will also have fertilizer from our hens.
They give us ten sacks and two shovels and we start loading. All older children have come to help. They load the bags as much as they can, same price! Even two of the didis have come to encourage us, these two women are wonderful (all kids call them “didi” which means elder sister). Maya is very sweet and always smiles. She does not speak English but cooks wonderfully. Every day after eating we tell her “mitho chha” (the food was delicious) and she answers with a shy smile “thank you”. Beli didi is the caregiver who sleeps in the center to take care of the smaller kids. She is very energetic and has a powerful voice that can be heard from anywhere. The two women take care of their children as if they were their own kids. They are the best “didis” we could have. Children and Amics del Nepal are very lucky to have them in the children’s home, taking care of children, helping to cook, cleaning everything, helping the responsible of the kitchen-garden…
Come on! Let’s carry the sacks! Two boys per sack. We are 10 people, so we can carry five today and five tomorrow, I propose. Ashok Siwakoti, the only kid of the Children’s Home studing class 10, laughs and says that they will come back quickly for the second sack just after leaving the first. He adds slyly, “the question is whether you will also come back for the second sack…”
Once my sack is ready, Rojan and I take the sack and move. A minute later we have to change position… After ten minutes we have tried the 10 different ways to carry a sack, and we have proved that there is no good way to do it… Finally we arrive and empty the bag! It was hard, but we did it!
But suddenly… what???? We see two sacks with legs coming by themselves. It is dark and I don’t wear my glasses, but finally the sacks are close enough and I’m absolutely astonished. They are the two “didis”, each carrying a sack tight with a string loaded on the forehead (this road is called “namlo” in Nepali). They hadn’t come to encourage us…
Didis leave the sacks on the floor, look at me and smile. Rojan tells me: “They used to do this when they were kids… we would not be able to use “namlo” properly, you need practice for that”. I’m still shocked, Maya, a woman over 50 years, had transformed into super-woman and had loaded, apparently without effort, a sack of over 50 kg…
Now, we can plant potatoes! The next Saturday, a group of children help to plant potatoes. And after a few days with didis, volunteers and occasionally a boy or a girl who shows up to help, we have 1,000 square meters field of planted potatoes!
Across the center there are all kinds of trees: blue and red mimosas, mangos, lychees, lemon, pomegranate, a kind of apples / pears (“aru” and “naspati”), banana… The easiest way to know when a picture was takes is looking what fruit the kids are eating. Now it’s time for the grapefruit.
The third terrace where we are planting potatoes and burning the non-organic waste, there is still some space to use. In that land there are some small lemon and banana trees planted last summer that Ricardo, a super-volunteer from the Basque country who has been working to improve the kitchen-garden for the last three summers. We will protect them better because we have one of the walls of the center has to be rebuilt, so some goats use to come in to eat everything they find. But we will fix it!
With the kids we decided that we would put more trees to get more fruit in a few years. The surprise was that one day, when we came back from a trip to Hetauda, we found a dozen brick circles protecting the newly planted mango and “Aru” trees. Next to the cercles two kids with a proud smile from ear to ear: D: D
One of the jewels of the center is its magnificent kitchen-garden. In total is about 5,000 square meters, divided into four different terraces. In the two higher terraces (in the south) all kinds of vegetables grow. These vegetables we eat with the two daily plates of rice. Now, in these two areas of the kitchen-garden, we can find ginger, cabbage, parsley, spinach, pumkin, garlic…
Now is the time to grab the onion seedlings and plant them, but our seedlings have not grown enough yet, so we buy some in Hetauda and plant them. Every step very manual…
Once we have planted all the onions I’m exhausted, but the three “didis” of the center don’t think it’s enough… so next time we go to Hetauda we will have to buy many more seedlings of onions, three times more than last time, to finish filling the piece of land.
To be able to update this blog and have good communication with the office of Amics del Nepal Kathmandu and Barcelona, we decided to get a phone line and Internet in the Children’s Home. This sounds to me like a new adventure!
Ram (the super-cook), Papu, Edu and Daniel (myself) go to Hetauda with infinit determination. First minute in Nepal Telecom and we realize we have done a big mistake, on Sundays (not holiday in Nepal, only Saturdays) the Internet office close at two. We have to go fast! Let’s see…
First lead to the office number 10. We fill a form, give a photocopy of Nepali ID, passport photograph, fingerprints… and they tell us to go to the office number 9, then the office number 15, then 11, then to pay in the counter, and come back to the office number 10. Easy? Well, this was only the begining… After visiting 6 or 7 different offices 4 or 5 times, they tell us it’s enough for today. In five days they will call us and then we will have to go Hetauda again to buy telephone cable, a phone set, a router and pay the first month internet service. Then the technicians will come with us to Bhimphedi to make the installation. Sounds relatively simple… we will see…