India – not all stray cows and bad pasta

India – not all stray cows and bad pasta

My diary entry from the 8th June 2005 reads; “I HATE INDIA. I’M NEVER LEAVING IRELAND AGAIN”. The capitalization was younger me screaming at myself I guess. It was 47 degress celcius, approx. 250% humidity and we were staying in the stinkiest hotel in all of Kolkata. Our room didn’t have plug sockets, or windows, and we were warned not to open our mouths while showering. As someone with a perpetually blocked nose this meant choosing between near suffocation and the instant typhoid I was promised from the water. On my first day working in an orphange I had to skip over a few children on my way to throwing up all over the courtyard. A Indian couple waiting for an adoption interview held back my hair as I paid the heavy price for popping anti-Malaria pills on an empty stomach. That night I went to war on India in my diary. In my 2 days there I knew all ther ewas to know about the place.

My lodgings back then:    

Found this photo on tripadvisor but ours was similar, don’t remember windows…

My opinion of the place changed when went a little more upmarket (this one from a recent stay in Delhi) 

Amazing what a little paint and some pine flooring can do.

This evening (as I sit sipping a fresh pineapple juice in Delhi) I read a piece from an Indian professor and writer, Oindrila Mukherjee, on the dangers of creating a one sided narrative as I did that night (albeit with a readership of 1). You can read that article here. In it she discusses many examples of foreigners coming to India and only writing about dogs and slums and the quality of the pasta (Pasta? Seriously?). People who have spent years in India and have the same one-sided opinion I had after 2 days. Unfortunately, these people have a larger readership than my angst-filled diary.

No one is denying the existence of poverty but to come to a country as massive and diverse as India and only see/ write about the stray dogs and beggars, one would have to be wearing some bad ass blinkers (and for the record, the stray dogs in Lodi Gardens here in Delhi are currently in Security Dog Training School and all doing well).

So should writers have some sort of duty to have some balance in their writing?? Maybe not, but at the very least it’s rude, and we don’t like rude people over here.

See rule No. 1 here, I believe it’s aimed at travel writers.

And No. 3 here:

In the interest of adding balance to the writing Ms. Muhkerjee spoke of, here are some good things I’ve noticed during this visit: 

  1. If you look lost on the metro for more than 8 seconds someone will offer to help you out. They’ll even let you follow them to their train if they’re going the same way and keep the polite conversation going the whole way to your platform (useful if you’re terrible at small talk and tend to just awkwardly follow these people). And being a woman means I can use the special women-only carriages so that when we’re battling through the crowd we’re all evenly matched.
  2. The people are so friendly and open I think some foreigners are bewildered at the beginning. While buying some magzines the other day I miscalculated and thought the guy at the store was ripping me off. He wasn’t, and when our awkward exchange was over he asked about my jumper, where I got it, if I could do a quick twirl. It’s a really great cut apparently (he said nothing of the fact that it was 35 degrees outside and I was wearing a woolly jumper – it was cold when I woke up….and only had a string top….it’s a long story}.

Some of my favourite people in the world live in India.  Below are some activities we engaged in that didn’t involve stray dogs or pasta (most taken in or near Shillong).

We listened to an impromptu concert from a peddal boat.


We brought a selfie stick to the park and went nuts.

We swam in a water park in a jungle:

Ignored TLC’s advice and went chasing waterfalls:    
Saw a lake! No stray dogs here….

Did not have to wait for a cab, as all the matching taxis were lined up neatly:

Had amazing chicken momos:   Oh, just reembered! Saw this bad boy:

They were the good bits….now the bad:

1. An elephant cut across me at a junction on Monday morning. AN ELEPHANT. I clearly had the right of way. We’re all in a rush to get to work buddy.

2. The dramatics. There’s an annoucment on repeat in the Delhi metro that says; “Passengers are reminded that any unattended bag, briefcase, lunch box, flask or transistor could be a bomb”. We all get airport style searched before boarding so please don’t mention the ‘b’ word.

3. So many things that are made in India are cheaper in Ireland. The aforementioned friendly shop man couldn’t believe how cheap my woolly jumper was. And perfumes are twice the price in Shillong that they are back home. What’s with that??

Oh…and the honesty…. white lines are not real lies India!!


Since Oindrila’s essay was published I’ve seen people discuss whether or not writers have a duty to report evenly on a place. Opinion seems mixed, and I think it depends on your motivation. If you want to get attention and shock readers, one sided is definitely best. If you have an genuine interest in India, her people and culture, I don’t see why a writer wouldn’t write a balanced account. Enough ranting, time to go write in my diary (no capital letters tonight!).

Things I’d forgotten about Peru

Things I’d forgotten about Peru

IMG_20140706_1345197 years ago there was a drink that haunted me. The kids we lived with were given a cup of it every evening after dinner, and we spent our time coming up with excuses to avoid it. I had completely forgotten about this maize/corn monstrosity til my first meal back here in Peru. Since then I’ve realised there are a lot of things I’d forgotten about this place. Such as….

The Three Step Pharmacy dance

To buy two little Panadol (foreigners live on them here with the altitude sickness) one must first navigate the up-selling at counter No. 1, with a lady who tries to convince you you need specially formulated Cuzco Altitude pills for €5 a pack. If you manage to convince her you’ll get by on the 10c Panadol she’ll write a note for you to deliver to counter No. 2.

Counter No. 2 will have a happier lady as she’s not trying to upsell anything. So she’ll cheerily take your money and stamp the note. She’ll then write you a receipt and stamp that twice. You still won’t have screen a single Panadol at this stage.

But you soon will if you find your way to counter No. 3. At this stage you’ll be extremely glad you’re not suffering from something more intimate than a headache. Counter No. 3 lady loses the run of herself stamping the note, and the receipt (which has now come apart). There’s a pink slip under the white slip and both must be stamped just as vigorously. My lady got so excited today I had to remind her of the Panadol I had come in for.


All Souls Day in Shillong

November is the month the people of Shillong step out and pray for their faithful departed. All Souls Day is the day when those left on this earth go to the graveyard and hope and pray that their loved ones get in the pearly gates. November 2nd is the day the Catholics in this town go to town to pay their respects. Someone asked me if we had such a tradition in Ireland. I said, “No way, we don’t do this sort of thing at all, at all”. I got a quick dig into the ribs and a reminder that yes, indeed we do do this kind of thing in Ireland. But we definitely don’t make our graveyards as pretty as this:

Prettiest grave I've ever seen

Prettiest grave I’ve ever seen

It rained the entire time we were there. So all the photos I took were with one hand under an umbrella.



Our main task for the evening was to make sure the Irish were not the only ones with undecorated graves. The Irish people in this graveyard are a long way from home (8,561 kilometres from Cork to Shillong) and so wouldn’t get many visitors. They were all part of religious communities and those groups took it upon themselves to go and place flowers and candles on the graves. There were names such as Dooley, O Loughlin and Dunne alongside the Khasi names Syiem, Diengdoh and Lyngdoh.


The dedication of the crowd there was incredible. The rain was so strong it hurt, and I found a little dry patch under a big tree. I went to one of the trainee monks and told him of this dry patch, which was a good few metres away from the graves. His response was, “But we’re about to say the Hail Mary”. And so he carried on praying and getting soaked (while I said a few quiet words under my dry tree).


Mawlynnong – The Cleanest Village in Asia

Clean house in a clean village!

Since 2003 a little village in the north east of India has held the very prestigious title of ‘Cleanest Village in Asia’.  Mawlynnong, 90 kilometres from the capital of Meghalaya, Shillong, received the award from a travel magazine for having a zero litter policy, helped with pretty bamboo bins scattered around the village.  As well as that all the villagers have access to a toilet and everyone is literate. It seems (from my limited research) that no other place has taken their crown in the intervening years so Mawlynnong is still the King of Clean. If anyone is not sure where we’re talking about, the pink dot on the map marks the spot, it’s very close to the Bangladesh border, but high up in the Khasi Hills.

Pink dot marks the spot

Pink dot marks the spot

Getting to the village isn’t the easiest thing in the world. The nearest major international airport is Kolkata, which is an hours flight over Bangladesh to Guwahati in Assam. From there it is almost 4 hours to Shillong and then the final 90km to Mawlynnong takes about 3 hours. You might think that is a long way to go for a clean village, but that’s not all you get after travelling this far. You can also witness a big rock balancing on a small rock:


See? Balancing!

See? Balancing!


If rocks balancing on other rocks aren’t your thing, Mawlynnong also boasts a tree with roots that spread across a river, connecting the two sides and creating a living root bridge. If this was in a more accessible place, it would definitely be one of India’s top tourist attractions. The Taj Mahal might have taken over 20,000 people to build – but this took no one, just nature. The local people just use some betel tree trunks to guide the roots in the right direction. Within 10-15 years the bridge becomes strong and stones are placed on them to make walking on them more comfortable.

The root bridge (with my colleagues waving on the right!)

The tree that is used for this is called Ficus Elastica. The roots of this tree can be used because it produces secondary roots further up it’s trunk that can be grown and spread across a river.

The stones on the bridge

The view from inside the roots

The view from inside the roots


That’s not the only engineering marvel the Khasi people have created in Mawlynnong. This tree house is so far up in the trees that I couldn’t get the whole thing into one photo:

It looks high, but it's actually much higher

It looks high, but it’s actually much higher

The way up

The way up

Just rope keeping those corners together

By the time I got to the top I could barely breathe. I was up higher than the trees with nothing but bamboo and some rope to support us. One of my colleagues reassured me that the Sky View treehouse had been  there for years and it hadn’t collapsed yet, so we were probably going to be ok.

At the top there was a little platform on which we could rest a moment and get our breath back. From the top there is a great view of Bangladesh (but we went mid-monsoon and so had to catch quick glimpses between clouds).

Part of the crew

Some of my wonderful colleagues who brought me to this magical place (the rest are waiting under the tree)

Mawlynnong is only 4 kilometres from the Bangladesh border so when the clouds step aside for a minute there are some great views.


Back to the amazing tree house….I want to live in this thing!

The way down

With the balancing rock, living root bridge and ridiculously high tree house, it’s easy to forgot the main attraction; the very clean village. So here is some more Mawlynnong:

Typical house in Mawlynnong

Typical house in Mawlynnong

Friendly local

Paths in the village

Mawlynnong is an amazing, peaceful place. It is well worth the many rocky roads it takes to get there. Just bring sandwiches if you go! There aren’t many places to eat and the place thats sign reads: ‘All kind of cool drink’, actually only sells tea.

Strolling through the trees

Strolling through the trees


A Week of Inspirational Students

While searching for a few students I lost today, I started pondering the differences between teaching in Ireland and India. Being able to take 27 kids out for a day on your own would be not be possible on my green island. Losing students could get you into quite a spot of bother. Last week one of our teachers spilled hot oil on a child, and he just shrugged and moved along with his burning arm. When someone needs to light a gas stove they take a long piece of paper, stick it in the fire then run towards the gas cooker, through the crowds of children while holding their Olympic sized flame.

But the students are great, and we really try not to lose or burn them.


Match-day warm up means hardest workout of your life in our school

This week I have had a whole week of being reminded why I keep coming back here to Shillong to see them.



At the start of the week I happened across two students having a friendly argument. Both were jumping around the yard throwing something at each other. It was a 50 Rupee note (€0.78) that one half of the argument had given to her classmate and he was trying to pay her back. She was having none of it. The same girl who was refusing to be repaid couldn’t afford a 2 Rupee bus fare in 2008 (her lot improved when the school placed her is a safe home to get away from an bad situation). It’s nice to see someone whose luck is improving spreading the love around!


On Tuesday morning I began my day singing some rhymes with the KG class. The smallest student in the school ran into the classroom holding his pants. I informed him that he would have to get back out the door and get himself to the bathroom, I’m not good at handling accident situations. His little face scrunched up and my translator told me there was no time. He had to go and he had to go right away. Wilson, the chap in question, has rickets and so he knew his legs wouldn’t take him to where he needed to go in time.

The tallest boy in class came to Wilson’s rescue. Without even telling his smaller counterpart the plan, he hoisted him up on his back and made for the door. A third lad grabbed an umbrella and ran after them to keep them dry. They all came back a few minutes later with a very happy Wilson still on Noah’s back.


Winston, after making it to the bathroom


The midweek ‘hump’ day started very early for one of our students. Ranjit, turned up at 6.30am to cook some Indian snacks for his classmates and teachers. We had no idea what he was doing when I arrived into the kitchen with my two colleagues. We all presumed that one of the other teachers had asked him to cook these as part of the cooking class. It was only at the end of class when we were asking why he was rolling so many of these tasty doughy-potatoy goodies that he told us it was his way of celebrating.  In the confusion I had tried to pack up his labour of love and sell it along with all the other food we make for selling every day. Thankfully some little people stopped me in my tracks and we all welcomed in his 17th year.

I didn’t get a photo of his birthday food. But it looked very like the circles below. Just with onion and potato mixed in:

Teibor modelling the food

Teibor modelling the food

Later that day…..

…I had to go do some shopping. My students dutifully accompanied me so I wouldn’t get lost on the road. Just as we were  leaving the grounds of the school one girl said;

“Miss, what is a squat?”

I showed her what a squat was, getting down on my hunkers and knocking over a uniformed man with my butt.

“Eh….no Miss. S-Q-U-A-D”

“Ah, a squad. It’s like a team”

“Oh, so what’s a bomb team…”

The uniformed lad my rear end had collided with was one of the many bomb disposal experts who were outside our local restaurant. An hour earlier we heard an explosion and joked that it sounded quite like a bomb. My students laughed at my reaction (I’m not too fond of bombs) – suddenly I didn’t really need to go shopping at all.

“You scared of bombs, Miss??”

And just in case I wasn’t terrified enough the littliest one stated matter-of-factly; “There was another one in Lapalang yesterday”

I’m not sure where this Lapalang is but I think I was there once visiting the homes of the students.  These little people are unfazed by anything (except earthquakes, don’t mention earthquakes). The ‘bomb’ in our restaurant turned out to be a gas explosion (in which one person died unfortunately).  It was just unlucky that it happened just after a local group threatened to bomb the city so it caused a bit of panic.



On Thursday I met one of my former students who I taught back in 2005/06. She’s now 21, working, studying and fending for herself far better than I am. She spoke to me very honestly about how life after school is for our students, and how they feel applying for jobs having come from a school with, ‘for underprivileged children’ in its title. She was afraid at first to tell anyone what school she had gone to for fear of being branded in a negative way, and only now, two years after she left school, she realises how lucky she is to be a graduate of Providence.  The skills she learned in the school have stood to her and she can earn a decent wage as a hairdresser/beautician while she studies.

She is currently taking classes in English, Education, History, Economics and  Political Science for her Class XII exams (equivalent to English A-levels). When class is over at midday (it begins at 6am) she goes to her job in a beauty parlour and does a full days work there. She gave me the run down on what her former classmates are up to. 5 have gone on to higher education, the other 10 are working as chefs, teachers, in a bank, and as a trainer of sales people in an insurance company. I recently met the last guy who was just back from a business trip in Kolkata! When you think that their parents had to earn less than 15 Euro a month to get them into the school, and they’re all earning more than that now – they’re not doing too bad!

(We’ll just slip past Friday as not much happened that day…..)


We went out for a stroll, my students and I. Came across this lovely addition to a waterfall:

Recycling bottles, Shillong style

Recycling bottles, Shillong style

For our outing we went to the local golf course (where I misplaced the aforementioned lost students). This is possibly the most popular hang out place for families in all of Shillong and anyone who dares play golf there gets hundreds of angry eyes watching til they move on. I used laugh at this, but I became the owner of two of said angry eyes when my picnic on the 8th tee was  interrupted.

My students and I wandered around for a while, the smallest one taking me by the hand and leading me around. I thought she just liked holding hands, but I noticed she seemed to  want to run and play. I finally convinced her to leave me and go and she screamed;

“Roseliiiiina! Come mind Miss”

My students are cute, but there is really no need to mind ‘Miss’.


Cheestastic on the 8th fairway

Cheestastic on the 8th fairway


I only have a few days left here in Shillong. My main job is to teach Internet to 10 youngsters who have never used it before. We had a shaky start with people replying to Google Alerts Autoresponders thanking them for services and writing too Mail Daemon messages apologizing for writing the wrong email address. Just the other day someone wanted to ask Google how to change the homepage. When they typed in ‘How to’ Google gave some helpful suggestions, ‘How to get pregnant’ and ‘How to kiss’. Thankfully the student’s head was down while she was typing and and didn’t see the suggestions. I willed her to keep typing and not look up until she’s done!

Getting my ‘India Confidence’ Back


I'm baaaaaack!!

I’m baaaaaack!!

After a two year absence I am back in India! It’s still hot and the mosquitoes still love me dearly. Even though this was my 6th time arriving into India, I still had to take some time to chill out and get my ‘India confidence’ back. That is, to go from shrieking at a man who dared ask, “How are you enjoying the rain?” to saddling up next to some people on a boat and asking them semi-personal questions. This usually happens within 24-36 hours, depending on how much sleep I’ve had.

I blame the guidebooks for this initial nervousness I feel towards the horns, the smells, the oft-quoted “attack on the senses” (I have a parasite in my eye and just had surgery on my nose – my sense are a little delicate). According to my two guidebooks a woman travelling solo in India has to be confident, relaxed, adventurous, courageous.  assertive,  daring, very brave and thick-skinned. That is too many adjectives for anyone to live up to. I will also be dealing with; groping, provocative gestures, jeering and lewd comments. So far all I’ve gotten are a few, “You’re very big for a woman, you know?”.

I don’t think they were coming on to me.

My last blog post had a list in it, and people seemed to like that (1,340 times according to the Like-o-meter at the bottom, but who’s counting?) so this post should also have a list.


2 things I have learned in my first 2 days back in India

Lesson No.1 : Don’t stick your finger in your eye after using hand sanitizer. I don’t smoke or do drugs, but I do occasionally indulge my habit of rubbing my eyes, especially in the morning when the night has been spent listening to the Mumbai traffic thinking, “I bet they’ll go to bed in 5 minutes…..maybe another 2 minutes….” and just a little rub would have me up and ready for the day.

This is the result (don’t look if you don’t like having your senses attacked). This is actually when I was half-way cured again. When it was really bad I was too busy running around in a small circle screaming and the aforementioned men who were meant to be leering and gesturing at me were terrified and wouldn’t look at me (It’s really not too bad here, it was a like a swollen tomato at one stage).

Trying out two different eye styles.....

Trying out two different eye styles…..

 It all went back to normal after 12 hours.

Lesson No. 2 – Don’t say, “Wouldn’t it be nuts if this boat crashed” while getting on a boat

From the little pier next to the Gate of India in Mumbai, you can take boats to Elephanta Island (don’t be fooled as I was – there are no elephants. The place used have a name that actually meant something ’til the Portuguese saw a now long-gone statue of an elephant and called the place Elephanta).  The wooden tourist boats leave every 10-15 minutes and from what I could see were all leaving the pier fine and happily sailing into the mist, dodging all the military boats quite skillfully. I chose the boat that chugged along gracefully for about 10 metres and  then…..died.

I thought the driver was just saving petrol and that we would shortly be floating towards the island. Instead we floated into the next nearest boat who watched, unable to do anything, as we all leaned over the front to see our water carriage  careering into their boat in slow motion (because we didn’t have an engine to do it any faster with!).

It was a lovely boat before we reached them:

The before shot

The before shot

And then we came along and made this dent (this photo was taklen after they had kicked it out from the inside – I was waiting for others to start snapping photos before I did….)

The after (after the kicked it out from the inside)

Being Irish I was expecting finger wagging, police intervention and insurance claims. Being Indian the other boat’s crew made fun of our captain and grabbed a hammer and nails to get to work repairing their wooden boat. When that didn’t work Plan B was put into action: hide the damage.



When all the laughing was over with we were still stranded less than 20 metres from the shore; a little bit too long to jump (and did you see the colour of that water?). A little old lady was the first to come up with a solution when she took the garland of flowers from around her neck and threw them in the water. She turned and gave me a look that either said, “Now it’ll all be ok, the flowers are in the water”, or else it was “This’ll teach that foreign one to go boating with the contents of a small electronics shop attached to her combats”.  Either way the flowers did not work and next it was the men folk on board who tried to get us moving.

(The view while all this was happening was quite cool though:)

My view while all this was happening was quite cool though

My view while all this was happening was quite cool though

The captain had decided that we should all stay on board until the engine was back working. Calling another boat to take the 30 passengers would mean the boat’s crew giving the fares they’d collected to the new boat. But the older gentlemen on board didn’t enjoy being on an open top boat on a sticky summers day and  started a revolution from their little wooden benches. Everyone joined in (I was excused from duty – I don’t think they wanted to look at my eye – see above). I found one of those 10 year olds who have parents from 4 different countries and can therefore speak 9 languages who told me the passengers were shouting, “You’ve kidnapped us” and “We will have you arrested the minute you step back on land”.

The revolution I did nothing to assist with worked, we were rescued and off we sailed to see the elephants (I had yet to discover the no-elephant thing). Elephanta Island is known for its caves, so I suppose I should show some caves here:

These are caves

These are caves

More caves

More caves

The island did have a good population of monkeys. They looked like fun, but the guidebook said if I even looked at them they would attack me.

I have to stop reading those guide books.


10 Things I Like about Kosovo

I’ve just spent the afternoon walking through the town that was my home for the past year. Seeing as the 2nd most common way my blog is found on Google is through someone typing, ‘Living in Kosovo’ I figure I should write a little something for those who may be living here in the future or who would may holiday in this part of the world.


Becoming a Youth in Action

I’m seven years into my ‘youth’ (as defined by the EU 18-30) but I’ve only recently discovered the wonderful programs the EU fund for us young people so that we can hang out, get to know each other and become friendly EU neighbours. The lovely EU folk have created a program called ‘Youth in Action’ where people can go volunteer in other countries (not necessarily EU countries) and get together for short projects like training courses and study visits. In the last month I’ve had the pleasure of taking part in two such activities; a study visit of NGO’s dealing with marginalized groups and a training course in Adventureship (I’ll write on the former soon when I get photos from it).


Skiing in Prevallac, Kosovo

(This post was formerly called Skiing in Brezovica….until I was told months later that I was not in Brezovica at all. Oh well, I enjoyed skiing in Prevallac!)


Recently I discovered an absolutely terrible way to learn how to ski; climbing to the top of a mountain and watching how other people do it. This was my tactic in one of Europe’s up-and-coming ski resorts; Brezovica Prevallac, in southern Kosovo, and it didn’t quite work out.

According to the guide book, Brezovica has three slopes, but I spent all day at the resort with my friend Marie, and only managed to find one. The book also got it wrong in saying that the slope is small and suitable for beginners. Bradt Guide, you need do to some further research on this  – the slope is massive and terrifying. Just look how small the people are at the bottom:

 (Apologies Bradt Guide – I guess I was on the wrong mountain…..)

View from the top of the massive mountain

This giant of a slope took me 45 minutes to descend on my first attempt (us Irish are not born with natural skiing abilities). I moved a little, stopped for a break, skis fell off a few times and I walked a bit and did a few rollie-pollies. All the time cheered on by the gangs of teenagers at the top sending some supportive snowballs my way. No one seemed to mind that I was walking on the slope, I was just one of many human obstacles, there to make life more interesting for the skiers. Study this photo and see how many of my fellow slope users are skiing. Note the presence of shoes and distinct lack of skis….

Lots of shoes

The slope is like a winter playground. You don’t have to ski, you can sit around with your buddies, have a picnic, take some holiday snaps. I sat and listening to music mid-slope when I needed a break. You can rent sledges, snow bikes and pieces of plastic that the kids put under their butts to go down the mountain on, and they went even faster than some skiers.

(apologies for the blue snow – my phone – HTC Wildfire does not deal with snow very well)

Man and his bike

Kid with butt-shaped piece of plastic – might have noticed me taking a photo of him

And some people just slept on the slope…..


I unfortunately did not know all these fun items were available when myself and Marie arrived at the ski resort, so I went with the traditional option and got some skis.

Rookie mistake No. 347; putting on skis before reaching the snow:

Too soon

Not easy

The most difficult part of this ‘beginner’ slope is operating the ski lift. I had such difficulty with it that the guy working it wouldn’t charge me, as he figured I’d be giving up pretty soon (I fell flat on my face during attempts 1 – 6). The ‘lift’ is a piece of wood, that moves so fast I had trouble taking a photo of it. This is the best I could manage:

Spot the pink piece of wood

What is supposed to happen; you get in position to grab the stick while it’s flying along on its piece of wire, let it pull you along for a bit and then put it behind you and let it propel you up the mountain. Like so:

She must have been doing this for years….

I’m sure you see the large scope here for being knocked over as you put a moving piece of wood behind your back – it moves, you don’t.

After falling over and popping out of my skis a few times, I came up with a plan; forget using it correctly and just hang on and let it pull me up the mountain. I succeeding and proudly gave the lift-operator man his money….. but my arms were unusable for a week after.

Some info for any future Kosovo Skiers:


Skiing is extremely reasonable in Kosovo. The equipment is €5 for the day. The lift also cost €5. There were some great places to stay overnight for €15. But just two weeks after we went (so by the end of March), everything including the lifts were closed. So get there while it’s cold and snowy.

How you can also get to the wrong mountain:

Getting to the ski resort from Prishtina is a little tricky. We got the early morning, 7.30am bus from Prishtina to Ferizaj (timetable says there’s one every 15 minutes, but that seems to be a theoretical/hypothetical timetable and does not reflect reality). From Ferizaj we would have had to wait until midday so we got a 40 minute €20 taxi. Getting from the resort we thought we could walk back to Brezovica town, but it’s 8km so we found some nice men to give us a ride. Then it’s bus back to Ferizaj and then Prishtina (costing about €6).

But if you do think of walking the 8km – it’s a very pretty trek. This is Marie running away from me:

Pretty trek

With some investment, the ski resort could be a real tourist attraction for Kosovo. Brezovica town itself is deserted. It used be where the Serbian tourists would come in winter for some skiing. They don’t come anymore and we saw quite a few empty buildings. The lack of people is also a factor for bus companies who don’t see the point in running buses from Prishtina to Brezovica.

On a slightly related note, I found a website with some very cool photos of Kosovo. You can check them out here

My First India Video, Shillong 2005

Football Team

In 2005 I made my first trip to India. To prepare for my first trip east I had my brother ship home a video camera from America, a Sony Handicam, and on my return convinced my parents that I really needed an Apple laptop if I was ever to become a film maker (I was also helped by some insurance money – so thank you to the young fella who stole my car).  2 weeks of 12 hours a day in front of the laptop produced two videos, the first is below.

Have to say a special word of thanks to the three people I travelled with Sharon, Ciara and Jody for not hitting me over the head as I filmed their every move. And they even agreed to their mini interviews, which involved a bit of acting. Jody says at one stage, “We’ve just arrived….”. That was filmed on our last day, but I needed it for my film!

When I left Shillong that summer I spent 3 weeks in Kolkata. I thought I should be extra careful with the tapes from my Handicam and so I took them out of my bag and left them on the table, in our sauna-like room. I once left a cold bottle of water outside. An hour or so later I poured some of the water in that bottle on my arm and burnt myself. We used wake up at 5am from the heat and have to drink the heated up water until the shop opened at 7 to get some cold water. We devised a strategy to get cold-ish water; we filled a bucket with cold water from the shower, put our bottles of water in the bucket and the shower water cooled them down a bit.

So in short, it was hot!

And in this heat, my little tapes didn’t stand a chance. They melted, and that’s why the footage is a little bumpy in places.

The video is 11 minutes long. If that’s too long for you skip to the last 4 minutes for a great tribal dance and some tin whistling (I was new to teaching when I thought giving tin whistles to 40 children was a good idea…..).
The school has changed a lot since then. More up to date videos can be seen on the IIEF website here.

I’m returning to Shillong in July this year. I hope to make a new video and I promise to lay off on the Bollywood music this time.

Providence School, Shillong – 2005 from Claire Ní Chanainn on Vimeo.

If that video is taking too long to load, you can see it on YouTube here.

Providence in a school with 250 students that has shaped its curriculum over the last 11 years to suit the needs of its students. The director of the school saw how the average primary school education was not enough to get a person a job, and many children from poorer backgrounds only get a primary education. So it made sense to pack more into the primary years.

Providence teaches them trades such as cooking and carpentry, as well as academic skills. It addresses the issue that people, in any country, with only a primary school education are unemployable. To date one class of students has graduated from Providence and they are all working in skilled professions such as hairdressing, beauty care, carpentry and cooking. You can read more about the school on it’s website here.

Your views on my film making are very welcome!