To give the kids a bit more time to spend with their friends, we organized a little farewell party at our guest house. 20 or so wonderful girls came over, and we enjoyed take-out pizza, cake, fruit, and loads of silly games together! Our girls also taught them a new obsession which enthralled them for several hours -- weaving friendship bracelets!
The next morning (the day before departure) we were invited on the school’s winter holiday picnic… We began at 6am (yes that’s right!) at the school to board 70 students on the buses, then drove to Godvari forest preserve to cook a picnic breakfast… It was a wonderfully out-of-control event, with kids rampaging every which way, and stuffing their mouths with junk food from the moment we began. Then we fed them all breakfast and tea until they were “full.” Minutes later they dug in their packs and pulled out more chips, candy, nuts, and cookies! As Tsultrim said, “Oh yes Sir Paul, we Tibetans love to eat!” Karen and I automatically kicked into Outdoor Ed. mode to harness some of that great energy, teaching them blob tag, elbow tag, etc… Then we went down to the National Botanical Garden to “see the park.” Again, it was chaotic and loud and totally unorganized, but the students were all having a blast just being outdoors together. At a lovely little waterfall in the Japanese garden section, some of the kids started a water fight, which soon involved plenty of teachers as well… Such joyful playful fun times together! Amidst the chaos, we did manage to spot several awesome birds, including male and female scarlet minivets! There were also a few bright inquisitive students who continually grabbed my hand and pulled me aside, “sir Paul sir Paul, why does this fern plant have small spots on this leaf?” or “Sir Paul, tell us the cactus and why is that spine so sharp?” “why is this tree smooth, and that one so very rough?” I would LOVE to have a nice small group of 10 or 12 of them out on an all day naturalist walk… they are so genuinely fascinated by the natural world, but they rarely get out into it.
We packed that night, jamming things tightly into huge duffel bags, and ate one last gorgeous breakfast looking out over the stupa. Then rushed off to the airport… extra early to ensure our selves plenty of window seats on the left side! The flight was originally listed as an 8am departure, but was rescheduled for 1pm… but then there was a major technical delay. So we enjoyed 5 or 6 extra hours in the airport, including a delicious complimentary buffet dalbaht, while I anxiously watched the clock and the setting sun… If we flew out just after dark, missing the view of the Himalaya, I was going to have an absolute fit. But fortunately we boarded right at sunset, and as we took off and ascended out of the filthy air of the Kathmandu Valley petri dish, we were blessed with just enough pink and orange light to see the alpenglow on all the giants… Dhaulagiri, Annapurna, Manaslu, Langtang, Dorje Lakpa, Cho Oyu, Everest, Lhotse, Makalu… and Kanchenjunga way over on the border with Sikkim. Phew!!!! What a lovely and tearful farewell to our beloved Nepal.