14 October 2014

Teetering

 
I associate both teetering and tottering with tightropes and circuses.

I know it is just likely me but word association is a personal thing at times – not just some psycho babble testing.

I can think what I want.

Whenever I want.

And I do.

When my son Tom was little his best mate was a kid called Will - short for William. Will was Australian born but his parents and older siblings were from South Africa. They were the white variety but thankfully not of Boer extraction. They were not racists or bigots either and were very nice people.

Wills mother Sharon was particularly pleasant. She was a little off centre and was forever dashing off to yoga and meditation centres and had a delightful way of sort of hopping around on the spot whenever she spoke.

She reminded me a bit of a sparrow actually.

Hop hop hopping before trying to fly away.

My family used to have a crack at me whenever Will’s mum and dad came over to our house - as I tended to slip into my Seth Efrican accent. I didn't really mean to. It was just one of those things that I still do but only amongst Seth Efricans.

I have no idea why.

The Seth Efrican accent is more annoying and grating than the New Zealand accent.

Both are an abomination.

Tom and Will were very close and were full of mischief and fun. They used to have a thing for climbing. They climbed trees at first when they were quite little – then later buildings and towers. They didn’t mind challenging authority either and grew up getting into trouble at both school and later with the authorities. It was just boy stuff really and even though I had to pretend to be concerned and upset I didn’t actually mind all that much. I quite like kids that express themselves and I for one don’t accept things for the way they are.

Rebellion is not necessarily a bad thing – as long as no one gets hurt.

We should all of us challenge everything.

It is the way that things get changed.

Of course when Tom and Will got suspended and expelled a few times from school I was a bit worried where that might lead - but that too worked itself out.

Stuff usually does.

When we teeter we inevitably find balance. We find a way to stand up – even if we are sometime supported.

We often need to be supported.

It is what love and respect is all about.

When the boys grew through their teens they went through various fashion and attitude shifts. Their Goth one was particularly amusing – all dressed in black and wearing dark make-up with bleak attitudes to match. I used to hang shit on them about it – and they got suitably Goth morose about which only amused me more.

I wouldn't let them play their Goth music very loud only because I didn't like it.

I like most music - but have a preference for stuff you can dance to.

I am old school in that regard.

Will and Tom and some of their Goth mates would come around to our place and sit on our roof smoking joints and drinking beers and watching the world go by. I used to come home from work and occasionally sit up there with them.

We chatted away about the world and life and some surprisingly intellectual philosophical shit.

These kids had a slightly different view of the world but they were smart. They had opinions and they weren’t afraid to voice them.

I liked that a lot.

I also learned a very long time before I became a parent never to judge a book by its cover. My parents taught me that.

There are bits of them in me.

That old chestnut of a cliché stands very true and my kids - and my son Tom and his left-of-centre-friends taught me a lot on this front.

You can learn a lot from your children if you let them in and listen.

I learn from them all the time.

Just because you see the world in a tinted and tilted way it doesn't mean you have to slide down either.

You really don’t.

Who we are is not what we wear but it is the essence of our being. It is the regard we hold for others. It is kindness and benevolence. It is other far more defining and relevant characteristics that we need to embrace in order to be.

Tom and Will went through a full on piercing stage as well – with all manner of foreign objects protruding their bodies. Will went particularly berserk on those ear-stretching things - and I used to tell him he reminded me of the African natives who started such a trend centuries ago. I wasn’t at all surprised that Will knew all about the tribe and the history. He read a lot of books and we used to talk literature all the time. The piercing and the tattooing didn't bother me in the slightest although I think that Sharon - the sparrowy hopping mother of Will - got a little concerned.

Art is art and the kids’ bodies are their own.

Why the hell should we all look the same anyway?

Where is the fun in that?

Will always wanted to be in circus. I remember him telling me this when he was only twelve or thirteen. It wasn’t one of those I-want-to-run-away-to-the-circus scenarios. He wanted to perform on the trapeze. He wanted to juggle and eat fire and get into cages with lions and tigers.

He was always juggling stuff around at our place. I remember being entranced as he juggled a trio of kittens once – never dropping them at all and being oh so gentle.

It was excellent.

Will’s Seth Efrican parents were very supportive of all their kids and they encouraged all of their children to follow their dreams.

We should all do this.

I think so anyway.

For some reason I never fully understood, Will and Tom had an ‘incident’ and all of a sudden they were no longer were best mates. I remember Tom being quite upset but he didn't want to talk about it so I never pushed.

I do remember hearing a couple of years ago that Will had gone on to a circus college and he was indeed living his dream.

When I heard that news I laughed out loud in delight.

He is a performer now in a quite famous Australian circus that tours the world. He juggles and does amazing trapeze acts and I hope that I can one day go and see him.

Tom and he are friends again but they don’t see each other all that much. We all grow apart from people we were close to when we were young. Tom told me that Will went through quite a troubled period of self doubt and anguish - then he announced to the world some years back that he was gay.

It sort of all made sense to me.

Poor Will was teetering and tottering about his own sexuality and I am so glad that he discovered and decided who he was and that he had found his happiness.

People’s sexuality is no-ones business but their own and I hope that he was never bullied or hassled just because he was gay. That would have been sad and if I had known I would have intervened and told him to be who he was and that to me he was and always will be a fine young man.

My own Tom still teeters and totters a bit as he tries to find his own place in the universe.

Who doesn't actually?

I sway and totter myself all the time.

Life is a tough journey sometimes and there are always ups and downs. I have learned that we need to move with whatever is thrown up at us and be as accepting and as tolerant as we can of others.

Kindness and empathy and just trying to do what is decent and right are the key to everything. Special moments and experiences come along sometimes and we need to snatch them when we can.

Teetering and tottering is all a part of this.

We will sometimes fall off and fall down – it is the nature of life and growing and being - but the most important thing of all is to just dust ourselves off and get back up again.

We will teeter again

Then we fall and we stand

Balance will be restored and everything will usually work itself out.

It is Ying

It is Yang

It is the way things are.

3 October 2014

Being

 
We are born and then we die.

What went before and what goes beyond is an unknown so the life we live between these two certainties is all that matters.

This is my belief anyway.

The duration of our current existence is indeterminable. I have learned this from experience and have lost people who are close to me in both ordinary and extraordinary circumstances.

Losing someone you are close to sucks no matter what the circumstances but it is what it is.

Demise is a sadness in any exigency however grief is a process that is tied very much to love.

The greater the love – the more significant is the loss.

I have learned this too.

Men and women are sapient creatures who are as complex as we are unpredictable. I don’t get a lot of things and my life is littered with mistakes of my own making. I try however to deliberate and excogitate from my erring.

It’s not easy.

I try to use words like excogitate too.

I like the sound of it.

I like writing it too.

I don’t get violence but I have been embroiled in it before.

I don’t like cruelty either – yet I have been both a victim of it and a deliverer. I have felt shame and pain in many forms. I am perfectly imperfect and I hope that I have grown from my inadvertence.

I don’t know whether I have though and I am not adequately equipped to measure my own worth.

I don’t believe in deities or in a faith that is blind.

Why would I?

How could I?

I have seen cruelty and injustice and inequity that horrify me. What manner of god would permit such atrocities? I have discussed and debated this matter with men of cloth and monks and lamas and their arguments that man is imperfect are sound - but they don’t convince me to worship.

I comprehend the need for belief but my preference is to invest such faith in myself - and the people who I love.

It is a big endowment but I can touch and see it.

I can shape it.

I believe that the majority of people are inherently good but there are vocal and powerful minorities that are not - and they are the wreakers of chaos and havoc.

They are the ruination of things that really matter.

I think the teachings of the Bon - which is the foundation of the tutelage of the man named Buddha make the most sense. He saw and wrote that we are impaired creatures and that our development into something that he calls enlightenment is a simple path of compassion and compunction and lenity.

It is consideration.

I understand that I am in a minority here in a world awash with religions that seem more confused than me. I think that the supposedly merciful gods worshipped by billions would be appalled by the behaviours of the extremists amongst their devout. Tens and perhaps hundreds of millions of people have perished in conflicts relating to religion.

Look at the Middle East.

Look at Ireland.

The Crusades.

Hitler.

Stalin.

Amin.

Bush.

Junior and Senior.

Genocides.

Wars make no sense yet there are economies that have a dependence on conflict.

Look at the United States of America. They are warmongers of the highest possible order – engaging, invading and intruding. The cost of manufacturing and deployment of weaponry and soldiers would feed the poor of the world and educate the destitute but they can’t seem to stop.

I don’t think they can afford to.

To many people acts of bravery involve death and destruction and peril when real bravery is the opposite of these things. Gallantry is providing for people who have less than do we.

It is tolerance and acceptance.

The Americans have been occupying foreign lands and devastating populations with weapons of mass destruction for a hundred years.

They can’t seem to stop and their hypocrisy and ignorance is terrifying.

I lost friends and colleagues in the attack on the World Trade Centre in New York. The event that is forever synonymous now with the numbers nine eleven. The attack was horrendous but the Americans commemorations of this loss seem to me to be a glorification of war. Their bombs and drones and military might inflict such damage – more damage in fact – on so many people in so many countries.

Don’t they understand?

I don’t think they do.

I have known love and hate and joy and despair and I seek wisdom but it is so hard to find.

So is myself.

I have looked high and low.

My search continues but as I age I am discovering that a purpose might be many things and there is simplicity and some satisfaction in just being.

I believe that we are formed by what we desire yet we are shaped by what we experience and so I endeavour to experience as much as I can.

I cram my life with people and events and I move around a lot to take in what I can.

I am restless.

I am reckless.

New cultures, new people and talking to strangers have enriched me yet I still don’t know my purpose.

I do not know who or why I am.

Yet I have had a very fortunate life.

I can’t complain.

Even though I sometimes do.

Complain.

I think that kindness may be the key to everything and life lessons relating to compassion and morality are important but empathy is something that is inherent.

Selflessness is not a natural state but it is an important one.

We need to frequently put ourselves in other shoes.

We need to put our lives in perspective.

Wealth is not possessions or money.

It is goodness.

It is virtuosity.

It is righteousness and honour.

These are noble things.

These are precious things.

They may be everything.

I know where I have been but I still don’t know yet where I am going. At times I feel so lost and dazed and directionless. I hope to tread a path that causes minimal harm but I value and cherish experiences. I want to immerse and saturate myself in my surrounds.

I need to experience experiences.

They are the essence and substance of who I may become.

For the moment though – I think that just being is enough.

28 September 2014

A letter from Kalpana

Shit.

That went quick.

Time passes quickly in Kathmandu. I was there but three days but they were long ones.

I am now back on the Island.

Singapore.

Blink.

Nepal.

Gone.

The day starts early in Nepal. In the mountain villages farmers are up and about before the sun rises and in the city there is also a lot of hustle and bustle before dawn.

My brother and I stayed where we normally stay - in Lalitpur. It is is where the Guru Rinpoche resides and it is a casual five-minute stroll from Patan Durba. There are two very nice English filmmakers with us who have come to Nepal with us before.

To film.

Their names are Marcus and Zara.

Patan Durba is one of our favourite Nepalese ancient places. It is a complex of more than fifty temples and the same number of gardens.

Most of the big temples in Patan were built in the early 1600’s but there are a few that have survived more than a thousand years.

They are all spectacular.

They really are.

Patan was built as a palace for a Nepali Prince a thousand years ago and it is constructed around three huge courtyards the Nepalese call ‘Chowks’.  The most spectacular and famous of temples in Patan is the Krishna Mandir. It stands three stories tall on twenty-one golden pillars. It was re-built and added on to by a very visionary King named Siddhinarasimh Malla in 1637. King Malla was a cashed up royal who loved to build temples and monasteries and much of what remains in Patan was done under his rule.

In his lifetime King malla went on a devotional building frenzy.

The Hindu Nepalese teach that one night the King saw two of the major gods - Krishna and Radha - standing in front of a royal palace on an empty piece of land.  The next day he ordered the Krishna Mandir temple to be built on the same spot.

Hinduism is said to arguably be the oldest religion still in existence.

So I have been told.

I wouldn’t argue about it though.

I don’t really know

There are allegedly more than 33 million Hindu gods and goddesses – including all the demi-gods.

They have them for everything.

However Krishna and Radha are very high on the pecking order.

Look it up yourself if you doubt me or just look it up for the crack.

The stories of the Hindu deities are fascinating.

There are thousands of carvings on stone and wooden panels and pillars throughout the three stories of the temple. They are simply breathtaking in their intricacy and artisanship. Monks - who were also seriously talented master craftsmen and artists - did the carvings and it took some decades.

It was their life’s work.

My brother and I love the Krishna Mandir temple for its architectural splendor and its story and the fact that is held so sacred to both Hindu and Buddhist Nepali. It is a serene and peaceful place. Even though it is dedicated to two of the big Hindu deities, the third level was constructed to Lokeshwor – which is the Hindu name for the Lord Buddha.

There is a strange interweaving of the Hindu and Buddhist faith – in India - but moreso in Nepal.

Many temples accommodate both.

Buddhism emerged from Hindu at some point long ago.

The Lord Buddha is recorded as being born in Nepal and dying in India. He was born in a village called Lumbini. There is an ancient and splendid Bodhi tree where Buddha is said to have sat. It is taught that he was born as a full grown child and in the first seven steps that he took lotus flower instantly bloomed.

I find that vision quite beautiful.

The number seven and the lotus flower are important in the Buddhist faith. Lots of numbers are actually significant in Buddhism.

My favourite is six.

There are six Paramitas or Perfections in Buddhism. These are generosity, morality, patience, effort, meditation and insight.
Nice huh?
Six also refers to the “Six Realms of Rebirth” which refers to reincarnation and the path to enlightenment - ranging from gods to hell denizens.

The history of the faiths and the teachings of Buddha and many of the stories of the Hindu deities are amazing and blazing and colorful stories.

They are wonderful reading.

I will delve no deeper into them nor discuss them any further here and now though.

Read them yourself.

See them yourself.

I am not fucking Wikipedia.

Suffice to say - when we are in Kathmandu - my brother Richard and I like to walk down to Patan Durba before day breaks. We sit in a small street stall café in the Mul Chowk at a table nestled under cover of a cluster of frangipani trees. The street café is adjacent to the Krishna Mandir temple.

The delicious perfume scent of the flowers hangs heavy in the air.

We drink sweet hot syrupy masala tea bought from the tea dude for a few rupees. He pours the cups for us from a huge battered antique pot and he serves us with great extravagance and class and ceremony.

He pours with flair.

We sip our tea as we hear the clangs of ancient temple bells and monks from one of the monasteries chanting the hypnotic mantra “Om Mani Padme Hum”.

We sit there and listen and take in all the serenity and tranquility and pleasantry of the place and the moment until the sun full rises.

Life doesn’t serve up such moments very often and we need to seek them out then snatch them up.

We need to immerse ourselves and relish in them.

It is also not a bad way to start the day.

It is brilliant.

Most of the three days that I was in Kathmandu was spent at the Snowland School. It is the school we support that accommodates children from the very remote Upper Dolpo region of Nepal. The upper Dolpo is one of the most remote places on earth and it borders Tibet in the far west of the Himalaya ranges. Some of villages are very high in the mountains on the border with Tibet and it can take three weeks of hard travel to get down to Kathmandu.

Yes three weeks.

I am serious.

Travel in the upper Dolpo is mostly walking. Steep walking and climbing in some parts. There are no roads. There is no electricity or Internet or much of anything. Little grows in the rocky soil. Opportunity is drowned in the upper Dolpo by the daily struggle just to survive.

The people are sustenance farmers.

Most are refugees from Tibet who were forced to flee for their lives when the Chinese invaded Tibet.

They occupy it still.

Fuckers.

A holy lama named Guru Rinpoche - who is the fifth reincarnation of a very revered Buddhist Master - sponsors the Snowland School. He is a healer and a holy man and a now old friend of mine. He set up the Snowland School about twelve years ago solely to provide opportunity through education to the children of the upper Dolpo.

The Guru’s Monastery in the upper Dolpo is in a place called Shey Gompa. Monks carved the Monastery into the side of a mountain more than a thousand years ago and it is very far away from anywhere. Westerners call Shey Gompa the Crystal Mountain. There are a few very old Tibetan Buddhist temples up there.

I haven’t been there yet.

I have only seen pictures and film.

But I will.

Go there.

Guru Rinpoche believes that building more schools up in the upper Dolpo would be ideal as there are so very few at present. However he also believes that until more schools and infrastructure is built - bringing the children of the region to Kathmandu for an education is the best thing to do at the moment. He in fact he believes it is the children of the upper Dolpa’s only hope.

So too do I.

Rinpoche believes he has a spiritual responsibility to provide such an opportunity to the children of the Upper Dolpo.

He is their guru.

They are his people.

The village elders and the parents and the Guru choose these kids - and they come down to the Snowland School when they are five or six years old. Very few return for at least ten years.

Some never return.

For the past couple of years we have sent kids that finish year 10 back to their villages for the three-month break they have when they complete their final exams and before they start year 11.

Ten years away from home.

Can you imagine it?

When they go home, most of the kids have new siblings they have never met. Many have had a parent and many aunts and uncles and cousins that have died. Life is very harsh and mortality rates are high in the Upper Dolpo. Diseases like TB and pneumonia are common.

Yes Tuberculosis. TB. So long ago made preventable though global vaccination but it remains prevalent and deadly in Nepal.

Many communities are so remote that the preventative medicine programs taken for granted in first and even most third world countries simply do not exist.

I am not making any of this up.

It is serious shit and has been publically reported many times.

Google it.

The reunions between Snowland child and their home villages and families are highly emotional and poignant. We have been doing the ‘Going Home’ program for three years now and we have now seen this first hand and have talked to the kids and their families about it. It is a beautiful and harrowing and hopeful story.

We think it is one worth telling and is best seen rather than be just written about.

So we are telling it.

Though film.

Which is why I was in Nepal for such a quick trip. My brother and the English filmmakers were there longer than me and they were in a filming frenzy. They did fifteen or sixteen hours of filming every day with a legion of enthusiastic volunteers holding booms and taking stills and doing other technical stuff.

They loved it.

A couple of the older girls Googled the film dudes Marcus and Zara and discovered they were award winning and famous. Word spread quickly and they were idolized the entire stay.

It was very funny.

A lot of current Snowland kids were interviewed on and off camera - as well as some of the kids who went home to their villages earlier this year. My brother went with six of them. A lot of their stories were told. They were asked what villages they had come from and how far and hard was the journey, and what it was like being back after ten years.

What were their plans for the future?

That sort of stuff.

Some of them were quite shy on camera but others were like any other teenager in the world. They were cheeky and funny and had different personalities.

Some were hysterical.

The filmmakers were helped out by a couple of past Snowland students but mostly by a boy named Gylatsen. He graduated from Snowland three years ago and since went on to get his A levels in year 11 and 12. He passed all the examinations and qualified to study medicine in Kathmandu University a couple of weeks ago and he will be the first doctor to have come from the upper Dolpo region.

We are very proud of him.

I had several formal and informal meetings with the guru Rinpoche. He only speaks a little English and I speak no Nepali but we seem to communicate all right even when we don’t have an interpreter present. Guru is a master of Tummo healing. It is a form of Buddhist meditation breathing force stuff – and literally means ‘inner fire’.

I have had chronic migraine headaches for years and the Guru gave me a couple of treatments of Tummo. It was very painful and intense pressure on my neck and shoulder and the pain has diminished.

I have taken much less of the strong western medicine I usually have to take for the pain since my treatments.

We will see if the pain returns.

There are currently one hundred and thirty six children at the Snowland School ranging in age from seven to seventeen.

They are all brilliant.

Whenever I return to Snowland there are always new children and despite what the majority of people would consider squalor – they are the fortunate ones. Their parents sacrificed them for a crack at an education in what must have been an agonizing decision. Recent returnees told us that despite the joy of reunion with their families and their villages in the mountains there was difficulty in coping with the return home.

A few did not recognise their parents.

Most of the kids who returned had forgotten the mountain dialect that was spoken and all were shocked at the conditions they had been born into. There was no Internet or plumbing or in some instances food in their villages. There was no electricity and no-one bathed or changed clothes for months and they often slept under the same roof with the animals in the winter.

The upper Dolpo was as it has been for the past one thousand years.

High

Harsh.

Their villages were a long way from anything.

Some of the kids told us they remembered snippets of their very young lives in the village. Aged five or six. Before they went to Snowland. All remembered the very long journey they made when they were little. They told us that they mostly remembered that they were very scared.

They must have been terrified.

The walk home was physically exceptionally difficult for the Year ten kids that went home in April as well. Living in the city had softened all of the Year 10 kids and some suffered altitude sickness on the journey home. A tiny but beautiful girl named Karma told us how she walked for two days through thigh deep snow on the last leg of her journey to her village - and she thought she might have suffered frostbite.

But she didn’t.

Thank goodness.

This is real “Lost Horizons” shit but without the paradise in the hidden valley.

Just a lot of snow and ice where the air is thin and there are clusters of wooden huts in tiny isolated little valleys. The kids told us that dung was burnt as fuel for cooking and heating and the smoke from the fires were heavy acrid.

They told us that the odour hung on them.

One of the boys told us his older brother and his friends laughed at him and hit him with a stick for not being able to keep up the pace when walking between villages.

Most of the kids told us that they could tell that their parents were satisfied with the sacrifice they had made - and they themselves appreciated the lives they had a greater appreciation of Kathmandu after their visit home. They seemed more determined than ever to finish school and go on to university if they could.

The question of pride and the worth of the sacrifice was a difficult one for us to ask of the children  - and I think more difficult and possibly awkward for the kids to answer. “Going Home” was not necessarily a happy story but it was an enlightening one.

For parents and children.

It is something of a learning that the Lord Buddha would have likely approved.

My brother said he saw evidence of enormous pride of the mothers and fathers that he met. The Nepal mountain people are not visibly emotional people but my brother and Sylar said they saw twinkles in a few eyes.

The Dolpo parents saw that their children were educated and well-fed and they had been looked after as promised by the Guru Rinpoche.

Richard thought that the twinkle he saw in the parent’s eye was definitely pride but it was also an acknowledgement and relief that their kids now had an opportunity.

They had a future and a way out.

All the young children from surrounding villages came to visit the Snowland children. They wanted to hear the wondrous tales of life in the faraway city of temples with their guru - and to see for themselves the phones with cameras and the pictures of their lives in the school.

We weren’t really surprised that most of the kids who returned spent time in the home village schools.

Teaching.

They are all good kids who know the importance of learning and teaching.

These village schools are one-room buildings manned by local volunteers to teach very small children the beginnings of reading and writing and the teachings of the Lord Buddha. Beyond the age of six or seven though there are no schools or teachers in the upper Dolpo region.

There are none at all.

Other relatives visited too.

The Snowland kids were paraded.

I left my brother and the filmmakers mostly to it for I know little of such things. I had some good long discussions with the Guru and the teachers and the kids of Snowland and I went with the Lama to look at a potential new facility he is apparently in negotiations to lease or buy. One of Rinpoche’s advisors told me that we had to look at it in secret though for if the owners saw me they would demand more money.

So we went before dawn.

The School has been looking for bigger and better premises for years now – ever since I first met them in fact. The current buildings are falling apart and it is very crowded and has poor sewage and limited water.

I have looked at quite a few other options.

Things move very slowly though in Nepal.

There is a lot of red tape involved.

Things move very slowly indeed.

As is usual I wished I had spent more time with the children for they are the Snowland School and the most precious aspect of the whole program. I love to sit and yack with the older kids who are preparing for exams and are making plans for what they want to do when they grow up. I also love to play with the little ones who have only been away from their villages for a short while.

- And all the ones in between.

They are delightful.

Time flies.

When I leave I bring home beautiful letters and drawings and email addresses which I treasure and display in my home. When my kids were little they both drew lots of pictures and we always stuck them up on walls with blue tack and under colourful little magnets that stuck things to the fridge. I do this with my Nepalese pictures from the kids.

You know what I mean.

Some of the letters I receive are as heart breaking as they are touching. My brother Richard gets them too. On this visit I received a gorgeously coloured and neatly written note from a little girl called Kalpana Budha. She is in year six and is a girl scout and she is eleven years old.

Here it is:






 It says:

For my respected godfather Peter

Hi!

It is me the student of scout class Kalpana Budha. I really really feel good to see you. You are so kind hearted person I ever met before. Do you know scout. You like scout? I will introduce myself.

My name is Kalpana Budha. I study in class 6. I am the first student in class 6. I have 6 family members including you as my father. My best color is blue. My aim is to be a helpful doctor. But you know in Nepal its very difficult to become doctor because we have to pay many and many money to become doctor but I should try my best for it. I like to read science books. I would ask some questions to you on father?

1.     When is your birthday?
2.     Which is your best colour?
3.     Are you come from Australia and can me give you your email address?
4.     Do you like to visit Nepal?
5.     Do you feel nice to meet me and can you give me your photo?
6.     Do you want to make me your daughter and can you be my father?

I had a very special place for you in my heart

Kalpana Budha J

Nice but sad huh?

There is hope and happiness in Kalpana’s words and the brightness of these children dazzle me.

It really does.

I am about to write back to Kalpana now. I will tell her that to study medicine in Nepal or in neighboring India or Bangladesh she has to study very hard and pass special qualifying examinations but I wont tell her that to medical degree costs about US$30,000 over five years.

That is a lot of money to anyone but it is beyond comprehension to most Nepalese.

According to the World Bank the annual average income is US$780.  

It is however very cheap for a medical degree by world standards though and it is loose change to big international companies and collectives of middle class westerners.

I will tell Kalpana she should try and live her dreams and to look at Gylatsen – a young man from a village not too far from her own. He also dreamed of being a doctor when he was Kalpana’s age – and he has now done the all the hard work and has qualified for medicine and the kindness of others who have plenty will ensure that all his fees are paid.
 
I will also tell Kalpana as I have told some other kids that I consider myself to be a godfather or uncle to all of the children of the Snowland and my friends and I will help look after her and to get an education so she can do whatever she dreams. I will tell her my son Tom will be back in December and my daughter Charlotte will go to Snowland in the New Year and they are like the like big brothers and sisters to all of the children at Snowland. She will meet for herself all the volunteers my friend Jessie organizes to go over to the school several times a year. There are nearly twenty going over in a few weeks.


I will also tell Kalpana that she has a very special place in my heart too.