Archive | August, 2012


28 Aug

The internet at our apartment is very slow and my blog won’t even load. That is, when there’s even power to connect to the interweb.

It has been a challenge, but one that I am learning to appreciate in some ways, but certainly a challenge, especially when trying to find time to Skype with Zak.

Last week was quite relaxed, other than it being Tara’s 25th birthday, which we celebrated by having dinner and drinks at a nearby place called Vesper Cafe. Then I went to the World Trade Centre for a women’s shopping festival (sounds as though it were made for me, no?) and I bought some cheap bras, a Mickey Mouse shirt, a crochet vest, a crystal to hang in the window, and silk cocoons which are supposed to remove blackheads but haven’t worked for me yet. I also got Tara some flowers for her birthday and a ring of the god Ganesh, because as I have learned to love the remover of obstacles, so has she. On the walk to the trade centre I made a little friend on the side of the road. Here he is:

This lil guy was eating a cookie on the sidewalk

Then on Friday after work and the gym, we went to a restaurant nearby called Tamarind. I was shocked at how posh it was, it really didn’t feel anything like Nepal. The service was just awful and it was very expensive, but there was live music, mostly hindi, but at one point he played Jason Mraz’s I’m Yours which we all danced and sang to in our seats.

Saturday I went to Kopan Monastery with another volunteer who has been in Nepal for 3+ years. She has had some experience with Buddhism so she took me to experience it. It was a very hot day, and once we arrived we decided to sweat some more and trek another half an hour to another nearby monastery where there was a Buddhist prayer at 4 pm.

We observed from the side of the monastery as these monks chanted, played loud drums, blew into big conches and snapped their fingers. At some point they ate beaten rice and drank tea as an offering, and the monks even brought us cups and filled them with tea, as well. It was a really interesting practice to ask for protection. The chanting was incredible, and I would love to go again (when the trek won’t be so sweaty due to the heat!).

View from Kopan

Stupa at Kopan Monastery

Yesterday I got my big huge broken tooth fixed at the expat dentist, and I keep tonguing it. This is the first time in 5 years that I have had a mouth full of complete teeth! I then went to Nepali language class where I began to learn basic Nepali script which is unbelievably complicated. Then, the clinic for my last rabies shot, the salon for some leg waxing, then off to dinner where we chatted and drank some wine.

The bad news of the weekend is that I dropped my phone and the screen cracked and I am extremely sad. I have always wondered why people use phones with cracked screens and now I am one of those people. Oh, and this:




Living the dream

16 Aug

Today we visited one of the 17 member organizations of FTG Nepal. It was so inspirational to see some of the artisans working right there in front of me.

The member was called Kumbeshwar Technical School (KTS). This organization started out in 1983 to help Nepal’s untouchable caste. It has been such a success that they now have schools for adults and children, an orphanage, a daycare for their artisans’ children, they sell their products fair trade to 13 different countries, and the products are gorgeous. It was so inspirational to see these women make the dye, dye the wool, roll the wool, weave the carpets, knit the accessories and sweaters all in front of us. Just incredible.

Then we visited another partner, New Sadle, which is located in Kopan, at the outskirts of Kathmandu 0n a mountain near a monastery.  This organization has many programs and hires lepers, gives them medical attention, housing, jobs and takes care of their entire families. Once the lepers become too old to work, they are given the option to either live in the home or to buy their own plot of land in their village where New Sadle will build them a house. New Sadle even gives their children employment or if they prefer, pays for the schooling. As leprosy is nearly eradicated (about 50,000 lepers in Nepal now) they have begun to hire other people with disabilities and marginalized women. They also paid one man to rescue an entire family of indentured labourers who are now their employees.

Here are a few photos of the artisans and children from both organizations:

Hand weaving a carpet at KTS

Children in the school in KTS

Leper working at New Sadle producing Batik art using silk screening

hand made beaded bracelets

I realized after leaving that, though I may be a little sad at times here, and not totally in love with Kathmandu, here I am literally living the dream. I have dreamt of working for a development organization internationally in fair trade literally since childhood and that is exactly what I am doing. I am so, so lucky.



Settled in

13 Aug

On Friday, we finally moved into our new apartment in Kupondole, Lalitpur. Problem is, even though we have our own wi-fi, the connection is so bad that I can’t even load the blog at home!! So, I had to wait till work on Monday to upload pictures. Funny enough, skype calls are much better there than they were at the Passage House, but nothing else loads.

Anyway, with my complaint out of the way, here are the photos of our new apartment.

Living room

Front hallway

Dining Room


My room – the purple curtain is fabric I bought in the street, originally intended as sheets but turns out there were sheets on my tiny bed when I arrived. Since this photo was taken, I added a friend to my bed, a hello kitty plush.

Tara’s room. Part of the deal of taking this apartment was that she got the bigger room/bed. She put her Senegalese bed cover on, along with an elephant she purchased from our work, FTG.

And, the newest edition to my room, is my new friend, Hello Kitty.

my new friend. She cost me $20

Now accepting visitors!



A Letter to Nepal

7 Aug

Dear Nepal,

Why can’t I decide how I feel about you?  I’m just so conflicted.

On the one hand, there is so much about you that I love. You have so much to offer: you have such an amazing history, your mountains are beautiful, your people are sweet, your language is interesting, the shopping you provide is absolutely incredible and dangerous, your food is quite delicious, most of the time, travel and pretty  much everything else is quite cheap.

But why must you be so filthy, under developed? Why must your people continuously try to take advantage of me because of the colour of my skin and the sound of my voice? Why must your dogs be so scary and your roosters wake me up so early in the morning? Why must I fear for my safety every time I go for a walk?

I’m so happy to be getting to know you so intimately. I have been  attracted to you for many, many years now. Did I hype it up too much?

I like you a lot, Nepal, I’m just not in love with you.

I know it’s unfair for me to compare you to past loves – like Mauritius, Costa Rica – but I’m humanly imperfect. Of course I compare. I loved them, I remember them, cherish the memories with them and think of them often. They made me feel immediately comfortable, happy and adventurous. Why is it that I don’t feel this way with you? I have been so infatuated with you for so long, now that I have the opportunity to turn that infatuation into love, it just doesn’t seem to be happening.

I don’t know if it’s you or if it’s me, but I will try hard to experience the feelings I was expecting to feel when I came over to spend time getting to know you. I hope that you, too, will do your part to help me fall in love with you.




6 Aug

I experienced my first Bandh in Nepal today. It was a minor one, with only 4 hours of traffic affected, from 6-10 am. This wasn’t a big problem for me as that basically meant working late. However, once the Bandh was over, getting a bus or tuktuk to work proved to be extremely difficult. First, every bus, tuktuk and taxi was taken for at least an hour after the Bandh was over, as people were rushing to get to work. When I finally managed to get on a tuktuk an hour and a half later, it took so long to get through the traffic, that what is usually and 20-35 minute ride turned into an hour and a half long journey. I got to work after lunch time.

Lucky for me, work was very understanding and before the day was up I was warned that there will be anothe Bandh tomorrow and that it may be a Nepal-wide full-day Bnadh, which means working from home.

They way it works, I’m told, is that a political party or big union who wants their demands heard, calls a Bandh and decides what the affected region and length will be. Then, if any cars or bikes or buses or rickshaws are on the road during that time, the protesting mob (often the Maoists) will smash the windows or even set fire to the cars. There are so many more protestors than police that they riot police are genarally just spectators.

I saw no violence and even many cars were on the street disobeying the Bandh. Apparently there are different times of year with more or less severe Bandhs and right now is not very serious. Once monsoon season is over and farmers aren’t so busy, that’s when the Bandhs get really interesting, big and sometimes, bad. Apparently we can expect that starting in September. By then I’ll be a 5 minute walk from work, though.

As there wasn’t much to see during the Bandh today except maybe a few more pedestrians on the road, I didn’t take any pictures, but Google provides some pretty scary ones from Bandhs past:





Gayathri Japam

3 Aug

Today was a festival in Nepal, Gayathri Japam a festival where people who have had a relative die in the last year, have their children dress up, usually as cows and go to a procession, during which observers give them gifts of snacks and money. Here are some shots of the festivities today.



Lotus Children’s Home

2 Aug

Today I went to go visit an orphanage that I have been in touch with on Facebook for a few years. I met the co-owner/operator in Thamel and he took me on his motorbike to visit the kids. I had kids books and some socks and pens and pencils for them.

He told me that his wife was an orphan and when he met her in their village she was 14 and working in a tea shop and he was 21 and they married. They moved to Kathmandu and they found an orphanage with kids in it run by another couple that they used to visit and help with. One day the couple disappeared, abandoning the children, rent unpaid, school fees unpaid, no food. That’s when this man, Laxman, and his wife took over, made a new orphanage, new name, and it has been operating for 6 years now.

They have a 2 bedroom flat and 9 orphans, 2 sons. The kids share a room with large bunkbeds and the couple sleeps on a mattress in their office. The maid and her baby sleep in the kitchen.

I had no idea what to expect when I went, but when the kids walked home from school, I saw a bunch of shy children in uniforms. After greeting ‘Namaste’ the kids slowly opened up and each introduced themselves to me in English and then said “it’s nice to meet you, Madam”

They are adorable. Everyone sat in a circle in the living room reading or doing their homework then all of a sudden, like the flip of a switch, everyone scrambled and started playing ball outside. I played with a tiny plastic ball indoors with one particular darling boy with a snotty nose. I don’t remember his name.

Once the kids all came in, I played with the maids baby who peed on me, and then I decided it was time to go.

I will go back and visit them now and again, they are so sweet, and Laxman and his wife treat all the kids equally as their very own children.

I didn’t take photos this time around but  I will once I feel a little more comfortable there.