Nepal ’06

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Week 1

December 1st 2006

Prologue: We three clowns, Colm O’grady, Sam Meyler, and myself Jonathan Gunning, created a show over 2 weeks in the strobe lit semi-darkness of Spirit Nightclub, Dublin. As a warm up we performed a fundraiser at Careysford National School, Blackrock, Dublin. Though they both greatly helped our preparation, neither of these environments held any similarity to what we have experienced over the previous month here in Nepal.

Bahrain International Airport.

We arrived in Kathmandu on what turns out to be the Dashien festival, or Nepal’s equivalent of Christmas Day. We drove through the dusty streets of the capital past all the brightly costumed locals in their Saris and Buddhist robes. We were led to the headquarters of The Umbrella Project, one of the organisations where we are due to perform this week. Our guide is David Cutler, a co-director of The Umbrella who called out “Hey are you the clowns?” when he spotted us stretching our tired bodies across the departure lounge floor at Bahrain International Airport. Admittedly we did stand out. (Despite our lying down!)

We were brought to the house of Viva Bell, who is the main force behind the Umbrella (and has one of the best names in the world). She explained how they are responsible for the running of 5 orphanages in the Swoyambu district. An Irish woman from Banbridge, Northern Ireland, she fed us on fried egg sandwiches and invited us to see her 5 homes. And that’s when the madness started!

After only 2 hours sleep and fueled by egg and bread we were trouped off to meet the kids. Not a matter of shaking a few hands and squeezing out a few funny faces, we were initiated in the tradition of the festival. It was explained to us that the children would come one by one, each receiving a thumb stamp of Tikka (red dyed rice) on the forehead, a stem of grass behind the right ear and a bar of chocolate rolled in a ten rupee note.

We were given positions, Colm on the Tikka, Sam on the stems of grass, and me on the chocolate ‘n the money. After every 12 kids, we would swap rolls untill, all five homes visited, we collapsed at our hostel, leaving big red rice-y thumb prints all over our sheets.

Tuesday 3rd October

We have settled well at our guesthouse in a quite corner of the city. It is run by a Buddhist monk named Dawa who is allowing us to rehearse in his large garden. All in all it is a bit of a slow day, that culminates in an oul’ seisiun at a restaurant in the noisy tourist center at Thamel. Indians, French, English and Nepali, sure we had them all singing.

Nepal 06
Nepal 06
Wednesday 4th October

We are feeling refreshed, so we started rehearsing our show in the enclosed garden of our hostel. After a while local children gathered high up on a wall across the lane way. Risking loss of balance, they laughed and hollered at our routines. It is easy to rehearse with an eager audience watching on.

After lunch Sam picked up a unicycle from a contact in Tamil. He caused traffic jams and astonished looks as he spun past the Rickshaw drivers and street venders.

During our afternoon rehearsal we improvised new pieces and finished with an impromptu show up on the spiked wall around our garden. Our Audience consisted of 20 children on the wall opposite, women and the occasional Monk in the lane way bellow and a multitude of families gazing down from high up on windows and rooftops. We are slowly gathering a reputation.

Thursday 5th October

As we left our hostel at 7am to go for breakfast we were greeted with a huge roar of approval from the 25 or so kids sitting high up on their wall. They had been there since 6am waiting for another performance. Unfortunately they’ll have to wait a little longer as today we perform our first show.

As our taxi dropped us off deep in Kathmandu we scratched our heads as we searched for C.P.C.S., a center for street children. Luckily the filthiest child I have ever seen pointed at his chest and proudly announced “C.P.C.S.” He then led us around the corner to the compound where this organization offers food and shelter to street children.

Initial contact was a mere half-welcome by the director, and it soon became apparent of a disconnection between staff and children, a place for survival, a place for rules. We’d see a lot of this in the upcoming weeks.

We were a little apprehensive, not only because it was our first show but also because on the phone the director had asked for Baksheesh (tip) to organize the show and Sam had to go to great lengths to explain what exactly we did. Also a little apprehensive because this place contained the most horrific excuse for a toilet outside of Tuam (I was so disturbed it took me ten minutes to get my funny on). Even the flies were vomiting in the corner. Sam and Colm heeding my advice visited the other toilet marked by a large bucket of insect covered rice outside the cubicle door. A quick nod between us clowns, sent the message around “if they offer us food, say no”. The flies nodded in agreement.

The children sat up in raked rows on a makeshift riser. We paraded out from a room by the reception and performed our first show here in Nepal. After only a few moments it became apparent that the children were our teachers. The Lesson: learning what works and what doesn’t.

Colm Juggling knives over the secretary : a big hit.

Sam spitting water at myself and Colm: a big No No!

(We later learn that anything which passes the lips is considered sacred….spitting out food or water is a huge insult. It may be a big hit throughout Africa, but that’s one routine struck off the list.)

As we are ready to leave the compound, the head of the organisation gives us his critique.

“Very good, but you should have more magic in the show.” Point taken. Back at the hostel we add a few magic tricks in place of the water routine. During the night I come down with a sore throat but Sam Nightingale nurses me and I soon settle into a deep sleep.

Nepal 06
Nepal 06
Friday 6th October

Today we visited Kanti Children’s Hospital, the only public children’s hospital in a country of more than 25 million children. In our guise as Clown-Doctors, we performed gentle routines to a large audience in the main concourse. Sam intrigued the swelling crowd with his beautiful contact ball routine and 5 ball juggling.

We were led by our contact Bishop through Doctor-patient consultancies where I calmed the children with my red ball magic, and Sam and Colm delighted everyone with more magic.

An embarrassing moment occurred that I’ll have to admit to. During a lull in conversation, I tried to tell a Doctor Doctor Joke….to a doctor. The poor man was so stunned that he cut me off in mid sentence and asked his friend about the weather. Sam and Colm were aghast as I kept digging a hole for myself. Ahem!

After one more performance in the concourse where we performed an acrobatic number, we were led to the cancer ward. Though it was an emotional experience seeing children slumped still in their beds or parents cradling their ill newborns, we took a few breaths and sang in harmony or played the wagging tongue game.

After over 2 hours we left the hospital exhausted.

Saturday 7th October

Finally our first show day.

We started out with our performance for the Umbrella Foundation. It was only a short stroll down from our guesthouse but on arrival the playground was transformed. It was the scene of some sort of Eastern Pageant. Bright blue and yellow costumed children perched high on the frames of swings and monkey bars. A stage had been erected. Some of the children had painted a mural that acted as a backdrop and a large banner hung above the stage. “Clowns Without Borders” in large red lettering let everybody know what was happening.

Though, it is important to note that we were only the support act. The children were the main event. We were an excuse to put on a mini festival. They had spent weeks preparing songs and traditional dances, costumes were unearthed and choreography decided.

As with performing to any small community, audience interaction causes hysteria as people witness their friends being ridiculed. No difference here as we brought Macha, a house father, up on stage for our tennis routine. The audience roared its approval as their friend darted about the stage to Colm’s every whim.

When Sam burst one of my bubbles to produce his transparent contact ball, the audience went a hushed calm. As he rolled the ball across his arms and onto his head it was impossible to ignore the comments of the little children. “But that’s impossible! You can’t roll a bubble like that!” “It’s not impossible” said another kid, “sure isn’t he doing it!”

After our show we enjoyed the festival atmosphere and the beautiful performances of the children. Hip Hop, fashion shows, choral singing and traditional dancing with drums held above the boys heads as they stomped and strutted, twisted and sprung.

We couldn’t stay long though as we had to high tail it across town to another home run by Beverly and Noel, an American/English couple who house 18 of the cutest little children this side of my nephew in a large estate on the edge of the city. At the gate we were welcomed by a junior clown in a bright red wig and floppy yellow costume who beckoned us in. Just as we were about to start it begun to rain so we moved everything indoors and performed in a small library on the edge of the property.

With local children filling every available corner, 80 children in all sat in a tight knot. Following on from the momentum of our first show we rocked through the hour. Even when after only the opening 30 seconds Colm slid and cut his finger on the wooden door it seemed to spur him and us on as we levitated children and serenaded women just cause we felt like it.

When a show is going well you don’t ask questions. You just do it.

We were delighted with our show and though we planned to stay only a short while we partied with the children ’till nearly 10pm. The children loved our songs so we thought them the words and made up some more. We enjoyed more performances from the children and we all cheered when the taxi had still failed to appear one hour after we had called it.


Sunday 8th October

Day off.

Colm and I meet a Hippy in Thamel who vibes us out. After a short conversation that doesn’t make much sense he starts getting aggressive. When we don’t quite see third eye to eye he says “I am giving you love though you’re not taking the love. You have got to let the love come. Love is for everybody. My love is your love and though you’re blocking the love the love will come”. Luckily we controlled ourselves and didn’t kill the hippy.

All in all it has been a good first week in Nepal.

Signing out Jonathan Gunning

Week 2

Our plane was a little 12 seater that struggled to lift its head above the clouds as the nearby mountains sniggered. The propellers did not instill confidence. Nor did the knowledge that if we crashed into one of the many mountain peaks we’d have to eat each other to survive. Jonathan was eyeing up the fat guy…

Monday 9th October

Nothing really happened. We flew to Damak, where the refugee camps are situated. Our plane was a little 12 seater that struggled to lift its head above the clouds as the nearby mountains sniggered. The propellers did not instill
confidence. Nor did the knowledge that if we crashed into one of the many mountain peaks we’d have to eat each other to survive. Jonathan was eyeing up the fat guy. On arrival we were stunned by the change in climate. The air was thick and sweaty. The fat guy didn’t look like he was going to make it. Sam was eyed up by a over-friendly baggage handler with empty hands, luckily the U.N. van was there for the rescue (not the last time we’d seek safety within the doors of a U.N.vehicle).

The one hour drive to Damak was an eye opener. Thousands of bicycles fought for space with rickshaws, fruit peddlers and random cows on the narrow busy highways. Meanwhile we turn off the air conditioning, which seemed to go against
basic UN guidelines. We negotiate room and board at Kiran Guesthouse. Here we met Rose, shop proprietor and local school teacher. He asked us for the secrets of magic but settled for a song with his name in the title. Rose rose rose red. Colm and Jonathan sleep well, while the mosquito’s dine well chez Sam.

Tuesday 10th October

Maoists call a ban (strike). Everything is closed, we head to UNHCR office to meet with Kauro Nemoto (head of sub-office) and have a security briefing. It was brief. We eat with Tara at the modern guesthouse and get introduced to all the staff. Tara, a Canadian intern finishing a masters, will soon develop into our agent, manager, bouncer, guardian angel, and the only girl we can flirt with. We visit Beldangi 1 (nicknamed the Shangri-la of all refugee camps) It resembles a large rural village, wooden huts and water pumps aplenty. We wander past many women and children busy filling pots, bowls, and basins. Our destination is a large football field where we will be performing the next day. Our walk to the field develops into a parade, us at the head and hundreds of giggling kids
tailing behind. And we haven’t done anything yet (honestly! well, maybe something small!). Colm and Sam gatecrash a volleyball match as Jonathan melts under a tree.

Wednesday 11th October

Our first show for the Bhutanese refugees. Having being forced out of their country over 16 years ago by the present monarchy, all the children have been born in the camps. The UNHCR provided materials for basic wooden homes, clean water, healthcare and fortnightly food rations. Clowns without Borders are one of the most popular initiatives at the camps, and have been coming since 1997. Upon arrival, we saw that a local committee had erected a bamboo stage and found a car battery to run a rudimentary P.A. system. An area of the stage was curtained off to provide a small dressing room. A small crowd of a few hundred had gathered pre-show and just as we were getting used to the idea of a small audience, we saw a cloud of dust to the east and heard the sound of ringing bells. The school children had been released. Thousands of children began to run frantically across the football field, as we, our mouths gaping open, clung behind the only protection we had…a thin hanging layer of curtain and one man with a stick outside. After a small showing by the young acrobats, taught by previous CWB trips, we were called on stage. We make our way with our raining umbrella’s and face our largest audience so far….easily over two thousand refugees heaving towards the simple bamboo barrier that Colm was about to break during our hat routine. Later we would regret this as the audience literally rushed the stage during our knife throwing finale.

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Nepal 06

Throughout the show we were greatly distracted by the monitors who waded through the front rows continuously whacking the children’s heads with sticks. Because of the large crowd, the kids naturally were standing to get a better look. Bad idea TWACK! Our memory of the show is completely overshadowed by the aftermath. At the end of our show we dashed behind the stage as the crowd surged forward. Surrounded by a frenzy of overexcited children, we sat in our private curtained-off area while a multitude of children took it in turns to peel back the curtain. At one point we turned to scold the kids, only to discover it was a large grinning adult.. In the fairly laughable madness we decided on the strategy that would bring us safely to the U.N. jeep. Those 300 metres felt like 300 miles. And those two thousand kids, well they sounded like two thousand kids. We made a break for it. At this point we would like to give the impression that we left orderly, in a three pronged triangle using each other for support and
security. This however, was clearly not true.

As we emerged from behind the curtain, our suitcases and props in tow, it got a little crazy. While Colm and Jonathan were stepping into their triangle formation, Sam had already sprinted hell for leather and was attempting to pry open the jeep door with his teeth. As the jeep drove off, hundreds of kids ran after it chanting our show songs. We felt like the Beatles. Tara was our Yoko. We had a great lunch of dhal bhat at the refugee canteen and did our reconnaissance at Beldangi 2 for tomorrow’s show. We learned a plethora of important lessons from today which will greatly benefit us for the rest of the weeks. (Though we do think about bringing our own sticks…). (TWACK!)

Thursday 12th October

We arrive at the large football pitch on Beldangi II to discover the stage has yet to be built. Despite yesterday’s discussion, different people have different ideas about where best to put the stage. We wade through the
marsh in the suffocating heat, scratching our heads at the various locations. After lots of to-ing and fro-ing we decide on the center of the pitch and go off to change. On our return we see an enormous audience of about 4000 people. Apart from a large smattering on the hill, most of them are strung out in a huge circle around the suspended blue tarpaulin that marks our stage. Pinot leads his acrobats in an amazing routine of flips and spins. We get the nod and parade in. Due to the audience being spread out around us we have to play big. After Sam and Jonathan flip Colm on to his belly we rip into an energetic chase scene. Jonathan vaults over an elderly woman; this gives Colm the idea to vault even higher. One by one we vault over the woman, changing her position to vary the difficulty of the jump. The audience cheer as the old lady sits smiling, half confused.

Pinot comes out during our acrobatic routine and does things the clowns can only dream of. We finish with the entire audience singing call and response to Jonathan’s cry of “CHE CHE COOLEY.” It was a great shock to hear that many people sing back at us. Thankfully there is little fuss this time as we parade back to the jeep. We are euphoric after such a great show and eat another good lunch of Dal Bhat at the camp canteen.

Friday 13th October

Unlucky for some. Today is another Maoist ban day. This means we can’t drive to any of the camps so we have a meeting at UNHCR to plan the rest of our program. In the evening we are invited for a dinner at UNHCR. We perform a little show and sing a few songs. Soon the UN staff is queuing up to sing. There are songs from Nepal, India, Sudan, and Kenya. Colm and Jonathan pitch in with a few Irish ballads. The craic is ninety.

Saturday 14th October

Colm’s Birthday. Hip hip hooray!!!
We are invited to Beldangi I to celebrate Colm’s birthday with some refugee children. The little party is in the home of Pingula, a friend of Roz and Coco. (No they are not two more clowns; but two girls at our guesthouse who also work at the camps). Sitting in Pingula’s hut with 20 little kiddies, everybody was a bit shy at first. Soon though we got the party started. Jonathan did 6 animals in 60seconds and Colm hosts party games. Sam elevates a coin and then the kids show us how it’s really done. They sing songs and dance while the clowns melt at the cuteness. A quick game of pin the tale on the donkey and sure the party is swinging.

In the late morning we sit out in the gardens and chat to the adults. Some of the women ask a question that we find hard to answer. “Do the Irish people know about Bhutanese Refugees?” One of the women gives Colm a present wrapped in newspaper. He unwraps it to find a large bunch of bananas. It is all the woman can afford. Colm is so
thankful for the present, not only because it really is all she can give but also because we haven’t eaten yet. He shares his gift with all the children who rush off smiling and peeling. In the afternoon we visit a group of teenagers who are involved in a refugee drama group. They are rehearsing a street performance that discusses relevant themes such as trafficking and alcoholism. We talk about finding a time to give a workshop.
We party till 9.30pm

Sunday 15th October

We performed a lovely show at Beldangi extension. (The camp at Beldangi II was so full with 22,000 people that they had to build an extension to fit another 9,000.) A little man from the audience nearly steals the show. Initially he is picked to stop him wielding his stick. (We are not used to the way of the stick) But it is soon apparent that he is a natural performer. During our acrobatic routine the audience rolls about in fits of laughter as Colm demands that Jonathan put on his acrobat hat. All he has is a pair of lady’s underwear which he reluctantly sticks on his head. In the afternoon we give a workshop to the drama group. The room that we’d booked is unavailable so all 25 of us squeeze into a tiny room. Colm and Jonathan lead the workshop. Due to the melodramatic slaps and falls that we’d seen at their rehearsal we teach them some stage fighting techniques. The workshop goes well and we three clowns rush off to eat. We’re starving!

Week 3

Monday 16th October

We started the week with another two show day. The first was early morning at the local government school. A large collection of fairly run down bulidings spaced around a broken up courtyard. We were asked to perform on a concrete stage on the far corner of a very large football pitch (think two fine hurling pitches). We got there to discover 1,500 students sprawled about in the patches of shade, with a large crowd sitting up on the stage itself. A few heavy clown grimaces easily cleared our performance area apart from a smattering of teachers. Perfect fodder for our improvisations! At every opportunity we played with and cojolled those teachers to the pleasure of our student crowd. These teachers never had a break. We hid behind them, joked with them, gently popped them on the head, and blamed them for everything. The students cheered us on even more. It was a raucous show! We had arranged with the Bhutanese acrobats to perform with us but they had failed to turn up in the morning. Luckily, just as our show was reaching it’s climax, the acrobats arrived. Colm stirred up some extra energy to beckon the crowd into a circle on the grass when the were wowed by the boys from Beldangi. After a lunch and a laze about we were ready for round two at the Catholic school.

A much cleaner and more modern place of learning. We performed under the roofed concourse in front of another 1,500 children. The show began well but as the knifes came out the children went wild. The women with sticks were out in fury and it all calmed down again for the finale. After-wards we led the entire crowd onto the field where the acrobats again performed. The school children enthusiastically applauded each routine and Pinot and the boys were clearly chuffed when the crowd roared as Jonathan shouted out “Bhutanese Refugees” and the name of their group -“Creative Modern Games”. After the show we sat and had tea with Pinot’s group and we discussed a possible workshop for the acrobats.

Tuesday 17th October

Another Maoist Ban day. Colm and Jonathan decide to capitalise on the free afternoon. They dart off to the UNHCR office and with the help of Alex and Tara arrange a time with the acrobats for the afternoon. An enjoyable rickshaw ride on the dusty country road up to Beldangi II. As usual we are greeted with smiles and quizzical looks from the little kids as we make our way. Pinot takes us to a good sized room where all the other acrobats soon turn up.
Ranging in age from 10 to 23 years old they are a spirited bunch. They give great energy as Jonathan and Colm interchange with various exercises. Pinot had talked to us about how they wished to add humour to their show so we worked on a few simple ideas that we felt would fuel their imaginations. We all left the hall content after 2 solid hours of work. (again we had to leave before 4pm when all UNHCR associated staff must be out of the camps) Pinot accompanied us on the lengthy walk to Beldangi 1 where in the late afternoon sun we finally found a rickshaw.
(cue soppy film music) As the sun set we headed back to Damak…….

Wednesday 18th October

Our show was in Timai, the first of the four eastern camps. From the moment we arrived we could feel an excited energy in the air. As we walked in the camp before our show kids were muttering little things about us…it was clear that friends from the other camps had shared a few show secrets. “Which one of you wears yellow?” “Who’s in green?” The show was great fun as we had another crazy old man join in. (there must be a crazy old man factory in them there hills) Post show we were invited to visit the Bhutanese Refugees Women’s Forum. We had all heard good things about these women well before our arrival here. Theirs is an organisation that makes use of the skills of the refugees. There are looms busy making decorative shawls and needles taken up with embroidering bags and pillows. Jonathan and Colm caused quite a stir when they bargained with the women over some beautiful shawls and scarves. “I’ll give a good price for a shawl” said Jonathan, eyeing an elderly woman “Only if you model it for me” The woman in question strutted her stuff accross the office floor, dropping her shoulder one way, spinning another, as Jonathan had no choice but to give them every penny he had. And well worth it too. We finally left the office as our elderly model denied Colm’s request for marriage one last time. Outside the camp clinic Sam juggled for a gaping audience, while Jonathan had to endure a series of Nepalese put downs from an elderly man with a divilish grin
who had a crowd of a hundred in the palm of his hand.

Thursday 19th October

We drove a long way to the Goldap camp. They were a little disorganised when we arrived but Colm soon got things in shape. About 1,200 people gathered tightly around our stage. They cheered as we plucked participants from the audience and joined in in a mighty chorus for our final song. After-wards we chatted to the Priest who runs the school. A nice man who was eager to tell us all he knew about Irish geography. On our drive back to Damak
we pass him on his bike. We thought we heard him mutter something abut the Shannon estuary.

Friday 20th October

The Sanishare camp.
As we drove through the camp we were passed by an irregular bunch of marching soldiers. A group of retired officers who had fought in Kashmir had decided to use their professional experience to keep the marshal the crowds. In a ragged rhythm they marched to our performance area and dotted themselves throughout the audience. As the show started we never noticed them again, but not one member of the crowd stood up. Just before our show someone came and told us that they were expecting 8,000 people. Luckily only 2,000 turned up as any more wouldn’t have fit. There were 300 little kids behind the stage listening for laughs and joining in when they came. Colm had a mad time with the microphone, holding it up with one foot as he played the clarinet. We had a special guest in Sadan, the smallest acrobat, who performed a routine with Colm in the middle of our show. He was so nervous before-hand that he was complaining of a sore tummy. He is a little star. A star that can bend it’s body in every direction.
The audience roared as Jonathan sang “Resan Piriri” and something about a donkey and a monkey. At the canteen for lunch Colm made friends with a little deaf and dumb boy called Sali. When Jonathan took a digital photo of him and his friend his eyes shimmered with excitement. He pointed at his face on the screen and then his face, his friend on the screen and then his friend beside him. Again and again he pointed, smiling in disbelief. In the id-afternoon we were invited with Tara as special guests for the final of an inter camp volleyball tournament. Up in the randstand we were each given guest badges that someone must have stayed up all night making. We learned that things at the camps can get very formal. We were paraded in front of the teams, where we shook hands and joined in in the team photos. The sporting events at the camps can be taken very seriously. Some of the games can have crowds of up to 4,000 people. When the game finally began, it seemed that a third of the crowd were watching us watching the game. Everytime we winced at a missed shot or cheered at a great score, the crowd would cheer twice, once for the game and once at our reaction. In the evening we were invited to dinner at UNHCR where one of the senior staff Mohamed, gave a speech thanking us for our work. Sam and Jonathan told the assembled crowd how CWB were privileged to work alongside UNHCR for the good of the Bhutanese refugees. We felt very proud of the work we’ve been doing and went to bed looking forward to our final show in Damak. The evening finished on a lovely note as Tara presented us with traditional Nepalese shawls.

Saturday 21st October

What a day. Our last day of shows here in Damak was one of our most unforgettable. In the morning we drove the 75minute journey to Khundabari, capitalising on the use of our 4×4 by driving accross a river. It had been raining heavily all day so our stage was not only embedded with stones but slippery too. We were given a wooden shed to prepare in. The kids crowded around it and peered between the cracks, oohing and aahing as we removed props and costumes from our bags. Our show had great energy. We improvised little sections while the audience swelled with laughter. Just as we were leaving the stage Jonathan cried out “Resan Piriri” and the crowd roared out one last time. That, we thought, was our last performance for a Bhutanese refugee audience on this trip. We were greatly mistaken….

Since allot of the eastern camps are quite close we went with Tara to the Goldap camp to see the final of the Men’s inter-camp football tournament. As we sat on the side lines in the drizzly rain, people snugged in beside us under our umbrellas. We peered at the pitch, clogged with water and dotted with large dark puddles. There was a women’s exhibition match before the men’s final and the crowd laughed as the players slipped and slided across the muddy pitch….then something funny happened.. Just as the referee was about to begin the second half, Tara stood up from her seat. “What are you doing” Jonathan asked, “Same as you” she said “We’re playing!” As Jonathan stood up, the crowd of 60 people shouted in unison “Tallu” (“Baldy”). He ran on to the pitch to meet his teammates. They shook his hand and then pointed. “Back” they said, “You’re defending!” Jonathan was with Goldap, Tara with Sanishare. The game was on! As the referee blew his whistle to restart, the crowd slowly began to thicken on the side lines, 100 people, 150…

Everytime Jonathan drifted up field, he was scolded by his captain. “Back!” she’d scowl. Then a terrible thing happened. Sanishare scored…..and the entire Goldap team blamed Jonathan. “BACK!” “Grrrr!” Being a bit disillusioned with it all, Jono discovers that if he dives into the puddles, the crowd Cheer. “Tallu!” The referee looks at his watch. He has already played 5 minutes more than the 10minutes allotted. 300 spectators look on anxiously. The ref plays on. Jono looses the ball to a girl, who he then grabs and throws into the mud. As she lies poleaxed on the ground, the ball rolls and hits her arm. Jono gets a free kick. There is movement on the bench. Sanishare bring on Colm, Goldap bring on Sam. Over 500 people look on nervously as Goldap have an opportunity. Jono, ignoring cries of “back back!”, knocks the ball into Sam who swivels and shoots just wide. Money is being exchanged on the side lines, allot is riding on Sanishare. Tara makes a storming run down the right wing, she knocks it out to her winger who in turn sets Colm free through the middle. Colm, his 6 foot frame towering above all the Bhutanese players, uses his physical strength to send the opposition defenders flying. He takes a shot…..just wide of the post. Then, just as the 800 plus crowd are getting restless, Sam finds space in the box. He shoots, he scores! The crowd goes wild. Sam is so ecstatic that he lifts off his shirt and twirls it around his head, high-fiving his team mates. All the Goldap girls are blushing wildly but they all practically que up to congradulate him. Then nearing the 50th minutes, Jono sends the 1000 plus crowd into raptures.
Not because he scores the winner but because as he lifts his right arm to celebrate, his left leg gives way and he falls into a puddle. A mud fight breaks out. The ref blows the whistle. Without a doubt, one of our most fun performances. In the evening we enjoy the atmosphere of the Tehar festival of light. All the houses are covered in candels and fairy lights. The city is a bright twinkeling vision. We eat with the UNHCR guys at Madan’s guesthouse. As a tradition during the festival, groups of boys and girls sing traditional songs in people’s doorways.
We are getting alot of singing visitors as earlier one of the guests gave a group 150 rupees, ten times the normal amount. When a group of teenage girls call by, we invite them in for a session. we take turns to sing songs. Irish ballads interspersed with Nepalese hymns. A lovely end to a great day.

Sunday 22nd October

We enjoy a goodbye brunch with Tara and Alex, and fly back to Kathmandu. After 2 weeks in the peaceful rural setting of Damak it is difficult to endure the hustle and the hassle of the capital. And the temperature has severely dropped since we’d left. All the same, we feel ready for another week visiting orphanages and NGOs.

Stay well
Jonathan Gunning


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Nepal ’06