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Out With The Old…In With The New

6 Nov

The last week since Dashain has been a little difficult.

With vacation over, I had to adjust to being back at work, to my brother going back to the UK, to being single (which I’m still struggling with), to having no DSLR camera, having to redo all my work, etc.

The first thing my supervisor commented on when I arrived in the office last week was ‘wow, everything new!’

My new laptop is awesome and I can’t begin to explain how happy I am to have it, especially as I’m trying to cope with this whole heart break thing – without it there would be no Grey’s Anatomy, Gossip Girl, movies and Curb Your Enthusiasm and I’d be left in bed with my own thoughts every evening…what a depressing thought.

When ordering it on Amazon, I was so desperate to just buy one I forgot to look at the size and I bought an enormous one…17 or 18 inches. It doesn’t even fit in my laptop bag, so I got a new one (naturally dyed, fairly traded!!).

I dyed my hair red, as well. In Canada I would never, ever do this, however in Nepal it doesn’t matter much how ‘professional’ I look as people will stare at me for the western clothes I wear and the whiteness of my skin and the Canadianess of my accent no matter what. Plus, beauty here is quite affordable!

Retail has also been a huge form of therapy for me although not a healthy one, and I have done a hell of a lot of shopping in the last week. I bought two pairs of Steve Madden shoes this weekend, a bunch of bootleg DVDs including seasons 1-13 of South Park, fake Beats by Dre headphones as I have broken the other 10 pairs that I’ve purchased here, a wallet with the UK flag on it, two pairs of lovely earrings, a bunch of stuff from FTG partners including woolen socks, a vest and a backpack.

One of my new pairs of shoes

But the problem with retail therapy is that it provides a very short high.  Yesterday I had an especially difficult time coping with the lack of love I currently have, it comes in waves, and I treated myself to a nice massage at The Wellness Sanctuary. It made me think of how lucky I am to be in a country where I can afford to get a nice, long massage to take my mind off of things. A broken heart in Canada is much more expensive to heal.

I wake up every morning and try my hardest to not cry, not be sad, and especially not make a phone call I know I will regret. I often fail. However this morning I succeeded and I have yet to shed a single tear today. I know Zak and I broke up a long while ago, but it’s only really hitting and hurting me now. I was so distracted before – getting to know new people, friends, colleagues, the country. All I really needed was a little bit of space from our 3-4 conversations a day to feel like I was living in Nepal, not on Skype. But that turned into mistrust and fights and eventually a break up.

New beginnings can be a blessing – but boy are they tough. I keep trying to remind myself that this is for the best. It could be so much worse, I could be living in the same city as my ex, sharing friends, even a workplace. But regardless, being single, with no one calling to check up on you, no one to fill in on mundane day-to-day activities…it’s new for me.

The new me also wants to put up barriers and not open myself up to people even if I like them. I don’t want to crush on people so easily and don’t want to fall for people so easily. Trust is important but also has to be preserved and only given after a long time.

As a wise Mr. Marley once said:

Bob’s got a very valid point. But how do we find the ones that are worth it?

Nepal is all about a new beginning and a new life. I will not be the same person when I return to Toronto and frankly, I don’t even really want to return to Toronto yet. If nothing else, I’ve learned how vast this world is and how much more there is for me to see and experience. I will do this while guarding my heart, though. Being heart broken in every corner of the globe sounds interesting, but a little too painful.

This week our office moved to a new location about 15 minutes from my apartment. The move has taken a long time and yesterday we were told to work from home, so I spent the day at two cafes. Today we went to the office to find that there is still no electricity, phone or internet, so once again we are at Top of the World Cafe.

This Friday my ex-roomie from Mauritius, Hoda, who I have not seen since she left Mauritius on March 26, 2011, will be in Kathmandu for a vacation this weekend, and it will be lovely to see her, reminisce and hug her. Then, Tara and I are off to India for Divali (called Tihar in Nepal).

In with the NEW indeed…




Maithila Art

28 Sep

I spend most of my money here on handicrafts and other beautiful possessions that make me a very bad aspiring Buddhist.

One of the most interesting Nepalese art forms that I have learned about, and get the pleasure to actually work a little with – is called Maithili art. Maithili art comes from a region called Janakpur, which I will have the chance to visit later in the year.

Traditionally, the art was made on the walls of the city during celebrations and depicted women doing traditional work – farming, cooking, dancing. The skill was passed on from generation to generation. At one point over a decade ago, it was suggested that they paint onto item that can be sold, such as cups, pencil holders, wall art, etc. and it took off from there. Now Maithili art is one of the most common forms of art one finds, at least in Kathmandu.

Despite that, I doubt that the women of Janakpur are floating in their riches or anywhere near that. However, the region and it’s traditions are becoming well known and the women pass on their talent from generation to generation, providing an extra source of income to their daughters.

At Fair Trade Group, one of our partners is the Janakpur Women’s Development Centre. One of my tasks is to create a brochure for them, amongst other things. Many products that FTG sells depict Miathili art and I love every single one of them. Below are just a few images of items with the art. It’s Tara’s duty to come up with new designs and innovative ideas of what to paint them on. I suggested a silk maxi dress….I would be the first in line to buy it!

Maithila frame

card with Maithila art

I regret the poor quality of the above photos – I used my webcam!



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.



Sunday & Work tomorrow

29 Jul

I start working tomorrow at Fair Trade Group Nepal.

From what I’ve heard they are a good, stable, legit organization, which you can’t always be sure of in international development. So, I’m glad.

I’ll be moving to Kupondole on August 10, and that’s walking distance from the office. Kathmandu traffic is so insane, that even though we are paying a ridiculous sum, I tend to think it’s worth it getting to avoid traffic jams and buses and tuktuks (rickshaws), etc.

TukTuks or rickshaws

Today, I went to the dentist for the first time in 4 years. I got a check up and a cleaning and it cost me $43. I will be going back to fix up several cavities that forced me to avoid the dentist in Canada. I am quite happy about being able to afford dental care here.

My new dentist

Then, I meandered on to Mongal Bazaar which, supposedly, is a local market. It must have been as I saw only about 3 white people while there, and I gasped loudly at them. But, to my disappointment, the gorgeous arts and crafts and silks weren’t there. Even the practical things that I need for the new apartment weren’t particularly cheap. I left having spent only $3 (proud of myself) on a cotton wrap skirt.

Every single shop here has knockoff Angry Birds shirts…sometimes hats, plushies, backpacks, flipflops, raincoats. I want one really badly.
This is one particularly “stylish” and blingy shirt….

I then went to an area where there is a Tibetan Refugee camp and looked at Tibetan Tiger rugs, but didn’t find any cheap enough – so far I found them for anywhere between $70 and $90 for the tiny ones. 

Finally, I went to pay my landlord the remaining deposit and then waited an hour for the correct TukTuk back to Baluwatar which never came, so instead I took a microbus to one place, changed onto a different TukTuk to Lazimpat then walked about 15 minutes home. I’m beat.



Weekend alone

23 Jul

So Tara has gone off to Switzerland for 2 weeks for another job (lucky girl) so I am here alone. It’s okay! I need to become more independent.

My weekend consisted of much more shopping, and accidentally exploring nice areas near the bazaars. I also found a Ganesh ring but bought the fake cold and plastic one rather than a bronze one or real gold and coral one (to save some cash). I am quite happy with it.

Here are some shots of what I saw this weekend (and of course, what I bought!):

Ganesh ring brings good luck!




23 Jul

I spent the morning watching Sons of Anarchy on my laptop then around lunch time headed to Thamel in search of a Ganesh coral and brass ring. I did not find it as many places are closed here on Saturdays, but I did buy some things instead. Too many things, actually. I love shopping in Nepal so freaking much. It’s so dangerous going anywhere near Thamel. I bought:

  • a onyx ring and onyx pendant
  • a gorgeous bright pink hand made sparkly elephant bed cover
  • a buffalo hyde bag
  • a necklace with elephants on it
  • Picked up a dress I had our regular silk-guy/tailer make
  • lunch

I am exhausted and happy. All together I spent just under $50 which is a lot, but I suppose really isn’t much considering buying two items of clothing in Toronto would cost me the same.