My second day at class and the air is filled with the smell of cheap Indian aftershave and essential oils.I think the men are a bit excited about having a new female teacher! The men who have hair, have slapped some gel on and one guy in particular Mr.Long has a crisp ironed shirt on,some tight jeans and a massive cowboy belt.Mr.Long has the brightest,rosiest,chubbiest cheeks and the largest,widest smile.His eyes are wide with excitement when I tell stories and he has the biggest personality in the class.He tells me that the 61 year old monk has lost the key to unlock his brain.A lot of the other men get jealous when he talks as they never get a word in edge ways!
The quietest man in the class is a 61 year old monk.He is always smiling but very shy.He tells me he does not like sitting next to Mr.Long as it gives him a head ache and he says Mr.Long has lost his mind.He thinks he is crazy.These two men really clash and it's funny to watch them in action.As soon as Mr.Long shouts across the classroom or raises his hand the monk has his bald head in his hands.Haha.
Today's topic is Mr.Longs love life. He has a wife in Tibet but she now has a new man and he is searching for a new wife. He says he is not fussy, he just wants someone British so he can marry them and return to Tibet with his new British passport to visit his children.They also must have money to pay for the flights. We all sit and debate for hours how he is wrong in judging people by their nationality but he won't have it.He wants a British wife and that's it! Half the time we are in stitches laughing at his thoughts. ''British ladies are beautiful, they have nice hair and skin, they have good jobs and make nice children.'' He begs me to help him find a bride.I give him a few dating website addresses,chat up lines and hints on finding love(Like I know a lot about that!). That night when I go home I print off a photo I have of him for a joke make a poster.
I stick the photo on a sheet of paper and write underneath it ''Mr.Long, aged 36, seeking rich British wife for love, citizenship and fun.Must have money,fair skin and a British passport!''
Next day at school the poster brings a lot of laughs to the class room and we have another lesson on love.
The main English teacher at the school asks can he have a word with me.I am walking into the office feeling like a naughty child at school.I think I already know what this is about. Mr.Long had only gone and asked the teacher could he photocopy the poster!! I tried to explain why I did this but it was just plain embarrasing.I could feel myself going red. He tells me if I want to continue to volunteer at the school I must be professional.I bite my lip and leave the office laughing inside.Imagine if he knew what we talked about in class! When I start class I explain to the group about the poster being a joke,they all knew this anyway and give Mr.Long shit for getting me into trouble.
Today's topic is Australia. Two of my students have just won the Australian visa lottery and have 12 months before they are sent to Sydney. One is a 31 year old monk and the other a 26 year old girl called Tsering.I tell them about kangaroos, crocodiles, all things Australian and promise to show them some photographs next lesson. The other men are so happy for them and no resentment at all is shown.This is a dream come true for all of them. They are both so nervous, but so excited. They do not know anything about Australia only that there are kangaroos, sharks and crocodiles. I tell them how clean it is,how there are no car beeps like in India and how they can drink water out of the tap.This excites them more than anything. I feel sorry for them too as they will be venturing into a completly different way of life and society. We promise to keep in touch and I promise to fly them to Cairns and take them fishing, go to the beach and introduce them to all my friends. They are so excited, bless. It's days like this I appreciate how lucky I am to live in Australia and come from a 'normal' country.
Today I worked at the local Rogpa nursery cleaning, making flyers,helping craft class and took one of the kids to the temple for an hour. Trust me to get he strongest 19 month old.He pulled my hair,pinched me, and nearly deafened me screaming when I returned him to class.I finished the day by handing out some flyers around town to the locals for the nursery charity day and then I had to head to English school.
Today we looked at photographs on each others laptops.One of the men showed my photographs of Tibet.AMAZING.It was beautiful.Crystal clear lakes, turquoise lagoons, snow capped mountains and miles and miles of deserted countryside.This place looks like heaven.I must go.
Tseng tells me she is going to visit her aunt in the local 'nunnery' tomorrow (that's what they call convents here)and asks me would I like to join her.Why not.
I meet Tseng bright and early at 7am and bless her she has sneaked me a cup of tea in a flask and a piece of Tibetan steamed bread from the school canteen as she knew I had not eaten breakfast.She told me we were heading to Norbulingka which is 6k away. She tells me we have to get 3 local buses and they cost 4 rupees each(8cents) as a taxi is too expensive(200rupees-4$)I really want to offer to pay for a taxi as it will be easier,quicker and comfier but it's awkward and I don't want her to feel awkward so I keep quiet.She won't let me pay the fare and it's too busy to argue. It's boiling hot, the buses are packed but strangely peaceful.There are no Indians at all on the buses.The buses are full of Tibetan monks and nuns traveling to visit family,temples or to the markets as Sunday's are their days off.They just sit on the bus reading bibles,books or meditating.The only noise is the horn and the screeching brakes of the bus as we turn corners on the mountains.2 hours later and a steep 15 min climb up a hill and we arrive at Dolma Ling Buddhist nunnery.On the way we pass a fruit stall and I ask Tsering can I buy her Aunty some fruit.After a few min arguing she reluctantly lets me buy a water melon. I wish I had bought a bunch of bananas this thing is bloody heavy!
The nunnery is huge,a big red bricked building set on gardens filled with English flowers,sprawling green gardens,a stream running around the gardens,a huge temple and shrine to the Dalai Lama outside,no traffic,no noise, the smell of flowers and the sound of birds singing in the sunshine.It is beautiful.It makes me think of my nan looking at all the English flowers.All the plants I look at are what my man used to have in her back yard.I have not seen these for years.I think this is a little sign she is with me so I say a quick hello and have a little conversation with her in my head...
We head to her Aunty's room which we are not allowed to enter and are greeted by a shy,red faced smiling bald nun wearing the famous maroon robe.
Her aunt is 46 years old and has been here for 7 years.She cannot speak any English and has never met an English person before so she is very quiet.It's a bit awkward at first but after a few minutes we are laughing,joking and she is holding my hand.She takes me around the nunnery showing me the libary,prayer hall,classrooms and finally the kitchen.The kitchen is so tiny, I cannot believe they can feed 200 people from here.But it is spotlessly clean.I would say cleaner than any kitchen I have EVER seen in my 15 years in the catering industry.To be fair the whole complex is clean,spotless and I would eat my dinner off the floor.It is so quiet here.Me and Tseng joke we should be nuns and join the nunnery and live in this amazing place.We sit in the gardens and eat the melon whilst the nunnery cows munch the grass around our feet.
Midday a massive gong strikes and the nuns flock to the dining hall to eat their noodle soup for lunch.We all go outside to the local Tibetan noodle house and eat a delicious dish of noodles and vegetables. I am trying my best to use chopsticks.The two girls finish in seconds slurping and whipping up the noodles like masters with the chopsticks.It takes me nearly 15 minutes and I have more on the front of my top than on the plate! Tseng will not let me pay for lunch and I feel terrible but accept when she says ''If you are my friend you will let me buy you lunch.Please.'' She only gets given 6$ a month to live off from the school fund and I know even though it's only $1.20 for all our lunch it is a big spend for her.
Aunty makes a call to Tibet from the local phone shop whilst we sit and drink hot water from the flask she brought. We finally say our goodbyes late afternoon and head back home. What a beautiful day.Peace,quiet,nature and beautiful company.I head back to school with Tseng and hang out in her room with her for an hour much to her delight.By 6.30pm I am shattered and head home to get a shower,I stink.When I leave I receive a text from Tseng,
''I am very happy today so I want you to know.You make me happy.I am happy to have a friend.OK,good night and I hope you have sweet dreams.I look forward to conversation class tomorrow. XXXX.''
Bless her. From what I have experienced travelling Asia, Asians are very young at heart and very innocent. It sometimes annoyed me and Sorcha when we made friends, they would tell us they loved us and would not leave us alone for a second. Calling, texting,emailing etc. But today I think I have met a friend for life who has a good heart, good morals and beautiful personality. She has been through so much at such a young age and is so happy and full of life.She has nothing compared to us in the west but refuses to let me pay for my lunch and bus fare.I really want to give her some money when I leave but I don't think it's appropriate.I am going to buy her some toiletries and a nice gift she can keep to remember me by.We had such a nice day I even rang home to tell my mum about it.It's amazing, some people you meet for only a few hours and you have strong feelings for them.Such a nice girl.I am looking forward to seeing her in class tomorrow and telling the boys about our little trip.