Sunday, 4 December 2016

Trapped in Tansen

Dan’s arrival in Tansen has sparked a flurry of activity that has now been halted by a strike in Palpa, to our great annoyance. Last week we spent a few days in Devwari, teaching lessons and making shape mobiles (technically, triangle mobiles) with the Class Five students. We also caused quite a stir in nursery letting the children scribble on endless pieces of paper that we then made bunting with and strung around their classroom. We were having to string them through as fast we we physically could to keep up with the sheer level of pictures the children were producing! On Wednesday we visited Shree Kalika and were halfway through teaching a lesson when suddenly everything had to be stopped, we had to leave, the strike was about to start and we needed to get back to Tansen as quickly as possible before they banned all traffic from the roads.

It has now been five days of road strikes, of not being able to buy resources because the shops are shut, of now not being able to do anything because the internet is always shutting down, we can’t visit schools because they too are shut. Cars and buses and bikes are stationary, the noise and exhaust fumes have died away. Children roam the streets of Tansen playing football, people are selling things furtively through doorways, not risking raising their shutters in case they are caught. The strike finishes at five in the evening, and the bus park rumbles and spits into the night with people desperate to get in and out of town, and to deliver food. The homestay has had no guests for days, because no one can bring in tourists – and why would any tourist risk coming into a town they may be trapped in? Amelia came back for two days and her bus to Kathmandu was cancelled, so she had to escape on a night bus. She said that it was horribly claustrophobic, people were so anxious to get out of town and with no other options the bus was filled to the brim, two or three people squeezed onto one seat, people squatting on her arm rest, people having fits in the aisles.

Photo from Amelia!

Dan and I have been coming in to the office to plan a science training session, but with patchy internet (is that on strike too?) and no shops open to buy the things that we need to carry out the training we are stuck. The school exams start on Tuesday, which would have meant a few days at Bhalebas before then, and going to the Montessori school with Sagar next week. Except now the schools, when they eventually reopen, will have to go straight into exams or catching up with all the exam preparation they have missed. The Montessori school had exams last week instead – but of course they have now missed their exams, so next week will be catching up for them too. No one knows at the moment how long the strike will go on for, the Kathmandu Post declared at least two more days, but no one really knows. At the Red Cross building we have been told that there is a huge protest planned for tomorrow to decide if the length of the strike will be extended further or not, but no one is sure. It is so frustrating to be here and so useless at the same time. I am leaving Tansen on the 13th for Pokhara to renew my visa before I fly home for Christmas at the end of that week. Our plans of work are grounded. All we can do is sit and wait it out.