9 May: Clowning and Anti-Bullying Education, Kathmandu, Nepal

9 May

We were up around 8am this morning.  The plan was to visit two schools in Kathmandu and do some clowning and anti-bullying education.  I convinced Gordon to become Gord-Ouch, another clown.  It is his first time but he bravely agreed to be clown number two.  I wanted him to go for it as he is always joking and has the spirit of a clown.  He loves entertaining people.  So I knew it would be great for him to have a go.  His family will really love it.

We caught the taxi to the office.  Poor Peter got a little disoriented, which is not hard for Kathmandu.  He did end up getting a sense of where he was going and then we noticed familiar territory.  We got to the office and I immediately changed into my clown suit.  Gordon came in and I did some make up for him.  He put on my Indian clown suit.  It is a man sized suit.  Everyone made comments when they saw him. 

We then had to get going as the school was further away.  I thought it was half an hour but it ended up being about an hour.  Kailash guided us to the bus.  We all got on.  Of course Gord-ouch and me (Peacefull) caught the attention of locals.  I Wel-Comed people onto the bus.  I let them get used to me.  We were all like sardines in a sardine can.  However, I was able to get out my feather duster and dust people down. I wished them a great day as they got off and with a ‘Namaste’ they left with a smile. I blew a few bubbles as well.  I worked my way to the back. Kailash wanted me to sit down but I was enjoying the ride of the bus and meeting the people.  They are lovely people full of smiles and probably curious about these clowns.

I played with people on the bus with puppets and hung out the window with my feather duster.  I dusted a person walking past.  I had my love glasses on and blew kisses; I had my large scissors offering haircuts.  People just laughed at the goofy looking clown.  A few young guys sat at the back.  I sat on knees and made some noise.  Gordon was fun. I met a lovely girl who was a psychology student and learned about the problems in Nepal, many worry about poverty.  Not surprising given 25% of GDP is generated by young men working overseas.  It is not easy in a changing world.  I suggested to her positive psychology.  I then spoke to another young man who was all smiles about clowns.  He put on the love glasses for fun.  Another girl sat with us and I realised she was a clown and really got into the fun of it.  I think people really liked to see other people smiling it shows them how wonderful their own people are.   We were well received and a novelty.

We arrived at our destination and Krishna and Kailash organised us to get off the bus.  We walked up to a school and waited around security.  Soon after, Kailash’s partner Selma arrived.  She led us to the school.

Children were hanging out the windows and full of smiles to see us.  They knew we were clowns.  I played with the kids whilst we were waiting and played scary monsters, very popular with kids all over the world.  They loved to be chased.  We were then asked to do 15 minutes with the kindergarten children.  I quickly thought of things I could do.  At first I was going to get them to be clowns and jump in the middle, but given time was short I thought maybe just clown around.  So I just made it up.  I dusted the kids first.  I then had my squawking chicken.  I shook hands with the kids as well, playing.  I then brought a little boy out of the group and put a red nose on him.  He and I did some gestures of juggling and then bottom wagging.  He was a funny kid.  I think I did a little dance with him and twirled him around.  He was a great kid.  I then did some juggling of the rings.  The kids seemed to love it.  I then realised we had to go as time was running out.

Selma guided us upstairs to a class with kids that seemed grade 4-5.   I introduced us to the kids saying ‘I am Peacefull a World Peace Clown and Gord-ouch. Why do we call him Gord-ouch?’  Then Gordon made out he was clumsy always hurting himself and saying ‘ouch’.  I told the kids that clowns love to be happy and they make others happy.  I clowned around with them hugging them and playing.  Then I said what makes people unhappy.  One child said ‘fighting.’  Another said ‘teasing’. I praised them for being so quick.  I asked them if they knew the word ‘bullying’.  They said yes.  I said we will do a role play.  I said there are 3 ideas that kids can use to not be bullied.

So I arranged for Kailash and Gord-ouch to pick on me as I walked passed.  These were the 3 approaches I used:

1) Ignore them but don’t look scared;

2) Engage the bully and find something in common (make friends);

3) Have a friend come with you and just keep talking.

I asked the children to tell me what happened in each case.  Did they notice the body language?  how did they think the bully felt when ignored.  What about when I made friends how did that change the outcome? Then we discussed friends and the importance of the class helping if they see someone bullied, that no child should be left alone.  The kids were very engaged and well behaved and excited.  

I then told them that we would show them how clowns have fun. Gord-ouch sang his song about a fly pooping on a shopkeeper, very funny the way he sings it.  I then showed them my props, I did some juggling, haircuts and tried to hit the fan (but not really).  I played with my chicken and had my rubber eggs come out of its bottom and bounce.  The children found that fun.  I then finished it and Gord-ouch and I said our goodbyes.  

Selma said we didn’t have much time so we were rushed to the next class.  One of the head teachers was with us observing.  We went to the older kids around Grade 6-7.  I jumped on a desk and made out I was mountain climbing.  The children laughed.  I then introduced Gord-ouch and he sang a song.  I explained we were World Peace Clowns and showed some of my props to explain happiness.  Then again, we went through the process of roleplaying bullying.  The older kids found it harder to answer what makes children sad at school.  One said homework.  I had to smile, something’s never change.  We then went through the role play and asked the kids what they observed.  We then did another role play that didn’t work that well.  The idea was that Kailash was to pick on Gord-ouch but the reversed happened and Gord-ouch couldn’t help but make peace.  I had to smile.  I then became the aggressor (peace clown) and Gord-ouch the mediator.  He didn’t know mediation, so I tried to prompt him to ask me my side of the story and then Kailash.  He didn’t really do it properly so it was understandable.  What I did was ask the children what happened.  I then explained that Gord-ash had asked me the problem then Kailash and then we were to solve it.  The idea is that I ask for what I need – in my case it was that I was picked on and told that I was not funny and Kailash was to apologise.  I tried to explain that once we’d talked about it Kailash realised he had hurt me and apologised.  So a mediator can get involved.  Obviously it was not a professional mediation but I think the kids got the point.

What is interesting is that the city kids are experiencing bullying but I am told the country kids do not.  I did see an adult in Ghara throw stones at Dalit (untouchable) children; caste appears to be a form of territory and creates grounds for bullying.  So I am not sure if they don’t know what it is in the country and accept caste lines or that they simply don’t bully each other.  However, in the schools it is increasing.

After this class we left with applause and lots of smiles.  We went down the stairs met lots of kids waving and smiling.  It is like being a superstar; it is surreal but very joyful as the happiness is the reflection on all faces.  That is why I love being a clown, I love to see people smiling and interacting.  

Selma then took as to the cafeteria, I knew it may be full on given we are clowns.  However, they sat us down and gave us pastry vegetarian puffs with sauce.  We were given Coke to drink.  Interesting to note it is available in schools.   In Australia there are more moves to make cafeteria food healthier for kids as they can buy junk food which has no nutritional value for growing children.  We sat there and there was great excitement from the children. They surrounded us with eager smiles.  Some kids sitting behind me poked me in the back to get attention.  I then poked them and pointed to Gordon.  They did the same and pointed to friends.  I so notice with the children they are so bright and learn fast.  They were quick to play and for me the child in me is not far away.  They were saying hello and waving.  A poor teacher was trying to get control as all the kids wanted to see the clowns.  She tried to get them to sit down.  I just laughed.  We took pictures of them and thoroughly enjoyed being with them.   As we left we waved and said goodbye to many children.  It was such a joy.  

We then caught another bus.  I felt somewhat subdued by this point.  I needed to rest.  Gordon and I still interacted with the people on the bus (there is no down time as a clown).  Some sat with us and were curious.  We smiled, laughed and played with the props.  We met older women, younger men and waved to others standing with big smiles.  Our presence brought curiosity and joy to others, and that is always joyful to me.  An older woman sat with me and was very happy with what we were doing.  She was most loving.  Then a younger man sat with me.  He was trying to get a visa to go to the United States to study business.  He tried to get to Australia but was knocked back. He told me 6,000 of his friends (a lot of friends) not sure if he got the numbers right there, had left the country.  Many he said went to Australia.  Oh how our world is shrinking, all eager to get careers in business.  I told him my path and that I was trained as an Economist and Market Analyst and now I am a peace clown.  It is of course a huge jump from academic and status orientations but it is for happiness I chose this path.  It doesn’t pay, but I find my pay is the smiles of people.  I really don’t care much for the money.  I do it for love, joy and peace really.  He enjoyed chatting and practicing English.  He told me he was off to the US Embassy to try his luck on Monday.  I told him I am flying back to Melbourne.  It was a nice conversation.

I watched the little girl in front of us cry easily.  She got frightened looking at us or if we sought to interact, she cried.  Kailash played with my jester puppet and she seemed to enjoy punching it.  I sense she is a child that needs to feel power.  She cried when she felt powerless, not understanding what was happening or not in control, she was happier when she could punch the puppet.  Yet from beneath her tears was curiosity.  Her mother dried her eyes and was very kind allowing us to interact.  In the end she was very happy and waved goodbye.  I did the usual there and dusted people and played with the puppets.  

We got off the bus and ended up walking 15 minutes.  I noticed the group got up ahead.  Instead I just walked at my pace and juggled.  I interacted with people along the way.  The road we walked along was very dusty and much traffic.  I observed the surprised smiles and curiosity of clowns.  They saw Gordon first and then me juggling.  So we would have attracted attention.  It was hot and dusty but I just went with the flow.  My cold is improving and I am finding I have energy, which is great for this day as it was long and required a lot of energy. 

We arrived at a Montessori school.  We met an old friend of Peter’s.  His wife ran the Montessori school.  Like Steiner Montessori is very much into child development and helping them find their talents.  They are not forced to conform but do a lot of activities to develop creativity, curiosity and independence.  I was happy to be at the school.  We were invited to sit upstairs for a cold drink and fruit. Apparently Peter’s friend had travelled to Australia (Sydney).  He had been a guide of Peter’s years ago.   He told us of a crazy Australian he had to save by calling crazy (he probably was).  He had a hot temper and just dominated.  He sounded a difficult man.  Peter indicated he said hello to this bloke, he had met him and had a meeting.  Apparently he just walked on without saying a word.  Peter’s friend said he does this, he has tunnel vision. He had a long association with Nepal.  You wonder how people get on in life when they are difficult characters, or appear so.  

After our discussion we were asked to just make an appearance in the two classrooms of kindergarten kids.  I ran in juggling and then started coughing and had to leave quickly.  I was offered water but felt I could go on.  It was a short attack thank goodness.  Gordon took over (thank goodness he was there).  I then recovered for the second room and I just started a peace train kicking my legs in fun ways.  The kids loved it.  My cough settled and I was fine.

We were taken downstairs and interacted with teachers and children alike.  We were taken to a make-shift stage out the back.  I started the ball rolling introducing ourselves.  The Principal indicated to me I should tell the kids I am a clown teacher.  After Gordon did his little fly song I told them.  I don’t think they knew what I meant.  I just kept going.  I did my usual with the scary gestures and haircuts.  I had one child cut my hair to prove it is not scary.  So funny, the kids are joking as well.  I brought out my balls and got down low with some children and when I dropped them I then held the ball between my feet so the child who was trying to help would have to try and get it.  It was part of the game I was playing. I juggled rings as well and Gordon did some nice work with the puppet.  It was all fine as we improvised.  

We said goodbye to the kids.  Usually you try and make an exit but the others didn’t leave so I ended up saying bye a few times.  I decided to just play on the swing that was fun.  There was concern by Gordon that I may break the plastic seat, I didn’t, it was all good.  I then pushed some girls and then tickled them.  I used by feather duster to dust them as they swung up.  Then I notice Gordon on the balancing pole.  I decided to have a go and push him off.  It was fun actually.  There were some tyres had a bounce there.  The kids were sitting down for afternoon tea.  They waved and smiled.  

We then were leaving and they all said goodbye.  We had such a lovely time. We said goodbye to the teachers and the odd child that ran up.  We exited the site and then saw other children. We interacted with them and other adults as we saw them.  Saw some chickens rolling in the dirt and nesting.  We saw them with chicks earlier.  You never know what you’ll see in Nepal.

We walked on and then caught two taxi’s back to the office.  I was happy for that as I was getting tired.  Six hours of clowning full on without much of a break mentally.  I had the energy so it went well and was enjoyable.  We got back to the office, I picked up my backpack, Gordon took off his clown suit.  

We headed back to the hotel and we had to have a quick shower (30 minutes) and then the next meeting with the Board.  So I washed clothes and moved quickly to be on time.  I got down there and thought maybe they had gone.  I had a Lasse waiting and then saw Pat.  I realised I was the first down.  The plan had changed and it seemed we waited for another hour reading the paper and waiting for a call from Krishna. I could have had a rest but that was not to be.  I patiently waited and then we finally went.  We heard a band out front of the hotel.  Pat and I at the same time felt to go out there.  We all decided to leave and got there and no band.  Oh well.  So we walked to Mahathir’s restaurant.  He is a friend of Peter’s from many years ago.  He is the one that is successful and self-made.  He is into paper products, was into trekking but now it seems his interest is cash crops so that people are self-sustainable financially. He is keen on community work.  So we went there and Kailash, Selma, Krishna turned up as well as members of the Board.  I couldn’t remember their names but had a little chat with a few of them.  I was extremely tired at this point and was open to talking but wasn’t up to initiating too much.  

As the night progressed we were thanked for our part in helping LEARN during this month in respect of education and clowning.  They gave us sashes; I received a green one which matched my outfit.  I was very happy.  They have meditation symbols on them so for me I will use them to focus on mediation when I get home and remember the people I’ve met who have so honoured me.  Yet I feel the honour really goes to them, in our case, particularly Kailash and Krishna. I saw how hard they worked on teacher training, it was excellent their work.  I saw them go non-stop.  They didn’t seem to get a break. I felt some concern for Krishna as he is a single parent, and his presence with his children is important.  Not easy being a CEO and single parent and building a house with a wife overseas for such a long time.  He is really a wonderful man.  I nudged Gordon and said we should toast them.  He gallantly stood up and proposed a toast.  They are definitely hard workers.  Yes there is a team effort here, but through my observations they deserve recognition.

The night was pleasant and came to a conclusion around 10 I think.  We started to get ready to leave.  The bill was paid and outside we went into the hustle and bustle. I walked behind Gordon and noticed a dishevelled woman.  She was dirty and her clothes like rags.  She wasn’t begging just walking. I watched her sit on the street.  I felt a strong impulse to give money.  So I got money out and just shoved it in her hand.  I looked into her eyes and they were dead.  I wondered as I walked away if she had been raped.  Probably I thought.  She was in real need.   The next morning I thought about having her come to the hotel to wash her, to feed her, give her some clothes.  I knew the management wouldn’t let her in. Such is our crazy world.  She is seen as less, no money, yet she has lost hope and sees nothing around her present situation.  I would have loved to have shown her something greater.  Always when I am in situations where there is poverty and begging it leaves me contemplating.  I like the idea of a global income for every person.  No person should be stuck in survival mode.  Yes, there is enough money for everyone.  But some are choosing to have more and we are not sharing in reality.  The haves and have nots we have created.  It is a global problem.  We are indeed one family.  The little money I gave was nothing and will not change her situation. I am not keen to give money, my preference is to give hope or something empowering.  For me I don’t have lots of money, which in a way is good, if I want to help there has to be another way.

We went back to the hotel and I did my blog and went to sleep.

Mohandas Gandhi

“God has no religion”

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