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.

Saturday, October 15, 2011

Dasain Time

Dasain festivities in Nepal take place for a good week, at the start of October.  At the end of the month is Tehar (brothers and sisters festival) so some lucky people, especially those that have traveled a long way home will take a month of holidays during this time. During dasain families come together and like christmas eat and drink a lot.  Different castes have special dishes that they eat at this time, in particular everyone eats a lot of meat. Many goats are sacrificed

Every family will have one or multiple tikka ceremonies throughout dasain, with the elder members of the family giving a tikka or blessing to the younger members of the family.  Commonly this involves the grandmother going to the local temple and receiving a tikka from the local holy men, they will then return home and offer a tikka to the remaining family members.  A tikka is a mixture of yoghurt, rice and sindur (red powder) and it is a symbol of a blessing from the gods.  It is placed onto the forehead, and can range in size and thickness.  During dasain multiple blessings can be offered during the day from various family members (i.e. brother to brother, aunt to nephew) so entire foreheads are covered in the red tikka paste.  The tikka is representative of an all seeing, all knowing 3rd eye and it is a sign of protection for those who wear it. A mantra is chanted during the ceremony. 

Tikka ceremony

Ben receiving tikka blessing

Visiting friends during dasain
Kamala's extended family after tikka ceremony

During the tikka ceremony fruit and money is given to the tikka recipient to symbolise a healthy and wealthy future.  Barley is also given to the recipient as a symbol of a a plentiful harvest. Overall dasain is a time to celebrate the victory of good over evil.

All over the country there a temporary tents raised with shrines to the godess Durga (who was victorious over evil forces), even in the small villages.  Bamboo swings are also visible everywhere, with brave young men climbing up the bamboo poles to secure the swing.  Swinging during dasain is said to take away any ill feelings. 

Bamboo swing - will remain standing for the month

A teasing glimpse of the Himalayas - its been
too cloudy for a good view till now

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Sucess story, the boys get their operations!

On the back of the ute going to hospital

Hopefully you guys will remember the stories of Sanker and Ganga, The boys from Baluwa village who were living with medical complaints that required corrective surgeries that were unaffordable. Well I am pleased to say that thanks to Dhulikhel hospital heavily discounting the cost and CDRA meeting the shortfall, the boys have both received their operations and recovering at home.

Sanker happy after surgery
Ganga waiting for tests
Sanker was suffering from a large growth on his scrotum and was recieved his surgery the next day. It was  relativly straight foward operation and he was released ofter a couple of days recovery.

Ganga required more tests to diagnose his exact problem, after several days of tests he was shown to be suffering  from  kidney stones. Luckily  there were two doctors visiting from Germany  with the German Rotary volunteer doctors program and one of there is a head of  department  in urology. So Ganga was in very good hands for his surgery and is recovering well at home

Ganga and his mum

Saturday, October 8, 2011

Orphanage Visit

Travelling through western Nepal we have had the opportunity to meet with many Rotary Clubs.  Although it is the Dasain holiday period, we have been warmly welcomed by Rotarians from all these clubs who have given up time with their families to host us.  The message from the Rotarians we have met here is by and large the same - they have projects and plans, but little or no support to implement them.  This area of Nepal is off the beaten tourist track, and international visitors are rare - hence their struggle. 

The Rotary Club of Butwal is one such club, it is the oldest club in the region and also the biggest in Nepal with 72 members.  We visited one of their new projects, an orphans home in the terai countryside.  This home was set up in 1997 with the help of different donations, but it has no going support.  The orphanage is home to 13 children, some of whom are mentally disabled and blind.  It has very basic facilities with only 5 rooms contained in one long building.  There is one office, one classroom, a boys bedroom (for 8 boys), a girls bedroom (for 5 girls), and a kitchen.  The bedrooms contain only one large bed for all the children. 

The Orphanage

Girls bedroom


The 5 Girls

Water pump

The children at the orphanage are a mixture of orphans and abandoned children who were living on the street before coming to the orphanage.  They are now provided a safe home, food and they attend a local school. 
The director of the orphanage recently contacted the Rotary Club of Butwal for assistance as they are struggling to find the $$ required for the day to day running of the facility.  We will be returning to visit this orphanage in a few weeks time to donate some toys and school supplies.  If you would like to help donations for food would be greatly appreciated.  Please get in touch if you are interested. 

Thursday, October 6, 2011

Life on the Road

The roads in Nepal are an education in themselves. The road rules are looked on as guidelines to be followed only when it is convenient and to and to be completely ignored as often as possible. It is not uncommon to see two busses or heavy trucks overtaking on a blind corner or trucks saving time by heading the wrong way down a divided expressway. Motorbikes are a constant presence, swarming through the smallest gap like bees returning to the hive. The most essential part of the vehicle is the horn with toots meaning anything from ‘I’m a big truck cutting this blind corner” to “I’m going to overtake on the inside” or “I’m going to drive on the footpath for a while because I’m in a hurry”

Add to this the fact that the roads themselves are in poor condition. In the steep hilly regions slips are almost a daily occurrence in the rainy season.  Large projects like the friendship highway between Katmandu and the Tibetan border are usually gifted by overseas governments but maintained by Nepal. Needless to say after a few years the surface is not conducive to a smooth ride. In fact we seem to average around 40km/h on the open road. Any faster than this is crazy with the roads also used by people, bicycles, ox carts, rickshaws, hand carts, goat herders, sacred cows (who often sleep in the middle of the road), large trucks, buses, tractors and all other aspects of life in the third world. The trucks and buses are usually in amazing poor condition with tires used until they explode and trucks overloaded until breaking point as a matter of course.

The road death rate is sadly approximately 30 times greater than most developed countries and accidents are common. These can cause huge snarl ups on the tight winding roads that are just a part of life here. Added to this is the fact that the overloaded trucks tend to overheat while crawling in the bumper to bumper traffic and then add their now immobile bulk to the logjam.

Nepalis take the insanity on the road with their typical good humor and grace. Despite the chaos there is little road rage as people seem to recognize that all the drivers are in the same boat and we will all get there in then end. (well most of us at least) 

Saturday, October 1, 2011

Dasain Festivities Start

We are quickly settling back into life in Nepal following our holiday.  Its good to be back ‘home’ and to see all our friends here again. We’ve had a lot of ideas while on the road, and are looking forward to the chance to put these into practice. 

This coming week is like Christmas in Nepal with the national Dasain festival coming up.  The festival lasts for 15 days and celebrates the victory of the goddess Durga over the forces of evil (represented by the buffalo demon Mahisasura).  Over the next fortnight many goats and buffalo will be sacrificed in Durgas honour.  Dasain is the biggest annual festival in Nepal.  So far we have noticed that the streets are more crowded than normal with people doing their pre-dasain shopping, and the buses are jam-packed with people traveling home to visit their families. 

Similar to NZ it is also a time for parties and celebrations in workplaces and other organizations.  Its also a time for AGM’s.  We have been privy to a few of these over the past few days.  One of these was an end of year work party by the Reiyukai Eike Masunaga Eye Hospital. You may recall our blogs on the eye camps.  Its great to see the people relaxing after the hard work put in over the past year.  Today was the end of year AGM for the Panauti village co-operatives.  Awards were given out to outstanding members of the co-operative for regular saving, and prompt payment of loans. 

Tomorrow we head of to the west of Nepal (to Pokhara, Tansen and Dang).  We will be meeting many Rotary Clubs and small NGO’s in the process learning more about Nepal and their specific needs.  We will also be spending time with Ashok and Kamala’s family to celebrate Dasain. 

Co-operative AGM
Awards for members