Thursday, 17 December 2009

Nearly time to go

Hi all,

Well, my time here is nearly up - it's Friday today and I leave on Sunday. Part of me will be happy to get back to see my family and friends and a warm house and hot shower, and part of me wants to stay on and see the lodge through to opening. But at the moment it's not in a position where I can do anything really useful even were my Nepali anything like fluent, which it most certainly isn't. I have learned 24 letters of the alphabet, but as there are 36 (why do they have three different symbols for the letter S I ask myself?) and numerous half letters and contractions due to consecutive consonants etc etc, there is still a long way to go.

I returned to Kathmandu last Sunday on the tourist bus, having spent Saturday morning in a partners meeting. This consisted of writing the minutes of the last 5 meetings, and everyone signing them at least three times. I only got to sign 3 sets of minutes (including the ones on the day), having apparently been at two meetings I didn't know I was at! Anyway, they were all explained to me, and I can divulge nothing whatsoever about them. So now you know! Or don't.

Returning on the tourist bus was interesting because it was mainly full of Nepalis as it's pretty much the end of the tourist seasons here. It was also interesting as it also set me thinking about how they cover costs. My ticket, for a 120 mile, 5.5 hour journey, cost 350 Nepali rupees which is less than 3 pounds. Petrol here is about 90p a litre, so the fuel costs will be quite high, but it must be the labour costs that enable them to do it for this price. I don't know how much a bus driver gets per month (and he certainly deserves everything he gets driving on the roads here with the manic traffic all around) but I reckon it's probably about 6000 NRs a month (about 50 pounds), and there's also a bus boy who gets less. Then there's insurance (if they have it as vehicle insurance is quite a new thing here). But I reckon with labour this cheap they must still make a fair amount of profit.

The other thing to note is how careful everyone who drives is not to hit anything / one else. And it isn't as though there aren't loads of things to hit. It's amazing the number of times the bus stopped because a stray goat / duck / hen / cow had strayed on the road, and the bus boy got off to patiently usher it to the side of the road (that is, if the horn hadn't worked). That's not to say there aren't accidents - there are, particularly at night and with drivers who've had too much to drink or have a deadline to meet and are too tired. But there are relatively few accidents, probably because everyone is very mindful of what's going on around them and potential hazards they might meet.

Anyway, enough of driving. As I said, I'm now back in Kathmandu and it is very quiet here. There are very few tourists around, and the shopkeepers in Thamel seem to have given up trying to get those that there are to buy things, which makes it nice and quiet for a change.

Well, this is probably my last post for this blog. The next blog will more than likely be one from the lodge when it's up and running.

Take care of yourselves, and if I don't see / hear from any of you before then, have a lovely Christmas and New Year.

Vivienne xx

Tuesday, 8 December 2009

My Next Door Neighbour

Hi all,

Well, I'm back in Chitwan. Not doing very much with regard to the lodge, I have to admit, apart from tweaking the website and adding pictures to it etc. But Bhakta and Krishna know what they're doing and as I would only be in the way it's better that they get on with it and leave me to do the stuff I can do. At the moment I'm designing a banner for an elep
hant (as you do). There are going to be elephant races in Chitwan from 25th-27th December (or thereabouts) and Eco Wildlife Lodge is taking part even though we aren't open yet. So we need banners for the elephant to advertise ourselves. Unfortunately I won't be here to see them, but if any of you are in the area I'm sure it will be fun.

At the mome
nt I'm sitting on my verandah typing this before going into Sauraha to upload it. It's very peaceful staying here at the Parkland Hotel - lovely gardens and a nice neighbour. My neighbour comes and goes very quietly - she's often up and out way before I am and I never hear her come or go. This is quite surprising as my room is next to the elephant stable and it always amazes me that for such large animals they move so quietly. When Jill and I were walking back a couple of days ago we heard footsteps behind us as though someone was running, and when we turned round, there was an elephant looming up behind us. So we stood aside and let it get past. I don't think it would have run us over, but neither of us were prepared to take the chance.

As for the
progress of the lodge, well it's going well in parts. The rooms are now plastered and have roofs on, and the dining hall now has walls and is about to be plastered. But there's so much building going on that sometimes it's hard to get people to work. We had plasterers for a day, but then they decided they couldn't come again for five days (another job perhaps or a festival? Does this sound familiar?) so the plastering is on hold at the moment. But all the faffing around with them meant that Krishna and Bhakta couldn't go to Dumre for the slate for the bathrooms so that's still waiting to be done too. And, as a side event, there was a transport strike all day on Sunday, so no traffic could move anywhere, and there has been (still is?) a strike of the oil corporation so there have been petrol shortages. It's amazing how much ringing round goes on just to get a few litres of petrol. There is going to be a general strike starting on the day I leave (20th December) for three days, so, if the worst comes to the worst, I may have to set out before it starts (usually 9am) and spend the day at the airport as my flight doesn't leave until 9 at night (oh joy!).

So I have precisely 12 days left until I leave. It's difficult to say exactly what I've achieved during the last 3 months, but the time certainly does seem to have gone all too quickly as usual. I'm still trying to work out whether or not I can get back here for the opening of the lodge (whenever that may be), given the need to work for a living. I'd really like to as it will be an opportunity to see it all completed, and to thank all the friends who've helped us on the way (there's going to be a barbecue and drinks), and invite agencies to see it etc etc.

Well, I think that's all for now. Take care of yourselves.

Lots of love,


Tuesday, 24 November 2009


Hi all,

Well, I'm still in Kathmandu and busy (?) working on designing the lodge website - at least as busy as an old laptop with Windows 98 and practically no software at all will allow me to be. But at least I have found copies of Photoshop in internet cafes here and there, and can now show you Eco Wildlife Lodge's logo which I've been busy adapting from a photograph I took in India last year. So here it is. I think it's pretty good, but then I'm biased :-)

Other than that, I've been round the market and various shops with Bhakta and his wife, looking at curtain material (haven't seen any I like yet) and mattresses and pillows and carpets and blankets and stuff like that. Ason market is quite interesting because each area of it is devoted to different wares, so all the tv retailers are in one place, all the material sellers are in another etc etc with little street stalls selling vegetables or incense or other things in between. Which is fine if you only want to buy one thing, but if you've a lot of things to buy it can mean a lot of trailing about. It's good for comparing prices though - you just have to hop from one shop to the next!

I've also had the dreaded Asian stomach which had me snuggled down in bed for a day feeling generally under the weather, and it's still lingering a bit, though thankfully not enough to make me want to stop in bed again. As I said before, the beds where I'm staying aren't particularly comfortable and every morning I have to give my back a really good stretch to get the kinks out at the bottom.

And now from backs to banks. I know our banks want to save us from theft, but I don't think they've yet realised how incredibly difficult (and expensive) it is to 'phone them from Asia. And if you 'phone them before you go, they don't want to know. Both Jill and I have had long conversations with our respective banks trying to get them to unlock our accounts so that we could carry out transactions that we normally carry out over the internet, but which they've now put more security on so that to confirm the transaction they need to ring you up! And unsurprisingly they can't because we're not in the UK. I was reminded of this this morning because there was another unfortunate UK national who was trying to persuade his bank that he was who he said he was, and that no, they couldn't ring him up because he wasn't in the UK, and no, he didn't have his telephone banking details because he didn't use telephone banking. When I rang a bank which shall remain nameless they wanted to know how much money I had in my account (no idea), when and where I opened the account (I know where, but when is anyone's guess), and when I couldn't answer those questions they told me to go into my branch to get my internet account unlocked. So I explained for the umpteenth time that I was in Nepal and wouldn't be back until December and after many more questions they finally decided I was who I said I was and unlocked my account. I thought the whole point of an internet account was that you didn't have to go into a bank, but obviously not. Anyway, rant over for today. No doubt I will come across exactly the same problem if I want to use my debit card!

Anyway, although this all happened the week before last, I was reminded of it again today, not just by the bloke who wanted his money and was ringing his bank, but also because I went into the Himalayan Bank in Kathmandu to pick up a charger for the laptop from Bhakta's wife. It was so different from Western banking - different departments for different kinds of transactions and you take a ticket and go to the relevant counter for each. So if you have more than one transaction to carry out you might spend the whole morning there going from one department to another. Bhakta's wife, Shobhana, works in the cheque department which is where, if you want some cheques, a cheque book is put together for you while you wait (or so it appeared) and it's all written down in various ledgers. The woman who was at the counter for a cheque book while I was there signed for it with a thumb print, which made me wonder how she could issue cheques to other people if she couldn't write? Or maybe she could write and the thumb print was just some sort of security? Who knows? Something to ask Shobhana when I see her.

Well, my hour is nearly up on the internet, so I had better go. I may get the time and opportunity to post another blog before I'm back in the UK, but that depends on where I am going to be next - if I'm in Chitwan there won't be much of either!

Take care of yourselves.


Vivienne xx

Monday, 9 November 2009

Meetings, meetings, meetings

Hello all,

Jill and I have been in Nagarkot for a week. The intention was for her to spend some time in the school, and for me to spend some time in the Nagarkot Community Health Centre. In the event, due to meetings, I think we managed to spend about half a day there.

But I did enjoy my half day in the health centre and it was interesting, even though it wasn't very busy and most of the time I didn't really have a clue as to what was going on. The "in charge" (the person qualified to diagnose and dispense, even though he's not a doctor) was doing exams the day I went, so there was just me and Laxmi. Laxmi is a qualified midwife and so deals with all the pregnancy checks and contraception, though she also does diagnosis and dispensing when Begum isn't there. So I filled in the various registers whilst she did the work. Whilst I was there there were three wounds to be dressed, a case of flu, two contraceptive injections and one dispensing of the contraceptive pill. Each new case is charged 5 rupees (less than 5p) plus any medications dispensed, whilst repeat cases are charged 3 rupees. Whilst she wasn't busy, Laxmi tried to teach me some Nepali, but, like all my attempts to learn so far, very little of it has stuck.

Although the health centre wasn't very busy the day I went, a few of the meetings we had during the week were about the health centre. At the moment any pregnant women who are about to give birth have to travel 25km down a very narrow and windy road to Bhaktapur, or, if there are complications, to Kathmandu. Elissa, Jill's Dutch volunteer, has raised money from her friends and relations to buy the equipment (delivery bed, screens etc etc) to enable some of these births to take place at the Health Centre. Laxmi, after all, is a trained midwife and could cover the day shift whilst she's there, and it would just require another person to be trained to be on call at night. And before you say anything about it putting people off going to the health centre if people are in there screaming whilst the give birth, let me say that the last time we were here we stood outside the delivery room at Kathmandu Maternity Hospital, which contained 8 women giving birth, and there was hardly a sound. So we met with Begum to find out how much these things would cost, then we had another meeting with Begum and Shem Shrestha, the Chair of the Ambulance Committee, to discuss whether or not they would be able to finance the staffing of the delivery room. And, to cut two long meetings very short, Elissa has raised enough to equip the room, and they will find the money to staff it. Shem is also going to see whether or not he can get a dentist to visit Nagarkot regularily in addition to the doctors who are just re-starting their monthly visits. Although it's great that these things are happening, it does seem to be the case that we have to be there to spark everything off, even if it's a no-cost thing, and that when we go they often lapse as in the case of the monthly visits by the doctors. Still, we are channelling the delivery suite money through our friends at Natraj, and Shree Krishna, the manager at Nagarkot Cottage, will keep an eye on how everything is going for us.

We also had a couple of meetings about Shree Gadgade School, and a send-off from the school even though I hadn't been there and Jill hadn't been there very much. It would appear that they need 4 lakh rupees (400,000 rupees = 3,500 pounds) to finish the school building, mainly because they had to match the funding for the library and did this using the money the education authority had given them towards building the school. So they want us to try and raise the money for that (unlikely seeing as we've already raised 1,500 pounds and have run out of credit with friends and family). We haven't promised anything (neither Jill nor I have jobs) but we've made sure Natraj are aware of the problem, particuarly as they have a huge group of Norwegians who've raised money for the school in the past. So we'll see what happens.

Another set of meetings were with students whose college education I fund. We went to visit Rupa at her house - she's just starting the second year of her BBS course - and met her mother and her computer teacher. And Sanu and Pitou, who have just completed the second year of their BBS course, came to Nagarkot Cottage to talk to us. Pitou got married last year, and as her husband is going to Dubai to work, and she has both her husband's household to run and her mother's, and a shop to run, she doesn't feel that she has any time to spare for her studies. So she won't be continuing to her third year. Sanu, however, will continue, and she told us she wants to open a beauty parlour in Bhaktapur when she graduates and run her own business. So that's good. Which brings me to Maya. Maya Tamang was a teacher in the nursery at Shree Gadgade School when we first arrived in Nagarkot, and we funded her salary because she had her grandmother and her family to look after. Her brothers, however, decided she could make more money by going to the Gulf to work (which she didn't as practically everything she earned went to the broker who got her the job there), and she had no choice but to go. A few weeks ago she arrived back from the Gulf and Jill saw her. We don't know what she did there, and she won't talk about it, but it does not sound to have been a pleasant experience. Now that she's back she wants to return to her studies and become a teacher, and Pitou, having decided to give up her course, requested we should fund Maya's studies instead, which of course we will do.

Our final meeting, you'll be glad to hear, was how to manage all this, and it's all going to go through Natraj with Shree keeping an eye on it for us, which is great. The nice thing about Shree (and his boss Shikher too) is the lack of "grandstanding" if that's the right word. They just get on and do things - no endless meetings, no fuss.

Our stay at Nagarkot Cottage was lovely though and we were as usual well looked after by the staff. As we'd never managed to go on an early morning trip to see the sunrise, Shree arranged for us to go with the driver who'd bought a German group to stay, so off we went at 5.45 up to the view tower - and here's the picture.

Jill has now gone off to India for a couple of weeks so I'm home alone in Kathmandu. I think this week will be mainly taken up with buying things for the lodge in Chitwan, but who knows? This is Nepal and plans can change at any time!

Sorry this has been so long, but as I don't know when the next one will be, it may have to last you a while!

Take care of yourselves.

Vivienne xxx

Tuesday, 27 October 2009

An elephant just wandered past

Hello all,

Hope you're all well and not finding the clocks going back too difficult to cope with.

I'm sorry I haven't blogged for a while, but the internet wasn't working in Nagarkot, and I didn't have time when I got to Kathmandu. But I do now!

I'm currently in Sauraha, which is where ths vast majority of the hotels and lodges are for people who want to do elephant safaris, canoe rides, birdwatching etc etc So naturally it's very touristy and busy, and it's quite weird to be sitting in an internet place watching elephants wander past up the street. There are also camels, but they look really out of place here.

So what am I doing here you might wonder. Well, it's all to do with the wildlife lodge that some friends and I are building, except it's not being built in Sauraha, it's being built near Jagatpur which isn't touristy at all and will be a nice retreat for people. So I've been visiting the site and seeing how the work is going, but as there isn't much I can do there at the moment, I'm in Sauraha whilst Bhakta and Prakash and Krishna (three of my business partners) are at the site discussing various things. One of these days I really will have to learn Nepali so that I can understand what everyone is talking about!

Anyway, at the moment there are 10 rooms being built, and the dining room and kitchen, with another 4 rooms to be built before we open. Plus a meeting hall (for slide shows), an elephant platform (for getting on the elephants), an elephant stable and miscellaneous other things. There will eventually be a swimming pool, but not just yet. As you may be able to see from the picture, everything is being hand built, which is partly why it takes so much time! Anyway, these are the rooms being built, but they won't look like this when finished - they'll be plastered and painted inside and outside and have verandahs so you can sit in the sun (or the shade) and look at the view.

The first picture is the view looking towards the jungle, whilst the one below is looking towards the Himalayas. The view of the community forest won't be quite like that however, as there's a lot of land clearing to do before opening. In fact there's a whole shedload of stuff to do (including buying two elephants which will cost around 2 million NRS each), but the current plan is to open on January 1st 2010. That may be optimistic, but we'll see.

So that's what I've been doing for the past few days - site visits, discussing various things, and coming up with ideas of where to put various things, how to decorate the rooms etc etc. There isn't anything much I can do to help there at the moment, but there is a website to design and leaflets to design and a logo to design etc etc, so I can at least make a start on them, and once the rooms are finished I can help with the painting and decorating and fitting out.

So Eco Wildlife Lodge is going to be good (remember the name for future reference) and I'm really looking forward to seeing it finished and up and running. There will be more rooms built in future (we're aiming for 24 altogether), and, as I said, there will also be a swimming pool at some point. It's a really lovely site - lots of birds (I saw a White Fronted Kingfisher yesterday), bullock carts wandering past, people herding goats or cows or buffalo, and it's only a 10 minute walk to the river (canoe safaris), and about half an hour's walk to the entrance to the National Park at Kasuri where there's a Gharial (strange looking crocodile) breeding programme, and from where you can go on elephant safaris, or go for a nature walk.
Well, I'll be returning to Kathmandu at the weekend, so I'll probably write more then.
Take care of yourselves,
Lots of love,
Vivienne xxx

Saturday, 17 October 2009

Happy Tihar!

Hi all,

As I think I told you in the last post, this weekend is Divali - otherwise known as Tihar in Nepal - so we've been out and about watching the celebrations. It was also the Newari New Year yesterday. The Newars are one of the many ethnic groups in Nepal, and are mainly found in the Kathmandu valley, and they have a New Year which is different from the Nepali New Year (which is generally some time in March or April), and also different from our New Year. So in Nepali New Year terms the year is 2066 (I think), in Newari terms the year is 1130 (I think) and of course, we in the West are in 2009.

So as well as being Laxmi Puja yesterday - the day when you welcome the goddess Laxmi (goddess of wealth) into your home - it was also Newari New Year and there was a procession in the street of various people in Newari dress accompanied by little bands of musicians. All the businesses had also cleaned their premises and decorated them with Marigolds and made decorations on the street outside to lead the goddess inside and give them wealth and good luck. So we had a good time watching everything that was going on.

Today we've been to Boudnath - the big stupa just outside Kathmandu where there's a big Tibetan community. The Nepalis are relatively OK about the Tibetans who've been here for a long time, but they tend to hand any new ones who escape from Tibet back to the Chinese. I think it's difficult for Nepal as they are sandwiched between China and India and have to try and keep in with both sides. Some political parties lean towards India, whereas others - the Maoists in particular - lean towards China. And of course, because China is so powerful these days everyone signs up to their One China policy even though this means that minority ethnic groups are repressed. I guess I would never have made a good diplomat, even had I wanted to be one, as I've never believed in bowing to the will of someone else just because they happen to be more powerful than me. But then again, I've never had to. Anyway, I'm biased - I do like Tibetans and I'm not particularly keen on the Chinese (with some exceptions of course).

Well, tomorrow we go for Bhai Tika at our brother's, and then it's off to Nagarkot for a few days. Pictures will appear on this post at some point, but at the moment I'm not having any success doing it, so I'm afraid you'll just have to wait.

Take care of yourselves,

Vivienne xx

Friday, 16 October 2009

Going Dutch

Hello all,

I have absolutely no idea what I wrote about last time, but I think it had something to do with the school at Nagarkot, and with the fact that Jill was expecting a Dutch volunteer to arrive.

So, to keep you all up to date, this is the news this week. We eventually determined that I wasn't going to Chitwan last week, for various reasons which I won't go into but were infurating at the time. Jill and I, therefore, both went to the airport on Monday to pick up Elise, who is a volunteer at Oxfam in Newcastle who wanted to do a bit of volunteering in Nepal before her boyfriend arrives and they go off on a trek. We took her up to Nagarkot Cottage, and met the new manager there, Shri Krishna, and also the staff, two of whom were at the cottage last time we were there. There have been some changes since we were last there; the "mouse" rooms have now been demolished (we used to stay there sometimes when the place was full with a tour group) and they are starting to build new rooms, and the garden is being extended and a vegetable patch being created. It's still a great place to stay, however, and most mornings this week we've had views of the tops of some of the himalayan peaks which have made a good start to the day.

Jill has been introducing Elise to the school and health post, whilst I've been catching up with some of my students - Rupa and Sakul. We also took Elise down to Bhaktapur one day to show her the local "town".

It hasn't all been restful and fun though, as this morning we had a meeting with the Headmaster and the Chairman of the School Committee and some of the teachers at Shree Gadgade School to look over the accounts for the building of the new school and to ask a few questions about whose money has gone where. It would appear that the government has provided some money, we have provided another tranche (from donations and from selling the calendars last year), and a Norwegian group have provided a third sum. Some of the government's money was spent on the new library as the charity provided matched funding for it. And once we'd done the sums, we worked out that the school has probably spent about 1000 pounds more than they have on the school building. So that's going to be interesting for them! No doubt we will be having yet more discussions.

Today we came back to Kathmandu so that we can show Elise around. Despite having never been to Asia before she hasn't experienced too much of a culture shock so far as we took her straight up to Nagarkot. The busy-ness of Kathmandu, however, may take a little longer to get used to, as will finding her way around.

It's holiday time again in Nepal - the Tihar festival, which is more commonly known as Diwali. Today is crow day, when people put food and other things out for crows as they are the messengers of the dead. Tomorrow is dog day when dogs get the special tika mark on their foreheads and are garlanded with mallas of marigolds (if they stay still long enough). It's probably the only day in the year when dogs are treated really well in Nepal. It is also Laxmi Puja tomorrow which is when people clean out their homes and shops and decorate them with lights and flowers in order to welcome the goddess of wealth, Laxmi, into their homes and businesses. Needless to say, there won't be the usual 2 hour power cut tomorrow! Sunday is cow day, when cows get the special tika mark on their foreheads etc etc, and on Monday is Bhai Tika when sisters worship their brothers.

Jill and I and Elise have been invited to worship our Nepali brother, BP (and yes, he did ask if we wanted to go and worship him), so we are going with him on Monday to his sister's house to join in the celebrations. There's quite a ritual involved, including placing seven different coloured tikas on his forehead, so I hope there will be someone there to show us the ropes as we haven't done it for three years. There is also an exchange of gifts involved, so Jill and I are frantically wracking our brains trying to decide what to buy (Elise has brought some crocus bulbs from Holland and is going to give those to him). At the moment the favourite is Walkers Scottish shortbread (which you can actually buy in Kathmandu) because he likes sweets and liked the shortbread we bought last time. And then it will back to Nagarkot for more meetings.

So that's me up to date for the moment. I'll add a few pictures to this when I get time, and also some Bhai Tika ones, but I have to say that I can see now why people do bring their own laptops to Nepal - every time I put my USB drive or camera card reader anywhere near a computer something or other reports a virus.

Take care all of you and Happy Tihar!



Friday, 9 October 2009

Return to Nagarkot


Those of you who've followed the blog in previous years will remember we spent most of our time in and around Nagarkot, and have had quite a lot of contact with one school in particular, Shree Gadgade School, and also with the health centre.

So this week we've been up in Nagarkot for a couple of days seeing how things were going. We stayed at Eco Home which is where Semanta now is as he owns the place, and also met the chef Kishan, Manoj (both of whom were with Semanta at Nagarkot Cottage), and the two new staff Krishna and Pasang. It was just like being back amongst family again, and we had a nice stay there - I can certainly recommend Eco Home and I'm not saying that just because they are friends!

We had a few wanders round the village, even though it rained much of the time we were there and the paths were very slippery. We visited the Health Centre where Kat worked when she was here and caught up with the news from the "In Charge" Begum, and his two assistants Laxmi and Champa. When we left there was an arrangement for a doctor to visit once a month and hold a clinic, but this has not happened for a few months because the doctor who was in charge of the arrangements suffered a family tragedy. But we had tea there and they were so pleased to see which was nice.

Then we went to visit the new library which has been provided by a charity called Room to Read. It's a beautiful building and has lots of books in both Engish and Nepali and newspapers too. It seems to be attached to Shree Gadgade School, and has a reading area where the younger children can sit on the floor and look at books with their teacher. We met one of the teachers there, Govinda, and the headmaster Uddhav arrived soon afterwards. So we had a good chat about the school and the new building which is being erected behind the library. This is going to be the first phase of the new school, so for those of you who bought calendars or kindly gave donations last year, the attached picture shows where your money is going. This building will have four classrooms, and in due course another four classrooms will be built on top of the library building. The delay in starting the school seems to have been because the money from the Room to Read charity had to be used straight away, so the library had to be built first, but at least the school is being built now, which is good.

Nagarkot doesn't seem to have changed all that much, though there is quite a lot of new building going on. Men are still leaving to go and work abroad because there isn't work in Nepal and they can earn far more abroad anyway - in fact Nepal and its people probably wouldn't survive without all the money that comes in from Nepalis working abroad.
Jill will be returning to Nagarkot on Monday with a new volunteer -Elisse - and they will be staying at our old place, Nagarkot Cottage, for a while. As for me, well I'm not sure what I'll be doing. I was supposed to be going to Chitwan on Friday with Bhakta to see how the hotel building was going, but Bhakta's mother was admitted to hospital in Kathmandu earlier in the week and until she's fit to travel he won't be going back. So at the moment I'm not quite sure what to do - stay in Kathmandu or go to Nagarkot, or do something entirely different. The possibilities are endless as they say!
So I think that's all my news for now.
Take care of yourselves,
Vivienne xxx

Wednesday, 30 September 2009

1st October Miscellany

We've had a fairly quiet few days in Kathmandu, mainly wandering around and seeing parts of Kathmandu we wanted to revisit, or new parts we hadn't seen before.

We've also seen our brother, BP. BP is our Bhai Tika brother who adopted us about three years ago and who, like any other big brother, is concerned about our welfare and makes sure we are alright when we are here. We sent him an email to say we'd arrived, and the next morning he turned up at the Guest House we're staying in and took us to breakfast at his house. So we got to see his wife, Tara, again too and we had a pleasant hour or so sitting in the garden drinking tea and chatting. They're building an apartment block in the grounds of their house for paid guests, the profits from which will go towards a big school a charity they are involved with is building in Nagarkot. Anyway, we've been invited back for Bhai Tika itself, which is a ceremony to honour brothers and will this year be on October 19th. So more about that then (if I manage to make it there).

The guest house we're staying in has a little library, and I've been reading a book which contains articles about women in Nepal. Their general status is that of a second class citizen, even if they are successful in their own right, and I was thinking about this in terms of the Nepali women I have met. Apart from BP's wife Tara, who has a doctorate and studied in America, there are very few adult Nepali women I have met whose names I know; I only know them as "belonging" to a man (Semanta's wife etc). So although I have met Semanta's wife several times, I don't know her name (and shame on me that I haven't asked). The point that I'm trying to make very badly is that women in Nepal are generally known in relation to some man or other - so they are some man's daughter or some man's sister or some man's wife.

So how difficult it must be for women when their identity is removed (in a way) by the death of their husband. We went to Pushpatinath yesterday (picture attached) which is the cremation ground just outside Kathmandu. This isn't as gruesome as it sounds and Nepalis generally take this part of life as matter of factly as they do the rest of life. It is a time when they honour the person who has died, and their ceremonies very much reflect this. Normally I have found it quite a restful place to be, but yesterday one of the deceased was obviously a man in his 4os or maybe early 50s and his wife was performing the rituals surrounding his cremation. One of those rituals involves removing the glass bangles that were put on when she was married, and once the ceremony was over she would remove the red clothes she is allowed to wear as a married women and put on white widows clothes. It set me thinking about how hard it must be for her because not only has her husband died, but she has had to put off her married identity. There are a lot of articles written about the status of widows in society in Nepal, which I won't go into here, but I can say that generally unless they have someone to keep an eye out for them they don't have an easy time of it. I'm sure there are articles on the internet about it, so if you want to know any more about widows in Nepal (or India) do take the time to look.

Anyway, on to brighter things. Today we have been to Boudhilikantha (which I can't spell) where there's a sleeping Buddha. I couldn't take a picture of it as you aren't allowed to, but the picture shows the temple complex it's in, which is the usual mixture of Buddhism and Hinduism happily mixed together.

Then it was coffee time, so back to Kathmandu to one of our favourite coffee houses. Where I have to say I definitely felt technologically disadvantaged. As it's a Wi-Fi cafe everyone there except us had laptops and were busy surfing away. There were a couple of Korean travellers next to us, one of whom was looking at bikes on Amazon, and the other was looking at light fittings. You do have to ask yourself what is the point of travelling thousands of miles to visit a place if you're going to sit in an internet cafe and do exactly the same sorts of things that you can do on your computer back home. Perhaps I'm maligning them and they do go out and do other things and experience the country, but you have to wonder don't you?
Anyway, I reckon it's lunchtime now, so I'm off. I'll write more soon.
Lots of love,
Vivienne xxx

Sunday, 27 September 2009

A love-hate relationship

Mosquitoes and I have a love-hate relationship; they love me and I hate them. As my friend Debi will tell you (and show photographic proof) when I get bitten I don't just get a little lumpy, I get a lot lumpy. So at the moment I have 11 lumps and so Jill and I have been conducting a series of experiments to see what remedies, pharmaceutical or otherwise, relieve the itching and the swelling. I have tried a Nepali pharmacy remedy called Tendrilone (I think), Anthisan, Tea Tree Oil, Clove Oil, Tiger Balm, one of those things that zap the bite with an electric charge, deodorant (suggested by a web page), and toothpaste. So far the jury is out as to whether the toothpaste, Tiger Balm or Anthisan help the most. I think it's probably too close to call, but at least I'm not itching any more and I look a little less like a close contender for the role of elephant man.

I would like to be able to say we have done all sorts of things since I last wrote, but as it's festival time (Dasain), which readers of previous blogs may remember us writing about before, there isn't much open. Also there have been two days of sacrificing and Jill, being vegetarian, hasn't been keen on going anywhere where there might be goats being beheaded. So we've pottered around quite a lot, which has been fine. It's actually nice for a change to not have to be somewhere or see someone for a few days - in previous years when not teaching we've often been rushed around here there and everywhere to do things or see people, or have been left sitting around for hours waiting for things to happen. And this being Nepali time, when they do happen it's invariably later than you expect, or even on a different day altogether.

Having looked at our calendar for the next three months this morning, we find that there are givens - people arriving / departing etc etc - but that for the rest of the time we need to get organised to see people and do things. So we're starting to let people know we're here and hopefully should meet up with some of them over the next couple of weeks. After that I will probably be going to Chitwan to the hotel site for a while, whilst Jill will be going up to Nagarkot as one of her volunteers from Oxfam is going there to either the school or the health post to help out. So nothing much, as yet, is in the calendar but we have loads of time to fill it!

I think that's all I have to say for the moment - sorry it's so boring. I will put some photos on here soon, but the computer I'm using today doesn't have a USB port (well it does but it's covered by parcel tape which I guess means that they don't want people to use it!.

Have fun and take care!
Lots of love,


Friday, 25 September 2009

The Princess and the Pea

Those of you who have children, or were children once (ha!), may remember the story of the princess and the pea which had something to do with the fact that if you put a pea under the mattress of a princess she would feel the pea no matter how many mattresses were on top of it. Which only indirectly has something to do with what I'm going to say next, but still.

I have to state at the outset that I am not, nor have I ever been, a Princess, but I'm sure that at the moment I would definitely be able to feel a pea were it placed under my mattress. This may have something to do with the fact that the mattress I'm sleeping on is about 2 inches thick and is straight on top of a wooden base. So no springs either. However, with the jet lag, it is still not impossible to sleep on, were it not for the dogs' chorus each night which starts somewhere around 2am and goes on to about 4am, at which time the roosters start up and the traffic too. So not much sleep last night.

Apart from that, everything is fine. Kathmandu is pretty much as I remember it, though there are more power cuts than when we were here last time. And the smells and sights and sounds are pretty much the same too. One of the cafes we practically lived in last time we were here has sadly gone downhill, but there are enough new coffee places to make up for it.

It is holiday time here at the moment - Dasain - so much slaughtering of goats going on here there and everywhere and the usual Nepali unpredictability. Jill had booked a Nepali lesson this afternoon, but the place was closed for the holiday, so we went for a walk up past the British Embassy and the British Council and round the back, and visited the British Cemetery. It's only a small place, but beautifully kept, and very peaceful too so we sat there for quite a while, picking up a few mozzie bites on the way.

Other than that, and a very nice massage this afternoon, we haven't done all that much really. One of our friends will be back from a tour this weekend, so we should get a bit more organised then, and we have other friends to get in touch with so hopefully we'll get to see them over the holiday period.

So everything is fine so far. The trip over was OK, though Manchester Airport gets worse every time I fly from there. If you aren't flying there's nothing to see and nowhere to have a coffee (at least there isn't in terminal one), and when you do get through the departure lounge there's absolutely no incentive to spend your money because everything is so expensive and, in my case at least, I knew I could get what I wanted far cheaper in Abu Dhabi. So I did, thus depriving the UK government of some taxes at least I would imagine. Kathmandu Airport was its usual chaotic self - four flights arriving at the same time and one luggage conveyor belt working intermittently. Oh joy.

Well, that's all for today. I promise I'll post some pictures at some point, but it generally requires a fair amount of time to do this, and I don't have all that much time this evening. So you'll have to suffer more inane ramblings as well as getting to see some piccies.

Take care of yourselves,
Vivienne xxx

Monday, 21 September 2009


The time has come to pack, or at least to move the piles of things from the floor of my bedroom, sort through them, and decide whether or not they will go in the bag or not. I feel fairly certain that last time I went to Nepal I had tons of room left in my bag, but looking at the piles this time, and the bag, then I'm either taking loads more, or my bag has shrunk. Unfortunately I think it's the former rather than the latter, so I'll have to have a ruthless sort out.

Jill has already arrived in Kathmandu and is busy sorting out accommodation and also Nepali lessons for us. And she's been invited to a festival dinner at Oxfam so that should keep her occupied before I get there.

Well, I had better go and start the packing and see if my bag is, in fact, a version of Dr Who's Tardis. The next time I write it will probably be from Nepal, so take care of yourselves until then.


Vivienne xx

Monday, 7 September 2009

Money, money, money

I'm always amazed by how much I spend when I'm not working - and introducing my mother to Ebay probably hasn't helped much either. But at least some of my expenditure has been essential if more than a bit expensive - the dentist because I lost part of a filling, and the opticians because I can't see as well as I should.

But having spare time means I can also spend time doing other money-related things so I've also been filling in my tax form, which happily has resulted in a rebate from the tax man which even more surprisingly took relatively little time to come through. I've also started selling one or two things on Ebay. I don't think I'm going to make up anything like what I'm losing by not working for the next 3-4 months (and in fact they may not sell) but, as the adverts have it "Every little helps"!

I've also been catching up with people, including a college friend I hadn't seen for nearly 20 years, walking, sorting stuff out and generally doing everything apart from what I should be doing - getting ready for going to Nepal. But then I never generally pack until the day before I go, so why change the habits of a lifetime?

The weather has also turned nice now, which is just what you'd expect now that all the schools have gone back. So I'll have some time to enjoy that too which will make a change.

Better go and find my sunscreen!

Tuesday, 1 September 2009

Off to Nepal again

Well, as it's become something of a tradition to write a blog whilst in Nepal, this is the start of this year's.

For those who haven't been in touch for a while, this is the news to date. I've been working as an MI Analyst on contract to the Environment and Neighbourhoods department of Leeds City Council for the past 14 months, and finished on Friday. An interesting place to work and a nice team of people to work with.

I'm leaving for Nepal three weeks today, and won't be returning until just before Christmas. So with any luck (for those of you to whom I send Christmas cards), you will actually get one this year because I may just about be organised by then.

You may well be asking what I'll be doing in Nepal this time. Good question, but I don't have an answer to that at the moment. I did apply for a teaching job in Kathmandu, but didn't get it, so I'm going to see what's around when I get there. So I may be doing some teaching, or we're still in the process of building a hotel in Chitwan, so I'm sure there'll be plenty of work to do there. My friend Jill is also going, and has contacts with Oxfam, so there may be a bit of work to do there. So I have nothing planned so it might all turn out to be very interesting.

Watch this space.......