2 May: Closing Ceremony: Ghara to Pokhara, Nepal

2 May, last day

I woke up at 8am thinking it was later. I didn’t have a good sleep on account of a dog that barks non-stop. I am a light sleeper so I stayed awake until the wee hours. I am trying to knock over this cold so when I don’t sleep my health can suffer. Anyway, it is what it is and I have to just take each day as it comes.

I went down stairs and saw Gordon, Pat and Peter, gave them a wave on the way to the toilet. I came back and ordered breakfast, a nice porridge and lemon tea. I decided I was well enough to go clowning. I discussed this with Gordon and Pat and it was suggested I go up and get Kumari and see if she still wants to clown. I mentally decide to clown anyway as I want to give this to the children. There are Dalit children here and I do want to give them something special to remember.

I went up to see Kumari and she told me she had to do timekeeping. I reminded her that this will probably be the only time she will meet a clown, this is the moment if she wants to be a clown then decide now. She had asked Kailash but apparently they had no time to spare. I was disappointed for her as it is a special experience.  I won’t be coming back.

Nonetheless I got my clown gear on and talked with Gordon. He will photograph me to record the experience. I was aware that he and Pat had been up to the Dalit (untouchable community) and given out things. They warned me about being mobbed. I wasn’t so much concerned about that, my gut feeling was to go to a school, I can reach more children. There is a private school down the hill so I thought let’s go that way.

I came out in clown gear and immediately thought I’ll see biny (my Nepali sister) and show her. I got a picture with her and her husband. They were gorgeous. There are the usual children hanging around waiting for us, I adore them and feel a special bond. They followed me to the school. The little girl who carries a baby (she is around 8) is Dalit and she and I have a bond. She followed along with a little boy I had done popping noises with. They understood I am a clown and they were not trying to get things off me. I try not to give out stuff as it distracts them from play, as they seek to get rather than interact and have fun to enjoy a new experience. My clowning is about sharing love, creating connection and being a presence to connect with people. It is also about transgressing rules but in a gentle way to remind people we are human and life is free. We get so caught up in schedules and routines and the right way to do things that we forget about the simplicity of just playing and being human and allowing events to unfold without control. My work is about reminding people of who we really are. We are not our role, our position, our status, our gender, we are simply people having a human experience and we are all in this together. No person is greater or lesser than anyone else. We all have a right to be here and express ourselves in our own way. I try to demonstrate that and I seldom critique anyone, I like people to be themselves but not in a way that suppresses another or controls them. I like to see people shine. That is my truest desire. Just be yourself. As a clown I can show this. I am not the most technically correct clown, or magician, I am just clowning around for fun and I love my own imperfections and living in the moment with strangers who I feel love for. That is my experience.

Anyway, Gordon and I went to the school down below. I had met the teachers the day before with Krishna and Kailash. So I knew where it was. I forgot it was a private school. Anyway we turned up and I am hard to miss. The teachers graciously allowed me to join their line ups where they exercise. The exercising is formal and somewhat regimented. I found it interesting to watch. The children are very obedient and they follow instructions. So the silly clown stood at the back and emulated what they were doing, part example partly playing. Not too much as it may undermine the authority of the teachers. I have a balancing act there.

The children were sweet they kept looking back to see what I would do. I expressed through my face. There was an exercise where the children had to say 1,2,3,4 one after the other until all children had said the next number. It came to my turn and I said 81 (80 kids before me) with gusto. Then the next child said a number and so on. I had my feather duster in my bag, and like a naughty school kid just dusted the girl in front of me and pretended I didn’t. The kids smiled. I like the child antics that kids get up to and it is nice to break out of conformity some times. Kids will try unless they are in a very authoritarian school. There is some debate about discipline and authority versus more cooperative, consensus styles of teaching. I see that focus has to happen if you want to learn something but I don’t believe we have to be robots. I feel to learn to work with the group cooperatively but for teachers not to assert power over children but to model democracy and values. That for me will be the schools of the future. They will be collaborative places where children enjoy learning and expanding their emotional and intellectual intelligence. They will not be competitive places but spirals of understanding and exploration. The very important life skills and values based education will be central and creativity will be seen as intelligence rather than recreation. You only have to look at Sir Ken Robinson’s speeches on Ted innovative ideas (schools kill creativity) on YouTube (see http://www.ted.com/talks/ken_robinson_says_schools_kill_creativity) to get the idea of the importance of creativity versus boxing people into conformity. So for me clowning is a small way of helping people to connect to creativity, play and love.  Children get that very easily.

After the formalities of excising the body and mind I was invited to play. I just got up and pulled out my love glasses, I never can remember the exact order. The idea is to communicate the importance of seeing through love. I tried to put the glasses on a teacher and he pulled back, I could see his credibility was the issue. I did this to an official in a leprosy community in India who immediately took off the wig as she was upholding an image. I like to do this as it breaks down the role. They may see it as being seen as silly, but it is not; it is stepping out of a role. The teacher did allow a few seconds and the children laughed, not at him, but with him. They loved to see him play, I don’t think he realised that. I brought out bubbles and the children enjoyed that. I then did some funny walks and hugged kids in the audience. One little boy I recognised as biny’s son and made a special moment for him. I pulled out the juggling balls which I know they will like and started juggling. The kids enjoyed that. Refer YouTube https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0iXPWJA76oQ  I did a few other things and then pulled out a balloon and let it go. The kids enjoy seeing it fly. It is a moment in time that I am creating to bring them joy, it is not about me, it is about them. It is for them I work and that is what brings me joy. I want to see children and adults happy and lightening up so we can all enjoy this short life.

The head teacher indicated they were tired, but I sensed he was ready for it to finish. I was happy to oblige and I tied the balloon up. I didn’t think that kids would move out of their structured lines to grab it and knew that was too much for the teachers. It is all about keeping order and control. I so look forward to the old methods of teaching to go. They have to in the West as the kids don’t do as their told anymore. However, that is another issue which is more to do with children not getting training, security, boundaries from parents. They are exposed to American television which does teach disrespect and answering back. So problems are there. The challenge is to find the happy medium where all can work together as a team yet express their own creativity. That is the challenge for education I feel.

Anyway, I headed back up the hill with a trail of children. Peter had been filming above so it seems it was captured. The children were really good and we played with puppets, feather duster, balloons, bubbles, juggling balls as we walked. I really loved seeing the parents faces light up and gave them hugs. They were open to receiving and I felt the warmth radiated back to me. That is why I love clowning, it is the real world I see and it is the future. We all will one day be able to live in communities where negativity is a thing of the past. We will celebrate the moment and we will value the authenticity and integrity of others, we will see them as equal to ourselves and be available to be of service. This is the world where values are the top priority in education and peace is a way of life. You can see in Nepali people a patience and harmony that they naturally resonate with. A mother can have a crying baby and the other’s won’t complain. They will be in groups and consult each other, there is a natural tendency to get along. In my view my own culture tends to be independent, charging ahead and if something is not liked it is mentioned or negative undercurrents can be felt. On the positive side in my culture you can get an idea of where you stand but I wonder how much needs to be said. I sense it is a balancing act. Sometimes letting go is a good idea, sometimes humour, other times conflict resolution, it just depends on the situation. At the end of the day it is learning to share power, and that is the big one, can we give up a little of what we want to serve someone else. I think we can.

We are all learning for sure and all is unfolding as life does. So for me, I enjoy the contrasts and at the end of the day I am responsible for my own happiness, no-one can give it or take it from me, so no-one to blame there.

I ended up back at Regina Guesthouse having met so many kids and had one marriage proposal by a cheeky teenager with sparkle in his eye. I had to laugh he said ‘kiss’ and pointed to his cheek so I did and then he pointed to his lips. I laughed and said naughty. I must be a marriage magnet here, I have to laugh at that too. Perhaps I am a novelty.

We get back and I decide to give a bit more up at the teacher’s space. I go and dance with some of the teachers. I really pulled the last of my energy but did it for them as I want to give them something memorable. It is their last day and they worked hard for 10 days in teacher training. They are a happy bunch playing the drum and singing. I just danced along. My clown friend teacher loves dancing and I hear he is very funny. So I danced with him, thought twice about making his heartbeat, no broken hearts from me. We just danced and I played. Gordon came in, bless his heart and added to the celebration. He is quick to join in and be part of things; I really love that about him. He is a great guy. So I eased my way out as I was exhausted and went to change.

I got out of my clown gear I was pretty hungry. Chatted with Pat and Gordon again and then made sure all my gear was down from the room. Burned off paper to clean up and be ready to go when we go. I never know for sure what is going to happen when so I have to just go with the flow.

We were called to go up to the ceremony by Peter. Pat and I sat there stomach’s rumbling. We noticed it was taking a while to set up. So we decided it may take 20 mins more so we went down to get food. Unfortunately biny hadn’t finished cooking, she started but by the time she finished Peter was back down asking us to come up. So meant to be, off we go, to the celebration. It was speeches, the threat of rain. The teaching materials were organised but when the rain started the women immediately packed it up, they are very practical. I noticed Gordon jump in and put cardboard square over the paper to keep it dry. Good move. Many hands make light work; it was done in no time.

Others gave speeches, I didn’t know what they were saying until Peter spoke. I could see the emotion in his face as this is very special for him. I really loved to see his passion and commitment. He gave a kind speech and encouraged the continuance of this work. Kailash and Krishna for me were the real stars; I know how hard they worked and could see the tiredness on their faces. I really admire their dedication and appreciate what they do. Peter has good staff and both have great potential. Both are excellent teachers and intelligent men. So I watched them taking responsibility and making decisions along the way.

Then we had the ceremony where we became the stars. I didn’t feel I was the star, I felt really it was the teachers and staff. However, that appears to be the custom, and we received multiple garlands and the red marking on our foreheads. We received a wonderful cotton sash and I noticed Krishna looked priestly in his white sash and flowers. From an aesthetic perspective it was impressive and the dignitaries received praise. I was surprised that the teachers gave us flowers. I felt it should be the other way around. I gave hugs as I was celebrating them. I feel Pat was doing the same. She is a wonderful woman, she always calling things ‘beautiful’ and is quick to compliment others. She is a star in her own right, humble, yet clear and capable. She has been a teacher to me on this trip and I respect her. She is no girly girl. Thank goodness.  We sat down and I think there were some more speeches. There was dancing and singing as well. See the YouTube https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OnLWGXrz_CE   The event was formally closed and we all went down for lunch. Hungry but very happy.

Our vehicle which was due at 12.30pm came around 4.30pm, such is Nepali time. Some other people were in the vehicle. I think Krishna had told them it was ordered. They got out. I watched them walk down the road, I felt a bit sorry for them. But we did have to get to Pokhara, apparently Peter has a meeting the next morning at 8am with Rotary. So the plan was to travel all the way. I was up for it and the others were too.

So off we went in the four wheel drive. Eight people piled in. I was pushed up against the window, Kailash next to me, Krishna sitting on top then Gordon and Dunbar. Peter and Pat were in the front. It was a tight fit. I eventually sat on Krishna’s knee oscillating between he and Kailash. I kept hitting my head on the ceiling and ended up tucking my head into Kailash’s neck. I was so tired, I would have loved to have slept. I felt well looked after by these lovely men, Krishna was like a seat belt holding tight on to my waste so I don’t create a sun roof. The roads are full on rocky and it is like riding a bucking bronco. You have no idea how rough it is.

At one point we did get bogged and the guys got out to push. I had thongs on so they would be stuck in the mud in seconds, so I stayed in the car. It was interesting to see little boys ordering the driver around. I felt the far left hand side was the way to go. I did a little prayer to open a path to a smooth drive through. I trust we live in a magical universe. Krishna was worried he lost his purse, that could be a real problem in the dark and with the tyres spinning. Thankfully he found it in the car – phew, I am sure he had a lot of cash in it.

He said later that he had seen a leopard on the road before a dead dog. I remembered the dog but didn’t see the leopard; I was deep in conversation with Gordon. Never mind I would have loved to, but nice to know they are wild.

We passed through Beni and we drove through other villages, I noted a big temple in one place, it was getting dark so couldn’t see too much particularly given my head at times is at roof level. We got onto smoother roads and clocked 70km per hour, land speed record. We pretty much on average were driving at 30km given the condition of the roads. I recall Gordon speaking about getting them a grader and Peter piping in saying it would cost $100,000 so no easy task, but not impossible. They are tough rocks there, it is a wild country. I love it.

The trip past wild rivers, overlooking canyons, towered over by tall mountains, little sights of homes, vehicles, people doing their thing was absorbed on many levels as I realised I would not be returning to Nepal. It is just a gut feeling. I have deeply appreciated the journey and given more reflection to peace education. I never know where life is taking me and do feel myself along for the ride. My desire is through my own experience I can open people’s eyes to the great diversity in which we live both culturally and naturally. That we are each other’s keepers and it is a two way street, not one giving to the poor but learning equally from other people from their sources of richness that we don’t have. I definitely see and feel equality with others and I am here to learn about them and myself. I am here to see what is possible, how can we create a peaceful world. Can I get along? Can I collaborate? Give without receiving? Can I accept diversity? Can I be the change I wish to see in the world? It is a life time’s work but I am at least trying my best and am conscious of where I have to go and who I must become.

We got into Pokhara around 11.00pm and went for dinner. It was dark and all the shops and restaurants appeared closed. Thankfully we found one place. I was asking silently for one place as I needed to eat. Thank goodness it was there like a beacon for my stomach. We had some food. Kailash’s eyes were just open he and the boys were up since 5am I think, they would have been exhausted. His eyes were shining and he managed to sing some wonderful Bryan Adams in the car, which I joyfully joined in. He is my favourite artist as well, a romantic no less. Ah for romantics, we need this in the world, to see the beauty and feel the heart sing. So beautiful!

We ate and went to bed. The Nepali boys were due to get up early the next morning and go to Kathmandu. I just marvel at their energy. I feel they need a break but they are not stopping. Hopefully they rest soon. They so richly deserve it.

We stayed at our hotel the Pun Hill Guest House. I had my room which feels like a palace after Ghara. I even have an en-suite. Heaven doesn’t get better than that.

We have internet which feels like connecting with the modern world again. Yet I love the mystery of the adventure and I particularly love, not knowing. Life is meant to be a mystery and we don’t have the answers, but we can love each other. Surely that is the most intelligent decision for humanity. The challenge is to help them to face fear, focus on what they want and go for it.

Wouldn’t it be amazing if a silly clown could inspire that change, perhaps we can laugh at ourselves and see that life is meant to be as it is, that it has always been our judgments, our beliefs that have shaped the world so. What if we dropped all negativity and became like a clown, and just saw the beauty of life. For it is always around us, in every moment. When we awaken we will see it as the real world, I sense. I have been lucky enough to see that world and it is always within me.

Sending peace and love.

 

Mohandas Gandhi

“You must be the change you wish to see in the world.”

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