Wednesday, July 20, 2011

The Cosmic Brontosaurus in Pokhara

As you may well know, this week saw Vicky returning to the PoD Team for another stint of hard work and good fun in Pokhara.  She arrived a few days before the start of term and so made the most of this free time by brushing up on her Nepali skills.  This got me to thinking...our volunteers often find themselves working in the local community where there is little, if any, English being spoken.  Whilst we are a resourceful bunch and generally get by with elaborate hand signals and pointing out words in the dictionary, it really is helpful to have a few Nepali words and phrases at your disposal to break down the language barriers - it also gets your brownie points with the local community who rarely hear Nepali from a foreigner's mouth!  So, I contacted the Cosmic Brontosaurus Language School and asked them if they could do some special PoD Volunteer language courses and they were most helpful.  Below are details of the various courses on offer which can be booked when you arrive in Pokhara and know when you are free and ready to start learning!

Basic Taster Course (1,400NRS)
This is a 4 session course, perfect for short term volunteers.  Topics covered include:
  • Basic introductions (hello, how are you? What is your name? etc.).
  • Useful classroom phrases and commands (copy this, open your book, sit down etc.).
  • Farewells

Intermediate Conversational Course (3,000NRS)
This is a 10 session course that is well suited to volunteers staying one month or more, or are planning to go to a rural placement.  The course includes:
  • Everything in the Basic Taster Course
  • Market skills (buying goods, bargaining, numbers etc.).
  • Finding the way around (asking, giving and understanding directions).
  • Talking about feelings (I am happy, I am sick, I like Nepal etc.).
  • Basic grammar skills
  • Half day cultural programme at one of Pokhara's pilgramage sites

The classroom at the Cosmic Brontosaurus
Advanced Nepali Course (4,125NRS)
This 15 session course is aimed at long term volunteers or those who just really, really really want to learn Nepali!  It includes:
  • All of the above
  • Additional grammar and conversational topics
  • Conversational practice
  • An extra cultural programme
  • A copy of the Nepali Survival Phrase Book (worth 375NRS)

Sunday, July 17, 2011

Fond Farewells

 There were far too many farewells for my liking this week at PoD...first we had to say goodbye to Brogan, although she did leave us in style, whitewater rafting her way down the Trishuli River to Kathmandu.  Then Thomas had to say goodbye to Holy Road primary where he has been teaching whilst waiting for Annurpurna Primary School to re-open.  This was another stylish departure with him teaching the whole school the hokey kokey in one go.  That is a lot of arms and legs going in, out, in, out and shaking it all about! 

Alice still clearly enjoying her rafting trip!
We also said goodbye to Alice after 8 wonderful weeks of hard work, friendship building and rafting - she managed to squeeze in two final river trips in her last week!  Alice completed placements at both Ward 6 and the Street Kids, saying goodbye to the latter with a day of movies, popcorn and fun before a teary goodbye.  We are actually a little worried about what will happen to the other volunteers now that she has left as Alice was definitely the key motivator of the team.  I heard that this morning they had a very lazy and non-eventful morning without her there to chivvy them along.  Oh dear!

In good news, we welcomed back Vicky.  Vicky volunteered here with us last year and loved it so much that she came back, hurrah!  She will be spending a few weeks at APS before heading out to do a month’s rural placement in Bhalam Village.  We’re most excited about this as she is our first volunteer to go there and it is such a worthwhile placement.

Group photo at Street Kids
So, placement news.  It seems that the Street Kids have thoroughly enjoyed their summer school, complaining that they were going to miss their maths lessons with Alice.  Alongside academic studies they have also been learning about the importance of keeping the environment clean courtesy of Kari.  No longer are children seen chucking their rubbish into the river, instead they collect it all up and give it to Kari.  Great stuff.

Hard at work making mosaics at Asha
We had a good session at the Asha Foundation making ‘mosaics’ from sponge, coloured paper, stickers, pretty much anything we had that was colourful.  There was also a good Frisbee game, some chess going on and some lucky boys got a mini taste of photography by running off with Tom’s camera!

Alice and Kari visited Esther at SCIAN and had a bit of a tough session as they have minimal Nepali and she has minimal English.  They tried to clear things up with a phrase book but didn’t really get very far.  Either way, Esther still got some good PoD time and practiced some pronunciation and vocab with them, so still worthwhile.  Maybe some Nepali classes are in order...!

Paddling away from Bindu's
Other exciting happenings this week included Kari paragliding over Pokhara and then throwing up into her pilots face, nice.  We have also had a lot of monsoon rain resulting in a new mini-lake outside of Bindu’s which is fun.  We celebrated Tom’s birthday with a cake which tasted great but was aesthetically a little interesting (turns out our non-stick pan was a little sticky...).  The highlight of the week, however, has to be Kari being hand delivered a love poem reading, ‘your eyes are grey, your hair is straight.  You are so beautiful’.  Love it!

And that’s it for this week.  See you soon!

Tips for upcoming volunteers
·         Don’t over pack!  You can get lots of stuff locally, clothes, snacks, toiletries etc.  If you aren’t sure what to bring, talk to us first.
·         We could really do with some books to read with the children.  The best kind are the interactive type with flaps to lift up, questions to answer and puzzles to solve.  They hold the kids’ interest much more than basic story books.

 If you are interested in joining our team in Nepal you can contact us via our website.

Monday, July 11, 2011

Happy Birthday Dalai Lama!

Monks getting ready
One of the many festivals celebrated in Nepal is the Dalai Lama’s birthday and this year it was celebrated with a big party at a Tibetan Refugee Camp just outside of Pokhara.  Unfortunately, the man himself was unable to attend, but that didn’t dampen the party spirit at all.  There were all manner of games, Brogan and Kari got involved in a Tibetan piƱata , there were sack races and, of course, the tug of war!

In sadder news, we said goodbye to Tara who kindly treated us to a solo performance of her upcoming album, due to be recorded when she gets home.  Yes, that’s right, PoD creates superstars...well, OK, perhaps we didn’t create Tara’s musical talents, but we certainly appreciated them and look forward to buying her album soon enough.  Hopefully she will remember us when she is rich and famous...

Brogan with kids at Ward 6
Brogan also had a day of goodbyes on Thursday with her last day at Ward 6 Day Care Centre.  There was lots of dancing and fun, but it was ultimately very sad for everyone involved.  Despite only being there for a short time, she has really made an impact at the centre with her bubbly personality and enthusiastic approach.  She has introduced the children to lots of new games and also spent time working with the older children, patiently going through their ABC’s and teaching them basic English vocab.  She will be missed!

This week saw the close of our summer school at Annurpurna Primary School as their board have decided to give all of their children and staff 2 weeks holiday.  This means that Thomas found himself rather suddenly at a loose end, but, ever resourceful, Phil our Placement Co-ordinator got him right back into teaching at Holy Road Primary School.  Despite being thrown in at the deep end – the Headmaster has simply handed over all of his classes to Thomas! - he is handling it well and settling in nicely.  His new school is a private school and the difference between this and the government schools is striking.  Children all have uniforms and books, the classrooms are well resourced and days are structured.  We are hoping that Thomas can pick up on some of the skills and methods used there to improve standards for the children at APS.  An added bonus to this placement is that Thomas has to take a local bus there and back giving him ample opportunities to practice his fledgling Nepali skills on unsuspecting locals!

The Street Kids’ summer school is in its last week before schools open again.  Some real achievements have taken place there and our sessions have definitely been enhanced by the arrival of Kari and her fantastic teaching skills.  Of course, there are days where the kids just aren’t interested at all, and we have to go with that – it is their summer holidays after all!  The most striking improvements can be seen in the children’s maths skills and general concentration levels.  We’re looking forward to seeing the children back at school using their new found skills!

We had a bit of a reality check at SCIAN this week.  We planned to teach Esther some ‘opposite’ words, i.e. hot/cold, in/out etc.  We made up 8 pairs of words, drew pictures for each and went through them with her.  It seemed as though she didn’t really get what we were doing, but then when we got her to try to teach us the Nepali we realised that actually, expecting someone to learn 16 new pieces of vocab in an hour is a ridiculous idea.  So, we learned from that that we need to break our teaching down into smaller sessions.  From now on we won’t be so gung ho in our expectations!
New Asha Foundation home

Our weekly trips to the Asha Foundation are still going well.  We had a request from the children for some nail polish so spent last week running our own PoD beauty parlour, although apparently our skills weren’t up to girl told Alice her handywork was no good and immediately cleaned her nails!  Apart from that we had our regular session of befriending and playing with the children along with our weekly trip up to the site of their new home.  The whole orphanage is being moved about 10 minutes up the hill to a brand new building, custom designed and built to meet their needs.  Things are really shaping up there, most of the walls are up, the bio-fuel tank has been installed and the roof is on.  Exciting times!

If you are interested in joining our Team and contributing to the hard work we are doing here, visit our website for more information on how to apply.

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

Comings and goings at PoD

There has been a lot of chopping and changing going on this week at PoD Nepal with people arriving, leaving and swapping placements.  Firstly, Cian left us.  This was very sad for both us and the Street Kids with whom he has been doing such hard work.  But, rest assured, his hard work and dedication won’t stop when he gets on the plane because, rather than flying home, Cian is jetting off to Tanzania to join PoD in supporting Village Africa’s building projects there.  What a star!

Alice saying goodbye at Ward 6
Alice, our longest standing volunteer, swapped placements this week.  She said goodbye to the staff and children at Ward 6 and took up teaching at the Street Kids Summer School.  This ensures that the Street Kids continue to get the extra support and tuition they need after Cian’s departure and also gives Alice the chance to broaden her experiences.  Fab!

We welcomed Kari into our team and she has quickly settled into PoD life and the PoD Palace (otherwise known as the volunteer accommodation at Bindu's).  She arrived fresh and ready to jump in after flying in from LA and making friends with Nepal’s top ranking police officer on the plane – always a good contact to have!  She will be working at the Street Kids Centre to complete our Summer School programme there and will then move over to teach at Shree Krishna Lower Secondary School once it re-opens.  Kari already has heaps of experience teaching teenaged kids back home so we are looking forward to learning something from her.

Finally, Tara had her leaving party from Annupurna Primary where she has been running the summer school with Thomas.  There was singing, dancing, flowers and tikka making for a fun but emotional farewell.  As with Cian, Tara’s work isn’t stopping with her departure from Nepal.  She is going home with big plans to fundraise money to buy whiteboards for the schools here.  If you want to help, click here.

Past volunteers after Ashare Ropain
This week saw Nepal celebrating Ashare Ropain, one of many, many, many festivals in Nepal!  This signals the start of the rice growing season and families traditionally eat beaten rice, curd and banana before starting the hard and labour intensive process of planting, growing and harvesting rice.  In Pokhara, this day is marked with a huge festival in which visitors and locals come together ostensibly to plant rice, but in reality to have the biggest mud fight you can imagine!  Muddy paddy fields provide the venue for tug of wars, races, wrestling and all manner of other fun and games.  Our volunteers couldn’t take part because they haven’t had the right vaccinations to go rolling around in muddy water, so, make sure you are fully covered if you are planning on coming to volunteer in Nepal over the end of June so you can also join in!

Sightseeing fun at Mahendra Caves
Aside from a few stomach problems we have had a pretty good week.  We visited the site of the new home being built for children at the Asha Foundation.  Alice is loving her new placement and finding maths to be the Street Kids’ favourite subject.  Brogan has been having lots of fun with the staff and children at Ward 6, teaching them the traffic light game and animal noises.  Tara had a great final day’s teaching on Wednesday and Kari is all good to go.  We had a mini leaving party for Cian at the Street Kids’ with a good game of pass the parcel before the kids treated us to a ‘magic’ show – mainly involved them throwing crayons around and trying to convince us that they had disappeared!  There was then a lot of fun when they realised that filling balloons with water is much more fun than filling them with air and everything suddenly got very wet!  We had a final performance by the PoD band (thankfully without any Ronan Keeting tributes), did some sightseeing and kayaking and generally enjoyed our fantastic surroundings and wonderful placements.

Tips and advice for future volunteers
·         Sticky back plastic would be a very useful resource to bring with you.  We can’t get it here and end up laminating everything with sellotape.
·         We can’t find bubbles anywhere and they go down so well at placements.  We have some containers and can make the liquid, just need some wands.  If they can’t be bought then bring along a wire coathanger that we can bend into the right shape.
·         General craft materials are always useful, especially sequins, googley eyes, glitter pens etc. that we can’t get here.  Papers, glue, paints and basic art materials are all available in Pokhara.

If you are interested in joining our Team and contributing to the hard work we are doing here, visit our website for more information on how to apply.