Thursday, January 6, 2011

The Journey 7

Christmas Party

The Christmas party was magical!

Imagine creating a Christmas party up in the mountains with no Christmas tree, no Santa Claus, no carols and a bunch of kids who've never even heard of a celebration called 'Christmas'.

The Christmas committee had to work really hard to pull this off!

Bright and much earlier than usual, we began our trek down the mountain. Skipping and hopping as fast as we could, we made it to the school in just about an hour!

The Team quickly broke into groups - the boys lugged benches down to the playground, blew balloons and hung Christmas decorations high-up where the kids would not be able to pull them down.

The girls opened boxes and packages and sorted out new school bags, sweaters, gloves, exercise books, stationery and foodstuffs for all the kids.

Running to and fro, we raced against the clock, as the children would arrive at ten and we wanted everything ready before they arrived.

As soon as children arrived, they were put into different teams. The teams set in alloted places on the school benches, kids and youths and adults all jumbled up together. New faces came as the kids from a local private school also joined in the fun and goodies.

Since we were restless, my group started... "Group 3 bomb! Group 3 bomb! Group 3 bomb to Group 1 bomb!" It was a treat to see the Kolakham kids join in with gusto!

At 10a.m., our MC's for the day, Nina and Nuraini, welcomed everyone to the Christmas Party.

First, were the speeches. The Headmaster gave a speech to explain about Christmas to the kids. Then Serene had a chance to say thank you to the school for allowing us to come in and join them for the wonderful two weeks.

Then, games, of course! Our first game was passing the parcel Our young translators, students from the private school, helped to explain the game to the kids. As soon as the music started, the kids picked up the idea quickly and were soon grabbing and throwing and giggling like mad!

When the music stopped (always at a Kolakham kid's turn!), the kids had to go in front and perform a penalty for everyone. The children were shy, but they were sporting anyway, and got a prize for their bravery!

When the game ended, the boys had a turn to shine with a hip-hop OMG dance! Why is it called OMG dance? Probably because when you watch it, you'll definitely say 'oh-my-gawd!!'

Christmas tree decorating time! But there's no Christmas tree....? So we drew them instead! Three huge vanguard sheets of paper were pasted on the wall and the three groups were given a mish-mash of tinsel, wrapping paper, balloons, straws... 1-2-3... and DECORATE!!

Wow, the kids are creative!

The girls prepared a Malay dance, complete with selendang, for their item. Nuraini had drilled them over and over again in hours of patient practise... and it paid off! The dance was beautiful!

And the teachers and Headmaster of the school had their 'star' moment too! With a Nepali dance that the adult volunteers joined in!

Time was running fast, so we brought out appreciation boards that the adult volunteers had prepared to distribute to the headmaster, teachers, our guide, and all who had supported us up in the lodge.

And for every child... a card with their photo in it decorated on the outside with their name by one of the Team members. How the children's faces lit up!

So, what is Christmas without gifts? The children lined up, and we gave out the bags with all the presents inside. The children were so excited, running to the side of the playground as soon as they received their schoolbags filled to the brim with presents and dug through their bags.

The little ones pulled out the chocolate and biscuits, tore off the wrappings and started chewing right away... Older kids pulled out the gloves and socks and stared at them and tried them on. It was pure magic!

We gave them some time to go through the things, and then taught the children...

CampVision dance! "Everybody needs...a little something" warbled Vanessa Amorosi and the dust flew all over the playground as the children followed our shuffle, shuffle, shuffle, hop! shuffle, shuffle, shuffle, hop! through the familiar steps!

And one more time - "Waka waka! It's time for A-fri-ka!" ... this time, the KIDS leading, and our youths following their steps!

Lunch was extra-special, as the lodge we stayed at generously donated lunch for free. Supplemented with the food cooked by the teachers, it was a real treat for the children, even though their mouths were still sticky with chocolate and snacks!

Then... a surprise for us! Chairs were laid out and benches and we were invited to sit on them. Hmmm....??

The Headmaster gave a speech to say thank you to us and to say that he hoped we would come back to the school one day. Then he gave a word of instruction and...

The children opened their bags, dug into their pockets, and took out beautiful garlands of flowers that they had prepared for us. All the children came forward like floodwaters and went to the adults and the youths and hung the garlands over our necks.

The tears flowed from the eyes of almost all the Team members, as the simple loving gesture of the children of Kolakham village, and the realisation that we had touched their hearts too, and that it was now time to say goodbye, overwhelmed us.

Serene gave a farewell speech (through her tears! :>) and then it was time for everyone to give final goodbye hugs.

The youths and adults each sought children whom they had bonded so close with over the two weeks... giving hugs and receiving hugs and high-fives from the tinies (who had no idea what was going on!)...

But what surprised us was when the children, too, started to cry. The children clung to the youths and did not want to let go as they hugged them goodbye...

It took quite a long, long time, and even then, it was with wet faces, before youths and children could separate to give farewell waves goodbye as the children slowly left the school.

We took a photo with the new school extension - all ready after two weeks! - and then started on our trek home.

More children than ever escorted us as we began our trek up the mountain back to our lodge for our final night before leaving Kolakham Village.

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