I have been struggling to find the inspiration to write, even while there is so much here to write about. I don’t know whether it is the cold; it is cold all of the time. When the sun comes a few rays are good, but the air is thin up here and the slightest breeze chills. Maybe it’s just that I am so tired every day, living in a different language, climbing the steep hill to Kot Danda each day after school, legs heavy and then up into the cloud and cold. The nights are dark and electricity limited. Internet connectivity is iffy at the best of times, seeming to depend on how much cloud cover there is (for those wondering it is a USB key over the mobile network that keeps me connected).

Inspiration to write about the school equally difficult. The kids are great; very eager to learn. However there is so much to do and anything done is just a drop in the ocean to what is needed, it can be depressing. The teachers try their best, but have limited resources and limited experience. With a couple years of teacher training, then they are on their own in class, no fresh input or discussion with colleagues; just the same battered text books repeating the same lessons over and over again. By limited resources for the teachers, read one black marker pen and white board. Class rooms are bare, empty walls, draughty with shuttered windows, no glass to keep the wind out. Stone floors and simple benches for the kids to sit at, bundled up in layers of clothes, woollen hats if their parents can afford them.

The villagers are welcoming and always inviting me into their houses for chai and food. Again difficult, sitting on earthen floors (trying hard not to break the smooth mud with my boots), in all homes cooking is done over an open fire usually dug into a shallow pit in the main room, the smoke from the fire makes it difficult to breathe and I often have to make a gasping break for the door with apologies and eyes streaming. The roofs and walls are blackened from years of smoke, although apparently this is good for the roof beams as the smoke makes them stronger.

Life is hard here, cold water washing, wind blowing through the cracks in the walls, limited food (most home grown) and anything from outside the community must be carried in over miles of steep winding paths climbing ever higher. The people are poor, but not impoverished. Life is very basic but they seem happy, even while knowing city lives are easier. Money is very limited and a lot of barter and exchange of goods takes place.

The physical beauty of the place is dramatic. Uri sits on the spur of a mountain, looking across the Annapurna range. Below are terraces falling away into the deep river valley and Ghandruk below. The water is crystal clear and the air does not come fresher and less polluted anywhere.

It is a great place to be but it is coooooooooooooold!