A Child's Garden
Laxman Jhula, Uttaranchal
I have been very out of touch with everyone lately, since every time I talk to anyone, try to be a friend with someone or write anything, I get jumped all over and told how much I suck. (Total strangers seem to be fine, it's just those who know me who can't stand me. I guess to know me is to hate me.) Tends to make one silent and withdrawn.
I will be in Kathmandu next week to do the visa and now I have lots of little junk to get done before taking the bus. Today I had to return two books (The Wisdom of Forgiveness by Victor Chan and the Dalai Lama, and Cave in the Snow by Vickie Mackenzie) to the orphanage I borrowed them from. Ramana's Garden is a great orphanage here in Laxman Jhula, run by Western volunteers, for Nepali (mostly) and local slum children. The Nepali kids are fleeing the civil war; the local kids are mostly fleeing poverty. They also run a health food restaurant (brown rice and organic veggies!) and when the kids are old enough (about 13) they train them to work in the cafe, serving and preparing and such, so they get job training. The orphanage itself is beautiful, built very organically right into a hillside with lots of trees and gardens (they grow lots of their own vegetables) - a healthy place for the kids to play. They also get schooling, including English of course. Most of the westerners are college kids volunteering for college credit. I am very favourably impressed with it. There are so many sham orphanages here in which the proprietors accept donations and pocket them, it is great to see something so altruistic succeeding.
It was starting to rain (thankfully) when I made it to the bottom of the garden steps. The volunteers thanked me for returning the books. I tried to pick their brains for stories about the kids. They said the Nepali kids usually describe a scenario where "the bad men came to their house and made us leave, and we ran into the forest." It's difficult to tell whether the bad men are Maoists or Royal Army - the effect is much the same.
Prabha, the American woman who founded the orphanage, has been in India for some 29 years! She was meditating in a cave by the Ganges years ago and local kids started wandering in (strange white lady living alone in a cave, everyone has to come check it out!). She didn't get much meditation done, but did learn of the difficulty of their lives and situations. Eventually Prabha just gave up her meditation quest and began helping the kids full time.
It was a good thing I returned the books today. Tomorrow they pack up all the kids and head for their retreat in the mountains, to sit out the next 2 months of intense heat. Some time in August they will return and the cafe will reopen.
Check it out! Their web page is www.sayyesnow.org