Saturday, June 07, 2008

Bracelets and Ice Cream

It’s been really difficult to update the blog with much substance. We’ve been really busy and really far away from internet.

Where to start… Brittany and Hannah completed their language lessons with Rekha; three hours a morning for four days. Just enough to get around the house and speak with the children. Being great students, they’ve both picked up quite a bit for such a crash course.

I realize that we haven’t formally introduced Prema on this blog (picture below). She’s been working at Sam’s House for a couple of months now. She has three grown daughters and her husband passed away a few years ago, so she needed the work. She is tremendous and the new house disciplinarian. It is hilarious to watch her “crack down” on mischief around the house. I think our other didis, all younger, enjoy her no-nonsense attitude. Best of all, she fits right in with the children and other didis. It seems like she’s been there forever.

The other day Hannah, Brittany, Dinesh and I made a trip to Himalayan Children’s Home near Lakeside. This home is for children from the Mustang region of Nepal, which is north of Pokhara, stretching to the Chinese border. Mustang is high desert, an extremely difficult area to live. The people in this region make their living selling Yak wool and trading. HCH was started for orphans and for poor families who could not afford to keep their children without compromising their future.

HCH is also in a bit of trouble. They had some British donors who recently stopped supporting them. This is part of the problem with many children’s homes: people come down here, get inspired, do a lot in a short time, don’t have a plan, and burn out. So now HCH has been surviving on donations from tourists and local supporters. They’re directed Buddhist lama who takes no salary and only pays his didis and tutor.

At the house it has been non-stop activities. Yesterday we played a two hour soccer game after school. I can’t even begin to remember the teams, partly because some of the kiddies change sides throughout. Nonetheless, one side prevailed 6-4 and there was much rejoicing by everyone. Hannah, who plays for Yale, impressed everyone, even Dhiraj and Babit (the house aces), with her powerful shots. Hannah nicknamed Bishal the “Bulldog” for his tendency to pitch headlong and full steam into his kicks and defense, shoes flying off his feet. We also have some excellent girl players, especially Pooja and Sarita who are really fast and absolutely fearless, and then of course, Mina, who can bull through anybody. But best of all, everybody plays soccer (except Sandip, but he’ll join soon), which is a difficult feat with 20 children.

Last night we went to Dinesh’s for dinner, which, as any volunteer will tell you, is a true highlight because Rekha is a tremendous cook. Remember, as Kerry O’Reilly has already recommended elsewhere, if you get the invitation to Dinesh’s for dinner, don’t miss it.

Today was Saturday, so everyone slept in and we dedicated the morning to a project: friendship bracelets. I brought a kit from the States, but hadn’t a clue as how to make them. Fortunately B&H remembered we set up stations to braid. We (not really “we,” they) taught Babit and Dhiraj first (while others were still bathing) who were very helpful teaching the younger ones. The bracelets were a big hit. All the children really enjoy art projects. Every morning we draw with the younger crowd in the dining room while the older children study with Laxmi upstairs.

After the bracelet project (and everyone’s showers), we rented a minibus and cab to go to Lakeside for ice cream. We mentioned this to the children three days ago and they asked every minute since if we were still going. We piled 21 people into the minibus and seven into a cab (I was in the cab with Prema, Asuna, Pratima, Rina and Sandip in the backseat; me and Kiran in the front seat) and drove to Nerula’s. A good time had by all.

Dinesh has hired a dance teacher to come on Saturday. He teaches both traditional Nepali dance and some modern, usually Bollywood-inspired. Though it’s open to all the children, mostly the girls take part, and by the end of the lesson, only the older girls remain. It’s a lot of fun to watch them dance because they like it so much, but also because it’s very serious. The dance teacher, Shiva, really puts them through the steps with much repetition. It was very impressive.

And that’s all that’s fit to print in this edition. If the pictures don’t supremely indicate, let me say the house looks great, the children are all doing SO well, and Sam’s House continues to be a happy, special place. When you look around and play with the children, you forget where they came from, and the situations they left behind.

The other day Dinesh showed me a video from Sarita’s village. Words can’t do it justice. She and her sisters and her mom were sleeping alongside a three-foot long brick wall to stay out of the wind. That was their home. One of the Nepali trustees filmed the video and he interviewed some neighbors who testified to Sarita’s situation. Her mother is mentally challenged and her sisters all worked. The trustee interviewed one of Sarita’s sisters who happened to be nearby hauling bags of cement on the day he visited. Fortunately the schoolmaster noticed that Sarita was especially intelligent, even though her attendance at school was irregular. Since coming to Sam’s House, Sarita has ranked first in her class every term and she’s one of the sweetest children you’ll ever meet.

As I hope this example illustrates (again and again), what you’ve made possible with your support.

The didis say “maya garne” (do love) to Sandip and he dutifully trots over to you and plants wet ones on both your cheeks. So, tonight, in my mind, I’m telling Sandip to “maya garne” every one of you. Life is good.


Trouble has two faces at Sam's House. Bishal and Rina be thy names.

Friendship braceleting is not for everyone. That doesn't mean you can't sit around with your buds and have a good time doing nothing.

Brittany, Maya and Mina solve the intricacies of friendship braceleting.

Hannah helps Pooja tie her bracelet.

Mighty Morphin PowerRangers Unite!

The boys.

Last minute primping in the rearview mirror on Ranjit's motorcycle.

Walking to catch our minibus (and cab).

The gang at Nerula's.

Dhiraj on the ride home.

Me and Mamata in the van. Photograph by Mina.

Bishal exits the van.

Didis dressed up for a day on the town.


Priti Shrestha said... I missed a lot it was so much fun going for an ice cream with these kids..that experience is just so much more than just going for an ice cream..I remember all the details..the dripping ice creams..children starting from the bottom of the cone..not to forget their excitement of seeing an aeroplane on the way to neerula's..and their competetion to hold chris ji's hand on the way while touring on the lakeside road..haha..cant wait to be back at sam's house again.

Tess McEnroe said...

Hey Chris,
My name is Tess McEnroe and I met you on the plane to Kathmandu from Bangkok this May. I am traveling to Pokhara tomorrow and would love to come visit your orphanage. I was wondering if you could give me the location of it? Is it outside of the town? I tried calling and will some more before I leave and when I get there. I will probably stay in a cheap guest house somewhere in town. If you could email me at or call my cell phone at 980-372-1830 i would really appreciate it. I could possibly write a story about the orphanage for the Kathmandu Post if you are interested. I understand its not very easy to get the internet, but if you do in the next few days, please email!


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