Child

It was a joy this week to join a three day course on the therapeuric use of play. It was  excellent – informative, practical and with lots of opportunity to practice on one another. We all quite easily accessed the child parts of ourselves as this picture suggests.I began to ‘get’ how ‘just playing’ can actually access fascinating symbolic subconscious meaning.

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Some of you may remember the story of Jamila who worked quietly in the office office as an administrator. She admitted that she would love to learn to be a childrens’ counsellor but no one knew how to help her. There were no relevant courses  in Nepal. However, soon after that a psychotherapist and an occupational therapist arrived in Nepal who were skilled in play therapy. This is now the second course they have facilitated. Thanks to Jamila’s dream, counsellors, researchers and a clinical psychologist all learnt the basics this week and were able to try them out in Nepali.

Creating an accredited supervision course is still my big dream. I’ve been prematurely launched into writing a syllabus for a 16 week supervision module! My research supervisor would like me to teach his masters students. Possibly in January. This would be a wonderful opportunity, but rather sudden. I’m grateful to be able to email ‘help’ to a number of people…..

Annoyingly this cold still refuses to go properly. I’m wondering if it’s to do with the polluted air which is very bad at the moment and am experimenting with a nasal spray.

The festival of Tihar where houses are lit with candles and coloured lights was later than usual and almost blended into Christmas this year. We came home one evening through the candle lit streets to find traditional music and dancing in our garden and were delighted (well I was) to join in.

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On Tuesday it’s the annual ECTC Christmas Quiet Day. The theme this year is the Trinity and the Nativity! The day will also include quiet reflection, team building, games, clay work, dance and eating nice food.

The following week I’ll be leaving Andy in Nepal and flying to UK to be with family. We both had different feelings about this December and have agreed (amicably) to separate for our first Christmas in 32 years! Meanwhile, the first Advent candle has been lit, the Nativity figures have been rescued back from the Play Therapy course and we’re listening to ‘A Winter’s Night’ by Sting recorded in Durham Cathedral. (This way I get to celebrate Chritmas twice).

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Wherever you are this Christmas and however you celebrate, may you know peace and hope.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Masala tea, mountains and making history.

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We sandwiched our trek between two stays at The Castle Resort Pokhara. Overlooking the lake, sitting in a deliciously green garden or bathing in the pool I learnt more about being ‘in the here and now.’ I experimented with being present, being aware of my senses, my breathing, being still;

‘Calm, cool and steeped in stillness.

The lake reflects, stretches the wooded slopes,

Elongates and softens them.

Mirror-flat and motionless as glass

The water holds the very sky…..’

What a contrast to the wild challenge of the mountains. I was paying attention to my breathing in a very different way as we climbed 3,660 metres in 3 days. Gasping the icy air as it got thinner and thinner I sometimes wondered if I’d make it at all. There were 7 of us and evenings beside the wood stove playing games and laughing uncontrollably  were helpful.

As it started to get light Andy would bring me hot sweet spicy masala tea and take these photos while I tried to word-sketch the unfolding dramas of dawn;

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Morning 1. Tadapani. Rose light changing to peach and gold and then sharp lemon, Christmas cake ice-white. Torn edges against a flawless sky.

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Morning 2. Dobato. This room has woven walls like a basket. Watching the wild sky – mountains appearing and disappearing behind the flapping prayer flags. Sudden blue sky and now a fierce rose light touching Annapurna. Macchapuchare is ringed by flame coloured clouds – ragged wisps of flame-fingers, tendrils of fire! Shout to the Lord all the earth!

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Morning 3. Kopra ridge. Almost-dawn lit mountains, so close. Clear sky, yaks, thin icy air, tiny wisps of steam cloud melting across glistening peaks. Deafening silence.

Here we are coming down the mountain about to plunge through cool corridors of rhodedendrons then out into the light again. Down into villages and bright marigolds and eventually into the orange and lemon groves and hot springs of Tatopani. Thankful for a refreshing, exciting holiday.

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Back in Kathmandu there are still more research questionairres to do and working out what fits my inclusion criteria is much more complicated than I thought. Also as seems usual at this time of year I find it hard to shake off colds. However, I’ve enjoyed facilitating some peer supervision groups recently and this month look forward to participating in two three-day trainings  – Complex Trauma followed by Play Therapy!

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And here I am yesterday with Jamila and Andrea at the first ever International Child and Adolescent Mental Health conference in Nepal. An exciting 2 days networking, hearing research presentations and teaching on subjects like autism, family therapy, self harm, internet addiction, a child help line, parenting, culturally acceptable diagnostic tools and many more. A list of requests was presented to the Minister of Health and Population. Making history.

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Let the river run!

25/9  /18    ‘Many buses go to Dolalghat’ muses the taxi driver and he kindly helps me to find the right one. It’s exciting to ride into the East of Nepal. It’s refreshing to see clean rivers flowing through fields of bright green rice crops. It’s nice to put aside research questionnaires for 2 days.

The river Indrawati, sourced high in the Himalayas, runs through the centre of Dolalghat. It is fast and wide by the time it gets here. I get off the bus (on the road that leads to China) and head back into the town over the bridge. A lady bathes with her children, a fisherman throws his net  into the rushing water. I see J waiting for me and smiling. The suicide prevention training is going well. Many participants came with fearful or stigmatizing attitudes towards the suicidal. By the time I get there this has completely changed. I’m in time to see these community mobilisers work in their first ever supervision groups (yaaay) and then to present them with their course certificates. This is a bit bizarre as I haven’t done anything to contribute to their training but I just do what I’m told…..

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27/9/18    I’m sitting on the stairs because my room doesn’t have a window and I have to enjoy the view. I see washing hanging under banana trees, hills swathed in mist, and the river. It was wonderful yesterday to be part of the second group’s training. I was so impressed with the team and all their hard work – professional presentations, film clips, power points, pictures, music, role play, interactive discussions, group work  and even a puppet show! The subject matter  was grim but a multi media approach helped to manage this.

My role was to lead 3 short self-care sessions over the two days.  On the final day I told the participants how the team had found the river a perfect place to relax and unwind beside (or in). It reminded me of the seaside with soft white sand and beautiful round pebbles. A place to become like a child again and forget about the horrors of suicide for a while.

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Sitting on the stairs reading about another river;

”…and I saw water coming out from under the threshold of the temple toward the east.. Swarms of living creatures will live wherever the river flows. There will be large numbers of fish, because this water flows there and makes the salt water fresh; so where the river flows everything will live. …… Fruit trees of all kinds will grow on both banks of the river. Their leaves will not whither, nor will their fruit fail. Every month they will bear fruit, because the water from the sanctuary flows to them. Their fruit will serve for food and their leaves for healing”.

I shared with the team about this image of a God-sourced river flowing out into the surrounding area bringing wholeness and healing. We prayed that the mobilisers will spread hope to the surrounding areas where they live (as far as 45km away from Dolalghat) and that suicides will be prevented.

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This is our puppet. He was dressed as a Nepali mum for the Dololghat puppet show about depression suicide and stigma.

5/10/18  This is how he looked yesterday when I took him to meet 25 school principals. I was glad he came with me (and also 2 from our team for different parts of the day) because I felt  nervous. The date suddenly had to change, ‘Would you mind doing it sooner they are very eager.’ I can teach listening skills but listening to children in a school context is quite specialised. I wasn’t sleeping very well. With 3 days to go I was so thnkful when someone lent me the perfect book called ‘Conversations that matter.’ I learnt a lot in those 3 days (and slept better). One of the many creative ideas it had was a conversation with a puppet who has a problem and wonders how many of the class know how that problem feels.

Despite the very formal opening speeches and special banner for the occasion (no pressure then) the school principals and teachers let me re-arrange the rows of chairs and ignore the stage and the lectern. They entered into the day with enthusiasm and openness. (Alarm Nepal is their organisation).

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Here they are  in pairs leading one another round the room with one of the pair with their eyes shut. During the day they began to see how important it was to listen with empathy to their students, even to be in a place of ignorance and let the students teach them.

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They role played being 7 year olds to answer the puppet’s questions as well as working in pairs to practice listening skills. They remembered many stories from their childhood about times when they were not listened to or valued or understood by those who taught them.  It seemed an appropriate time to read a poem from the book,

‘…As a teacher I possess tremendous power to make a child’s

life miserable or joyous.

I can be a tool of torture or an instrument of inspiration.

I can humiliate or humour, hurt or heal….’

These  open-hearted men and women of influence have the power to make changes for great good in their places of work.

Let the river run!

 

 

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Another step

Thursday 13th September

Bimala and I met with a counselling supervisor trainer and manager today. Sunita had come to our very first Introduction to Supervision course and has many years of self-taught experience as a supervisor. She was just the right person to pilot our questionnaire. It was so exciting reviewing the Nepali version because this is all such a new field in Nepal. There is no official lexicon for terms like ‘client’ or ‘counsellor’. The word counsellor comes out as ‘heart-discussion-worker’ which I think is lovely.

I also wanted to discuss with Sunita how we could work together. I had all sorts of ideas but somehow  putting together a Nepali accredited supervision course was immediately our focus.  And somehow it started looking very possible. Sunita knew the procedure  and had her own accredited counselling skills course. She knew the required number of hours and people who could be invited to teach. I could write the proposal (much  of it is already part of my research).We would then put together the syllabus and submit it to the relevant authority. Sunita named a doctor who we would also need support from.  ‘He is very influential and knowledgeable.’ She said.  ‘Oh he’s my research supervisor!’ I replied.

Friday 14th September

Today is Andy’s birthday! We’d decided to have the day off and turn it into a long birthday weekend. Andy cycled off in the mountains somewhere first thing in the morning…. (Actually this was taken on Tuesday but you get the idea)

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We spent the rest of the day by and in this pool, that wonderfully, is just down the road from us.

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Today

We walked in the hills. The torrential monsoon rain is easing off and everywhere is dazzlingly  green and fresh.

As we tried to take this selfie of the two of us, a dear little man came up to watch. I explained that today was my husband’s 61st birthday and asked how old he was. He didn’t know.

He’s holding a knife that is usually used to cut grass. Guess who has to carry it? Yes the ladies. These loads are incredibly heavy but she still smiled for the photo.

Next Sunday

I’m finally getting to go to the place where ECTC does it’s work with the community mobilisers. It’s a 4 hour bus ride away. Sadly we’re not trekking to the villages because we need to be based where everyone can meet in one place in the town. DB, Rochak, Sujendra and Jamila are conducting ECTC’s very first 2 day suicide prevention training programme. I helped put some of the material together but they don’t need me to teach it which is great!

 

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Surprises

Over the last weeks I’ve had three surprises.

I was sitting on our roof recovering from a cold/stomach virus. It was our wedding anniversary and I had no energy to go out and buy a card. I decided I could just manage a DIY version with a quick 15 minute sketch of the south-westerly view that we both love. Two hours later I discovered I’d completed an actual painting! That was the first surprise. I’d had to do a very fast watery misty sky as it was changing so rapidly and the rest just seemed to appear.

The scene depicts Chobhar village on the left. This is the hill some of us walk up most Sunday mornings while Andy is mountain biking. Even starting at 6.00am at this time of year is a hot sweaty experience, but lovely to get out of the city. We do a kind of loop round the monastery at the top and back down the other side. Last Sunday we had spectacular mountain views through the mist. (What you can see in the picture are only little hills).

 

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Bottom right is part of Tribhuvan University where I go for my tutorials and did a little teaching earlier this year. The building you can just see is the one in the background of this photo. The psychology department is further to the right. Bimala is currrently writing her research proposal but we’re still hoping we’ll be able to do this together.

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This Wednesday I was feeling much more energetic and decided to walk to my tutorial. At 6.00am it was lovely and cool and quiet. Thanks to the monsoon there were brilliant flowers, vivid green banana trees and creepers disguising the houses. Even the river was full of fast flowing water which had washed away the rubbish (and the stink).  I walked up a road under the trees parallel to the road you can see in the painting. I’d brought breakfast and work with me and also enjoyed chatting to some of the friendly students from the psychology department who recognised me.

I ended up talking for 2 hours with my professor. He wanted to know which model I’d used for my thematic analysis of the data and details about the translation process of the recorded interviews. He confirmed that the supervision of ‘psycho-social’ counsellors was the most important because they only have 6 months training and are then sent out to remote areas. They find themselves out of their depth for the client issues they encounter. Nice to know I was on the right track.

We then started discussing his students and the masters course. He wondered if it might be possible for me to be involved with teaching counselling skills on a regular basis as the course tends to be too theoretical. That was the second surprise. I feel very honoured about this and would love to do it. We then discussed the visa situation and he said; ‘Why don’t you just do a PhD in Nepal, then you can have 3 years to serve the people more as you are so nicely doing.’ That was the third surprise. I made some rather non committal noises.

Phase 2 of the research is a survey of as many counselling organisations as possible using a questionnaire.

(But sometimes gazing at banana trees is more relaxing).

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Buying a sari

We’re starting to ‘unfurl’ back into life here in Nepal and finding ways to embrace the culture. Thank you to those who prayed about that. Sleep is back to normal now so no long hours of mindfulness in the middle of the night I’m pleased to day. Here we are spending Saturday afternoon with friends in a nearby village. We were excited to find  young Manisha now has a job as a tv presenter for a health programme.

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We’ve also had visits from our dear friends Bharat and Biswob and I’ve had a couple of language lessons. All at ECTC are doing well. Jamila has just given a presentation about bullying and peer pressure in a school and is preparing another one on sexual abuse. She shared some helpful ideas with us for training on suicide prevention to community carers north of Kathmandu. Bimala and Smriti have been away giving pastoral care training. I caught up briefly with Bimala she helped me with some translation of more research data. We all meet tomorrow for the Annual General Assembly. Usually the ladies wear lovely saris and I decided it was time I had one too.

On Sunday I went with friend Karuna to choose one. There’s a lovely bazar/street full of material shops not far away. Each shop has shelves and shelves of fabric in every colour you can imagine. The idea is to go in, say what you’re looking for and they place swathes of silk and chiffon at your feet.  If one looks promising it gets draped around you and if you’re not sure you go on to another shop where another sea of fabric starts to form around you. We left quite a trail, but eventually I spotted a deep pink one with darker pink embroidery and a gold border. I tried it on, Karuna tried it on (and later Sita the tailor tried it on too just for fun) then I bought it plus lining for the blouse to be sewn later. We celebrated with lunch in a Newari cafe which is kind of underground with tables round a great metal cooking pot. The walls are black perhaps because of the smoke, but the food is delicious.

So here I am today with Sita the tailor having tried on the blouse she sewed for me during the week. It all fits and I love it. Another customer took the photo and shortly after this filmed me dancing while she sang! (not sure if this is normal practice)

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However, when I told ECTC friends I’d bought a sari so could join them this year they said: ‘Oh didi, we are not putting on sari this year as GA is going to be less formal.’   I’ll just have to wait for the next wedding…..

 

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Unfurl yourself

Though your destination is not yet clear
You can trust the promise of this opening;
Unfurl yourself into the grace of beginning
That is at one with your life’s desire.
Awaken your spirit to adventure;
Hold nothing back, learn to find ease in risk;
Soon you will be home in a new rhythm,
For your soul senses the world that awaits you.
John O’Donohue
I spoke to a number of people over the summer who are moving into something new – a situation, an attitude, a challenge, a location and in one case even, the end of life.  I came across a poem in the prayer room at our BMS conference/retreat last week. The instructions were to take off your shoes and stand on a brightly coloured mat and read the poem as you think of a new beginning you are making. These last few lines above particularly struck me as I stood looking out at the garden in Birmingham and thought about going back to Nepal. Especially that word ‘unfurl.’
And now we’re looking out on mountains, steamy cloud and a forest of maize. The landlady has just brought us two corn on the cobs from her harvest.
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‘Unfurling’ so far has involved
  •  Discovering the bank has changed its card system so couldn’t get cash out.
  • Our internet suppliers have to change everyone’s cable to  fibre (3 people in and out of the house all over the house with wires, landlord and his wife coming to give advice, joining a wire to the house opposite, trying to answer their questions in Nepali, giving Andy  progress reports by phone. In English)
  • Finding out why there was a burnt feather pillow on the balcony  (Clue; Feb. 10th 2016)
Perhaps ‘unfurling’ is going to be about
  • Trying to be more intentional about learning and speaking Nepali again. I’m having a lesson today and tomorrow before I get too caught up in work and use up my energy.
  • Living alongside feelings without letting them take me over. The night before last I lay awake for hours thinking; ‘I feel lost’ and ‘what are we doing here?’ ‘What if I can’t get my act together with the research?’ and today; ‘I feel rubbish about helping to deliver suicide prevention training in a remote community.’ And that’s ok. (Thanks to those of you who pray and also a book caled the Happiness Trap).
  • Embracing the culture and blessing people. Yesterday when I went to get a new watch strap the watch mender greeted me and I realised he was in the middle of lighting a candle for his prayer time. I would never have thought of praying just then but tried to pray a silent blessing on him and his shop too.  I have lovely Nepali colleagues but not many Nepali friends. I like to risk buying a sari with someone and get to know them better.  In Nepal neighbours bring each other food, colleagues share their lunches. I want to break out of my Western-individual-lunch-box mentality.   Unfurl.

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This is a stone for grinding spices which I have next to the microwave because it represents the two cultures we live in. I don’t use the stone very much….

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