Or, “how many Durham students does it take to change a lightbulb?”
So after our blissful night’s sleep in Kathmandu Guesthouse (apparently ‘one of Asia’s top 50 best hotels and resorts’, presumably assessed by someone who had been to every single one), we decided we might as well spend the day exploring a little bit before heading off to the school where we will spend the next six weeks. We took full advantage of the guesthouse, leaving the majority of our luggage there for the day, eating in their restaurant as a special treat for us after our long journey, and I even cheekily asked if I could charge my tablet in their business centre.
Once we’d eaten horrendous amounts, we set off to explore the Thamel area (touristic heaven) and within 10 paces of leaving the premises, we’d been offered weed 3 separate times. Apparently that’s the sort of vibe we give off. We found somewhere to buy Nepali sim cards (I don’t know WHY you need your passport, a passport photo and fingerprints just to be able to call home more cheaply) and Dan purchased a hefty bundle of data with his (he needs his daily snapchat fix). All the shops we wandered past were filled with the kind of crap that induces a kind of zombie-like need…to…buy in the majority of western tourists, but by now we were indoctrinated to walk away from any shop that tried to make us pay English prices for things. After we got bored of people trying to sell us instruments and tiger balm and CDs of soothing Nepali music, we got a taxi to the Durbar square in the centre, where we shopped some more. The stalls in the square were great fun, all sorts of junk for less than one of your British pounds. We also had our hearts set on getting more henna that day, so we asked one of the people on the stalls where we could get it done, and of course she had a mate that could do it for us. We waited about for ten minutes for her friend to arrive, and no sooner had she got halfway through decorating Kate’s hand than it started raining. Luckily Nepali stall-holders are a lot better prepared than we: instantaneously several umbrellas were produced, and Kate’s henna was completed with only minor interruption. We then walked purposefully towards the nearest coffee shop, to which Dan had already retreated, promising over our shoulder that we would come back the next day to get henna for the rest of us (we didn’t).
Once the rain had abated (and once the entire square was pretty much flooded), we dared to emerge from our shelter, and decided that the time had probably come to make our way to the school. We went back to the guesthouse, grabbed our stuff, and jumped into some overpriced taxis (allowing ourselves the luxury of getting two between the five of us for once).
After some slight confusion as to where exactly we were supposed to be going, we made it, accidentally missing the welcoming committee who had been waiting at a different entrance. It was the most enthusiastic greeting I’ve ever received: we were all presented with flowers and yellow sashes (yellow is the colour of wisdom, apparently) and introduced to about 8 different teachers (all of whom seemed to be related to each other). I have never said thank you so often in such a short time period.
Everyone was so so lovely to us, and once we’d sat down in our new room and dumped all our stuff we realised how excited we already were to see what the next six weeks would bring.
We sorted ourselves out and decided which beds we would have, and proceeded to fail stupendously in constructing our mosquito nets – none more so than Tyler. Tyler hit upon the brilliant idea of suspending his net from above so that it would drape artfully over his bed, in the manner of some kind of Arabian tent. However, he chose to attach it to an already somewhat flimsy light fitting. The light bulb falls out, he attempts to reattach it and in the process drops it, at which point it shatters all over the floor. The rest of us are in hysterics, and a bashful Tyler goes to ask for a new lightbulb – and a dustpan and brush.
The funniest thing about the whole situation was the fact that he then refused the offer of any help, so twenty minutes later there he was: on the bed, at full stretch on his tiptoes, still trying to put this lightbulb in. Eventually he did manage it (and let us have a go at helping him), and let out an ear-splitting cheer once the light flickered on.
It was an eventful evening.
We later met Chintamani yogi, the head of HVP, who was an amazing guy full of excellent quotes (and who you will hear a lot more about later I’m sure). We chatted with him for a while before he said we should go to bed – and we were definitely tired enough to appreciate that.
The question on all our minds (‘what is the wifi password?’) was luckily answered before any of us had to ask it, and with that we had our first night’s sleep in HVP Central.
It’s so surreal that after all the planning, all the fundraising (and that horrible week of sponsored silence on my part), and a whirlwind two weeks in India, we’re finally here, finally about to get stuck in. We can’t wait.