Clown Bijouxxx has worked hard to organize the trip to Nepal from Koedijk.
From 3 to 21 November Clown Bijouxxx visited children in Nepal in 19 centres/hospitals with 8 other clowns/musicians/puppeteers and a photographer.
Two Dutch women, married to Nepalese men, have helped us greatly in putting together the program and have been our interpreter: Ilse Sapkota Bennink,her Nepalese husband Shiva and Maureen Piya (Bombo Foundation) They both live in Nepal.
10 years lustrum of Stichting Dyio 14 January in the Lindese mill. This is Ilse and Shiva.
TRAVEL REPORT ( in the making ) :
How it starts:
I met Peter at a clowns workshop in 2016. Peter buys my sponsor booklet and immediately says he wants to come to Nepal. His dream is to always make contact with people as a clown. To be able to do this abroad is his big wish. That’s how our group is formed. I met Marlieke in October 2016 in Meppel at a puppet theatre festival. She too buys the booklet and hears about the Nepal trip. Her heart jumps up and she always tells me she wants to take a trip like that. After overcoming insecurities: I can’t do this, I’m not good enough…. And my warning that we won’t leave without her, she can tie the knot and make the decision to go for it. I meet Petra on the 80th birthday of a mutual friend. We’re performing for her together. When Petra hears about the Nepal trip, a spark comes into her heart and she immediately knows that she is coming with us. She is training to be a harp therapist and can do an internship in Nepal. She borrows a little harp from her teacher. When Petra tells her friend Marrit about the trip, she also wants to go. Marrit has experience working with children in hospitals through the Stichting de Rainbow Tree and has done a clowns workshop. There will be doubts, no, and then suddenly the decision to go. She’s overjoyed. Nathalie was my real estate agent when I sold my house in 2015. We made contact and when Nathalie heard about my travels she was very touched. Besides being a real estate agent, she’s a flight attendant and used to dealing with people. She too would love to come. Because it is a big step into the unknown, she asks her friend Wilma to accompany her. Wilma has worked with children in South Africa. Two people without any clown experience: a gamble for me to take them with me. And a lesson to open my heart to them, too. To give them the chance to experience the beautiful contact that comes with looking super colored and cheerful ( and with a crazy red nose on it). Peter knows Ron, and Ron’s dying to come, too. He did an annual training in clowning. I’m very happy there are two men in our group. That is certainly important for the visit of street children. And then there’s Ingrid our photographer. She is a friend of Wilma’s and will not apply for a job until October in Koedijk where I live temporarily. She finds sponsors to finance her trip and would love to join us. She takes beautiful pictures and we are all happy that she is part of our group: our court photographer!!
The first meeting.
On Saturday 24 June, 6 clowns/puppeteers and a woman with a big heart met in the studio of Nathalie’s husband in Nederhorst den Berg: Peter aka clown Pyotr, Petra a.k.a. clown Harpa, Ron a.k.a. clown Kroelie, Marrit a.k.a. clown Bloem, Marlieke, Nathalie alias Butterfly and myself as clown Bijouxxx. Wilma a.k.a. clown Happy is on vacation at that time.
On that Saturday we get to know each other a little bit. I start in silence. To get to this place we sit still and breathe consciously for 5 minutes with your feet firmly on the ground. Then we’ll take a group tour to tell you something about yourself. Then I tell you how it all works: such a clown’s journey. We put on our clowns clothes and introduce ourselves to each other on his clowns. Improvisations spontaneously arise and our group is born. It’s a warm and light contact. Happy and satisfied, we go home.
At dinner in Bussum
The second meeting is on Saturday 2 October in Bussum in a restaurant. Nathalie, Wilma and friends have organized a benefit dinner. Before we go there we meet again in Nederhorst den Bergh. We start with lunch around the table.
It’s a hell of a noise: everyone talks excitedly. Sitting still and breathing helps to create peace for a moment. We’ll store all the gifts we’re going to take to the centres and show each other our clowns wardrobe. Then it’s time to leave for Bussum. In the crowded restaurant we welcome everyone who enters and walk around the tables. Wilma will be there this time.
And then we meet on Friday 3 November in the KLM hall at Schiphol: we are going on a journey, the adventure can begin!! One by one, we enter in clown’s ornate. Our photographer Ingrid travels with another airline and we will meet on Saturday.
I had a lift from neighbour Jeroen who took me from Koedijk, in an MG sports car to Schiphol, a wonderful luxury that gives me a lot of relaxation. We are waved off by our entourage… but before this can be done, Ron’s passport must be picked up from Rotterdam very quickly: he left it under the scanner. With the help of Ron’s girlfriend, Petra’s husband who drives fast, and a lot of positive visualization especially of Petra, the passport arrives on time and his Petra and Ron after a good sprint are well in time at the gate. The party is about to begin. There is confusion about the amount of luggage we are allowed to bring. Three of us have a newer ticket that allows us to “rub in” 46 kg over two bags/suitcase. The others have to pay extra for too many pounds. We quickly distribute the luggage so that the others have 23 kg and one suitcase. It takes a long time for the ground staff to understand what’s going on and we really don’t have to pay anything. I even need to call the travelbudo to verify this.
It’s crowded past customs and at hand luggage control. Of course we have a lot of views and we take a picture with other travelers. We have clowns on clothes and our red nose at hand. At the baggage check I always try to make myself invisible, to take off jewelry, to do everything that makes me look suspicious and the gate lights up and yet I have to be completely groped by a lady. I don’t like that and I’m very happy when that’s over and I’ve been able to put everything back in my backpack. Clown material and my little accordion need to be looked at very carefully.
The plane’s pretty full when we get in. It’s always very funny to see the passengers reacting to us when I walk past and greet someone. We’re all in the back. For the staff, it’s a long time to have clowns on board. Finally the plane is packed and we install ourselves for an 8 hour sitting: no empty spaces to lie down for a while!!
To compensate for co2 emissions a little bit, we all pay something extra for : Greenseat.
We arrive in Dehli in the middle of the night. We have to wait at a small transfer desk until a nice Indian has received our transfer tickets and we are allowed to continue. Our first foreign group photo was shot.
In Dehli where we have to spend 8 hours at the airport before we can fly to Kathmandu.
There’s a group of Somalis coming to us. They’ve been waiting for hours and can’t go on. They’re very hungry and we give them fruit and cookies. They’re super grateful. Then we’ll find our laid-back chairs that I reserved. It’s a little disappointing. They’re armchairs. No backrest that can go down. However, we can eat “for free” here. Included in the seat price. Eventually we make room on the floor to get a bit of sleep: in the food smells.
Saturday 4/11: Arrival in Kathmandu at 12.30, after a very long journey via Dehli where we spent 8 hours at the airport.
Ilse Sapkota Bennink, and Maureen Piya, our assistants are waiting for us. Ilse in Kathmandu and Maureen in Pokhara. It took a while for the luggage to arrive and as a result Ilse and Maureen, both married to a Nepalese man, were able to get to know each other and share a lot. We rented a spacious bus with a great driver named Radne. Plenty of room for all our luggage. We leave for our first lodge: Tibet Peace Guest House.
What will our “hotel” look like? it is just off the road, just walking up and lugging with all the luggage. There is a small garden and very basic rooms that we divide. Our hosts/wife are very nice people. For Nathalie and Wilma this place is too easy and they go in search of a real hotel.
Sunday 5/11: In the morning we have our first group meeting. A round with a “clowns” talk stick so that everyone can imagine and tell why he is going on this special clowns trip. Ilse and Shiva’s husband are also present. It’s very beautiful and moving to listen to what everyone has to say about why he went along.
Then Ilse takes us on a discovery journey through a piece of Kathmandu. We visit one of the smaller beautiful Buddhist temples. What are a lot of beautiful things for sale here in lots of shops and a lot of electricity wires wir confused by hanging at the top of the streets. Most of our group have not been to Asia but feel right at home here.
Then it’s time to display and sort all our gifts that we have brought with the children. We do that in our lodge on the restaurant tables and chairs. There’s hardly enough room to put it all down. And it turns out to be a really big job. We make provisional bags for each center separately. We also have a very large bag where we put all our acting materials in.
Monday 6/11 morning: First gig: Kanti Childrens Hospital.
This is a children’s hospital. We divide ourselves into groups to go to the different departments.
I’m going with Clown Harpa with her harp and clown Bloem to the ward where cancer patients are. It’s incredibly important that we’re there. Looks like there’s not much distraction for the kids. How much I’d love to come here every week. Fortunately, there are volunteers in Kathmandu who visit the children from time to time. I don’t have an interpreter here, and with some kids, it would be nice if we could communicate. I’m glad I brought crowns, the kids are happy with it. We’ll switch rooms once, and then time’s up. In the hallways we also meet many parents with children and it is a party to connect with everyone. This goes on outside and it’s hard for us to say goodbye and get on the bus.
afternoon: at 15.30 we are expected in the SOS children’s village. The children/young adults then come out of school. This centre is home to mainly children/young people with a physical and intellectual disability. When we arrive there are only a few children/youngsters left and they have to change first: school uniform off!! The big schoolyard is under renovation, the other place where we can play is much smaller. As one of the first there is a woman in a wheelchair and she is super happy with all the attention we give her. She’s glowing from ear to ear. When everyone else is here, we need to get going. We stand uncomfortably side by side in a row. If we imagine one by one clown, the ice is broken and the rest goes by itself. Then I let the children introduce themselves, their name with a special sound which we all imitate. Our circus rope act is a great success. With our help, all people with wheelchairs will also go over it as real acrobats. It quickly gets dark and after just over an hour we have to stop again. A warm contact with this group of special people has quickly developed and again we say goodbye with pain in our hearts. What a force and light these people radiate despite their limitations,
The first day is over and now we already know a little more about each other what we can offer and how to work together. There are delicious restaurants everywhere near our guest house in Tamel. It’s a feast all eating together at a big table.
Tuesday 7/11:we leave at 8:30 to go to the Tashi Waldorf school, a school on anThropocene basis. Ilse’s two children go to school there. A lot of very poor kids go here and it’s beautiful. All children start in the schoolyard with a ritual in the circle. We’re in. There is a Hindu and Buddhist prayer and it affects us all. Then we divide into three groups to “clown” with the youngest children. I form a duo with Marrit, a.k.a. clown Bloem to visit in a class with preschoolers. Of course we are going to walk rope, a ball game, music and dance are a party to share with these beautiful children.
After taking a nap on the floor in an office above the school, we are offered a delicious hot lunch. Much to the amusement of all of us, a chicken is breeding in the bookcase. She’s going to sit quietly despite our chatter.
At 14:30 we are expected at the International Friendship Hospital. That’s where we spread across the children’s wards. I’ve been given a lot of Hawaii rainbow color flower garlands and taken them and wrap them around the drip standards. In this hospital, the doctors and the nursing staff have their office/desk in the room with the children. We also give them the necessary attention and pleasure. Before we leave we go to the director’s room to thank him and take a picture. Once again, we are very touched by seeing many very sick children.
Photo: at the director’s.
Wednesday 8/11 morning. We go to Koseli Foundation,and this is on their website:
“Koseli means “a gift” in Nepali and the centre does exactly that. It offers them a gift of a happy childhood and education. The centre also takes care of their hygiene, nutrition, clothing, medical and recreational needs. Koseli started with savings of pocket money of few friends and educating 5 kids in 1997. The numbers grew every year, when it was decided to finally register the NGO. The strength of the school is now capped at around 100. We are confident, capable and experienced, to run a school with greater capacity. It’s a shame that due to our limitations, we deny admission to close to 100 children every year. The aim of “Koseli” is to reach out to under privileged marginalized children living in the slums and the streets of Kathmandu whose family can barely afford one meal. Education, health, clothes and hygiene are in no consideration of their need. Koseli provides these children, a clean and healthy environment like that of any other school. The children are made to feel physically and emotionally safe while they are in the premises of the school. Their basic health and hygiene needs are taken care of by the School. Children are provided with clothes, shoes, books and stationary, all free of cost at Koseli.”
It’s hard this morning to get everyone together to leave on time. Petra and Marrit aren’t coming today. Our bus can’t park in front of our guest house, we have to walk a bit to get to the bus, parked on a very busy street. We don’t get to Koseli in time, and that’s stressing me out. Then it turns out that our materials/bag are still left in the bus. Luckily, the bus just didn’t drive away. We start in a very large circle to make contact and introduce ourselves. Nathalie and Wilma are going to make kids face. The children love to get attention in this way. We have a balloon dance, circus, music and Marlieke makes contact with her rat in the bag and sometimes scares someone.
My magic trick is a great success here. Once again, time passes very quickly. Before we leave we hang out in the office of the headmistress who does a really great job here. We get a nice drawing as a thank you. Ingrid takes a nice group photo to finish. Then it’s time to sort all the stuff again, clean up and go to lunch.
4:30 p.m. With 4 clowns and Ilse, Shiva, their two children and a girlfriend we leave for the Ganesh Himal Childrens Home. Here 15 orphaned children live in the middle of nature in a small house. It looks very, very simple. Fortunately, it’s still light when we start. Here, too, we introduce ourselves. I’m offered a seat and I don’t know how to sit on it, Kroelie has a balloon trick, and together we’re all going to make a circus. It’s a celebration to be here with these kids. Satisfied we leave on the bus to our dinner.
Thursday 9/11 morning. Everyone has been looking forward to going to the Segyo Gaden Phodrang Monesrty. There live about 60 boys/men of all ages. Abby Citron, a super great American woman is the primeval mother of all these monks. Most of the boys who live here lived on the street or cannot be cared for by their parents. Here in the monastery they get food, a bed and a Buddhist education. Abby works hard to make sure everything in the convent goes well.
It takes some getting used to for the monks to see us come in. But the ice broke very quickly. We make contact in small groups. There are Dutch games, fold balloons, of course the rope walk, the whole scary rat in the bag, improvisation and juggling. I’ve brought a lot of sets of juggling balls to teach the kids and leave it there.
We’ve been invited to lunch. But first we get a tour. The temple is beautiful with two very large drums and images of many important Llamas. The monks start here early in the morning with meditation, mantra and schooling. The bedrooms look very shabby. Every child has an iron chest for his personal belongings. It is nice to be able to eat together with some monks. In Nepal it is the custom to eat with one hand. Pyotr makes grateful use of this and eats very nasty to the amusement of his table mates. Eating together is a good way to say goodbye afterwards.
14:00 at noon. We leave for a street children project: CPCS
This is a centre founded by Inge Bracke, a Belgian woman. The journey to it is truly magnificent. It’s great to get out of town and see the beautiful nature. There’s five of us. Nathalie, Wilma, Marrit and Ingrid are an afternoon tourist.
This photo was taken at the end of our visit. It took some getting used to here with these big boys. With the sounds of harpa’s drum, Pjotr and Kroelie started doing a kind of hip hop African dance and that had an immediate effect. The boys were allowed to play drums themselves. There was energy and joy. Because I was very tired myself, I started a couple of guys as warriors. Touching how their energy changed from lethargy to strength. We also had great admiration for the leaders/father of this group of boys who have been through a lot in their lives and live here without family. In every center we went to, the children have little privacy and have each other as a family.
Just as we were leaving, a van with more people arrived. We were too tired to make contact with them, too. In the nearest village on the way back we went to a very fancy hotel to eat “chillen” and cake. How wonderful it was to be in wealth for a while. Our hotel is very very simple with only occasional hot water. In the dark we drive back to it over busy Kathmandu.
Friday 10/11 am 11 am: SERC centre for children with special needs. I’m not going to this center. Time for myself and to buy gifts for those who say goodbye to the group. I learn that it has been a wonderful visit and that Marrit was the director this time. In the afternoon the visit to another street children’s center does not go through and everyone is very happy with this extra time to rest.
Saturday 11/11 morning 10:30: Tion Laura Home where a lot of street children live. Founded by the Dutch Lies Vink, Namaste Foundation. This is a nice big house with a big playground where we meet the children/young adults. This is the last visit in which our group is almost complete. Wilma feels sick and stays in her hotel. We are all pretty tired from all the visits and it’s a job to get the group of kids together and hold their attention. It’s a hot day, there’s no shade on the playground. Most of them are teenagers, walk in and out of the house and sit in front of the house chatting with each other. The clown in fotograve Ingrid jumps forward and with her lively energy she has a lot of contact and fun with the children. Especially during the rope loop program. Pyotr seems tired and sits down for a while to talk to a volunteer. I remember that it can be fun to do nepali dance together. The music is getting. A few groups emerge where the teenagers dance and try to teach us. In the large group together, it doesn’t work. We have a lot of fun, dancing together is always a party. On this visit it is best to make individual contact and we each do so in our own way. Fortunately, most people can speak English to us. Then there is tea and cake waiting for us in an office and we get an explanation about the creation of this house. Lies is unfortunately not present. I’d like a tour and two girls show me the bedrooms. They look modern. As everywhere else there are bunk beds here. I have great admiration for Lies Vink. She’s doing a great job with her Foundation.
Photo at the end of our visit to Tion Laura house: the clowns, our driver, a staff member and with a picture of Lies Vink, the founder, in the background.
afternoon: 15:00: we leave by bus to The Garden of Dreams to have a meeting there to end the first week. I asked our lodge owner about the most beautiful place in Kathmandu and so I heard of this beautiful garden. It’s pretty crowded. In the back we find a sheltered seat with two benches that we can all just sit on: super cozy!! In the middle on the ground all kinds of goodies we had brought. Tell one by one how this week is experienced and what it has done to you. A lot for everyone. I’m the only one who has experience with this clown work abroad. For the veins, it’s completely new. Everyone is moved by what he has been through and grateful to be there and to be able to be there. We leave in the dark. Rest a little and then go to dinner somewhere in a restaurant.
Sunday 12/11 morning: it’s time to pack our things, the next day we will leave early.
noon: we leave for the Summit Hotel where Iet Schiller is waiting for us. She is again a Dutch woman who does a lot of work for the children in Nepal. Together with her husband she has built a beautiful house where single mothers and their children are temporarily taken care of and can live. Her Foundation is called Kiran Namaste. We are very warmly received by her. She gets in our van and we drive through the beautiful nature of Nepal to the house. To our great surprise, all the children are waiting for us in two rows: boys on the right, girls on the left and then from big to small. The youngest children are at the front and have made a beautiful drawing for us.
this report is in the making……. Mmm
More info and pictures are coming.
Thank you to all the wonderful people who donated money for this trip !!!