23 January, 2011


After seeing a couple of other children’s homes in the past few months one thing I was told was “keep them busy” or “as little free time as possible”. Now that doesn’t mean keep them working, for me it meant structured play! The more free time, the more they can become bored and look for something to do; which has trouble written all over it, especially for the small ones who usually get the brunt end of the deal. With that in mind, I wanted more structured play…but in order to do that, we need a structured play area.

Toys and other play things are donated randomly and volunteers bring games and such, but without a place to put them and without supervision, these don’t last long. It’s very difficult to keep pieces to toys (Lego’s for example) all together with 50+ sets of hands (100+ if you count individually!) wanting to play with them.
Wayne suggested the other side of the hospice; which when I left was the computer room. The computer room has now been moved to the school house, so the space only housed one computer, bookshelf and chairs. With the help of volunteer, Deb, we transformed the space into a play room. This would not have been possible without the 2 large suitcases of donated toys, color books, crayons, markers, puzzles, Lego’s and many more items. Before I came back, Deb had been taking the kids (a couple at a time) into the volunteer dorm porch and letting them play with the stuff.

Once the room was cleaned spotless by Shanah who is one of the greatest cleaners of all time!! Deb is a nurse, so while she was going through all the medicines in the hospice side (throwing out all the expired ones), I started rearranging all the books, and figuring out the best way to organize things. With limited space I had to be a little creative and had to find a place for many of the supplies well out of the reach of the kids. I wanted this room to be complete ‘structured play’ with toys in their proper individual containers/areas.

Some of the little ones who are too young for school were allowed in while things were put into their place. The next day we were open for business and the day brought a few of the young ones in to color and play with the one Lego set Deb bought in Phnom Penh. Day 2 brought in more (once the word got out) and Deb took a well deserved break with Socheat, looking at photo’s

and by the third day we had 20+ kids in all afternoon. – Although the school year is technically in session, we never know when they will come home as maybe a teacher didn’t show up therefore the kids are free to come home, or sit in the classroom if they want to. The kids played and played and colored and colored and created and used their minds!

Deb started the children requesting “Deb [or Melinda] May I Come In” before entering; which is not only teaching them manners, but it’s helping with their English as well! I implemented the “No Food” policy after Mr. Way brought a hardboiled egg in to eat. (personally, I can’t stand the smell of that!) Plus, lack of food helps with varmint and insect control.

Lack of gender specified play is soooooo refreshing to see, but not sure about the truckload of babies…

Chess (with their own rules I think...)

Lego’s big and small are always a hit!

As are the stuffed caterpillars and puzzles.

But most of all, they love to COLOR!

(even the teacher got caught up in the fun!)

We have quickly outgrown this space, so a new play place is in the mental making; giving the kids more separated areas for the different age groups.

15 January, 2011

Final adventure in Nepal.

Final memory of Nepal…well I guess to sum up my stay in Kathmandu my final adventure was to actually leave the country!

Upon arriving at the airport, I prepared for the usual chaos; but being a ‘tourist’ in Nepal during their infamous “Year of Tourism”. I got away with walking past some check points and only briefly fondled when I was stopped. I knew I had over-extended my visa by 3 days; but was told twice (being one to really not trust only one source) that it wasn’t a problem and I would just have to pay 39 dollars at immigration ($3 for each day of my over-stay and then some random $30 fee).

After standing in line at immigration, I was told that there is a problem. I told the kind man that I was aware that my visa was expired and that I am prepared to pay the fine. He motioned me to go through the walkway and to a booth where they could help me. I arrived there and told the woman my issue. She said, no problem and then asked me where I was from. Then I saw her cross off Slovenia on a small paper on her desk and replace it with USA. Knowing that she somehow mixed up the paper I gave her with some poor Slovene, I chose to stay silent. She then prepared an additional form for me; some kind of visa extension and handed it to me along with my passport and the wrong paper. Our brief conversation:

Me: “That isn’t me” pointing to the name on the form".
She:But you put the wrong country down”.
Me:I didn’t put down the wrong country, because that form is not mine. I did not give you that form; I gave you a different one.”
She:But I asked you your country and I crossed it out on this form”.
Me:I know you did, but I promise you, the name on that form is not my name and I did not fill that one out.” I went ahead and added, “Can you just give me another form and I will quickly fill it out”.
She:No, he must have given you the wrong one; someone else's form”. (referring and pointing to the immigration man).
Me:It’s OK, can I please just fill out a new form”.
She: “No, you go to that other counter [pointing down the way) and I will get your form.

I went to the other counter (a bank place) to pay the fine…I walked up to a glassed in cubical, glanced in and did what I have learned best while in Nepal…I waited. I kept glancing back at the lady in the other booth to see if she had my form or what I should do. I tried not to get frustrated since I still had over 1.5 hours left to catch my flight. I had been waiting for about 15 minutes for the guy or gal to come to the booth when all of a sudden a guy pops his head up inside, scaring the crap out of me! You see, as I was standing there trying to patiently wait for someone to help, silly me didn’t actually cram my neck over the little wall, nor did I bang on the glass. Instead I waited patiently unbeknownst that the little banker was taking a little siesta while the world revolved around him.

I just stared at him in disbelief, then shook my head and handed him the paperwork. Of course the total came to $39 USD and I only had 2 twenty’s and he of course didn’t have $1 change; and why should he have, he was only working at a bank…He then tried to figure out how much I would owe him in Nepali Rupees and Dollars. That was a huge conflict as I handed him over money and him handing me money and back and forth until he said I just had to give him 1000 more rupees…at that point, I was done with the process and said, “give me back all my money and you can keep my $1” which is actually what he wanted in the first place.

I then had to go back to the lady in the booth to show her I paid; then back to the immigration man to show him I had ‘bought a visa extension’ and finally one hour or so after I entered immigration, I had the little exit visa stamped on my passport; thus allowing me to actually leave the country (or at least the immigration area of the airport).

I was then forced to give up one of my 2 jars of dried pickle at the security station. I was NOT in any way happy about that, nor did I pretend to be. It was really ridiculous for them to take it from me, it was in a sealed jar and was not a liquid! I was most upset because I had searched all over Kathmandu for it until finally finding it in a shop the day before I was to leave. Nepali pickle or achar was an essential item in my meals in Nepal and is something I will find it hard to live without (until I figure out how to make my own). That is why I was soooo very unhappy at the man trying to take it from me!

With barely a glance at it, he said “you can’t take that with you” as he took both jars out of my bag. I stood my ground and said, “why can’t I take them”. He then said “what is it” and with that I had to find my calm face and say “It’s dried pickle” and then for the umpteenth time that week, I heard the reply “dried pickle?”. I held back screaming at him “YES, DRIED PICKLE, NOT THE LIQUID KIND, THEY MAKE A DRIED VERSION IN YOUR COUNTRY; BUT I SEEM TO BE THE ONLY ONE WHO KNOWS IT, (breathe breathe)MAYBE YOU LOCALS DON’T NEED TO BUY DRIED PICKLE, BUT US FOREIGNERS WHO HOLD YOUR FOOD VERY DEAR TO OUR HEARTS HAVE THE NEED TO PURCHASE THESE KINDS OF THINGS BECAUSE WE CAN’T BUY THEM IN OUR OWN COUNTRIES (breathe breathe) AND OBVIOUSLY SOMEONE IN YOUR COUNTRY REALIZED THIS VOID AND THE FACT THAT THE MANY VARIETIES OF LIQUID PICKLE CAN NOT BE EASILY TRANSPORTED INTERNATIONALLY, (breathe breathe)THAT YES, A DRIED VERSION OF YOUR PRECIOUS ACHAR IS INDEED CREATED AND CAN INDEED BE FOUND HERE IF ONE LOOKS LONG ENOUGH!”

Instead I replied, “Yes, dried pickle, it is not a liquid, so I would like to take it on the plane with me”. He tossed one at me and said “You can take one in your backpack”. I said “WHY one! Why can’t I take 2, I have 2 backpacks.”, He just turned back to his nothingness and I figured I better just be happy with one before he calls the SWAT team to come rid his security area of the crazy pickle lady.

I packed my bag back up and added a “enjoy your pickle” remark as I walked away dejected. I slowly composed myself, pushed negative thoughts out of my head and found a quiet place to await my flight to Cambodia.

05 January, 2011

Compliments of beautiful hearted people that I know and love.

The clothes arrived from Kathmandu!! Bhola ji and I had searched so many shops and tailors in this area, but just didn’t like the quality of the material or manufacturing, so when he had to go to Kathmandu for business, he set about his brother, Om and sister-in-law, Preeti to scout out good quality material and a good tailor to stitch them up. Since Om owns a tailor made suit shop, they found just the right person. It was no small order…35 track suits to be made in a couple of days, but the order was filled and the clothes arrived safely at the Peace Home.

Bhola ji told the children that they had a surprise coming and to gather all around. Then we set about laying all the clothes out by size and color (Red for girls; Blue for boys).

The kids watched and their confused faces turned to curiosity and then to smiles as the older ones went first to start trying them on for size!

It didn’t take long for the clothes to be snatched up as the boys started trying them on right then and there, but the girls choose to quickly grab them and run into their rooms to try them on in privacy. There was laughter as little ones grabbed way to big pants and vice versa…

As always bigger ones helped the littler ones and each other - rolling, tucking and making them fit!

and then posed pretty for the camera.

And then after the pretty came the PRETTY SILLY!

Once the final fitting was over and everyone had a new track suit on a photo shoot was arranged.(out of the 35 outfits, only the 2 biggest boys were without pants that fit – and a call was made to Kathmandu and the order was made for 2 more to be shipped ASAP).  Anyone who has ever tried to get a family photo knows this is not so easy of a feat…ESPECIALLY when your family consists of 35 children!

Everyone finally settled in as the cameras flashed away trying to get at least one photo where almost everyone was at attention. Aama (mother), Bhola and Jaya Yogi joined in and considering the task at hand, I think we got a couple of good ones!

And then a shot with Erin and I.

the day then resumed as normal, just a bit more colorful.

As darkness fell some had changed out of the clothes and I was assured that they loved the clothes, but they didn't want to dirty them, but others kept them on and continued to still proudly display their thankfulness.

The evening made way to night and as we all gathered in the prayer room for our nightly singing, storytelling and dancing – thanks was given all around as their gratitude was extended to the families and friends of Melinda Miss, to: Polly Madam, Eduardo Sir, Deanna Madam, Aama Carolyn Madam, Brenda Madam and family, and Sarah Madam and family who gave so generously and opened their hearts to vulnerable children they have never met and who lived ½ way around the world. Thanks was also extended to Chetna Miss, who showed them that not only do ‘foreigners’ care for them, but a beautiful Nepali young woman completed the donations by supporting her own country’s children.

The prayer session ended with a couple of the youngest ones, as usual, falling asleep; albeit a little more comfortable this night.

I want to extend my GREAT thanks to you all, I am so blessed to know and love so many kind hearted people!  Because of you all many little and not so little bodies and hearts are a bit warmer in the Nepal countryside.

PS - With the bundle of money left over from the clothes purchase, shoes and backpacks will be bought.  There should be enough for ALL the kids to get what they need.