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.......