Saturday, June 30, 2012

Travelling to Health Camp

Yesterday we spent a full day travelling to the western part of Nepal with a team of Nepali doctors, pharmacists, dentists and optometrists ready for a 2 week long health camp.  What a day! We had a chartered bus for the team – jam packed full of gear and people – that in typical Nepali style had absolutely no leg room. Quite simply neither of us could fit in the seat – except at an angle. The trip of around 300 km took 15 or so hours, departing at 8am from Banepa it was 11pm before we got to Tansen.  Perhaps a 3 hour trip were we back in NZ…

Along the way we passed lots of queues for petrol – there have been a lot of shortages lately and it is not uncommon to see 20+ vehicles parked beside the petrol station waiting for it to start distributing again. Somehow everyone knows where to wait, and where not to as some petrol stations have simply shut up indefinitely as business is too difficult with the irregular supply.  In Tansen the petrol station (consisting of 30 odd drums) received a delivery as we arrived, and this morning there were 100+ motorbikes stretching around the corner and out of sight waiting to be filled up.  Fortunately, we managed to fill up without too much delay.
We broke down once, fortunately before it got dark, and outside a small town. A mechanic was summoned from down the road, and while we patiently looked on he fixed the bus.

So while we progressed slowly we stopped occasionally to pick up supplies, and for food and toilet stops.  In the sticky 30 degree heat we stopped for a lunch of Dal bhat (all you can eat rice and lentils), and arriving in Tansen late at night we were once again given dal bhat. Really all we felt like at that stage was cold beer!
All in a days travel in Nepal …

Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Checking up on Baluwa village

We took advantage of a break in the monsoon rains to take some of our friends out to Baluwa village to check on progress of some projects there - sponsored by Rotary Clubs in Nepal (Dhulikhel) and New Zealand (Tauranga Te Papa, Matamata, Papamoa). It was some of the other guys first trip to the small rural villages and they were in for a treat! As we got out of the cars at the school we discovered that the children were so grateful for the help that they have received that they had formed a clapping guard of honour for us. This bought huge smiles to all our faces and we all had a ball with the kids. A truely humbling experience.

All smiles as we arrive at the school
Some village ladies who served up tea
This child was born with club feet, this mother is mute and has two other children. A New Zealand Rotarian has sponsered the cost of corrective casts ($150).

We went for a look at some houses built by a group of New Zealanders in the surrounding village and shared a cup of tea with the locals while we discussed further projects in the village. We also inspected the site of a new high school being built by the villagers. The great thing about this is that the villagers are doing a lot of the planning and construction themselves and we are moving to more of an advisory role, This means than we are equipping people with the tools to help themselves and not creating a cycle of dependence.

The site of the new High school

This is Sankers brother, Sanker is the boy who we helped get treatment for a tumor in his groin. He is now working in Kathmandu and helping his brothers attend school.
It was a great morning and good to share some of our work with our friends. Also good to catch up on some of the great work that has been done while we have been away. 

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

SOS orphange

We were lucky enough to get to know the good folk at SOS childrens orphanage. This is a great organization that works with some of the many orphans here in Nepal. It is large organization with 9 different sites in Nepal. The Kavre, Banepa facility houses 140 children in 14 homes each with 10 children of different sexes and ages, and complete with its own house mother. This provides a family enviroment for the children to grow up in. The children are supported though university with many choosing to sponser the next generation of children in SOS once they get jobs.

The children are funded by overseas and Nepali sponsorship with many overseas sponsors sadly having to give up their sponsorship due to the financial suituation. We were invited to an event staged to encourage the local business community to pick up the slack created by the overseas funding drying up. We were treated to performances by the students and to a delicious lunch in one of the houses. I can say that my host house Bagmati looked after us very well indeed.

Some of the children performing

The boys room in Bagmati house
It is very inspiring to see so many people dedicated to providing a loving home to some of the needy children of Nepal. This is a very trustworthy and worthwhile organization that is in need of sponsorship so if you want to make a massive difference to some childrens lives get in touch with us and we will let yo know what you can do.    

Friday, June 22, 2012

Half a day gone just to collect the families water...

An early start this morning out to Bucha Kot Village in Phoolbari, checking out potential sites for an agriculture project. While there we were able to meet some local villagers who customarily offered us cups of tea. It was a shock for me, despite all I have heard about and seen about the water issues facing many villages in Nepal - to hear that these villagers wake up at 3am to collect water from the well up the top of the hill.

Ghorma preparing a cup of tea in her home
Ghorma, the lovely lady who made us tea said that despite the early start she was not always guaranteed to collect water at the end of her hour long journey, as the queues at the well become so long. She has to collect 2 buckets per day, one to give to her 5 goats and one for the use of the family.  Each journey takes an hour each way walking, and with waiting at the well this can take 5 or 6 hours of her time each day.

Sadly 10 years ago there was a plentiful supply of water to the village tap right outside her home, but this, along with many others in the vicinity has dried up. May younger family members are now leaving the village because of the water supply problems.

Ghorma by the village water tap that has been dry for 10 years

Ghormas 5 goats
Half the ground floor is used to house the goats overnight, the other half is the kitchen
(This is a standard design in the villages)

Sitting inside beside the kitchen

Monday, June 18, 2012

Out and about the last couple of days…

  • We were invited to attend a high school leavers picnic/party, with also a small group of 1st year university students. Held on the hilltop overlooking Dhulikhel the various groups set up ghetto blasters and danced away the day, there was a real festive air and dal bhat (rice and lentils) for everyone! In NZ a party like this would involve alcohol, but here there was none and still guys and girls were dancing and having a good time. It was all over by 6pm – home time … theres no nightlife here!

  • We spent a few hours at a careers counselling session for a different group of high school leavers.  For those that are in the fortunate position of pursuing higher education there are plenty of institutes to choose from, however, there is limited information available to give prospective students a good overview of their options, or about the job prospects of the different courses. Most institutes are privately run, and the time and money involved mean students need to pick the right one, furthermore there are plenty which claim far more than they can deliver.

  • There have been a few early starts with yoga and morning walks – both popular here for those that can afford the time and those conscious of their health. It’s too hot by 10 am to want to do physical activity then.  Yoga is a huge test of flexibility, and it still surprises me to see middle aged Nepali men and women twist there body like a pretzel. Something to aspire to!  Its full daylight by 5.00 am, and its a normal time to rise here, with lots of people out and about. Infact, many of the higher education institutes hold split class times with the morning sessions starting at 6am.

  • We’ve visited the local tailors to get some new clothes made – Ben for a shirt and pants and myself for a Korta-Salwah. First we visit a material shop (of which there are plenty, it seems every second shop sells material down the main street!), lots of colourful cloths are pulled out from the shelves for inspection, while we sit on the floor and decide on a purchase.  At the tailors we get measured (Ben’s come as a bit of a shock to the tailors), and then we wait for a few days for pick up. The tailoring is all done in small rooms, on traditional pedal powered sewing machines.  For all this (including buying the material) we can get a whole new outfit for around $10!

Saturday, June 16, 2012

Some pics around Banepa ...

Banepa, the town where we live - about 25 km out of Kathmandu.  Banepa sits at the crossroads of the main roads coming into Nepal from China and India, it is a bustling trading town with comparative wealth in Nepal.

Walking down the street electricians are adding a new connection to the power lines

Scaffolding on multi-storey construction

Women carrying water - many homes are without water at the moment while we wait for the monsoon to start

Colourful clothing shops

Main street

A common sight - small mango stand
A local Rotary project - greenery along the streets

A converted rotary-hoe - for use as a mini tractor/truck

Another mango vendor

Constructing materials spilling into the street

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

Trip to Temal village

On monday we went to the remote village of Temal to examine progress of a matching grant project (no.74308)  run by the Rotary Club of Kavre Banepa with the Rotary Club of Voralberg, Austria. The project aims to improve drinking water supplies for the village by drilling up to 200 metres down to pump groundwater. Currenty water is a major issue for the hilltop village with many women making a four hour return trip to bring drinking water home. We were fortunate enough to be invited to visit along with the Rotary district governer Basu Dev Golyan and assistant governer Kirti Nath Maskey along with the president of the Kavre, Banepa Rotary Club Mankaji Pradhan and Dhulikhel Rotary Club president Ashok Shrestha.
Very dry countryside
Women carrying loads of water
The village is located around 60km from Banepa but the road isn't much more than a track so the trip was almost 3 hours each way. When we saw the size of the drilling rigs we were amazed that they managed to even get to the site as the road is very precarious with steep drop offs. We learned that a dozer was used to improve the road and re-cut areas to allow the big rigs passage.

One of the drilling rigs

 The sites were selected by a swiss expert water diviner. The first site has already struck water at a depth of 200 metres and work is in progress for the second. There will be four bores drilled overall. The villagers are very happy with the project and greeted us with kata (white silk scarves) and by placing tikka on our foreheads.  We were invited to return and spend more time in the village by the women, and once again were fustrated by our lack of Nepali - we'll definately need to improve our Nepali before a return trip as there is no english in Temal.  This is definately good encouragement for us to learn the language.
The second rig - check out the cracked windshield!
This entire project has a budget of $US125,000 - amazing when you look at the labour and materials involved. 50% of this came from the rotary clubs and districts involved and 50% from the rotary foundation. Its clear to see the difference this project will make to the lives of the people living in Temal, where so much time is currently spent simply collecting water each day.
The party showing our beautiful tikka and kata scarves are bore hole no. 2
At the completed bore hole where water was struck at 200m depth.
The pump is to be put in place shortly.

Sunday, June 10, 2012

Three rotary meetings in one day

We got back into the spirit of Rotary Nepal straight away with three meetings in one day. First up we were invited to see the chartering of a new RCC (Rotary Community Corps) by the Rotary club of Thimi Madhyapur. This club was only inaugurated 11 months ago (see our blog: The birth of a new Rotary Club). The meeting was held inside a beautiful buddhist stupa with a massive golden buddha watching over us.  A rotary community corp is a group of affiliated with a rotary club to help serve their community. They act as feet on the ground to help implement projects and as eyes and ears to help find areas that need assistance.  It was heartening to see a group of dedicated people keen to improve their community. Some of the new RCC members spoke of their desire to work with Rotary after having witnessed/benefited from their projects.  We also appeciated the wonderful hospitality of the host club.

Chartering ceremony of RCC
We then headed up the road to the Dhiklikhel Rotary club meeting, it was great to see many old friends again and to catch up with the good work being done by RC Dhulikhel. During our hiatis the club hosted a group of rotarians from New Zealand who built homes and donated livestock in Baluwa village. The club were very proud and we are definatly sorry that we missed the trip! We were able to report that we had been busy fundraising while back in New Zealand and when we totaled up we counted speaking at 15 different Rotary clubs and one district conference! We'd like to thank those clubs that are supporting RC Dhulikhel projects here in Nepal.

RC Dhulikhel Meeting
We then had a short break while we were waiting for the District Governer to arrive. His flight had been delayed, this is Nepal after all! We were invited to the Rotary club of Kavre, Banepa to witness the induction of 18 new Rotarians. Again it is very heartening to see people comitted to making a difference and it is good to see the club going from strength to strength. Again we were shown a fantastic example of the wonderful hospiltality that Nepal is famous for.  After all the meetings we all headed to a local restaurant to escape from the 30 odd degree heat with a much anticipated beer.

RC Kavre, Banepa new rotarians

Friday, June 8, 2012

Back in Banepa

We are just back in Nepal - and its great to be back! We've received a warm welcome from our friends here and are feeling settled in and are looking forward to our work over the coming months. It feels good coming back this second time knowing what to expect, but at the same time looking at life in Nepal with fresh eyes.

While not a lot has changed things have definately been happening in our time away. The good news for us is that the office building under construction last year opposite our home here is now complete giving us a bit more peace.  There is also a new restaurant/pub opened up next door which is promising to show the football, and perhaps even rugby and the chance for a beer or 2 in the evening. This is a first for Banepa so we are interested to see how it takes off as nightlife is not part of the culture here.

Politically there has been a lot of unrest in Nepal lately - mainly this stems from the failure of the government to draft a constitution by the end of May. They've had 4 years (with many extensions) and still no results. Its unclear if the government has legitimate power at present, and there is much speculation as to what will happen over the coming weeks/months. People are definately very fustrated with the situation.

We have also been reintroduced to the Nepali way of life, as we went to purchase a sim card for our phone we were expected to provide copies of passports and visas, passport photos, our parents name, grandparents name as well as our thumb prints on an ink pad! All details were manually entered on a ledger before we were on our way with sim card in tow.
We are looking foward to catching up with the progress of some of our old projects, especially to catching up with our friends in the the more rural villages and are starting planning for some very exciting new projects too!