Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Back in NZ

Hi everybody,
After a quick couple of weeks to unwind in India we have returned safe and sound to New Zealand. We are enjoying seeing our families again and good old kiwi food.
After the mandatory christmas break we will be speaking to various Rotary clubs around New Zealand, to thank them for their generous support and to present some new projects.
If you would like us to come speak to your club please get in touch as we would love to hear from you.

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Western Terai Eye Camp Photos

In early November we spent 10 days with a team of Australian eye specialists and volunteers delivering important eye care services in the far western Terai region of Nepal.  The mobile eye camp changed location every 1 - 2 days, with over 1000 people seen on busy days.  Over the 8 days of eye camps over 6500 people were given eye care.  Many glasses were handed out.  Around 200 people (who could barely see) were referred for free cataract surgery.

Queues waiting to be registered 
3 women waiting for their turn with the optometrist
More waiting
A warm welcome by the local villagers
Happy people with their new glasses ...  many glasses have been donated to the eye team to give to people in Nepal.  The remainder of glasses are brought in bulk from China.

Queues waiting to be registered
A young boy with very poor eye sight 
Over 1000 people were seen on this day
Testing reading glasses
Young boys observing the activity with their new glasses
A big thank you
Optometrists testing eyes
A woman thanking us
Optometrists facilities
This is a mobile camp that takes place annually thanks to the hard work of the Australian volunteers.  Each year the camp is held in a different area of Nepal, with the aim of providing eye care services to those who cannot access treatment otherwise.  It was truly fantastic to see the smiles on peoples faces when they tried on glasses and could see clearly for the first time in a long time.  

Friday, November 11, 2011

Eye camping

No an eye camp isn't a new ap for your i phone but a very awesome optical care programme organized by a group of top Aussies. Due to the poor state of healthcare in Nepal many easily preventable diseases and health problems are rampant with many people unable to find care. The aim of these mobile eye camps is to take a crack team of optical experts and take them to remote areas of Nepal where people have no other access to eye care, providing life changing care.
The group come from all walks of life but are a top bunch who all give up their time to fly halfway round the world and help people (and stimulate the local economy with copious purchases of beer)
During the 8 days of camp we managed to screen nearly 6500 people and to provide glasses to nearly 60%. It is an amazing feeling to put a pair of very strong glasses onto someone who thinks they will never see clearly again and watch their face light up as their vision returns.

Monday, November 7, 2011

Volunteer wanted with farming expertise in Pokhara

Theres a great volunteer opportunity available in Pokhara for any keen person with agricultural/farming knowledge.  A friend of ours is setting up a farming operation on the outskirts of Pokhara and is keen to have some technical input.  The farm is in its early stages of development, and it is planned to eventually have cows, buffalo, goats, ducks, vegetables and a fish breeding pond.  It is a private company that has set up the farm, they eventually plan to have the farm set up as a model for other's to train at. 

The farm is set in a stunningly beautiful valley, and it is bordered by a crystal clear river that emerges out of a narrow gorge just up stream.  You can also just get a glimpse of the Himalayas ...

If this sounds like something you would be interested in contributing to, for whatever length of time you have available please get in touch.


Opening ceremony for new cow/buffalo shelter

Organic vegetable farming trials

Stream on edge of property

Milking the first cow

Saturday, November 5, 2011

Tihar Time

The annual Tehar festivities have just ended, we are now on the road again for a 10 day eye camp with a team of dedicated Australians in the far west of Nepal.  More about that later…
Tehar is a time of intense celebration here in Nepal, akin to Christmas at home.  The festival runs for about a week, with each day having a different significance. We were lucky to be able to spend some of the festival out in Poolbari village with our friend's family.  This was for the festival of light when the goddess Luxmi is welcomed into the home.  She is the goddess of wealth, and her coming to the house will bring good fortune for the year ahead.  A beautiful Mandela is drawn onto the ground with chalk dust outside of the house, which is first purified with cow dung and plastered with red soil.  Candles are than placed within it and Christmas lights are lit up all over the outside of the house.  All night long the villagers sung traditional folk songs and danced outside each home in the village.  Absolutely knackered we went to bed around 1 am, and were woken periodically all night long with others coming to sing and dance outside the home. 
Village girls singing traditional songs outside the home

Mandela for Goddess Luxmi

Other days during the Tehar are especially for honouring crows, dogs and cows.  They are given food, mallas (garlands) and sometimes Tikka.  Then there is a day to honour yourself; with a special ceremony where everyone receives a tikka (a special blessing for yourself).  Everyone is given an egg, some fish and raksi (local moonshine) to give both strength and good health. 
Cows with tikka
Finally it all ends with a special day for celebrating brothers and sisters.  Each sister will give a tikka to their brothers during a special ceremony, they pray for their brother's health and for them to have a good life.  Again there are eggs, fish and rasksi.  Whole plates of food are given to the brothers.  At the end the brothers will give their sisters a tikka and a gift also.  The family then enjoys a meal together. 

Friday, October 28, 2011

Goat donation day

First of all thanks to you guys for your generous donations and making this all possible!
We have been saving all the donations received in the last 5 months for a goat donation day in the impoverished village of Baluwa... And we have just had that day!

The women of the village came dressed in their best (and in Nepal than means brightest) clothes and a sizable chunk of the village population came and watched. creating a real festival atmosphere. These goats are going to help poor children receive an education for years to come.

Thanks to all you guys

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Monday, October 24, 2011

You know you have been in Nepal a long time when ...

  • Its a struggle to eat a big meaty steak or burger but a plate of dal bhat goes down with ease
  • You are shocked to see a women's bare legs or shoulders out in public
  • Hand washing all your clothes doesn't get a second thought
  • You no longer ask what is for dinner - dal bhat each and every time
  • Load shedding (power outages) are no reason to pause the conversation
  • The sound of stray dogs barking all night or loud music at 6am doesn't wake you
  • You assume every event/meeting will take place about an hour after the stated time
  • You don't get angry or upset when a traffic jam delays you by 3 hours
  • You have no road rage when there is a minor prang
  • Instead of asking "how are you?" you ask "have you eaten?"
  • You automatically reject any shopkeepers first offer
  • You now realize that a small motorbike is a practical vehicle for a family of five
  • You wait for the cow to move
  • You definitely don't look down to see what it is you just stepped in
  • You can have entire conversations comparing bowel movements
  • A hot shower is reason to celebrate
  • You think $20 for dinner and drinks for two is expensive
  • You think Saturday is 'the weekend'

Saturday, October 22, 2011

Bus Trip...

Taking a bus trip in Nepal is always interesting, be it a five minute ride down the road or a long distance journey.  Its vibrant, chaotic and never boring!  The public buses tend to be old, beat up vehicles that would never pass a WOF in New Zealand. They may have windows missing, holes in the floor or wonky seats.  This is just what we can see, the engines tend to rattle and the exhaust belches out black fumes.  The brakes aren't always in good repair either and sadly just a few days ago a bus plunged into the gorge below killing 42 passengers after its brakes failed. 

However, the buses are amazingly regular, and in many ways convenient, going between the larger towns and cities.  Buses between Banepa and Kathmandu leave every few minutes, but for more remote places will only travel once or twice a day. The bus will typically have a driver, and two assistants (often young boys).  The assistants job is to advertise the route by repetitively shouting the destination from the open door of the bus as it drives along, and to collect the passengers fares. The boys will climb up and down from the bus roof while the bus is moving to collect fares.

The aim is get as many passengers on board as possible, and there is always room for one more person.   Most buses are made for Nepali size people meaning Ben can't stand upright or fit in the seats (no leg room).  We've had babies and kids put on our laps, and its not uncommon to get a stray elbow or bottom in your face if you are sitting.  When there is no more space inside, passengers sit on the roof.  We've seen buses so overloaded that people are hanging off the back stairs and out the door.  Buses are not only crammed with people, but also with their luggage.  There's bags of all shapes and sizes down the aisle, and on the roof.  During dasain we'd see buses with 20 goats on the roof!

Traffic jam - vehicles overtaking each other after an accident add to the conjestion

Overcrowded bus
Constant stopping and starting means bus journeys take twice as long as any other vehicle.  Our longest journey by public bus was 95km and it took 5 hours! In part because of the constant stopping and starting and due to the poor road conditions - see  life on the road.