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Stop the boats – it’s cheaper to fly

By the numbers

Forget for a moment that asylum seekers are actually people with hopes and dreams just like us. Let’s focus purely on the numbers. Take your humanity out of the equation and let’s see if we can find a more cost effective way of dealing with asylum seekers.

The cost of detention

According to the Sydney Morning Herald the cost of keeping asylum seekers in detention has hit 1 billion dollars. The past financial year, Manus Island has cost taxpayers $632.3 million to “accomodate” 1060 asylum seekers ($596,500 per person). Nauru comes in slightly cheaper at $582.4 million for the 1167 asylum seekers ($499,000 per person). An average of $545,442 spent on each asylum seeker per year.

Let’s consider a best case scenario where the average cost of detention is lowered to $400,000 per person. Here’s what we could do with that money instead.


1) Buy asylum seekers a first class ticket to Melbourne ($5,000)

Stop the boats lets fly asylum seekers here test 2

2) Provide a chauffer driven stretch Limousine from the Airport to the CBD @$230 per hour ($700)


3) A bottle of Penfolds, 1959 Grange as a welcome gift ($4,850)

Penfolds Grange 1959


4) A new Commodore SV6 Storm on arrival ($40,839)


5) A year long stay at the Langham Hotel in the Grand Classic Room for $280 per night ($102,200)


6) Including daily buffet breakfast, $30 per day ($10,950)


7) Fuel to cover a years driving, $1.40 per litre. 15,530km @ 10L/100km ($2,174)

PETROL RELIEF: Petrol prices have fallen slightly following the opening of the new Coffs Harbour United Petroleum service station.


8) A sample of 365 different lunch venues across Melbourne @ $20 per day ($7,300)

Cheap, tasty, filling, food, restaurant, delicious, cheap meal deals, Melbourne, inexpensive, café, lunch, dinner, breakfast


9) A four course dinner each night ($120) at Melbourne’s newest 3 Hat restaurant, the ‘Flower Drum’ ($43,800)

Pickle selection


10) Front row seats to a weekly broadway show $200 ($10,400)


11) No dirty laundry with fresh underwear daily ($4000)


12) A years supply of bamboo socks ($2855)

Bamboo socks


13) A Mirrogram tee for every day of the year ($12,775)

Asylum seeker tees male and female


14) And a new pair of designer jeans each week ($285 x 52 = $14,820)


15) Footwear package from Armani. Includes; high tops, driving shoes, sneakers, heels, boots, business and casual shoes. ($3,710)

Armani shoes


16) Daily Vinyasa Yoga classes at Loving all of you holistic health ($16 x 365 = $5,840)

Loving all of you yoga


17) Weekly therapy sessions with private Psychologist ($150 x 52 = $7800)

Psychologist Listening


18) Weekly, private hour long golf lessons at the state of the art Golf Science Centre ($120 x 52 = $6,240)


19) Scholarship for full time study at the University of Melbourne ($35,912)


20) Why use a tap like a nobody when you can brush your teeth with bottled water? ($730)

thankyou water


21) And buy an iPhone to fit in skinny jeans right up to trackies ($4,000)


22) A Teacup Chihuahua ($4,000)

Tea Cup Chihuahua


23) And designer handbag for said Chihuahua ($6,440)…


Okay, we’ll stop short of buying a pet Chimpanzee and add up what we’ve spent so far (see table below).

Costs for hosting asylum seekers

With $62,655 left to spend it turns out we can afford that pet Chimpanzee after all!

Do what’s best for Australia (and you)

What’s more ridiculous than the above list is that we would actually SAVE money by welcoming asylum seekers to Australia in this way. Yes, SAVE money. The savings exceed $200,000 per person when you consider families of asylum seekers would share a hotel room (saving $102,200 per person) and a car (saving another $40,839 per person).

Replacing the current detention centres with these harsh measures provides an estimated tax saving of $445 million dollars. Roughly $25 for every tax payer in Australia.

One more tiny thing to consider

Stop and take a closer look.
Asylum seeker not just numbers female reflected

Asylum seekers are not just numbers, they’re people.

-Stop and Reflect-


The trouble with changing the world is…

Ever wanted to change the world?

I have. I’ve spent a good part of my life trying to. I’ve learned, I’m learning and I’m yet to learn many things (as you will see).

This blog is intended to be a honest discussion about what changing the world might look like. In it you’ll find creative experiments, challenges to take action, thought provoking stories and experiences that will inspire you in your own journey to change the world.

This blog is for world changers.


The trouble with changing the world is…

The trouble with changing the world is, acting with good intentions is not enough. Sometimes our efforts can do more harm than good. Here’s an example of what I mean.


Harmful “help”.

As a Physical Educator I’m aware that between 6th-8th grade the FMS (Fundamental Motor Skills) of the average female will decline. Despite two years of Pysical Education the overarm throw and vertical leap of the average female will actually go backward! There are a number of factors that contribute to this but none of them have to do with ability.

When I hear boys (heaven forbid even girls) using “you play like a girl” as an insult it makes my blood boil. When boys exclude girls from games or refuse to pass to them it makes me furious because I know what it all adds up to. Girls participation drops and becuase of this their skills don’t improve. The myth that girls aren’t capable is reinforced and the cycle continues.

I had to do something about it.

Talking with the class wasn’t enough. Neither was the t-shirt below or the video of incredible female athletes that pops up when you scan it.


Like a girl - Like a boss


I really wanted to drive home the point so I set up a tug-of-war competition, confident of the result, knowing most girls have easily outgrown boys by grades 5 and 6.

The tug-of-war match began and I stood back to enjoy the inevitable result, giving myself a pat on the back as I watched the girls win easily. The boys reactions ranged from shock and embarassement to making excuses and name calling. I must admit, I took a little pleasure in this.


Lessons from a Grade 6.

The next week I stopped the class again to point out some things that females generally do better than their male counterparts. At this point a wise young lady asked me to “Stop comparing us with the boys”. I was too busy mounting my high horse to really listen. It was only after class when I thought back to what she had said that I realised what she meant.

My intention was to show how capable girls really are, but these intentions had left a bunch boys feeling humiliated and embarassed. Prejudice hadn’t disappeared, it had switched sides. Not only that, I had inadvertantly created an atmosphere of competition and comparison rather than collaboration and fun.

This wise grade six student reminded me of the importance of thinking before you unleash your good intentions on somebody else.


Intentional actions, unintended consequences

This has happened more than I would like to admit. Being there for a friend can turn into dependency which leaves them feeling powerless to change their own situation. Offering money to someone (who told me they’re not a charity case) can rob them of the dignity of earning it themselves. Heading overseas for two weeks believing you can fly in and change the world reinforces the idea that you have all the answers. While we’re busy patting ourselves on the back I wonder what those we’re “helping” think.


The key to changing the world

How can we be sure our efforts are actually addressing the needs of others? By listening. It’s that simple.

How do you want to change the world and how might taking more time to listen help?

-Stop and reflect-

Day 22

Our final morning in Kathmandu was filled with frantic shopping before we packed our bags and headed to the airport. We crammed into a tiny Nepalese van once last time and headed for the airport.


Now officially on our way back to Australia via India.

We decided to treat ourselves for our last night in India. We stayed in a fancy hotel. Still under $300 for 8 of us ($37 each) really not a bad deal. The internet worked, the showers were warm, the bed was not covered in lice, alcohol or stains from the previous guests!

It felt a bit indulgent but it really was a nice way to celebrate the end of something and mark our time away from Australia.

Later that night we shared a meal with some good friends Mahaveer and Valli. Most of the team were feeling a little off after this meal as was I.

We woke the next morning, I was still feeling seedy but wasn’t about to pass up the breakfast buffet that was included in the price of our stay. I felt sick but ate what I could before we packed up and headed to the airport for our flight back home.

The one highlight was after almost 10 hours of trying I passed the Hard Sudoku in under 30 minutes, something I couldn’t do on the flight over.


The rest of the plane ride home was excruciating as I started to feel the first signs of food poisoning. From then on everything irritated me. Announcements, waiting in line, screaming children. Our connecting flight at Sydney was delayed, it was all a bit much.

Mercifully we landed in Melbourne. I got to a bed and then collapsed.

I slept 20 of the next 24 hours, interrupted every so often by my compulsory weight loss regime. All the weight I had worked tirelessly at putting on in India and Nepal disappeared. All my hard work went down the drain (literally). You can take a man out of India, but you can take India out of a man!

Welcome back!

Day 21

Let’s Roll

We cycled away from the crowded Thamel tourist district weaving our way through countless pedestrians and onto the open road.

Less people, more cars! It took a few minutes to get used to traffic passing dangerously close to our bikes. With the adrenaline pumping we set a cracking pace up and down the hills before we found a more quiet road and started the climb that eventually led us back to Swayambhu (the monkey temple).

After a short break we decided to head in the direction of the HOPE school. We had 200 Chumli to pick up that we’d paid for days earlier. We later hear that the teachers had put the school kids to work in class tying bunches of tyre tube into hackey sacks for us. It may have been considered slave labour except that we hadn’t paid them anything!

Urban Mountain biking

As we neared the edge of the city the ride got interesting. Away from the busyness we took a few dirt roads and some impossibly narrow alleyways where we dodged potholes, piles of dirt and animals. Past rice fields and patches of land used for farming we rode until we stumbled upon a cricket match being played in a vacant block of land. We stopped to have a few bowls but after getting smashed for 54 off just one over I decided it was time to leave!

Tim cricket

We took some more gravel roads further up the hill and followed the contours in the direction of the school. Just before we made it there Tim popped a Tyre. We didn’t think to bring a puncture repair kit and so we rode into town in search of a new Tyre tube.

The old school principal lived nearby and after failing to find what we were looking for at the shops we headed to his house to see if he could help. While them team waited I headed to the school to collect the Chumli. They weren’t ready. Tika, the guy looking after the school, promised to drop them in town later than night. I felt bad that students were using their class time to do this for us. Before I had time to leave Sobha arrived with a plate of delicious Pakora’s I was expected to eat! I gobbled them down and somehow managed to escape without the compulsory Chai.

The Tyre was fixed and we were back on the bikes navigating our way past cars, pedestrians and piles of rubbish. We took turns at choosing our direction and soon found ourselves trying to stay upright on the clay packed borders of a rice field. From skill to thrill the ride took another turn as we found ourselves on major roads dodging, cars, buses, scooters and anything else you’ll find on Nepalese roads.

Downhill racing had nothing on the dangers of weaving in an out of traffic on these roads. We started overtaking slower vehicles. Pick a gap and commit to it, before you get squashed by a bus. The boys thrived on the adrenaline but started to get a little cocky. Ben starting riding on the footpath, maintaining speed as he crossed intersections he was now supposed to give way at.

A scooter pulled out on the road just in front of him. Ben had no time to stop and T-boned the rider, knocking him off his bike. The rider was stunned and felt bad even though it was completely Ben’s fault. The rider got back on the scooter and Ben rode away nursing scratches and bruises.

With this wake up call we decided to head back. Just one more tricky thing to navigate. A right turn at the round-about. Without designated lanes at the round-about this involved working your way over to the middle of the road so you were on the inside lane, ready to make a right turn. Alternately you could stay in the left lane and risk making the right turn from there, hoping nobody on the inside of you wanted to go straight ahead! We all picked maneuvers safe enough to get us back in one piece. Our hearts were pounding as we arrived back in Thamel. We returned our bikes and gave our favourite restaurant a heads up about an eating contest we were going to hold later that night.

Urban Mountain Biking Kathmandu

Momo Off.

Welcome to the first annual Momo Challenge. Tonight, competitors from all over the world will attempt to eat 50 Momos. For those of you who are wondering what a Momo is, it’s like a steamed Dim-Sim, only twice as delicious and half the size.


We now cross live to our commentator Jenny Craig.

Thankyou Jim. The competitors wait with anticipation for the first waiter; and here he is, delivering the first of many plates containing 10 Momos. Competitors are required to stack finished plates one on top of another to keep count of what they’ve eaten.

Josh is off to a flying start, inhaling his first plate in under a minute. Mitch is close behind as they both wait for another plate to arrive. The others look sluggish as the waiter delivers a second plate to both Mitch and Josh.

Plates continue to pile up here as the group settle into a com-nom-nom-fortable pace. Can the crowd inspire hometown hero Tika to victory? They are certainly doing their best, cheering him on with every mouthful.

After taking an early lead Josh is starting to slow down. Mitch looks as if he is making a move. The mid 30’s are always tough but Mitch is powering through and has now taken a clear lead from Josh who is really starting to struggle. It’s like he’s eating in slow-momo.

Not out of it yet Kobby, Ben and Andrew are quietly chewing their way toward 40. Polishing off their fourth plate is all the MOtivation they need. There is no way this trio are going to let the elusive half century escape them now.

But wait, there is some drama out in the kitchen. A waiter is approaching the table. Oh no, he’s asked for some plates back. The kitchen has run out! Competitors watch their opponents closely as they hand back their hard earned plates. Ben has seen this as an opportunity to increase his count and is trying to claim an extra plate. His attempts are drowned out by the crowd shouting “Cheating not eating”.

There should be enough plates now but what about food? Could the boys have run this restaurant out of ingredients?

The crowd are getting impatient as they wait for the waiter to return.

After a long delay some more plates have arrived, bringing up the half century for Mitch. The crowd give him a standing MOvation. An eMOtional Mitch celebrates his 50 in style, kissing the empty plate and waving it to his fans. Meanwhile it looks as if Kobby, Andrew, Ben and Josh are all set to completed their half centuries.

Eating like this has never been seen before, the crowd is in stunned silence. Even the waiters are smiling despite the mammoth amount of extra work this competition has created.

Mitch doesn’t seem content with just 50. It looks like he’s ordered another plate. Yes! Here he goes, this could be a new world record. The crowd have all but forgotten about the others who have now reached 50 and local favourite Tika who finished the night on 40.

The fans are screaming as Mitch makes it into the 60’s. The rest of the boys seem to have conceded defeat and it looks as if they are more interested in picking on Josh, who is on the verge of throwing up. Kobby has grabbed a Momo and is waving it in Josh’s face shouting “Here comes the aeroplane”.  Josh is now curling up in the fetal position and is rocking back and forth in the corner MOaning. He looks trauMOtised!

Mitch has just piled the 65th Momo into his mouth. He looks done, but there are still 9 Momos left on the table. Kobby and Andrew reluctantly finish them off to take silver and bronze, ending with totals of 56 and 53 respectively. Not a single Momo has gone to waste. What an incredible performance.


A combined total of 380 Momos, the MOst ever eaten by a team, as well as a new individual record of 65. Fans have just witnessed history in the making.

Well that’s all we have time for here. I’m Jenny Craig. Goodnight.

Day 20

It was worth it.

Nargarkot Himalaya mountains

No matter how early or cold!

Nargarkot Himalaya mountains

We scampered up to the hotel roof to watch the sun come up.

Nargarkot Himalaya mountains

Last night the sunset was great, but this was incredible!

The children went for a walk, the roof cleared and it was just me and my thoughts. Long shadows danced on a nearby fence as the kids wandered into the distance.

Nargarkot Himalaya mountains shadows

Some things are so easy to miss unless you take time to slow down and look at them from another angle. How often do we miss what’s truly in front of us because we haven’t taken the time to stop and reflect?

I was amazed at having two different perspectives at the same time.

Nargarkot Himalaya mountains shadows

This is exactly how I felt about the beauty all around me. Two perspectives. Mixed emotions. On the one hand I was extremely grateful to be able to see all this. On the other I kept thinking ‘This is the Nepal locals deserve’ not one that is covered in smog and rubbish.

I thought about the lookout yesterday which was spoiled by all the rubbish on the ground. I looked up and watched the sun climb over massive peaks to shed light on a valley swimming in clouds. I was happy and sad at the same time.

I wrote two contrasting poems to capture this. If you’re a Math Nerd like me you’ll appreciate that both poems follow the Fibonacci sequence. (1,1,2,3,5,3,2,1,1)

Nagarkot Beauty blog

Nagarkot polluted blog

I felt better after writing the last poem knowing that we were about to do something. With me were 7 rubbish pickers I had been carrying the entire trip. At last we were to make use of them.

We headed to the lookout, stopping a small opening in the forest where we set up a game of giants treasure. While the kids were distracted some of the team snuck away to hide some real treasure (lollies).

Nargarkot Giants treasure

The kids raced up and down the steep slope in search of both types of treasure. The hardest thing wasn’t finding the lollies, it was trying to get the kids to keep the wrappers in their pockets after they had eaten them!

Nargarkot forest

One poor child didn’t find any lollies! His mind was on other things.

Reflective thinking

…she loves me not!

A guaranteed way to pick up

After we gave Daniel a group hug the bus took us back to the lookout where I explained what we were about to do and why. Heads were nodding as my words were translated. I really felt I’d been able to communicate both the effect of rubbish as it floats down the river and into Kathmandu and the immense beauty of Nepal which is worth protecting. Even Daniel cheered up when I guaranteed that everyone was about to pick up!

I showed the children how to use the rubbish claws and pointed out the many concrete bins. With the vast majority of rubbish thrown around them not in them, I wondered if the bins needed a demonstration too!

Nargarkot rubbish pick up

Rubbish pickers were handed out and eager kids rushed off to try them out. Bins were filled (like never before!) and the scene at the lookout came a little closer to matching the beauty all around.

Nargarkot rubbish pick up girls

Bags and bags of rubbish were gathered until the bins were overflowing.

Tim rubbish team

Changing a culture

A man selling postcards and souvenirs at the lookout stopped to ask us what we were doing. Nick explained what we were up to and discovered that he was also frustrated that tourists would come here for 5 minutes, drop their rubbish and leave. He asked for a rubbish picker. He wanted to show that he cared about his country. He wanted others to do the same.

Nargarkot rubbish pick up

I was thrilled. Not only would I get rid of excess luggage but we had found someone who was on board, someone who is so passionate about a cause that they take it up themselves. Change will never come if it is imposed on people from the outside. Change comes from within. Our groups cleaning efforts may have lasted 2 weeks at best but now there is someone on the inside working for change. As we left I thought about future trips, hoping next time we come back to Nagarkot the lookout will be pristine.

A dose of reality

Reality struck as soon as we got back on the bus. The children were dropping rubbish out the window. We reminded them of what we had just spoken about and all the cleaning we had done. Embarassed they apologized, but we understood. It’s not as if they can change a life long habit overnight.

It made me sad that dropping rubbish on the ground was such a part of the culture, but like any culture there is always the ability to change. I thought about the man at the lookout again. Change from within. I smiled.

Day 19

The rain had cleared away the smog. Perfect.

Today we were heading to Nagarkot. One of the best places to view the Himalayas in all of Nepal.


Our bus was filled beyond capacity with eager students from class four and five. The 25km trip took almost 3 hours as we wound our way uphill to our destination. We arrived at the hotel to spectacular views of the Himalayas. Massive peaks as far as the eye could see were completely hidden by the smog last time we came here in summer. Also on our last trip I remember children jumping in the showers fully clothed then running out of their rooms with massive smiles on their faces. Some had never seen a shower before.

This time it was the middle of winter. No one dared.

We settled in to the hotel and sat down for lunch. Once again, hungry children surprised us with how much they could eat. After lunch we headed to the lookout, where the kids somehow found a way to climb the lookout tower. An activity that no amount of risk assessment and paperwork would cover in Australia wasn’t given a second though in Nepal. The teachers followed the students and together they bounced around the scaffolding.


*Note: Nepalese kids are that tough that the concrete below is probably more afraid of them.

Tim's converted Nagarkot

Nepal v Australia.

All this tower climbing was just a warm up. The fans were here to see a game of football. At an altitude of over 2000m the match was dubbed to be one of the high-lights of the trip.

With larger bodies, longer limbs and an extra 10 years experience, the Aussies were red hot favorites to take home the silverware. With odds of $1.05, Nick made a quick trip to the TAB to put on a million rupee bet. He couldn’t, the electricity was off!

Cocky and overconfident the boys from down-under had no idea of what was to come. Hard, competitive and highly skilled Grade 4 and 5 students took it to the Aussies, scoring multiple times on a relaxed defense. Some were content to blame it on the altitude, still others blamed muscle fatigue from the 365 stairs we had run up days earlier. If only they had as many goals as they did excuses!

Not wanting to suffer defeat at de-feet of primary school children, the teams competitive nature came out. Using their height, weight and long limbs to their advantage wherever possible the Aussies fought back. Some literally, as a few of them were lucky not to be sent off for lifting their opponents up and holding them in the air.

The Australians took the lead and now it was the youngsters turn to get competitive. Bodies slid desperately and dangerously close to the edge of the sideline (a sharp drop downhill) attempting to keep the ball in. During the post match interview the Nepalese coach accused the Aussies of time-wasting and pointed out that it was always his team who would scamper down the steep bank to retrieve the lost ball. The Australian coach declined to comment.

Light was fading at the venue along with the chances of the home team snatching victory. Things were getting desperate. The use of hands and ignoring the umpire became a fairly common feature as the match drew to a close. What primary school student doesn’t want to win?

A few more goals were scored before the final whistle blew and the match was drawn. A great result for both teams who could walk away with heads held high. This International blockbuster would do wonders for relations between the two countries.

Did I mention the Nepalese kids were all wearing sandals?!!

The power of play

The beauty of sport is that you don’t need a translator. The whole range of human emotion comes out. Fear, determination, joy, pain, frustration, desperation, disappointment, confidence, the list goes on. As human beings we also share an innate sense of justice. We can tell pretty quickly when someone thinks something wasn’t fair. If you want to get to know someone, play a competitive game against them!

Sport can be such a powerful tool to unite people around a shared set of rules and conduct. Most of the time it is.

The perfect end to a hard fought match

Both teams walked back to the lookout to catch the last of the sunset.


Surrounded by beauty, it was impossible to know where to look. My eyes were glued to the mountains, slowly turning pink.

Lisa wondered why I was ignoring a beautiful sunset. Until she turned around.


It’s not every day you get to watch 8000m peaks change colour right before your eyes.


What a blessing to witness.

What made it more special was that a lot of these children would never have had the chance to see their own beautiful country. It was a privilege to be able to take them here to do so. The generosity of the team had made it happen.


I did mention there was a sunset.

Day 18

This morning a few of us visited the church in Nepal, while others went in search of bargains on the streets of Thamel. We met back up for lunch and I introduced the team to the former school principal Dinesh and his son Diwas.

How to barter

The boys excitedly showed off their ‘bargains’ after lunch as Josh revealed his 6th pair of colourful pants. The rest of us were forced to go shopping for waterproof jackets as the heavens opened and it rained for the first time the whole trip. We navigated our way around endless stores offering ‘Genuine GoreTex’ products, some vastly different to others, but all genuine let me assure you!

Bartering Tip 1# Not interested

Bartering is a lot easier when you don’t care whether you get something or not. Not having your heart set on an item can shave hundreds if not thousands off the price. On the contrary that look in your eye that says “I must have this” will quickly put you out of pocket. Don’t think you can fool a trained salesperson. They will see it. That look of amazement, that happy dance when you’ve finally found ‘it’. Calling friends over to “look at this”. Excitedly shouting “This is awesome” or “So-and-so would love this”. If you have done any of that you might as well have cradled the item like a baby, given it a name, stroked it tenderly and rubbed it up against your face. Any of these rookie mistakes tell the salesperson to multiply whatever the price was going to be by 6.

It’s hard to pretend you don’t want a rain jacket, when it’s cold and raining outside. Time to employ another strategy.

Bartering Tip 2# Bargain in Bulk

Everyone knows you save when you buy in bulk. In Australia, if there is a bargain I will buy up big, knowing I have saved hundreds of dollars. Some doubters may point out that you don’t need 64 boxes of shapes or 160 Boost Bars and I’ve actually wasted money. I prefer to see these things an investment in my future. Anyway, knowing that the price goes down as the quantity goes up is really all you need to take advantage of Tip 2.

Here’s how it works. Bracelets that most suckers can get down to 50 rupees, 40 at best, you can take down to 8 simply by buying in bulk. “But I don’t need 100 bracelets” I hear you say. Good point! The thing about this strategy is that most of the time you don’t intend to buy in bulk, you are just using it as a cover to spy on the real price. Once the shopkeeper has gone down to 8 rupees per piece you know they must be making a profit at 10. So now you make an offer for one piece 10 rupees, explaining that if they can make a profit selling them for 8 then offering your offer of 10 is almost too generous!

Since starting a business I realise this is a cruel strategy and doesn’t always hold true, but I still use it to find out what things are really worth, and lets be honest, if you know me most of the time I buy in bulk anyway!

Tip 3# The walk-off home run

There is nothing better than gaining the upper hand in a bartering exchange and no quicker way to make it happen than to use the “Walk-off homer”. All you need to do is quickly lose interest because of the outrageous price and then walk away. Don’t leave too quickly or they won’t have time to chase you. The trick is to stroke the product or voice an “Oh well” on your way out, indicating that you are still interested but not for that price.

If done correctly the shopkeeper will be at the doorway in no time, lowering the price with each step you take away from their shop. There is no hard and fast rule for how many steps you should take before turning back and agreeing to a much lower price. Generally I advise turning back before you are out of earshot!

There are endless strategies when it comes to bartering like Tip 4# “The guy down the road is selling them for” Tip 5# “The price laugh” or Tip 6# “Major on a minor flaw in the product” although that one reminds me of a funny Bible verse.

“It’s no good, it’s no good!” says the buyer; then off he goes and boasts about his purchase. (Proverbs 20:14)

Anyway, after quite a bit of shopping around Lisa scored the elusive jackets at around 1/3 of their starting price. By this time it was too late to walk to Swayambhu, the Monkey Temple so we jumped in a taxi and after a short ride ended up at the bottom of 365 stairs. The race was on.

The Monkey Temple

The boys bolted off and I quickly followed. Our race to the top quickly turned into a slow walk and we realised just how unfit we’d become! After a number of steep stairs to finish we made it to the top, where two of us had to crack out the asthma puffer.

The rain had cleared the smog from the valley below and we shared sweeping views of Kathmandu with the monkeys.


Aside from the Katman-view, the main attraction at the top is a Stupa with ‘Buddha’s Eyes’ painted in all four directions, representing the omniscient mind of a Buddha (enlightened one). I thought because of their position on the top of the hill overlooking everything the eyes were a reminder of Karma being an inescapable force in Buddhist belief. Nice try. But wrong!


In the middle of the two large eyes is a ‘Third eye’, the eye of wisdom, something common to both Hindu’s and Buddhist’s. It is very common to see people with a small red dot on their forehead to represent this ‘Third Eye’ as well as being a sign of blessing from their gods.

Opportunistic locals often come up here to prey on unsuspecting wallets, but not in the usual way. This tactic is much more clever than picking pockets. Posing as sightseers, they waltz over to you and strike up a conversation. Some ask for your permission but others just start giving you a whole heap of information about Swayambhu. Oh that’s nice of them, you think to yourself, until at the very end they ask you for an outrageous fee for what you thought was a conversation! The boys narrowly avoided these would be ‘guides’.

The sky darkened. The crowds cleared. It was just us and the monkey’s.


Soooooo many monkey’s


We even spotted an unusually large one, who was looking for his friend Ray Bees!


Fortunately Mitch never ran into his friend Ray.

The team gathered to watch the last of the sun disappear. Darkness filled the city below. Kathmandu was on another scheduled outage. Generators powered the few lights that were on. Unfortunately, there weren’t many of them around the 365 stairs we now had to walk down in the dark.

Lisa’s poem

  • HOPE School Nepal
  • Kids with bright eyes and big smiles
  • Quick of thought, smart, eager
  • Snotty noses but friendly faces
  • “Hello Miiiss, Hello Sar – come and play”
  • Poor homes, sick parents
  • No light, dirt floor
  • Small space, zero privacy
  • Mountain goats, generous hearts
  • Mountains surround, eagles fly
  • Strong kids run and wrestle
  • Fight – almost assault each other
  • But tears are sparing
  • I feel exhausted by their energy
  • Lame by their toughness
  • I hope they find a way amidst poor politics
  • To a path of meaning and healthy living
  • I don’t want them to be Westerners
  • Appreciate their culture
  • I hope they can help create change
  • In governing their country
  • I pray God, you raise an army of children with integrity
  • Guide their bare feet to places of influence
  • Let them be all they can be
  • Let Nepal be blessed as a result
  • -Lisa Lorimer-Derham-


Day 17

Can you make a difference in less than a week?

When volunteering in schools you hope what you do can make a lasting impact. It’s pretty impossible to do that in a couple of weeks, let alone a few days. Regardless of whether our visit to the school would make any lasting benefit to the children of Kathmandu, I knew that it would for the 8 of us.

It’s pretty special seeing a 20 year old guys heart melt when a tiny child with a runny nose smiles at them!

HOPE school Kathmandu cutest child

Once again, Lisa and I were extremely proud of the way our team got their hands dirty. (as long as they sanitized them before eating) Each member of the team took the initiative to get involved wherever possible.

HOPE school Kathmandu

 Not task (or student) was too big or too small.

HOPE school Kathmandu duck duck goose

These kids run on Energizer batteries and the team played with them non-stop.

HOPE school Kathmandu dancing

We, danced, sung, learnt Nepalese, taught Maths, drew pictures, played cards, did magic tricks and spent time visiting the children’s homes.

HOPE school Kathmandu teaching maths

If the boys had nothing to do they found ways to make themselves useful without any instruction.

HOPE school Kathmandu

They were flexible with their plans and ideas, even when it meant teaching Year 11 Maths to a genius in Grade 5

Genius child HOPE school Kathmandu

Or conducting random head lice checks with your your tongue!?


Most of all the team provided an atmosphere of fun and love for the children to enjoy…

HOPE school Kathmandu bully

Okay, most of the time!

There was talk of kidnapping a few students to take back to Australia. “This one would fit without any excess luggage charges”, Kobby said.

HOPE school Kathmandu cute child

We tried the kids on for size.

HOPE school Kathmandu piggy back races

Being sure to test for the speed at which we could escape if suddenly approached by the police!

Hahaha Kidnapping. But seriously!

While I certainly don’t believe ‘West knows best’, part of me seriously does wish these children could come back to Australia to experience all the opportunities and advantages we have. Imagine these kids could do in Australia.

What if?

When a Grade 2 girl can almost outrun you. When you watch her tackling boys twice her size without reserve you can’t help but think ‘what if?’. What if she had leisure time to play competitive sport? What if she had proper nutrition? What if she had someone to train her? What if she lived in Australia?

HOPE school Kathmandu children

When a Grade 5 can learn about indices from someone speaking a foreign language, then stay after school to be given more Math’s problems you can’t help but wonder. Is the cure to cancer is locked away in someone’s brain who will never be given the chance to do anything other than housework and manual labour? What if he were in Australia?

Opportunity. Who wants it?

Thomas Edison once said that “Opportunity is missed by most people because it is dressed in overalls and looks like work”. Well, not in Nepal.

A child walks 8km each way for the chance to have an education. They do all the housework and later that night cook dinner for their parents who have been labouring all day. All of this in primary school no less.

We have so many opportunities here in Australia. What are you doing with yours?

HOPE school Kathmandu

Put your hands up if you can smell Lisa!

Day 16

Bistare, Bistare (Slowly, Slowly)

Progress is slow in Nepal. Since the first time I visited in 2010 until now, very little has changed. The capital city, Kathmandu still has no Rail services and the narrow roads are in terrible condition. Bins are still almost non-existent and the valley is still covered with a permanent smog, except for when it rains. The average life expectancy in Nepal is lower than India and despite being the number two producer of Hydro in the world, locals still go 12 or more hours each day without electricity.

Their bus service (cramming as many people as you can into a 12 seater) is still the same too. As we found out this morning. With 8 of us getting on at one stop I thought we would smash the previous record of 28. I forgot to factor in that 8 fully grown Aussies equals around 15 Nepalese. We fell well short with only 20 people inside the vehicle. While this is 8 below the record, it is still 8 more than this vehicle would carry in Australia!

We wound our way across Kathmandu, hoping the person in the back corner of the van didn’t need to get out until the very last stop! Things looked familiar as we headed up the hill to the HOPE School in Boharatar. Out of all the schools we have visited I’ve had the most to do with this one, so it was special to be able to come back again.

Change and Progress

Sadly, since the last trip a lot of the staff have moved on. Most of the kids I had spent time with had graduated from the school, a lot of them getting scholarships. The few that remained barely remembered me, instead they remembered my sister who did all those cool art things with them!

It was great to see the kitchen had now been built and the midday meal program up and running.

Midday meal, HOPE School Nepal

Even better was that the former principal’s wife Sober was put in charge of the cooking. Not only is she one of the best cooks I know, she will not stop until your best attempts at running have turned into a waddle. What starts off as an innocent Chai (tea) can easily turn into a full buffet if you’re not careful! In short, she is the prefect cook for hungry school children.

HOPE school kitchen Nepal

Your idea is great, but…

We arrived at the school to find the boards I had left to teach Maths with had been gathering dust. At least they hadn’t been used for firewood!

Teaching Math in Nepal Geometry

Perhaps they didn’t find it useful, perhaps they didn’t know what to do with it, perhaps they don’t see any benefit to using them, perhaps they are not comfortable teaching in this way…Perhaps I should have asked these questions before I had them made and then lugged them from India to Nepal.

…do they think so?

I remember reading a story about an organization who published millions of hygiene related posters to put up in Africa. Nobody bothered to think about the 70% illiteracy rate and the project looked like a complete failure. Luckily the women who could read started spreading the message through song, making it accessible to the others. The project was saved but the posters were still an enormous waste of money.

Companies too, have developed their own ‘great ideas’ about charity. One is that for each item of clothing you buy here in Australia, we will donate one over in Africa. This sounds great at first but is actually a disaster for the community who receives all this free stuff. With thousands of shoes and shirts being produced cheaply elsewhere and given away free, the local tailor and shoemaker are put out of business. Who wants to pay when you can get something for free? Now his children are begging on the street…but at least they’ll have nice shoes!

It’s all well and good to have a great idea (like a Math board game) but if you are just imposing it on people or haven’t sold them on the value of it, then it won’t work. Two things I have learnt in relation to development since marrying Lisa are

  1. Listen to what the community wants.
  2. Give them ownership of spreading the message.

The response from the kids was positive as we built shapes, calculated their area and made pictures. Such a different approach to education would be hard to run with and require extensive training. What would take months to fully explain, I could give only 2 days and even then I didn’t get the chance to show the new maths teacher because I had accidentally walked in on her using the toilet (I did knock) on the first day!

Teaching Math in Nepal Geometry

Making it work

Despite the complete lack of development in the country the thing I love about Nepalese people is, they make it work. They have no toys, so they slice up used tyre tubes and make their own hackey sacks (called Chumli)

Nepali Chumli (Hackey-Sack) game

If they are too young for Chumli they make other toys

Toy Car, Nepal

And if they are still too young for that they’ll push around a brick that is almost half their body-weight while making car noises. “Brummm Brummm”.

Danger overtaking bus

They turn one lane streets into roads two buses can fit down and when road access is a problem they carry piles of bricks, fridges and entire shopping aisles on their heads.

Sherpa carrying a crazy weight trekking nepal

Up mountains. In sandals!

They make space to fit on a bus where you didn’t think possible and create even more by sitting on the roof. When the bus door finally gives way to all the people crammed inside, they don’t cancel the bus service, they grab the door and hold onto the roof racks so the bus can complete its route.


They live a hard life and will continue to as there are systems that need changing, things that need to be built and vast improvements to be made. In the meantime they will make things work. They don’t complain, they make it work.

Day 15

Hotel 7 Star. The name is barely an exaggeration.

The service was incredible, the guides were fantastic, the accommodation was outstanding and the food was out of this world. Even after we insisted they’d forgot to charge us for extras, our bill failed to include the 50+ bottles of water we drank, the pots of tea and coffee that flowed freely throughout our stay or the cake they made for Nick’s birthday. We only realised the extent of their generosity halfway through our bus trip back to Kathmandu.

Play our guessing game.

The rest of our stay had already been paid for which included 3 nights accommodation, all our guided tours and all meals. How much would you expect to pay (per person) for something like this? Have a guess and I’ll reveal the answer in a few days time.

Bus back to reality

Chitwan was a nice break but it wasn’t going to last forever. The long, bumpy and frustrating bus ride bought us back into the real world. Beautiful scenery slowly disappeared and crystal clear streams gave way to filthy swamps of rubbish.

Filthy river

Our time away truly was a taste of coming back to Australia. We discussed this later that night.

Life isn’t about your comfort

How easy it is to forget the lessons learnt and the confronting things you have seen in the real world when you live in a gated community. Australia can be a lot like a gated community, while we have our own share of problems it’s pretty easy to live separate to them. We seek to build our own haven where problems can remain “Out of sight, out of mind” as Mitch would remind us.

Again, there is nothing wrong with escaping. Nothing wrong with having a break. Nothing wrong with taking time to recharge. In fact, they are all great things. But how easy is it for life to become about your comfort and your enjoyment. Our whole lives in Australia revolve around the idea that being comfortable is our ultimate goal. Get a stable job and set yourself up, find a car, buy a house, furnish it and if you’re doing really well repeat the process, this time upgrading your car, your house and everything in it…


Do you really think being comfortable is what we were created for? Comfort breeds lethargy and lethargy means you won’t push yourself to grow. On the other hand…

  • Discomfort = Pain
  • Pain = Growth
  • Growth = Change
  • Change = Transformation

My challenge to you is this. Put yourself somewhere uncomfortable. Take a risk, learn a new skill, travel somewhere you normally wouldn’t, talk to that stranger on the bus or read something you disagree with. Whatever you do, don’t settle for a life of comfort.

Day 14

A punbeelievable adventure

Today we ventured further into the jungle as our Safari bus drove us deeper into the bush…what happened next I have taken the liberty of explaining with creative license!

Safari Bus, Chitwan National Park

The area we headed to today was well known for it’s killer bee population.  Undeterred our team bravely continued on, forging a path through the thick jungle.

Jungle, Chitwan National Park

Josh was on the lookout for killer bees and after 6 attempts he finally got the binoculars around the right way!


While he was fumbling around with the binoculars the rest of the team came to a sudden stop. “Here it is”, our guides whispered. “The killer bee tree of death. Look at all those hives”.

Bee Hives, Chitwan National Park

Nick dared Ben to climb the tree and steal some honey. With a whole dollar (half Ben’s weekly budget at Uni) on the line, he couldn’t refuse.

Bee Hive, Chitwan National Park

As Ben approached the nest Mitch and Tim started shouting out puns about Bee’s hoping to stir them up.

“How do you know Bee’s can’t sing? Justin Beiber is their favourite artist!”

“How come bee hair always looks so bad? They use a Honeycomb!”

“What do you tell a lazy bee? Start pollen your weight!”

In didn’t take long before the killer bees swarmed around Ben who was shouting desperately, “Bee nice, Buzz off”. This made matters even worse and the bees launched an attack on his bee-hind.

Lisa, Chitwan National Park

Lisa thought this was all pretty funny…until the bees turned and chased after her.

Huge leaves, Chitwan National Park

This gave Ben a few moments to climb down the tree and make a run for it. Both he and Lisa hid bee-neath this giant plant. The Bees passed by without noticing them which was a HUGE reLEAF!

Wild Chooks, Chitwan National Park

While searching for the rest of the group they came across some wild roosters. Lisa explained the situation and asked for help. “Cock-a-doodle-don’t ask me for help” the roosters replied, having recently signed a peace treaty with the Queen Bee. Apparently this treaty allows them to extract as much honey as they can from the bee hives.

Peacock, Chitwan National Park

Upon hearing this Lisa and Ben quickly moved on and before long had come across an overly sensitive Peacock. After hearing about the many puns that had been made at the bees expense the Peacock fled into the bush, worried at what a name like Pea-cock could inspire.

20,000 lakes, Chitwan National Park

Ben and Lisa came to an opening in the jungle. The buzzing swarm now far behind them…or so they thought.

Crocodile yawning, Chitwan National Park

Two hit-men had been hired to finish the job and lay waiting to ambush the pair.

Baby Elephant, Chitwan National Park

But just then, a baby Elephant came charging to the rescue. She warned them about the danger that lie ahead.

Elephant Whisperer

Ben thanked the Elephant and promised his hand in marriage after this was all over.

A splash was heard up ahead! Ben and Lisa turned to find the rest of the crew on a nearby bridge playing a game of push-offs. Kobby had come off second best and was still shivering despite wearing a warm delicious Mirrogram hoodie.

Bridge Trolls, Chitwan National Park

Ben was bee-side himself and almost fainted at the sight of the group.

Yellow bird, Chitwan National Park

Little did they know, they were bee-ing watched.

Kingfisher, Chitwan National Park

The Queen be had sent orders to her spies to locate the “human scum”.

Eagle, Chitwan National Park

There was no escaping these Eagle eyes.

Group of Deer, Chitwan National Park

“Oh deer”, said Andrew

Deer turning backwards, Chitwan National Park

Oh deer indeed! The Crocs had quietly surrounded them and were about to launch an attack. Andrew noticed the leader by herself on the other side of the bank staring sadly at her reflection.

Crocodile reflection in water, Chitwan National Park

‘I know just the thing to cheer her up’ Andrew thought. He approached the leader with great care, climbing a tall tree before he dared utter a word. “Before you attack, let me show you something” Andrew requested, buying some time for the rest of the team to hide. “Very well” the leader replied. “But know this, if I am not impressed by what you show me I will eat you and your human friends”.

Andrew unzipped his jacket to reveal a Mirrogram shirt. The leader was amazed. “I’ve spent my whole life looking in this lake and I’ve never seen anything like this”. Andrew quickly called for the rest of the group to come out of hiding and show their designs.

We handed over our Mirrogram gear and an agreement was soon reached. The Croc’s would spare our lives and tell the Queen we had bee-n eaten. With our clothing as proof the Queen was bound to bee-lieve them.

“One more thing”, the leader requested “Crocs get such a bad wrap in the press” she complained “We want one of you to wear these bright Yellow Crocs and…” Before the leader had even finished her sentence Andrew ran to receive the gift. All his Crocsmasses had come at once. He slipped them onto his feet and the team skipped merrily into the jungle. Their problems now over.

…or were they!

Snake skin, Chitwan National Park

This was the least of Ben’s worries. An Elephant never forgets!

Day 13


  • Dugout Canoe Ride
  • Elephant Safari
  • Wild Rhino’s

The early morning was offset by a good night’s sleep, a buffet breakfast and the dugout canoe ride we were about to go on.

River, Chitwan National Park

We set off down a crystal clear river in search of wildlife. The canoe wobbled from side to side as our enthusiastic guide Harka pointed out a variety of birds. Each time we spotted something he would thank the animals for coming with a massive smile on his face.

Bird, Chitwan National Park

Even though we made numerous attempts to fall into the water due to our sheer lack of co-ordination we still wanted to see a crocodile.

Ducks, Chitwan National Park

After being shown Rhino and Elephant tracks as well as more birds, we finally spotted one. “I’m a vegetarian” she snapped, as we drifted her way, confirming what the guide had already pointed out, that she was lying on the bank!

Garial, Chitwan National Park

The Gharial is a special type of Crocodile which only eats fish. “Thankyou Gharial” our guide called out as we floated by and then landed our Canoe on a bank downstream. We got out ready for a walk through the Jungle, but before that we needed to hear the safety briefing.

Dugout Canoe, Chitwan National Park

While it certainly did fit the definition of brief, two minutes is hardly enough time to prepare someone to deal with wild Elephants, Rhino’s and Tigers. All I remember from our safety briefing was “If a Rhino is charging after you run in a zig-zag” and “If you’re really in trouble pick up a stick to fight off the [insert animal here].

Our guide reminded me of Bear Grylls but I still didn’t like our chances of beating up a Rhino with a stick.

Guide, Chitwan National Park

Harka on the lookout for some wildlife

It was so peaceful being in the bush, away from all the hustle and bustle of the city.

Termite Mound, Chitwan National Park

Termites! What’s the point of scaffolding for a tree you are going to chew down

Just like in the city we still had to watch we didn’t step in poo.

Elephant Poo, Chitwan National Park

Not too much of an exaggeration with the amount of food we were eating!

There were so many things to see in the jungle but most of the animals were scared of us. Perhaps inventing a prestigious award for the “Awesomest Animal” would help!

An Elephant Ride

In the afternoon we jumped on some Elephants and went for another stroll through the jungle. This walk would be unforgettable, and not just because we were on the back of an Elephant. The power and magnificence of these creatures was something to behold. Up and down steep banks, through rivers they went, barely noticing the five people they were carrying.

Elephant Safari, Chitwan National Park

Everything about these Elephants was huge.

Elephant pee, Chitwan National Park

A little dehydrated don’t you think?


Elephant Poo, Chitwan National Park

Bombs Away!

Despite the fact you could see them coming from a mile away the other animals seemed unconcerned that there was a 3 tonne beast only meters away. The 5 people on its back were completely ignored as each animal looked across and only saw the Elephant.

The highlight for everyone was coming across a few wild Rhino’s. On the back of an Elephant they looked tiny but in reality they were solid muscle covered in 4cm thick armour that looked as if it were welded together in massive sheets. What a blessing to be able to witness Rhino’s in the wild.

Wild Rhino, Chitwan National Park

Nobody dared to jump off the Elephant and ask this little guy for a pat.

Wild Rhino, Chitwan National Park

“He’s so cute though”

With that the Rhino’s were making a late charge for the “Awesomest Animal” award.

The Elephants were desperate to cement their place as No 1 so when the Safari ended each elephant took the tip from our hand and passed it up to the driver. Judging the competition became an easy tusk after that. The elephants were declared the winners. They could save their “My trunk” parody of Fergie for next year.

Elephant, Chitwan National Park

Not the most gracious of winners the Elephants headed back into the jungle to give the Rhino’s a spray. “Haha, kiss my butt Rhino’s! Better luck next year.”

Elephants, Chitwan National Park

Funnily enough, this is my favourite pic from the whole trip!

Later that night we went to a Tharu cultural performance. The 30 second stick fighting dance below was the highlight.

Then to cap it all off, the hotel had made a cake for Nick’s 19th. Best birthday ever!

Hotel Seven Star

Day 12


  • Escaping the city
  • Hot showers

Treacherous roads clinging to the side of mountains winding their way slowly through the countryside. Overtaking on blind corners which are far too narrow for two lanes of traffic. Rice terraces cut into impossible steep hills. Aside from this today felt almost like we were back in Australia.

Welcome to the West

After a 5 hour bus ride we were welcomed to Hotel Seven Star with a glass of juice, before being shown our accommodation. Hot water, fresh sheets and Wifi that actually worked. This place had already exceeded our wildest expectations and we had only been there 10 minutes.

Hotel Seven Star, Chitwan National Park

We unpacked our stuff and headed to the restaurant for lunch where we were treated to the first of many buffet meals. Soup, Chips, Steamed veggies, Curries, Noodles and dessert. The food was so good we even allowed the team to eat meat (usually a big no-no).

I felt like I was on a different planet. Gated off from the rest of the world, we were in our own little paradise.

The first of the tours began after lunch as we visited the local village to learn about (and consume) Tharu culture. For the first time since visiting the Taj Mahal I felt like a tourist. Such a sudden change in purpose was weird.

Tharu Village, Chitwan National Park

My thoughts were interrupted by the awesomeness of Elephants who we watched peeling bark from branches before cheekily throwing them in our direction.

Elephant, Chitwan National Park

It was amazing to see what Elephants can do with their trunks. Such power and yet enough finesse to pluck and bunch blades of grass like a tepee before whacking it all on their legs to knock the dirt off. It was truly incredible.

Elephant, Chitwan National Park

Show off! An elephant balancing food on it’s trunk

After the Elephant Breeding Centre came a trip to the river to watch the sunset.

Sunset, Chitwan National Park

As the sky turned pink one of the guides pointed out a rare Hornbill in the trees nearby.

Hornbill, Chitwan National Park

The night finished with another 3 course buffet and hot showers. For the first time this trip we drifted off to sleep to the sound of silence. 



Day 11


  • One final hassle
  • An Illegal Immigrant
  • Finally making it to Nepal

How many times has your scaffolding broken? Look closely

The irritation that broke the compassion’s back

Today we would escape the craziness that is Kolkata. We packed and got ready to go to the airport. As we loaded too many things into too little space, a young girl and boy came up to me demanding money. The girl was hanging onto the side of the car, hassling the others and getting in my way. I put my hand on her chest and gently pushed her away. There wasn’t any force in the push but she was so little that is sent her stumbling back a few steps. Both the girl and I were shocked at what I had just done.

She started up again, louder this time and with more aggression. She jumped at my hand and grabbed onto it, slipping back off and landing on her feet. The car door was open now and I threw my bag inside on top of the others and jumped in. The kids threw dirt at the car as we drove off and that’s exactly what I felt like. My head sunk as we made our way out of the city, ashamed at what had just happened.

Frustrated and exhausted, our flight to Nepal had come at just the right time. Or had it?

Illegal Immigration

What should have been as simple as making a payment and having a sticker put into your passport turned into a nightmare.

Kolkata airport

We arrived at Kathmandu, and with such a large group we weren’t carrying enough foreign currency to pay for all our visas. Luckily I had Nepalese Rupees from a previous trip. I attempted to make the payment only to be told, “We don’t accept Nepalese Rupees”. “You what?” I said, certain I had heard him wrong. “We don’t take Nepalese Rupees. We can take AUD, USD…” I couldn’t believe what I had just been told, we were not able to pay for our visas in local currency!

Frustrated we jumped on the end of another line, noticing this one took EFTPOS. Our currency issues were solved…except the machine wasn’t working! We’d made it to Nepal but at this stage it looked unlikely that we would actually be let out of the airport. I asked the guy at the desk where the nearest ATM was. “Outside the airport” he replied.

Great! Not only do I need to find an ATM, withdraw Nepalese Rupees, change them over for foreign currency then come back and pay. I need to clear security without a visa as well!

Clearing security turned out to be the easiest part, as I walked past the remaining border patrol, down stairs, through ‘security’ then out the door. No questions asked. I was outside and still slightly nervous about being an illegal immigrant, but for now I had a mission to complete. After a quick search I found the one and only ATM outside the terminal and guess what? It wasn’t working!

I chatted to a few Aussies at the ATM who were now stuck themselves. They had a visa but no local currency to catch a taxi into town. I promised them I’d come back and swap over our money. I just had to go back through ‘security’ upstairs and back through border patrol to get it!

On my way back the only person who stopped me was Josh, who had cleared security in a different line having prearranged his visa. He turned out to be the most reliable cash dispenser in the building and happily gave $200 AUD to buy our freedom! A two-minute process had turned into a lengthy mission but we were through. Welcome to Nepal.

I ran ahead, found the stranded Aussies and traded them for USD we no longer needed. Now they too could escape the airport and be introduced to the real Nepal. Just as disorganized, but a million times more beautiful, as we would soon discover.

Day 10


  • Mother Theresa House
  • The Hygeine Skit
  • A brothel in disguise

Our final day at the school in Champhati involved performing a skit on Hygiene for the students. Part musical, part drama, part made up on the spot, this extravaganza has been nominated for no less than 5 Oscars.

Already in the running for best action hero of 2014, our resident black-belt Kobby, defeated the bad bacteria men with moves like the “Nail Chop” the “Toothbrush Block” and the “Hand wash defense”. After his award winning performance Kobby taught each of the students the moves and when to use them. He bought the house down when he busted out the guitar and started singing “You gotta wash your hands”.

There were so many smiling faces and it was great to see how drama can be used to break down language barriers and educate at the same time. Things we take for granted as common knowledge here in Australia such as hygiene, have life or death consequences over in India. I cannot overstate how vital education (in all it’s forms) is for developing areas.

The team decided to celebrate our last day together by providing a midday meal (a program that recently ran out of funding) for students and staff.

Midday Meal HOPE school

The joy on the faces of students and parents as they stood watching tiny children devour their own body weight in food was incredible to witness. For some, this would have been the first decent meal they had eaten in ages.

Smiles from ear to ear were covered in food.

Happy Children Midday Meal HOPE school

This little girl was the last to leave after devouring three plates of food.

Happy Child Midday Meal HOPE school

The whole time she couldn’t stop bopping. She was so happy.

Very happy child Midday Meal HOPE school

It was brilliant to experience firsthand the impact your money can make.

I asked the principal, Peter, about the ongoing cost of the program. For around $50 a day (Roughly 50 cents per student) the school could provide all of its 90 students with one reliable meal each day, as well as provide employment for a cook. This is something I am looking to help get started through fundraising from clothing sales and other events throughout the year. If you would like to help get this started I would love to hear from you.

Midday Meal HOPE school

The team also pitched in some money for school supplies for families that can’t afford them. Until recently the school was able to provide books and uniforms free of charge to those who couldn’t afford it. Again, if this is something you are passionate about and would like to contribute towards, please let me know.

As the students left with full stomachs and massive smiles we sat down with the school staff to eat a meal and say goodbye. It’s hard to imagine navigating Kolkata without the help of these wonderful people who went out of their way time and again to ensure that we got where we needed to go. Many thanks to the HOPE staff and friends who gave us rides, translated for us, kept us safe, made meals, force fed us and gave us the opportunity to come to their school.


Our brilliant cook.


Shiboni our Indian Mother


Madhu, our personal bodyguard!


Birthday boy Sunil, all smiles

HOPE School principal, Peter D'Costa

HOPE School principal, Peter D’Costa


Akash, his mother and the team

An accidental trip to a brothel

Our last night in Kolkata needed celebrating so we went for a short walk and found a bar. I dropped some boys off at what we thought was a Karaoke Bar. Just like any Karaoke Bar, those on stage would attempt (and fail dismally) to entertain those seated. What was weird were the white leather couches placed around tables, each with a full food menu. Now we were confused, was this a restaurant? Just like any restaurant in India it came with bad music, only this music was live!

By the time I had come back from the Internet Cafe things had degenerated into a combination of Indian singing and Western dancing. That’s like mixing moldy juice with off milk! I could not imagine a worse combination. Not only that, but the women performing had about as much enthusiasm as a dying sloth!

Everyone onstage was fully clothed but we soon started noticing things. Almost all the men in the bar were in their 40’s or 50’s and they all had wads of cash. Occasionally one would call a waiter to his table and hand them some money. The cash would then be put in a numbered basket at the front, corresponding to the girl dancing on stage. It was a little weird, but so is India.

It wasn’t until one of the boys called a guy over who explained that if you give any of the dancers over 2000 Rupees, you get to go into the back room where the girls will give you a ‘private dance’. With that, we sculled our beers and hurried out.

Mother Theresa House

Yesterday was so full-on I failed to even mention that we visited Mother Theresa House! It certainly is worth touching on, especially how it relates to the events of yesterday.

There was a holy atmosphere in the place where Mother Theresa had lived, worked and now rests. A truly inspiring woman, who gave dignity to the outcast, touched the untouchables and spent time with those society had forgotten. We read all about her life, one filled with simple acts of kindness. She loved every person as if they were Jesus in disguise, believing that “Being unwanted, unloved, uncared for and forgotten by everybody is a much greater hunger, a much greater poverty than the person who has nothing to eat”.

Mother Theresa's Tomb

On her tomb are words Jesus spoke and a motto she lived by.

As we sat down with some clay to debrief the events of the past couple of days I thought about her persistent love to all those around her. Of the way she truly did “Defeat Evil-With Love”. It gave me some hope for the future. While everything around looks black, there are patches of light piercing the darkness.

Light piercing the darkness

What can you do to bring light to the dark places in this world?


Day 9


  • The most beautiful thing I have seen
  • The ugliest thing I have seen

After yesterday’s experience we were taken to a different train station, hoping to avoid confrontation, countless stares and a river of urine.

After wading our way through the crowds and the nearby market we were on the train and ready to head back to the school. Today we were going to visit the houses of the students from HOPE’s Champhati school.

The team split into two groups and we set off to visit the houses. Most of the places we visited barely pass as houses, yet the hospitality we received at every one quickly turned each of them into a home.

Champhati, India

Baking hot corrugated iron boxes, small rickety shelters you have to crawl to get inside and tiny rooms that host more people than you could imagine. We saw it all today after visiting a combined total of nearly 40 students.


The most beautiful thing you could imagine

One home we visited stood out the most. The father had died from problems associated with alcohol. The family suffered, having to foot the medical expenses on top of trying to support themselves. The mother wasn’t home but was out working to support her family.

Thank goodness she could send her kids to the HOPE school, otherwise she would have to do jobs around home or get her youngest son Amit looked after. They were one of the poorest families in the school with a monthly income of around 3000 Rupees ($60). 600 of that ($12) went immediately toward rent which gave the four of them $48 to live off for an entire month. Roughly 40c per person per day.

Now 12, the eldest daughter is considered ‘old enough’ to be working. She earns the family another 2000 Rupees ($40) each month putting together shoes. Even with that, the combined monthly income of this household is $100. Roughly 75 cents for each person each day.

While at the house we were introduced to the youngest daughter who at 8 is already a woman. We sat down on the one bed inside and were presented with what we had hoped wasn’t for us, a bowl of sweets, juice and some biscuits. Having just heard their story we knew full well that these things came at a great cost. This 8 year old girl had spent weeks saving up money and was so happy to have been able to do this for us. We couldn’t refuse her hospitality but we did try to turn down her offer for more. She wouldn’t have a bar of it and piled more sweets into our bowls until they were all gone.

We all had tears in our eyes, blown away by such generosity.

We had to choke back more tears as we asked what she would like to do when she is older. “Make my mum happy” our translators explained “she has had such a hard life, I just want her to be happy”.

Wow. What 8 year old would ever respond in this way? Her dream was simple, but it was the most beautiful dream I have ever heard. We wept silently again. This little girl had reduced four grown men to tears. The rest of the houses were a blur. All I could think about was this girl.

The most generous young girl

We returned to Kolkata and grabbed some dinner, still shaken up and challenged by this little girls generosity. What had just happened reminded me so clearly of a Bible story that I had to read it aloud. I was holding back tears as I did. This short story called “The Widow’s Offering” is from Mark 12:41-44

Jesus sat down opposite the place where the offerings were put and watched the crowd putting their money into the temple treasury. Many rich people threw in large amounts. But a poor widow came and put in two very small copper coins, worth only a few cents. Calling his disciples to him, Jesus said, “Truly I tell you, this poor widow has put more into the treasury than all the others. They all gave out of their wealth; but she, out of her poverty, put in everything—all she had to live on.”

The beauty we had witnessed this afternoon could not have contrasted more clearly with what we were about to see.

The ugliest thing you could imagine

As we headed back to our accommodation, I heard a shout moments before a toddler 2-3 years old, waddled up to us and stuck out her hands. The voice had raised my suspicions and we watched to see what this tiny girl would do. She waddled back to the man that had sent her who was currently knelt down with a ring of small children around him. There were too many kids too close in age for them to all be his. As he gave instructions to the children and pointed the girl straight back in our direction we knew what was going on.

I was outraged. I still am.

So, here I was watching the most horrible thing imaginable. I couldn’t stand there and do nothing. My first reaction was to go over there and belt this man. With six strong young men (one a black belt) there was no doubt we would could have. The only problem I saw was communicating to him what he was being beaten up for!

Lisa joined the conversation, gently reminding me of a shirt that says “Defeat Evil” which changes in the mirror to say “With Love”. I didn’t want to hear it. This injustice needed to be made right and I knew just the fists to make that happen!

Eventually, I relented went to the police station instead.

After a few minutes of being ignored and officer finally addressed us only to turn away moments later and refer us to someone else. We waited until another officer came in and started speaking to us. Immediately I could tell he was important. He looked and spoke like he was in charge, but softened a little once I started speaking some Hindi. After explaining everything to him he asked us where we were from…”Oh, Australia…the ashes 5 nil, what an incredible performance…” This went on for a little bit and I sat awkwardly, trying to listen to a man that clearly had the power to do something. Lisa wasn’t as polite “We aren’t here to talk about the cricket” she snapped.

The others were sent home and I waited until two undercover officers escorted me out to find this man and his ring of child beggars. It didn’t take long for me to spot the toddler that had approached us. “Follow her, she will lead you to the man in charge” I explained.

One of the officers escorted me back to our accommodation while the other went in search of the man. I ran upstairs and out onto the balcony hoping to see this man be bought in to the station. I saw nothing.

A few days passed before we realised what had happened. We were getting in the car to go to the airport and I saw her again. This same tiny child waddling around, waving her arm in the air looking for money. The police had clearly taken a bribe.

I was furious. Words cannot describe the feelings.

How could anyone believe these children’s lives were worth a few extra dollars? How could anyone sentence a child to a life of slavery, beatings (one had scars on her cheek) and poverty, knowing they will be thrown away once they become older and less profitable?

Even now, weeks later I can’t bear the thought that this man has gotten away with it. While deep down I agree with Lisa, it’s hard to stomach such blatant injustice. It’s no wonder that those who have been robbed of land, of livelihood, of rights, of dignity and of justice act violently. It’s hard to see any other option.



Day 8


  • The worlds longest urinal
  • Hygiene. What’s that? 
  • HOPE school, Champhati

“GOOD MORNING” I shouted loudly, knowing full well that there is nothing good about waking up at 7:30am, let alone 9 o’clock!

YWCA Kolkata

Wakey, wakey boys!

We got ready and hurried down stairs where one of the HOPE staff, Madhu was waiting to take us to the train station. After a short walk passing many homeless people and beggars we jumped on a bus with wooden floorboards. The road clearly visible through some of the gaps! We got off the bus and met up with another teacher, Shiboni, who quickly became our Indian mother. She got breakfast from a local street vendor and while we all worried about eating fruit floating in dubious water, it turned out to be the most hygienic thing was saw this morning.

Leaf bowl India

This bowl is made completely out of leaves

Train-ing Patience

After breakfast we walked the rest of the way to the Railway Station. We just missed the train we were aiming to catch and had to wait another 30 minutes on the platform.

Kolkata Circus. The name of this station and a fitting description of the place we had just arrived at. Getting to the platform involved walking through a mini slum built right next to the station. Once on the platform we noticed people seated all over the tracks, so relaxed it was if that were the purpose of these long shiny pieces of steel. Animals were tied up right next to the rails feeding on rubbish, and the constant hawking of snot and tobacco became a chorus when multiplied by the thousands of people on the platform.

The platform itself was like being in a crowded night club. When new trains arrive it turns into one offering FREE drinks as countless people pour out of the carriages and push their way through non-existent gaps in search of happy-hour* (*This begins when you are off the platform and happy for the next hour)

A few of our crew had colds at this point and with no tissues in sight, Kobby turned to a used chip packet he had in his pocket. Still, this wasn’t the worst of the hygiene we saw as trains would arrive and drop off passengers who would then cross the tracks and take a whiz on the angled slab of concrete right in front of us. It was like being at the MCG at half time, except without privacy or a flush button.

After one train we counted 23 people urinating…I hope they were all urinating!

The stench was bad enough, but then we saw a fist fight break out right in front of us. Like anything remotely entertaining in India a huge crowd gathered and our hosts decided it would be best to stand on the other side of the platform to avoid any unwanted attention. The fight broke up but soon we were approached by a persistent and very drunk person begging, swaying back and forth on his feet as he closed his eyes. At first I thought he might be praying, but after the boys had pointed out the smell of his breath it was obvious he was not. I told him to move on. He ignored me.

Another drunk person was watching and called to us angrily “He’s asking for money” to which I told him “Nay, Chalo” (No, Go away). “No, you Chalo” he yelled back. I told him I happily would…”Just as soon as our train gets here”. He was looking for a fight and at this stage some of us wouldn’t have minded letting out some aggression. Thankfully he moved on and our train arrived.

I have never been happier to jump on a stinky, overcrowded train.

Busted picking his nose

Fights weren’t the only thing, being picked today!

HOPE School Champhati

The day got better as we got to the school, met the other HOPE staff and helped out in the classrooms. Both the school and the children seemed a lot smaller than those in Delhi.


Being in a rural area almost always compounds the issues of poverty and access to even the most basic needs. Having lost their midday meal program and a few teachers due to a lack of funding the kids here were certainly doing it tough. We wouldn’t find out just how tough until the next day.

Teaching to count in Champhati

“If you see 9 people urinating on the platform and I see…”

Day 7


  • Our second Wedding Anniversary
  • Being greeted at the airport

Happy Anniversary, we’re flying to Kolkata!

We arrived at the airport but I still don’t know how Lisa got through security coz…

“She’s da bomb!”


Kobby had even more trouble clearing security and was forced to dismantle his moon boot to prove he didn’t have any weapons stashed away. Unfortunately they missed the two guns hiding under his hoody!

Let me tell you, there is nothing romantic about Kolkata. At least this time of year the weather was nice and we had friends to pick us up from the airport. We were taken to the YWCA where our guides Akash, Sunil and Peter eventually convinced the Young Womens Christian Association that we were indeed women.

Some people will do anything to score budget accomodation!

Indian TransvestiteIndian Transvestite

We settled in, had dinner and tried to prepare the team for tomorrow… Nothing can prepare you for Kolkata!

Day 6


  • Tigri School
  • Connecting with kids
  • Embracing India
  • A Maccas run with a difference

Today saw us take a couple of rickshaws and head to HOPE’s Tigri school.

Located in one of the poorer neighbourhoods in Delhi, what began as lessons under a tree has now become a multi-story facility providing an education as well as a midday meal for hundreds of students.


After speaking a few words of Hindi the classroom teacher promptly forgot about her other students and decided I was her number one priority. While I spent a long time writing and re-writing words on the board  it was great to see everyone in the team connecting so well with the children.


Nick being taught “Finger Cricket”


Lisa learning Hindi nursery rhyme


Kobby busting a move


Josh learning to count… in English!!


Tim having a great time, despite the language barrier


Much the same for Mitch

Our team had already embraced overcrowded vehicles, insane driving and a 1.5 star hotel and I was so proud of the way each of them opened their hearts to kids they had only just met.


One of the children introduced Nick to a fantastic addition game best described as “Finger Cricket”. The game involves a batter and bowler, who on the count of three hold out anywhere from 1-5 fingers. If both players choose the same number the batter is out. If not, the batter scores the amount of fingers they were holding out.

As a Math teacher I was impressed at such a simple game which uses logic, planning and a bit of luck, while at the same time can be used to practice and teach strategies for adding various numbers.

Lessons from a Western Icon

Ever the educator, our trip to Maccas was also going to come with a lesson attached. I didn’t realise I’d get my own lesson on the way there as I was thrown behind the wheel of a Rickshaw and given the chance to drive.


Eating McDonald’s in India is a status symbol, a sign of wealth and proof that you have ‘made it’. We asked the team to look around, keen to see if they could spot anyone with dark skin. They struggled. While wealthy Indian’s work in air conditioned buildings, the poor labor under the sun, causing their skin to darken. The darker your skin, the poorer people assume you are.  This was our first lesson, and one that provides a framework to understand the countless advertisements for white skin.

Maccas in India

The second came after spending a record $64 ($8 each) on dinner. Naturally, some of the boys thought they were about to receive a lesson in guilt. While I did point out that what we spent on Maccas was equivalent to 9 breakfasts as a team, 647 cups of Chai or 1078 Roti, guilt was not the point. The response we encouraged was to acknowledge and enjoy the blessings in our own lives, while developing a desire to pass on those blessings to others. After many trips to India and Nepal, I believe this is a more positive way to attack the problem of living in ignorant comfort and shutting our eyes to the needs of others. (*we are encouraging generosity, not a worldwide Maccas run!)

Tonight was to be our last night in Delhi, tomorrow we would head to Kolkata.

Arakshan Road, Paharganj, Delhi

Imagining myself in Vegas didn’t last, as I was nearly run over by a Rickshaw.

India and Nepal (Day 5)


  • Driving through clouds
  • The Taj Mahal
  • Money = Power
  • 130 plus in a bus

Delhi fog

What the fog!

All we could see around us was an impenetrable white sheet. The traffic ahead would appear out of nowhere. We slowed to 20km/h. At this pace we were looking at over 10 hours each way for the 230km trip from Delhi to the Taj Mahal. This was certainly the thickest fog I’ve ever seen, and that’s saying something when you live in Alexandra!

The fog slowly lifted but had already added an hour and a half to our drive.

We grabbed our tickets and headed down the “High value ticket holders” line past the massive queues either side of us and into the complex. Last time it was too hot for me to care about everyone else having to wait but this time I noticed these things. I felt sort of justified as the locals had only paid 20 Rupees for a ticket while we had paid 750. Still, something didn’t feel right about money buying us a pass for us to do something others couldn’t.

Taj Mahal VIP line

I know we have first class on Aeroplanes and different seating for concerts and sporting events based on ticket price but I think because of stark imbalance between power we were seeing triggered my distaste of capitalism. A flawed system where just 85 people have as much wealth as the poorest 3.5 billion and where big business can use their wealth to gain the upper hand, make the rules and take shortcuts nobody else can.

There aren’t many buildings in this world I would consider breathtaking, but the Taj Mahal is one of them. Constructed nearly 400 years ago, the Taj is truly a man made wonder, one I could hardly pass up getting the team to pose in Mirrogram clothing in front of…Why waste such a good opportunity?

Mirrogram clothing at the Taj Mahal

The most elaborate tomb ever created deserves some explanation so we hired a guide to point out some of it’s features. Our guide saw the shirts and was very impressed, especially with the “Not just numbers” design and how it relates to the many optical illusions and features of the Taj that require you to “Stop and Reflect”.


As you look up lines that zig-zag appear straight.

From this point on he ended every explanation with a brief pause, followed by the words “Not just numbers”. It was hilarious. I decided I needed to give him Mirrogram shirt as a tip.


The Taj is truly MARBLEous! Inlaid with 28 precious and semi-precious stones this building blows you away both up close and at a distance.


As we spent time admiring the beauty we were constantly asked to pose for photos. Even the tour guide became frustrated at our pace as we completed the tour and sat down for lunch.


Apparently being well paid for your work and given a shirt worth more than the average weeks salary wasn’t a big enough tip. “You can have more, but we’ll take back the shirt” the team angrily replied, sick of being u$ed for fame and fortune.

Fame not all it's cracked up to be

For those in pursuit of FAME. Be careful what you wish for!

Being treated as celebrities really tainted our day but bought up some great discussion about fame and wealth later that night.


Despite feeling flat, I was glad that our team were able experience the reality of fame. Something to remember coming back to a culture obsessed with fame and celebrity.

With the fog now gone our driver decided to make up for lost time. Our charter bus hit speeds in excess of 130km/h in our charter bus as we flew back to Delhi.

Below are our compulsory cheesy Taj pics.

IMG_0219 IMG_0235 IMG_0247 IMG_0249 IMG_0254 IMG_0210

India and Nepal (Day 4)


  • Leprosy Colony
  • A girl with spunk
  • Fame
  • Doof-Doof

Cramped is an understatement as 9 of us piled into a van that could barely seat 7. We may have not had a legal number of passengers, but at least we were in a registered taxi! Today we were headed to the HOPE Leprosy Colony.



Our space issue wasn’t helped by the Subwoofer in the back, which took up as much space as two people and was blaring out Indian Rap, Justin Beiber and plenty more ear piercing tunes at full volume. Relieved, we stopped beside a park to wait for our hosts who would guide us the rest of the way.



We decided it would be nicer outside, but after playing Frisbee for 2 minutes the park was fast becoming as cramped as the van. In no time we were surrounded and had the locals show us a game where they whack what looks like an oval rock into the ground with a piece of bamboo. When it popped up they would then belt it with this same piece of bamboo. I made a few failed attempted before admiring some pretty amazing co-ordination.


We got a call that the hosts were nearby so we headed back to the van. The scenes at the van reminded me of a celebrity stepping out of a courthouse. At first I mistook our host as a pushy Indian jumping the queue to shake our hand. Once he instructed us to get in the van in English I realised who he was. We were whisked away from the crowd, although some managed to follow us all the way to the Leprosy Colony.


This was the crowd that formed around our van.

The crew were introduced to some of the work HOPE has been doing in the Colony. Treating wounds, providing housing, education and vocational training to people from the Colony which has now been able to set up a little shop where you can buy handmade, clothing, books, bracelets and more and support those learning their craft.


Another wave of kids came from nowhere and were entertained by our team as members took turns in the clinic treating and bandaging wounds.



Can I have your autograph?

Fame, instant admiration, slums and leprosy. All  this was very new to the team, but what impacted me the most was something very ordinary.

Not just numbers-People

A year 10 called Anjali had come early for class. She didn’t have the worst situation in the world, she wasn’t starving to death but as I watched her interact with the teachers one thing was clear. This girl had spunk. Cheeky, confident, fun loving and gutsy just like those I love teaching back home. I asked her a few questions and found out that she wants to be a singer when she gets older. I jokingly asked to hear a song. I didn’t expect her to oblige.

After this she was put on the spot in front of all of us and asked to give at least three performances before I asked about singing lessons. At 800 Rupees ($16) per month she couldn’t afford them, but cheekily added that “we could pay for them”, which by this time I had already planned on doing.


There are certainly much bigger issues people face and much better ways to invest money. We had met hundreds of others (in greater need) this day but for some reason I was compelled to give to her. Out of the numbers Anjali had so quickly become a real live person, one in which I could see the hopes and dreams of all my favourite students back home. In Australia I would bend over backwards to help my students and strive to give them as many opportunities as I can. Why should this be any different?

Now back in Australia I sit in front of my computer a broken man (and we’re only at Day 4). I cannot overstate the enormous implications that come from looking beyond numbers to see people. One question has taken over my brain begging for an answer.


If you were to see in everyone your brother, sister, son, daughter or best friend what would you do to help them?

India and Nepal (Day 3)


  • One crazy & illegal taxi ride
  • Impromptu Karaoke
  • Akshardham Temple
  • Corrupt Police

2000 Rupees! I laugh at the ridiculousness of the price. After some more discussion the price comes down to 1500. We still think this is too high and start to walk away. “Okay 1200” they agree. “1200 for both taxis?” I ask. It always pays to confirm details such as this, otherwise you could find yourself arguing with a driver who insists you had agreed on 1200 per taxi at the end of your trip.

We split into two groups, which would very much determine how this day would be remembered. With two taxi’s secured we began our journey around Delhi.

‘Party’ planner by night, drug pushing taxi driver by day. Aman usually lives on India’s west coast in Goa, the nation’s party capital. When I asked him about Goa’s beaches but he quickly diverted the conversation to a word he uses for women that sounds a lot like that!

The boys found it hard not to laugh when he explained that, “I like girls, but not girlfriends because they are always whinging about things like their feelings.”

In just a few comments it was fairly clear that this guy didn’t see women as people, but as products, objects that exist to meet the needs of others. It became even clearer when he spoke of his exploits, access to women and whole range of drugs he wasn’t shy in offering passengers he had just met.

We soon made a stop for fuel where I explained to the guys the kind of things Aman was involved in. It was already sad enough that he thought these stories and his view of women would gain the approval of Westerners. The reality of what he was involved in was even worse.

The boys stopped encouraging him despite the incredible wealth of filth flowing freely from his mouth. He realised he’d have to find another way to impress us and after a few misplaced cheers he was reversing at 40-50km/h before slamming on the brakes and pulling up just short of the other taxi. Our car had made skid marks roughly the size of those watching.

At least we had now arrived safely at Akshardham Temple.

Ontheflipside mission awareness trip

The temple complex was amazing. 12,000 tonnes of intricately carved sandstone with various quotes around the building to provide an understanding of Hindu beliefs and the role of guru’s (they seem the equivalent of Saints in Catholicism)

We came back to our insane taxi. The music was soon pumping, Aman taking great pride in his knowledge of Western music, no matter how bad. “Baby you light up my world like nobody else…that’s what makes you beautiful”

We stopped in for a quick visit to India Gate, before going to a quiet park, known to be a place where locals can display affection. Eyes wandered as couples ogled this new game played with a plastic disc. Romance wasn’t the only thing in the air as Frisbee’s flew back and forth, distracting partners from their mates and causing others to join in.

India Gate

After that we jumped back in the taxi’s to head home.

Aman started looking nervous and as he slowed down warned me to “Tell them we are friends, when they ask you”. We slowed down and I soon realised that we were in a personal vehicle, which wasn’t licensed to take passengers.

After a few minutes one of the cops came over and I spoke some Hindi to him and told him that “He is my friend”. “Where is he your friend” he asked “Party friend”, I lied. “How long is he your friend for?” “Party friend” I said again, already feeling bad enough for lying once.

The officer went back out and joined the other to continue questioning Aman. He rushed back to the car from some papers and asked me for 200 Rupees. I had thought for a moment about a literal “on the spot fine” but upon further thought, there was little doubt about what this money was being used for. Aman went back to the cops with cash in hand.

At this stage we all thought this was pretty funny and wanted to get a photo for memories sake. At the same time we couldn’t really turn around and yell out “Ek, Do, Teen”. One of the boys in the back had an idea and I soon found myself adjusting the mirror at the front so he could take a photo of what was going on behind!

After confidently adjusting the mirror for Kobby in the back the officer approached the car again. BUSTED! Not amused in the slightest by our “clever” antics he forced us to delete the photo. Little did he know that moments before this Mitch had pointed the camera directly at them and taken a happy snap of “himself”. We deleted Kobby’s photo and the officer disappeared, to extract more money from Aman.

Ontheflipside mission awareness trip

Mitch’s sneaky “Selfie”.

Aman soon came back to the car. Even more flustered than before. “Okay, tell them the truth this time” he asked.

I then explained to the officer that we had paid 600 Rupees for the days services. He angrily started to lecture us about how we were in the wrong too but was interrupted by Josh who questioned his credentials and for some ID. He failed to provide any, explaining that they are undercover cops. A gun was evidence enough for the rest of us.

Soon the cops had what they wanted, 400 Rupees, and we were on our way again.

Aman was as white as a sheep. Clearly shaken and upset by the ordeal. I put my hand on his shoulder and told him it was alright before Kobby led the rest of us in singing the chorus of “That’s what makes you beautiful” to Aman to cheer him up. The impromptu Karaoke did the trick and was likely the first positive thing to come from One Direction’s music!


India and Nepal (Day 2)


  • Fitting 7 grown adults (and the driver) in one Rickshaw
  • Introducing the guys to bartering
  • Samosas and Chai

The day started slowly with a delicious breakfast of Samosas, Indian Bananas and Chai. This allowed the team to recover from the previous night, before all seven of us crammed into one Rickshaw and headed to Palika Bazaar. The driver couldn’t help but smile as we piled in and almost had his Rickshaw rolling on it’s rims.


We arrived safely at the market where the team were promptly guided into various stores and introduced to the ‘White Tax’. A compulsory price increase for having white skin ranging anywhere from 50-2000% of the original price. It was fun listening to the guys retell their bartering heroics knowing they had still been ripped off!

After this, some of the boys came back to the airport to pick up our final team member Josh. Keen to see the look on his face as we dodged cars, bikes, animals and pedestrians on our way into Delhi.

On our way back another driver spotted us, made his way over, wound down his window and handed Josh a bottle of soft drink. I’m sure it would have been okay but it had already been opened. I told Josh not to drink it, so when we had stopped at a set of lights (sometimes people do obey traffic signals!) he gave the bottle to a beggar. A minute later the same driver pulled up beside us, livid that we had given the bottle to someone else. He shouted some angry words and then sped off…

This was one of the more tame driving experiences we had!


How much would you have paid for outfits like these?

India and Nepal (Day 1)


  • Freaking out a group 17-20 old guys.
  • Cockroaches on the pillow.
  • Nearly stepping in diarrhea on the footpath.
  • Attempted pickpocketing

It’s the list above that makes me glad I live in Australia, yet at the same time it’s this list that keeps me coming back to India. Since my first trip in 2011, I have made another four, each time bringing at least someone new with me.

This time Lisa and I had the privilege of taking six young men with us. This was no Contiki tour. We had carefully planned a perspective flipping, eye opening, culture challenging, mission-awareness trip.

In keeping with that theme I had booked us into Neha Inn, a budget hotel near the centre of Delhi. At $5 a night, cockroaches crawling over your pillow wasn’t unexpected. I didn’t realize that clean sheets and picking up rubbish from the previous guests were seen as optional extra’s.

I wondered if I had gone too far. Poor guys. The drive alone had freaked them out!

To make matters worse, we went for a short walk before bed. In less than 400m we had seen a fight in the street, nearly stepped in Diarrhea on the footpath and had a drunk guy follow us, constantly eyeing off my pockets despite the fact I was looking directly at him! He might as well have said to me “Could you please unzip that pocket and move your arm, I am trying to steal your wallet.”

Welcome to India!

Loving the colour scheme!

Loving the colour scheme!