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,