We awoke to streaming sunshine on our first Welsh morning. We were staying in a house owned by ISKCON Swansea, normally used as a brahmachari ashram, but kindly vacated for us by Sukhi prabhu, the lone brahmachari who lives there at the moment. Whilst the girls were still asleep, I tiptoed round the house, trying to set up a little temple room. I’d brought deity pictures, and in the kitchen cupboard I found a silver altar. Under the stairs were some old saris which I draped over a cabinet – perfect!
We had planned to have a morning program at the temple every day, but being some distance from the temple meant it would be too difficult to get 13 girls showered, ready and in our van by 6.45 am each morning.
Gradually the girls woke up and got showered, trying out our ‘shower buddy’ system for the first time (wake up the person after you, get in the shower, and the next person makes sure you get out quick by knocking on the door). It was alright for a first try, and eventually everyone was downstairs for our first morning program.
Together we chanted the guru-puja prayers to Srila Prabhupada, making sure to first read through the translation, so that everyone understood what we were singing and why. It’s not only amongst the youth that people don’t understand the Bengali and Sanskrit bhajans we sing. Many devotees that learn them by listening, never really read the words written down, and often don’t find the time to learn the translation. It’s a sure way to space out while you’re singing – without any meaning, it’s just moving your mouth to music. By the way – I’m as guilty as anyone.
After breakfast we gathered again for a japa workshop. I was inspired to do this after attending some japa workshops myself, and collated all the things I thought the girls would find most stimulating for our shortened version. It was slightly nerve racking to be giving guidance on an activity which I vividly remember considering boring, but I was really impressed with how the girls concentrated. Though not all were especially interested in chanting regularly, they all tried hard during the session, and many said they found it surprisingly enjoyable. One of the most fun parts was the distracting mind role play!
The girls thought of lots of good suggestions to improve japa, and many made resolutions to chant one or more rounds every day.
In the afternoon we had lunch on the beach – struggling to keep our hair out of our sandwiches!
Afterwards we went to the LC – Swansea’s biggest leisure centre, for a few hours of splashing in the flumes and wave pool, and rock climbing.
After an evening feast at Govinda’s, we again ended our evening with kirtan. On this evening, we learnt the meaning of the Gaura Arati song. The girls had lots of fun getting to play instruments too, as often at the our home temple, more experienced players have somewhat of a monopoly on the instruments. They also tried leading kirtan – something that we really wanted them to gain the confidence to do.
Finally, exhausted (at least, my mum, Nadiya and I were!), we made our way home for the night. We had some games before bed time, and then read Krishna book together until it was time to go to sleep…well, that’s what they were supposed to be doing…