Tuesday, 29 September 2015

Life in Kathmandu

This is the first time I am having to sleep up on the top floor . My normal room next to Uma's is now the bridal suite.  It will be out of bound from now on.The top floor room is originally an open area, but half the space has been converted  into a room by putting a sheet of cardboard across it. Uma has kindly put up a walled  fan because she knows how desperate I need it in order to sleep well. It's the  one and only luxury I have here.😊

The top  floor opens into the roof terrace. It is where the washing is hanged to dry. Nobody comes out here except for hanging the washing. I used it each morning to do my qigong, something I have started to learn before coming here. It helps  to give some structure  to my day , and it is a form of exercise  which have been sadly lacking since my arrival almost 10 days  ago. The houses here are built hickledy pickledy , with no planning permission  , or so it seems to me. This results in houses being built right against the next house with very little space between them. The ethos is to maximising the floor space for living areas

Each day when Uma's neighbour wakes @ 5 am for their daily prayers, it usually wakes me up. I  then promply fall asleep again after they have finished. I thiink they are Buddhists. This is no difference to Malaysia where the Imam  from the local mosque broadcast his morning prayer across the land, calling his loyal flock to observe Allah's teaching each day

Some times Uma would joke and join in her neighbour's coversation,  mouthing to me  her make believe  responses. We have a good laugh. Uma speaks normally, but her neighbour speaks very loudly. It is quite normal for a conversation to sound like  a row between two people to uninitiated ears but it is not.

So each day when I am doing my qigong exercise on the roof terrace, I have little faces (2 young children live there) literally staring at me with  curiosity from a metre away. They will be tiptoeing from  their roof terrace, with their mother going up and  down the stairs which are built outside of the house. It is  a very weird  looking  family home.

On the odd occasion  when they have late nights, I will have late nights as well. That make life interesting. I have often felt I was amongst them in the middle of the party.

Surprisingly, there are abundant  wild life here, A large snowy barn owl flew across the terrace only yesterday while I was hanging out my washing.It was a most beautiful bird , white with golden wings. Surprisingly, there are birds of prey hovering around looking for  dinner. Then we have the monkeys who come down from the temples looking for food. I think they are the probable reasons for washings to be disturbed sometimes. Then there are the rats which our children love to chase and kill if they come across them. I still maintain that the stray dogs  are vegetarians. People cannot afford to keep dogs as  pets.Therefore whatever scraps they manage to scavenge, it will be meagre and infrequent.That  probably explain why they are found sleeping in the drain, middle of the road, anywhere and everywhere throughout the day.  They are docile and non aggressive which is not my experience of stray dogs in Malaysia and elsewhere in the world

One of the hardest thing on this trip is climbing the very  steep stairs to my room. It is especially so when I have to get up in the middle of the night. I have to be  wide awake to grip the iron railings as I go down the narrow slat  sized stairs gingerly. So it is a major operation each day. I will ensure I pack all my essentials - my note book, tablet, phone, chargers etc into my shoulder bag before I go down for breakfast to avoid unnessary stair climbing. I have to say it does not always work...especially in my senior moments .

Last but not least, the washing of clothes.I do find drawing water from the well is increasingly becoming a huge challenge. Children will help if they are around. Then to climb 2 flights of stairs to hang them... maybe I am getting too old for this ? I suppose 7 years is a fair period  for one to notice one's changing level of flexibility and strength.......I must admit this is the only time of the year when  I do feel my age! -having to squat while doing hand washing with water drawn from the well! It's like doing cross training without the benefits ! πŸ˜•πŸ˜•

Sunday, 27 September 2015

Chalk and Cheese - Our Sponsored Children

Having returned from Gorkha yesterday, my remaining  day was taken up  meeting the girls from Parapokar Orphanage.  What a difference a year has made to these girls. Beautiful, tall and oh so grown up. They were accompanied by their house mother and English teacher. Sudha is KIKN's most recent recruit,  sponsored by Alex, the volunteer who was here with Uma in April this year.

All the sponsors' letters were given to them individually.  It is interesting how different sponsor chose to enclose different treats for their children. Alex, the German sponsor  for Sudha, chose to send her photographs she took with her and her friends plus stickers etc.Sudha was really chafed with the gifts. She is a lovely 11 year old  who is first in her class. In fact, all the girls  are in the top 3 positions in their various classes. We are so proud of them.

And yet  it was  a totally different scenario this morning. Uma received phone calls from the  girls that some of them have failed in their exams . The school is refusing to release the reports until they come to see Uma and myself to explain themselves to us.

I came into the lounge first thing this morning to be met by the girls looking sheepish and concrite  with Uma talking sternly to them about the poor results. Everyone has failed in not one, but 5/6 subjects with the exception of Sunita.  We will be meeting with their parents to ask for their cooperation to help to lift the standard of these girls. The bottom line is KIKN will seriously consider withdrawing sponsorship if  their results do not improve by the end of the academic year in March 2016. They have 6 months.

It was like pulling teeth, very difficult to establish the reasons for their poor performance. One particular child ,Susman was in first position in her class 2 years ago when we started  her  sponsorship. Overtime I have noticed that her results have been dropping  , but was  prepared to give her benefit of my doubts.. However, the result of the current term has seen her dropping to 6th positon,with a failure in the Science subject.. It was most disappointing.

The trouble with these girls is peer pressure.  They hang out together  everyday. They  have become bad influence  to one another.One of the girls has been excellent in winning medals in Karate competition.  For some reason, she has stopped attending the Karate  class. The reason she gave was that her Karate suit is ruined, therefore she did not feel she could attend.Even the karate  teacher has complained to Uma about it. Uma feels if we can split up the group culture,  some of them will have a chance.

It is at times like this that I am acutely aware  I am fighting a losing battle. What is the answer? I have to accept that we can't  help everyone, but if only I can make the girls see the opportunities they are giving up .... A real pity!

Wednesday, 23 September 2015


I was  in deep slumber when I was woken up by a loud tooting this morning . It was at a god saken time- 6am. I almost jumped out of my skin.It then dawned on my fuzzy brain that my bedroom is literally on top of the bus terminus in Gorkha - a smart move by  some one ??😑😑

My feet have not touched the ground since we arrived here @ 11 am yesterday morning. Shiva and Anu have been most hospitable, bearing in mind that this visit is to enable me to assess if KIKN can work together with Progress Nepal. Having spent 8/9 solid hours with them yesterday, I feel pretty positive of our future working together

Apart from the beautiful meals we enjoyed at their home,we spent sometime exploring the local fauna while talking business.  It was a very enjoyable day, tiring though it was.

My fitness was tested severely when I climbed the 400 + steps to Gorkha Durbar- the birth place of King 's grandfather. It was a revered place of worship by the locals. It would appear that birds were sacrificed ad part of  the ritual . There were different clumps of burnt feathers littered here and there.  A young man  was carrying something burning as I climbed into the forecourt of the palace ground.

 What an amazing place! It literally perched at the peak of Gorkha mountain ( probably not the correct name). The 360 degree views were second to none. One could imagine  the king surveying his Kingdom from up high. Each year, the orange French Marigold flowers were burnt, and it's ashes taken to the Durbar Square in Kathmandu  to signify the start of  the festival  celebrations.  The Ashes must be carried on foot and  not by a motor vehicle to demonstrate their devotion and  loyalty  to the king. It is over 100 Km in distance between Gorkha and Kathmandu, and I am told that it usually takes only a day, with short cuts through the mountain paths. What fitness, even by today's standard. It would appear that the practice continues to this day.

The high street is busy and a very long one, served by many banks and shops.  It is not rural as I imagine it to be. It is like a mini Kathmandu, that's the only comparison I can think of. Being a mountainous area, the whole place was shrouded in thick mist when I looked out of the windows at 6am.  The building across the street was not visible to the eye and it was 2 hours later .The thick mists beyond the houses are obscuring the mountains from view. I would imagine it will clear by the afternoon like yesterday.It's been a non-stop cacophony  of buses blowing it's horn, humans shouting early morning greetings to one another, coupled  with the lorries' diesel engine reving. This little town starts the day early. And it is making sure that  every visitor wakes too😊😊 at the same time . It looks like the mists are returning and  is becoming dense again.It is really like a very dull grey winter's day  in UK .

Lots of military presence here, probably to do with the fact that there are numerous depots where Rescue  Relief agencies  store their supplies here. Shiva is right. People are resilient.  They have all just got on with life. Though the government have said that every household affected will be given 2 lakh  ( around £1500), they are not holding their breaths!  And I wonder why?

Here's to another good day spent  with Shiva and Anu. Back to Uma tomorrow  morning

The Day After

It is amazing how socialising can be so tiring. We spent the whole day just lounging around, sleeping off the excess.A smaller number of cousins came for lunch to help to finish off the mountain of food in the house. Everyone then promptly fell asleep in a post lunch stupor.A very similar scenarios to the Chinese household following a big celebration

It is back to normal this morning. Drawing the water from the well has just make me aware of the muscles I did not know I have.πŸ˜•πŸ˜•. Admittedly the children are around to help, that made the clothes washing less labour intensive.Conversely,the poor washer woman had a big job on her hands this morning.All the sheets and several days clothes were being washed this morning.I have done mine when the cloud started to gather in the horizon. I am keeping my fingers crossed for a dry day today, or at least long enough to dry all my washing.

Out of the blue while I was talking to Rasmila, she grapped my arm and said"it's earthquake!  Go go downstairs" panic set in. I just grapped my satchel and ran downstairs. I must admit I did not feel the earth tremour. It was there and gone. The neighbours told us that its only 4.5  on the richter scale, nothing to worry about. I must admit this is one scenario I keep playing in my head. How do I prepare for such an  occurrence? Travelling to Gorkha, the epic centre of the earthquake tomorrow has set me thinking.May be I should have a bag on standby at all times for just in case! One just never know.

Monday, 21 September 2015

The wedding and miscellaneous

I have come to the conclusion that I must have a short memory. Regardless of how many trips I have made to Kathmandu, it never fails to surprise and frustrate me about the state of  the Internet access... Last night it kept crashing each time I tried to post it on Facebook. I told myself at the 6th attempt that its then or never ! And it worked.Frustrating to say the least.

It has been like a whirl wind since I touched down on Saturday.There was no time to regain my sea legs. I was introduced to Uma's extended families the minute I walked through the gate. The wedding party ( the 4th day) was in full swing with all the relatives from both sides of the families.  The contrasts couldn't be greater - everyone in their fineries , with me  the unwashed and weary traveller after 16 hours' journey. I did feel scruffy to say the least.However, the hospitality was second to none.

Having made this annual trip for the past 7 years, I do find the journey harder each year. The recovery  from jet lag seems to the longer....Fortunately Rina,  Om ' s Home therapist is on hand to massage my migraine and other ailments away. It is a private arrangement which I am very happy to pay myself. She has such lovely healing hands.

My  initial impression of Kathmandu post earthquake is  very positive For a change, the roads that I have travelled were all littered free - an unusual sight. Then it transpired that some VI P'S were arriving from somewhere and would be taking the same route to Crown Plaza hotel ( near Uma  )for some function.It is customary for the local council to make sure that they are tarmaked and clear of litter. It is logical I suppose.

Having attended the grand wedding reception, it  was an eye opener to see how the other half lives. I did not know that the young ladies who were  in their elegant sarees and koptas can dance just as energetically as the youngsters in the West. Their silhouettes in the disco lights  became images in a dream world. Rajesh, Uma's eldest ,can out dance anyone, and with such great style and grace. His long arms and legs were like free flowing tentacles, moving to the beats of the rap music. I was mesmerised.

What impressed me most about Rajesh is his maturity and consideration for others. He is quietly confident but will solve any problem you have without fuss. He would give me his hand when  I was coming down some uneven marbled( slippery)  steps and asked me to be careful on heels.No matter how many times I called him because of  the internet connection  he would come happily and patiently logging in for me for the umpteenth time.There was never any fuss with him.

Ahh. .. the enjoyable but tiring  few days.....

Friday, 18 September 2015

The 8th annual trip to Kathmandu

In April , I made an unscheduled trip to  Kathmandu from Malaysia. A short trip which lasted only 5 days. It was a very enjoyable  time out for both Uma and me with the children. A week later, Nepal was hit by the most devastating earthquake since the 1920s. The human suffering was and still is immense and unimaginable.5 months down the road, the news headlines have  disappeared from the  world press. However I have no  doubt that my forthcoming trip will flag up many tales / incidents of human  suffering and hardship. I am somewhat anxious for the first time in as many years........as to what I am likely to encounter...

KIKN is very fortunate to be based in UK. We have received some amazing donations following our appeal. It ranged from £5 to £5,000, not only from UK supporters , but also Malaysia, Germany, South Korea and Australia. I hope to send  photographic feedback on the money we have raised and spent.

On the other hand, there is excitement in the air. Uma's son  Abhi  is getting married (15th-20th September). KIKN has been invited to the wedding . I hope to arrive in time for the all important finale- the grand wedding reception on 20th September.It is the wedding of the year  with guests coming from India, The States, UK (me) ,Europe and others .I am looking forward to  a multi-coloured fashion show, hopefully it will not  outshine Abhi's bride Mennie who is a most beautiful girl. Nepalese girls are well known not only for their looks but brain as well, given the opportunity! And Mennie is one of those!

Living in a society like Nepal, it is inevitable that the gulf between the haves and the have- nots is huge, unlike UK. The professional class live a different life style, but quietly. Everyone is mindful of what the coalition government should be doing- spending more resource (time and money) to improve the infrastructure for the populace rather than fighting each other in Parliament on reforming the constitution/ outvoting the current prime minister, thus creating more crisis and leaving the government in a state of paralysis. It is against this background that the lower socio-economic class always end up with the short straw. With the disaster of such magnitude like the earthquake in April, people in the rural community ( living up in the mountains) have come off worst. And I hope to make such a trip to the epic centre of the earthquake- Gorkha , to visit some sponsored children from another charity.

I have been informed that the journey to Gorkha is about 6-7 hours by taxi from Kathmandu. So that's how I will travel. I have been reading some  information on the earthquake in Nepal. It has been reported by 'experts' in our national press that the earth crusts are still moving. There is a risk of more earth quake to come. The question being whether it will be a small one or another biggie like the one in April and when. I have thought hard about the decision to travel to Gorkha..... I believe in fate and destiny. What will be, will be, provided I take some precautions. My  April trip to Kathmandu demonstrated just that. Had I travel a week later, I would have been caught in the devastation. Someone up there  obviously was looking after me.  :) :) Thank you, whoever you are, Buddha; Jesus; Allah; Virgin Mary , Hare Krishna or whoever, I thank you. It was a close shave.

So Kathmandu, here I come, again :) :):)