Riding to Bharatpur to use the internet on Laxmi's pink Hero bicycle is FAR more up my alley than walking, let me tell you. When you walk to Bharatpur, it takes about a half hour, and the entire walk consists of long, gaping looks trailed warily by, "Hello! What is your name?" when you are 200 yards past whomever it came from. Also, the bicycle is pink, there is a basket, and you sit bolt upright, which is incredibly easy on the back! What more could you want, really? Well, a moped. But we're getting there.
I arrived at Harka last week on Wednesday, and all the younger children were already home from school. They were all extremely excited to see me, and had absolutely no apprehensions about immediately commencing playtime. Playtime has not ceased since my arrival, and generally begins at 6 o'clock in the morning and concludes around 9 pm, when I lock myself in my room for the night. Usually around 1 or 2 in the afternoon I take a mandatory 1/2 -1 hour break (until shrill screams of 'MISS!' from outside force me out again) so that my mind does not explode. Wow. It was way easier to manage 17 kids when there were two of us.
That being said, the kids are doing very very well. A few changes since the last time I was here: Radika, Sarswati, Ramesh and Manish have all returned to family members, and have been 'replaced' (probably not the right word to use here) by 12 y.o. Bisal, 9 y.o. Sujan, 7 y.o. Suman, 9 y.o. Preana, and 11 y.o. Sita. Suman and Sujan are brothers, and Preana and Sita are sisters. All parties are adorable Nepali children, but Bisal is definitely quickly becoming a favorite. His English is by far the best in the orphan home, and he is a sweet boy that is helpful without demanding anything in return (both with the children, and with anything I encounter, like my adapter not working). There has also been a change of house parents, which is astounding because the last ones sucked (for lack of a better word). When Becca was here, there was a couple with young child, but since then the father has found work, and a new woman has taken over. Petrapaddi is very sweet, knows no English, and is just getting her ground at the orphanage. Which I guess makes me the more experienced one... which is a laugh and a half. She also has a 2 y.o. named Tenzin, after the famous Sherpa who accompanied Sir Edmund Hillary on his first ascent of Everest (and arguably got there first, which I'm sure he did). Tenzin is A-dorable, a little round ball of Nepali cuteness that doesn't ever fuss.
Because Petrapaddi is just getting here feet wet with the 18 kiddos, I was told by Laxmi that I would be solely in charge of them for the next few weeks. HA! Luckily, they are pretty good at taking care of themselves, and I am more of an entertainment factor than anything else. Though she wants me to scold them for listening to music, and force them to repeat English words after me, I am more for the 'learning by experience' model. Instead, I am a bad babysitter and let them listen to my iPod (they are currently in the process of memorizing all the words to the K'Naan song "When I Get Older") and don't really force them to do their homework. They do their homework on their own, and I figure me ONLY speaking English with them is practice enough! Because their inhibitions with me were pretty much nil when I arrived, it has allowed their learning to increase dramatically in just the week that I have been here. I find even the younger children forcing out the words that they want to say in English, which is fantastic, while also trying to impress me by writing/saying their alphabets, months, days of the week, colors, etc. I find myself not even needing to use Nepali at all! That part is a bit disappointing, but I figure if it is helping the kids, it's good.
As for Laxmi's scooter- it is on the way! She was very very excited, and wants to send her thanks to all friends and family that donated. She has been taking out microloans from the government for small projects like chickens (for meat, she currently has 400), building repairs, etc., and buying a new moped was just too much more too add to the loan. She ordered the Hyundai last week ("very strong, not Chinese" were her exact words. They use the word 'Chinese' to describe anything that is crappily made.), and it should be here in the next few days. The total cost is somewhere around $2,400 with insurance and taxes, so a little more than expected, but not too much. She is going to come get me when it arrives, and we'll pick it up and have a celebratory ride to the orphanage after! Can't wait.
As for now, I have been waking up at 5:30am every morning to attend a Brama Kumari service with 5-6 of the older children. I have absolutely no idea what is going on, but neither do the kids, as it is in Hindi! It's a good routine for them though, and I appreciate any religion that focuses on peace and meditation as a base. I was invited yesterday to come to the ashram in town and take a meditation class, but I wandered about yesterday for a half hour looking for it and I couldn't find it! At some point, I'm sure someone will really want me to go, and show me the way. After that it is the usual, clean, eat rice, play, play play, eat rice again, sleep. The kids have exams starting today, and then they are on holiday for the next month. This makes me a little wary, as being with all of them all day for the next two weeks may drive me mental- but I'll take it! After all, they are having a ton of fun.