Orphanages, Birthdays and The Country

This article was written 13 years ago in 2007 when I was just 22, so I ask you not to judge the writing too harshly! The text is as it was originally published.

At the orphanage in Nepaltaar.

Last night I discovered I had a cut on my head. That can be explained by walking into that low doorframe in Bhaktapur yesterday.

This morning we got up at 8am to catch the local bus to the orphanage outside of Kathmandu. The area is a lot more rural than where we are staying in the city (although more developed than some of the area around Nagakot).

First stop was Sam’s old host family. Their youngest, Krris, turned three today so we had picked up a cake en route and stashed it in the fridge before heading over to Jen’s host family for my first experience at true Nepalese home cooking.

Dahl Baht is eaten from a metal plate and using your right hand as a shovel and your thumb as a push-to-mouth. The dahl is a yellow curry mix, which you pour over the baht (the rice and a selection of curried vegetables and nuts). Despite struggling to each much the past few days, I managed the whole portion (just as well; leaving food is considered very disrespectful).

After breakfast we went to the orphanage, a short walk away. Most of the kids were at school, so Jen, Sam and myself went for a walk up into the hills for views of the villages and fields from above.

When we arrived back we met the kids up on the field ready for a short talent show organised by one of the other volunteers. There was singing, dancing, display of paintwork (one kid, Albin was particularly good and we are planning on taking him to visit the artist we met yesterday), acting and other entertainments before it descended into general playtime for the rest of the afternoon.

Dealing with 45 kids is a challenging job, and as their supplies are strictly limited and their expectations must not be raised for various reasons, we have to strict rules regarding handing out presents/sweets and what we can say to them – although they are more than willing to play, fight and take photos on your camera.

I could talk at length about these children who were all very curious, raucous, playful and funny, but I can hardly remember any of their names (they all look alike apart from their t-shirts) and the conditions they live in. Although good by Nepali standards, the state of the building is nowhere near what you might expect in a western children’s home, and health and safety is not even heard of. I plan on writing something a bit more comprehensive about this at a later date as it was a very cool experience.

We went back to Sam’s host family for an evening meal (this time with spoons and everything!), and being a birthday they had laid on a special selection of chicken, pickles and pilau rice (as opposed to the usual twice-a-day, mono-thematic dahl baht).

We danced for an hour in the living room to some of the latest Hindi dance tracks (twin girls, two older sisters, the hyperactive Krris, a older brother, another couple of visiting boys, Rob, Jen, Sam and myself made the whole place a little packed) before sharing out the cake (which had a strong taste of nail polish remover for some reason).

Sam had to make her goodbyes before we left to catch a taxi back to Themal. There was one final issue of taking out the huge cockroach crawling around the bathroom, but once that was sorted we went back to the art shop at 9pm to pick up the work that had been done overnight.

A busy day. Tomorrow we go rafting, then on Saturday, Tibet. I’m unsure what internet access will be like for the next 8 days.

This post was first published on Thu Apr 19 2007 originally on justbeyondthebridge.co.uk, my former personal blog

Andy Higgs
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My name is Andy Higgs and I am a business founder, design leader, occassional surfer and travel enthusiast based in the UK.

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