Friday, 19 July 2013

Second week: 14th anniversary, Durbar Square and Patan

Manasarovar Academy's 14th Birthday 
This week has been a very busy week for all of us: the teachers, the students and even the volunteers. The teachers have been preparing decoration for the school and they had little projects going, which meant that we had to take over more classes to let the teachers finish. We had 5 periods out of 7 and each day left me more exhausted than before. Respect for the teachers being able to cope with this 6 times a week! We had a "Week in London" theme where we taught the children about the royal family, the landmarks and how to get to and and around London. They wrote postcards to their friends and over the weekend, a letter to the Queen!
My contribution to the school decorations
Kids rehearsing the day before
I didn't know what to expect for the birthday. Miss Tsultrim told us about how children would come to school at 7.30 instead of 8.30 because they were so excited and I could see why! Boy, do these kids like to party!
Girls ready to honour the Dalai Lama('s photo)
Us, the volunteers, dressed in traditional Tibetan clothing
More colourful outfits!
Harriet, Victoria and I dressed up in the traditional Tibetan dress, the chuba, and when we arrived we were greeted with a round of applause! Parents acted like the paparazzi but the kids made us feel welcomes! It was 8am but more than half of the kids were already these in their fabulous party clothes. There were people in chubas, salwar kameez, "cool" western clothes and the odd spiderman outfit.
The day started out with the children paying respect to the Dalai Lama before breakfast. They had to lay down a special type of scarf, called the khada scarf, and bow down in front of a photo of him. The queue looked endless as it reached outside the school building.
The highlight of the day was the dance competition. Class 2 to 5 had a group each which prepared a dance to a bollywood tune. These kids would put you all to shame! They're all incredibly talented, they could be in a bollywood music video right now. It was a close call with the judges but class 5 won (even though I thought class 4 was the best) but the competition didn't end there. Some of them were brave enough to sing on their own (it was all spontaneous) and they all had a go singing Nepali, Tibetan, English and Hindi songs. Yes, there was also One Direction (I couldn't help singing along), Justin Bieber (I didn't sing along) and songs from Kuch Kuch Hota Hai.
Watching the performances 
Miss Tsultrim tried to continue the dance competition but it slowly spiralled into a school disco because... who can keep a hall with over 300 kids patient for more than 20 minutes, especially when you have bollywood music blasting away? In fact, I couldn't sit still and pulled a girl sitting down into the dance floor asking her to show me how to dance but that backfired as I got pushed into the middle and everyone circled around me jumping up and down. What else could I do but jump up and down too?!
When it comes to having a Disco, Manasarvor Academy takes it to the extreme. I was trapped in the middle and with kids aiming to get a chance to dance with me, I witnessed way too many kids getting elbowed, pushed and knocked down. I tried to rescue some students, make a little clearing so they could do find a teacher to get checked out but these kids didn't want to stop. As long as I got them out of the circle of danger, they could U turn back into it! These kids are definitely not weak hearted. I had a lot of boys who wanted to twirl me around, and with me being twice their height, you can imagine how tricky that was. There was one kid, one of my favourite students, who wanted to hip bump me every 2 minutes. The kids loved the novelty of it the first time they saw it hence why! I tried to twirl a few people, there were a couple of ballroom dancing (including a kid in a suit!) but the funniest ones were the guys who wanted to sweep me off my feet (someone getting jealous, eh eh?).
12th July has probably been my favourite day of this placement. I got to see how talented some of these kids are but also it was a chance to chat to some of them personally. I found out one of my students have parents/family all the way in India! We bonded over our love for bollywood movie and I found out that Salman Khan is a VERY popular actor here (Some of the kids looked like they really wanted me to like him too... but I didn't want to lie). I also found out how popular our housemate Tenzin is with the students (and how well he could sing). I'm so lucky had a chance to see how the students love to celebrate their school's birthday!

Durbar Square
Located in the centre of Kathmandu is the preserved ruins of the temples and palaces that are still used for its original purposes or museums. Durbar means 'palace' and it was where the kings (of Kathmandu and then Nepal once Kathmandu Valley was unified) were crowned. The architecture shows a stronger Chinese influence with its three storey buildings that have the curved wooden roofs but most of the temples were dedicated to Hindu gods and goddesses.
We ran into a minor problem getting tickets to the square. We were expecting to pay 300 rupees but the woman demanded we pay 750... Quite the price jump. She insisted they've had this price for years and the lonely planet guide was out of date (uh, no... It was published last year). Luckily the book did point out they were thinking of joining the price of the museum and entry ticket so we were happy to pay the higher price but we didn't like her tone. I cheekily took advantage that I was from Bangladesh so I only had to pay 150 (:
I'm not sure how their ticketing system works. The have a price for foreigners and another price for people from SAARC countries, which Bangladesh happens to be a part of. I only started saying I'm from BD to get the cheaper ticket because it makes a difference in places like the Durbar Squares. The counter never asked if I live/study/work  in Bangladesh or if I was born there, just looking Bangladeshi happened to be enough. Does anyone know how the SAARC ticketing works?

We spent most of our time exploring the temples and the Palaces (turned into a museum) but I'm not sure what the highlight of the trip was. We had a chance to see a Kumari devi ("living goddess"). The goddesses are usually between the age of 4 and when puberty hits (she becomes "mortal" when she has her first period) and the choosing of the new kumari is similar to choosing the new Dalai Lama. She has to recognize the possessions of her previous "incarnation" but she must also have the right horoscope, specific physical appearance and she must be brave. What were we expecting when we waited for the goddess? Not a lot. I can tell you though she was about 15 minutes late! She sat down, looked around for a few minutes and got up to leave. No smile, so words were spoken. If anything, she looked like a moody kid forced to meet strangers. The Lonely Planet mentioned it is bad luck to marry an ex Kumari but the bigger problem is being married to a spoilt ex goddess!
Fun fact: The previous kumari went on strike because her guardians were refused a salary increase.


Pagan has an interesting history. It's said that when Ashoka converted to Buddhism, he built four stupas (north, east, south and west) which now define Patan. Maybe this information interested me because Shah Rukh Khan played the great Ashoka in 2001 but he was a great Emperor that helped spread Buddhism especially in India, Nepal and Sri Lanka. However for tourists, the attraction lies in Patan's zoo, Durbar Square and the fair trade shopping.
I met this cutie-pie and her sister (I assume) just outside of the museum. I took a photo of her because I was taken away by how beautiful and big her eyes are!
Patan use to be a separate Kingdom, hence why it has its own Palace, until King Shah from Gorkha started to merge the kingdoms of Kathmandu Valley. Patan's Darbur square is smaller, more compact than Kathmandu's and hence maybe not as impressive if you visit it after the central one. You can go go from one side to another in minutes and after visiting the other. I do have to say it is a very interesting and informative museum about the history and development of Nepal's two main religions: Hinduism and Buddhism. Harriet and I were saying just minutes before how we wish we could understand the symbolisms in the religious art. Patan museum was the answer.

At this stage, I'm already halfway through my placement!

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