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