It is impossible in Nepal to do anything without a “program”. It is also impossible to get through a single week without a holiday for one of the very many festivals (yesterday it was a celebration of Sarawati – Goddess of Education – naturally this meant a school was closed).
Today it is the “Kalimati Kindergarten Opening Program”. The whole village has turned up, the District School Inspector has arrived. We patiently wait another two hours for Ram to arrive. Everyone is introduced with their formal titles for this particular program – chief guest (Ram), special guest (the school inspector) and honoured guest (me). The national anthem is sung, candles lit, followed by singing, dancing and processions.
Next they start to “decorate” me in a process I have come to call “death by chrysanthemum” – the weight of the garlands and scarves make it difficult to breathe or see. My face and hair is daubed with red powder.
The end result…
We have a lot of speeches… from the chairman of the School Management Committee, the headmaster, from Shiva and Ram, the district school inspector, from the head of the Mother’s Group. I did not get away scot free from speech making with Deepak translating into Nepali for me.
Speeches complete we are ready for a unveiling (they have surprised me with my name, citizenship and passport number chisseled into a stone plaque) and finally a ribbon cutting…
Then everyone else squeezes in and chaos ensues. The new kindergarten is packed anyone who cannot squeeze in crowds at the windows. The tiny tots start to get overwhelmed with all the noise and excitement and tears start running. Eventually I have to ask Ram to try an calm everyone down a bit before we suffer an accidental trampling.
Gita, below, exhausted but happy, puts mattresses and cushions to the test. The carpet a whole lot better than the concrete they normally have to sit on.
Classes 4 & 5 find themselves some space and review the new library books. These guys soak up any books you give them. Previously at Uri I was frustrated to find that the very few books are locked away, but the teachers have promised to keep these accessible for the kids to pick up any time they want.
The teachers look at some of the games bought for the older children (including chess, mastermind, map games, checkers and backgammon). Devi Lal is a demon chess player from his time spent in Malaysia and promises to teach everyone else.
Bishnu, the kindergarten teacher gives us a thumbs up – she now has a lot more resources to teach with. I’m really happy with the size of the windows and skylights letting in plenty of light – the old classroom have tiny windows and are pretty dark, it had taken some insistence on my part for bigger windows and skylights. The more usual small windows found on buildings, are all about saving on cost, stone being free off the mountain side and the enforced steel bars, frames and actual window panes a luxury.
So that, I can say is “job done.” An unexpected project for my time in Nepal.
At the end of the day it is back up to Reshem’s place where I have been staying for the last couple of months. Then one last goodbye to the villagers as I take the jeep down the following morning to Pokhara and then onto Kathmandhu and my flight home.
I came to Nepal to find some headspace in the mountains and time away from the deskbound mundane 9-5 and found Kalimati, awesome wonderfully warm people, so many laughs, cultural confusion and good times. I will be back.