By Leona Thomas
The last weekend in October can be an unsettling time in many countries of the world because the clocks get put back by one hour. You need to be organised. Digital equipment often corrects itself automatically but most homes still have clocks and watches that need manual adjustment. And sensible people do all of this before going to bed on the Saturday night.
Here in Morocco, it would have been the same for us too but just 2 days beforehand the Moroccan government decided that we would not turn our clocks back! This works well for the old-fashioned clock on the wall but unfortunately, most people in Morocco own a mobile phone and they automatically turned the clock back because all the internet programs believed that Morocco was still going to put its clocks back on Saturday night.
Consequently, when I woke up on Sunday morning and reached out to look at my phone, it told me some porkies (Cockney rhyming slang... porky pies = lies). I didn’t realise the error until I checked the prayer App. Something was seriously wrong! I was still half asleep but I knew I hadn’t been praying that early in the morning!
What was going on?
An automated smart phone was what was going on!
It thought Morocco was now on GMT and so it changed the prayer times too.
Eventually I woke up enough to work out how to correct the prayer App and to persuade my phone that I was in Casablanca AND still on British Summer Time (BST). It was hard work and I missed the cut off time for the Dawn prayer!
The bigger problem with this sudden change of policy would affect travellers in the country. If you were flying you might still get to the airport in plenty of time. But if you were planning to go by bus or train you’d have to make sure your phone is really on the correct time or you would arrive after the vehicle had departed.
Even the Magic Clock is confused. But it must have seen the trouble coming as the working clock face began losing time long before the weekend. There may not be many travellers at Casa Voyageurs who manage to catch their train on time with the station clock running 1½ hours late and automated phones claiming 6am when really it is 7am!
Morocco has taken confusion to a whole new level this weekend...!
By Leona Thomas
On my first visit to Nepal I was surprised to discover a yearning inside my heart to learn to play the bamboo flute.
But my first lesson was less than ideal.
I spent 40 minutes trying to make a sound. I was blowing so hard that I began to get light headed.
Still no sound.
My teacher was very patient with me. But eventually I gave in to my exasperation and thrust my flute towards him saying, "You play it!"
He blew into the flute and no sound came out.
"The flute is broken!" he announced.
We went down to the shop to get a new one.
My next lesson was a spectacular improvement and I actually learned some notes.
But the problem with learning a new instrument is that you must practice to get good at it. And as any neighbour will tell you, along the way, it sounds terrible!
I was staying at Malla Hotel, so I had to practice in the garden. I soon discovered that some of the residents were seriously annoyed by my performance!
One day, I sat on one of two benches situated under the shade of trees. For about 30 minutes I read a book and all was peaceful and calm.
Then I decided it was time for my flute practice. But the locals were not happy.
As I played I felt something hit my shoulder. I turned to see a twig lying on the seat next to me.
I thought, 'That's odd. Nothing fell out of the tree before!'
I resumed my practice.
Something hard hit my head.
"Ow!" I yelped.
I continued to play my flute and within seconds a flurry of hard objects suddenly rained down upon my head and shoulders!
Finally, I stopped playing and looked around me. A huge pile of leaves, twigs and sticks were now scattered all over my bench!
I looked up into the trees overhead. I could see nothing unusual and I could hear nothing unusual.
But I wasn't fooled.
I spoke loudly and firmly.
"This is the only place I can practice playing my flute but there are trees all round this garden so if you don't like it, go somewhere else!"
A few seconds later a huge flock of crows flew out of my tree and relocated to the end of the garden!
I don't know if they all left but there were no more missiles fired at me during the rest of my practice time.
Meanwhile, I would just like to reassure my customers that should you decide to play my flute tracks whilst sitting under a tree you should experience no such missile attacks. My training days are far behind me so you should be safe.
But if you are planning to sit on that bench at Malla Hotel, Lecknath Marg, Kathmandu, I cannot guarantee your safety. The locals are feisty and unpredictable. I recommend you drop us a line and we can arrange for a motor cycle helmet to be delivered to you!
By Leona Thomas
My choice of fancy hotel for my first Himalayan Christmas had not been successful so, of course, the trekking agency now took over.
The office manager announced, "I'll take you to Hotel Radisson."
Unfortunately, he decided I should ride on the back of his motorbike. There was little room for me to sit as his bike was old and had a bar at the back of my seat. And I was wearing a fancy tight skirt.
There was no way I could sit comfortably. I had to ride side saddle and cling on to him for dear life
It is warm in Kathmandu during the day in December but when you are traveling on a motorbike it is a chilly experience. My see-through lacy sleeves were no help in keeping me warm!
Luckily, this Lazimpat hotel was a short ride away. I dismounted and eagerly entered this second hotel.
But there wasn't much sign of Christmas in the lobby. From a distance the restaurant seemed not to be offering any Christmas fare. I was simultaneously wrong and right! The Nepali style Christmas was about to reveal itself...
I joined a line of about 10 people. All was well until an old man near the front of the line started shouting,
"I want turkey!"
He stamped his feet like a petulant child.
"I WANT TURKEY!"
'Definitely not British...' I thought.
We're too polite to shout in public in a foreign country. The British way is to politely seethe behind a pleasant happy face.
I soon discovered there was something to seethe about, although it wasn't the food.
Having already managed to arrive at one 5-star hotel and check in my little bag... only to discover they were closed and on strike... I was impressed that Hotel Radisson had any food at all!
When I finally arrived at the front of our line I discovered the problem. Our Christmas turkey was actually some kind of sausage meat lump covered in thin slices of cooked chicken.
I didn't have the energy to demand turkey loud enough that the folks back in the UK would have heard me and taken pity and sent a food parcel...
Instead, my British reserve allowed silent resignation to settle inside me.
With slices of the sausage meat and chicken lump nicely displayed on my plate, I then discovered the next part of the meal was more challenging. There were covered silver platters but when I lifted the lids I discovered an assortment of curries!
'But at least I have food' I thought and sat alone at a table.
Then it all went downhill fast.
Father Christmas (Santa) arrived!
I don't know what happened to old shouting man. Maybe he had already collapsed in a disappointed heap in one of the corners of the restaurant. I don't believe he would just sit meekly with this latest development but maybe Nepal had finally defeated him....
In the lobby, a very skinny Nepali man was dressed in a red Father Christmas (Santa) outfit, complete with a white beard. He had a huge pillow stuffed down the front of his outfit.
But that was ok.
I could have coped if it was just his costume...
The problem was that he also had a bell.
And it was big. He walked up and down that lobby vigorously ringing his puja bell, all the while yelling, "HO! HO! HO! Merry Christmas!"
It went on for so long that I began muttering under my breath. British reserve be damned! I was scowling and being sarcastic at my table for one.
I begged all the Gods (the Christian one and all 3,000,000 Hindu Gods too) to please find him a little child from somewhere. Surely then he would sit down and stop ringing that bell?
Alas, there were no children wanting to hug Santa. After all, lunchtime on Christmas day is too late to tell Santa you've been a good girl. Everybody knows he comes down the chimney with his presents on Christmas Eve!
My first Christmas in Nepal turned out to be an unforgettable experience and not a brussel sprout to be found anywhere in Kathmandu!
I never did get any Nepali Christmas Cake but a friend in the UK sent a small Christmas parcel by UPS so I did have Tesco Christmas Cake at the office later that same day...
By Leona Thomas
My first Christmas in Kathmandu was as a newly arrived tourist, so I had yet to learn that life in the (then) Himalayan Kingdom of Nepal was nothing like being in a Western country.
No matter how hard they try to do Christmas, somehow, they never quite get it right. After all these years I now suspect they gave up trying years ago!
I had looked through all the fancy adverts in the two English language newspapers in Kathmandu and had chosen The Yak and Yeti Hotel because of its promise of home-made Christmas cake.
Despite the unseasonable warm weather, I was still in full Christmas mindset so when the big day arrived I put on my best clothes and even applied a little makeup to my face. I had an invitation for a motorbike ride after lunch so I was carrying a small day pack filled with warmer everyday clothes too.
The taxi rattled its way to the entrance of the hotel and drove off the moment I was standing on the pavement. A concierge showed me where to go and, upon entering the building I discovered a check-in desk.
It seemed like a good idea to give my day pack to the man rather than sit with it on the floor by my table. This was Christmas Day, so I wanted to do things properly...
The man took my bag from me and put it in a cubby hole space on the shelf behind him. He logged me into his little book.
I looked around me as I waited for him to finish what he was doing. I saw 3 chefs dressed in modern white clothes with the tall white chef’s hat. It looked impressive.
When the man was ready, I asked where I should go for the Christmas dinner.
"There is no Christmas dinner," he replied.
I wasn't sure we had heard each other properly but then he added,
"The hotel is closed. We are on strike!"
My mind was reeling. Why did he take my bag if they are closed? Why did they even let me in the building?!
Then I saw a television crew filming for the news channel. This was obviously big news.
I left the building with my bag but there were no taxis waiting by the car park. The concierge sent a boy out to Durbar Marg to get a taxi for me. As we waited he explained that the hotel had been on strike for 2 days now and they had had to send all their customers to other 5-star hotels in the city.
At some point during this conversation the film crew showed up outside and began filming us. It crossed my mind that I would be seen on television by millions of Nepalis. Thank goodness I had dressed up for the occasion!
Finally, a taxi arrived and I sped towards the trekking office in Tredevi Marg.
"How was your Christmas dinner?"
"There wasn't one. The hotel is on strike."
The guys there refused to believe my story saying they hadn't heard anything about this. The managing director rang the hotel.
After a brief conversation he turned to me.
"You're right! " he exclaimed.
The staff set about deciding where I should now go for my Christmas dinner....
In Himalayan Christmas part 2.. A Christmas Surprise!
Did Leona get any Christmas dinner?
The surprises kept coming...!
By Leona Thomas
Everyday life can sometimes feel dull and boring so my Inner Child likes to play games and have some fun.
Magic is her number one favourite.
But we're not talking about Abracadabra or pulling a rabbit out of a hat. There is something more magical than that!
My Inner Child loves to play magic games with time. She knows that all the rules we live by were concocted a long time ago by people who didn’t have a smart phone or electric to charge a battery. And, as she knows the truth about time, she encourages me to play along with her.
The Magic Clock Game really collapses the rigid confines of time that we have accepted as truth.
And the game has to be played in Casablanca, Morocco. But don't worry if you've never been there. She's going to let you in on another secret later...
At Casa Voyageurs train station in Casablanca the clock tower has a problem. One of the clock faces appears to be broken. But, just as Harry Potter catches a train from Platform 9 3/4 but it doesn't exist in the human world, the broken clock at Casa Voyageurs holds a secret for those people who are clever enough to notice.
It is a splendid portal of potential and possibility and it is hiding right there in plain sight!
Take a look at the picture and you will begin to understand.
It's obvious, right?
The clock at the front is always saying the time is 14.45 (15 minutes to 3). It is accurate only two times in every 24-hour period.
The clock on the side is set 5 minutes fast to help passengers get to their trains with a little time to spare!
The game works like this.
When both clocks say the same time a magic portal is opened and it is as if all your Christmases come at once! You can know anything you need to know and you can tell God your dreams too.
And because the side clock is 5 minutes fast there is a 5 minute period between when the two clock faces look like they match and then when the time really does match (when the side clock shows 14.50 or 10 minutes to 3).
5 whole magical minutes of Anything Is Possible!
And the really great thing is that you can play the game wherever you are in the world. You don't really have to be in Casablanca. You just have to know about the Magic Clock that is in Casablanca.
When your local time hits 14.45 or 2.45 you know you just aligned with the Magic Clock in Casablanca. Make a wish! Make a prayer! Choose to believe something new or to have a fantastic new idea about your situation.
And remember there are many time zones on this planet. You'd be surprised just how many times 14.45 comes round in any 24-hour period!
Play The Magic Clock Game to ignite miracles in your life and if anyone asks you, "What time is it?" Tell them, "It's Magic O'Clock!"