Sunday, 29 June 2014

Lamjung Durbar

Several hundred years ago Lamjung was one of the small kingdoms that have since been merged to make a unified country of Nepal.  The king of Lamjung had a small palace, the Durbar, perched on top of the hill overlooking Besisahar.  Dianne, a Dutch volunteer, was visiting for the weekend, so we went for a walk up to the palace on Saturday morning. 
Because it is the monsoon season we left early in the morning, to walk while it was still cool and also to avoid the heavy rain which we frequently have during the late afternoon.  This was a really good decision, as not only was it cool and dry, but it was also very quiet with almost no-one else on the path or at the palace when we got there.

The path took us steeply uphill, mostly up steps, but the vegetation surrounding the path was lush and green, due to the recent monsoon rainfall.  It was hard work climbing the stone steps – and we became very hot despite the relative cool of the morning. 

We passed some children from nearby houses, who had been picking flowers.  They walked with us for a short while and then presented me with a posy of their flowers, which we wore in our hair for the rest of the day.

Near the top, one of the houses in the surrounding hamlet had a beautiful garden full of flowers.  When the lady of the house saw me taking photos she invited us into her garden and was delighted to have photos of her and her family taken.

Her baby was fast asleep, snuggled into a tiny makeshift hammock slung between posts on her veranda. 


Eventually, after this detour, we reached the old palace.  In front of the main entrance is a stone paved courtyard surrounded by steps.  I thought initially this area was for water, but I was later informed that it is a small arena for dancing and music performances, with the steps as seating.

Nearby is a large bell, that had been decorated with flowers and red tikka powder, though I’m unsure of the purpose of the bell or why it was decorated.  The doors and windows of the Durbar were simply carved and all decorated similarly, with flowers and tikka.

Not large or palatial, the Durbar is obviously a well cared for and honoured place, and we spent a tranquil hour wandering the gardens, taking photos.  The hibiscus flowers were stunning, as were some large pink flowers growing in the grassy bank behind the building.

There were no views from the top, as we were up in the clouds, but as we made our way back down, the clouds parted to give us a great view of the town below.  I could even pick out my flat amongst the buildings. (It's the pale blue building left of the royal blue roof in the foreground of the photo.)

Pheri bheTaulaa

Wednesday, 4 June 2014

A coat of paint.


Would you like to spend all day working in a room where the walls are covered in ingrained dirt, old graffiti and torn and faded papers? Would you feel inspired to work harder?  What message does a working environment like this give to the workers who use it daily?

Sadly some classrooms in the government schools I work with in Nepal are like this, and yet we expect young students to come to school every day, want to be there and feel inspired about their education.  I feel desperately sad at the state of these classrooms.  When a group of young volunteers offered to paint some classrooms I was delighted.

Twelve ICS volunteers, young people between the ages of 18 and 25, of both British and Nepali nationality, wanted to help. They work and live in pairs, each Nepali volunteer with a British partner, and spend 3 months at their placement, working on community projects.  Everyone gains from this arrangement. The Nepali volunteer travels and lives in a totally different place to his or her home, and through practise speaking English to their partner, develops fluency and correct pronunciation. Their British counterpart travels, works and lives within a totally different country and culture.  Of course, the community where they work gains from their unpaid work too.

The volunteers arrived by bus and we immediately set off to walk to the school, about an hour away, carrying all paint and tools needed.  The day was a public holiday so there were no students at school, just some children playing, very curious to know what we were doing there.

Our first job, before painting could start, was to clean the walls and remove all the old paper stuck to them.  Within minutes of arriving everyone was busy with buckets of water, cloths and scrapers clearing the walls of the first classroom.  The ingrained dirt was almost impossible to remove, as were the faded and torn pictures stuck to the wall. This classroom had not seen a coat of paint for many years.

Once clean, one group of volunteers began painting this first room, whilst the rest continued with cleaning the walls of the next classroom.  A production line evolved: the painting team following the cleaning group, classroom by classroom. 

The walls were so filthy that the first coat of paint hardly covered the dirt, and so a second coat was applied to the walls when the first was dry. Eventually three coats of paint were needed to achieve a good clean result. 

Despite the heat of the day, these young volunteers worked incredibly hard, helped by one teacher and the caretaker from the school. After three hours of concentrated effort a halt was called; the paint we had brought with us was all gone!  

Two of the four classrooms were finished, and the other two were ready for another coat early next morning when we could return with more paint. By midday the next day all was complete and the extra paint finished.  The classrooms walls were clean and white and the rooms ready for use again. 

 Look at the before and after photographs of one of the classrooms.  

After painting!

What a fantastic difference! Thank you ICS volunteers for giving up your free time for this project.

In the morning the delight on the young students faces, at their transformed classrooms, was reward in itself for the hard work.  They stood and gazed at the walls with beaming smiles. There were claps and cheers of appreciation for the volunteer painters. 

What a worthwhile project this was.  In 6 hours, with 12 volunteers and at the cost of 6,000 rupees for paint (around £42), four classrooms have been transformed.  Now it is time for other schools in Nepal to follow this lead and improve their classroom environments!  

Pheri bheTaulaa