Images are coming soon!
In this very sunny morning slowly one after the other of our group of 9 arrived at the backyard of Bodhi Guesthouse.
After a small introduction of our two guides Bijay and Samrat, an informal getting-to-know-each-other-game was launched. Every groupmemeber was invited to create a personified logo in which her or his personality is displayed. In pairs of two one had to explain to his or her partner the purpose of the logo. Afterwards, hopes and fears of the trip of each participant were exchanged, discussed and taken care of. Meanwhile, remaining questions regarding the trip and the itinerary were cleared. The traditional Nepali food Dhal Bhat was served and tried with great eagerness.
In the afternoon, the first session of the trip with Anil Chitrakar was filled with loads of thoughtprovoking facts about Nepal. More precisely, inputs on the historical background/development with its consequences for the present as well as demographic changes and insights regarding energy/power related questions were given. We were taught that Nepal is a country in transition or in other words that Nepal is in the process of transforming and adjusting to its political and economic environment and, thus, to its neighbouring countries. Anil’s ambition is to spread knowledge about these kinds of topics in order to sensibilise people, to make them understand that a country like Nepal is in need of more than just a five-year-plan of some institution. Processes of democratisation and ways to get more sustainable or establish certain standards (in comparison to countries considered as „more“ developed) take their time and need action from within and from outside the country. He argued that a process of internalisation is pursued to eradicate social, political and environmental instabilities. As a convinced fighter for these goals, he pledged that people should have an open mind for the fact that there are multiple approches to see and understand this country. All processes and progress are intertwined with each other. Personally, I will keep in mind his impressive talk for future discussions and especially appreciate his sentence that for him, „soft“ skills like humanities are more important than the „hard“ skills. Awareness is as important as debating on these disputes.
Fully loaded with new information we took a walk through the narrow streets in Lalitpur (Patan), visiting Patan Durbar Square, the Golden Temple and seeing day-to-day Nepalese life.
In the evening, we enjoyed Tibetian cuisine on the rooftop while having a picturesque view on the Boudhanath Stupa.
After breakfast we drove through Kathmandu, passing a lot of three-wheeled taxis, busses, bikes, people selling (living) chicken on the road, lots of shops and so on. That’s normal life in Kathmandu, I think we all get used to it quite quickly.
Luckily there was not too much traffic so we arrived in Patan early enough to be able to visit a Tibetan Carpet Factory. It was very impressive how quickly these women were knitting the carpet, creating beautiful patterns and not getting distracted by our presence. In the show room nearby we saw the completed carpets, with a huge variety in size, patterns and colours. We learned that it takes two months to complete a medium sized carpet – even when several women are working on it! However, we bought our souvenirs in the third building, the community shop, which also supports the Tibetan community. Tashi delek!
Then it was time to go to the Swiss Embassy close by, to meet Andreas Loebell, the program manager in the sector of employment and income. We all immediately liked him when we were served Swiss-style cookies! He explained us how important it is to consider factors like demographic change and the political and economic system in order to do sustainable development cooperation. The main role of Switzerland is to support federalism in Nepal, which is part of the new Nepalese constitution from 2015 and will hopefully bring more stability and equality. Some of the difficulties Andreas faces in his work is to explain why projects have to be limited in space and time, even though this means that you can help everyone who might benefit from it. With all this information in mind we could not leave the embassy before having taken a group photo in front of the metal sign saying “Swiss embassy”.
We then had Nepalese food for lunch and got to know the two guys (including their dog “Easy”) who will make a video about the Dalit community we’re going to stay at – and therefore about us too. After lunch we drove past Tribhuvan University and started walking up to Kirtipur, a very old Newar temple. The temple was impressive, but the view down at Kathmandu was even more impressive, it’s such a huge city!
We then really enjoyed to rest near another temple because the many steps up to Kirtipur and the sunny and warm weather made us quite tired. Bijay was very patient but at some point it was really time to go back. And for a very good reason, as we met Pradip Pariyar and his colleague who both work at Samata foundation. This foundation does research about the situation of Dalits in Nepal and makes suggestions about how the existing laws (again part of the new constitution) can be implemented. It’s a big task, as discrimination nowadays is not necessarily obvious but often hidden. We also learned that changing one’s surname should not be the solution but support human rights in general, we definitely all agree on this.
On our way back to Bodhi Guest House some of us experienced their first monsoon rain – we were quite thankful to sit inside the minivan. When we went out for dinner at the Stupa again it luckily stopped. So a perfect moment to learn some Nepalese words and phrases while waiting for our curry, momos and noodles. Tapailai kasto cha? Malai thik cha!
Dhanyabaad to Sandhya who teaches us the words and shuva ratri!
The last of our days in Kathmandu was, as the days before, full of lots of interesting informations. Not only did we had the chance to hear a different point of view regarding Nepal’s economic situation and future development by Saumitra, a political economist who specialized on water and energy resources. He works for PEI, a development company which assesses policy alternatives, and identifies policy solutions in areas of natural resource management, governance, and economic growth and therefor taking in an advising role in this respect in the public and political sector (see also http://pei.center/). He gave us a quite differentiated view on the use of Nepali hydro power efforts, its risks and its – in part, past – potentials. Afterwards we got an insight of Nepal’s modern historical and political development: Its struggle in the middle of two growing global players and about the history of the armed-conflict that ended just 10 years ago. These two sessions delivered us mayor background information that had helped us to understand the complexity of issues that Nepal was and still is facing. As we talked the day before with one of the heads of the Swiss Agency for Development and Cooperation (SDC) at the Swiss embassy, Samrad’s session, the third one that day, about “the dark side” of NGOs in Nepal gave us another perspective on developmental assistance and aid policies. As Samrad gained his degree in development studies and works currently as an evaluator for different donors, he definitely knows a lot about that topic and delivered us deeper insights about the complexity of development aid, as an aspect which can be seen ambivalent. The number of almost 40.000 domestic NGOs in Nepal was very surprising to me. The reason for that huge amount is quite easy to understand when taking a better look at the phenomenon: Although normally non-profit organisations, different structures lead to benefit NGO members. So that it is more lucrative to work in a high position in a NGO than being the Nepalese president, actually. Too much money has to be spent on projects in mostly too short time, which is not feasible regarding an effective outcome. Hence, lots of projects miss to hit the point in being definitely successful or meeting the needs of the receiving people. After these impressive sessions we got the opportunity to go again to Kathmandu downtown. In the morning we already had a short walk through one part. In the afternoon we then visited Thamel. I personally did not get the chance to discover the area due to spontaneous and heavy monsoon rain. But still it was a good thing, since my original plan was to buy a rain coat, which I did and could directly take advantage out of the buy. It was free time so I decided together with another group member to head into a close by café where I could enjoy a Nepali tea (very delicious by the way! With loads of spices and sugar if properly made) and a very non-Nepalese brownie, while having a comfy chess party. The last day in Kathmandu ended with Momos in the same Tibetan restaurant where we ate already once before: You can’t go wrong with Momos – just watch out for that sign: म:म:!
This morning I woke up early at 6:15 am after a very good sleep and was happy about that because the last night I couldn‘t sleep that well. But already the second night I wasn‘t scared of insects or rats anymore. My guestmother made a nice breakfast: Popcorn and tea. Usually I wouldn‘t eat that for breakfast but I liked it a lot 🙂
I spent time with her and tried to speak a little nepali because she can’t speak english at all. Her grandchildren were around the whole morning, asking a lot of questions about me and Switzerland. They speak english very well even though they‘re young. Very impressive!
Soon after breakfast I was served Dal Bhat. At home I would never eat lunch at 9.30 am but the people here wake up so early (like 5.30) so I guess it‘s normal here.
After lunch the group met to work on a house for the community. We scrubbed the surfaces all around the house and started to paint it. The people giving us tasks rushed a bit too much in giving us advises and corrections, but despite that everything went well. We took a break and had a local snack that was beaten rice, yoghurt, bananas and sugar with tea. It was very tasty!! We continued painting and it was quite exhausting, also because it was very hot there. After the painting we all went back to our hostfamilies.
At the house I could wash myself with the water from a big bucket behind the house. For me that worked well, I‘ve already experienced that kind of showering before.
For dinner I had again Dal Bhat and the first time I didn‘t like the vegetables at all but I still managed to eat it.
After dinner the kinds were again around there and also their mother. I sat there with three generations of the family and had a very nice evening. I showed them pictures of my home, family and friends and they wanted to know so much about me. It was also very important for them that I will show my family some pictures of them and talk about them. Before going to sleep we sang all together that was very very nice. I taught them some english and swiss songs and they taught me a nepali song: Bamari bamari ma voli gai hal xu base ramari..
Today we left Pokhara and drove to the farm nearby. We were happy to make it to the farm without any rain. For me personally it was quite hard because I had really bad problems with my stomache. But most of the group were fine and the walk to the farm was nice although upwards it was very slippery! Tulsi and his friends welcomed us very warmly and offered us tea and dal bhat. Some of us went walking around and picked up a few leches!! Others were relaxing the whole day and played cards and had a really nice time together.
As it is raining once again, let me tell you a story. It’s a story about goats, because goats are very common in Nepal so people have a strong relationship to them. But goats can be very cheeky, so this is a story about the adventure of a particular cheeky group of eleven young goats.
Once upon a time there was a herd of goats. They lived near a dense forest, full of birds, colourful butterflies, small and big spiders, and of course an endless variety of plants. And there were leopards too, about the same size as a goat or even bigger. Their dotted fur was easy to be recognized in the greenness of the forest, but they were nearly impossible to hear, so the goats were very afraid of them. In this specific night, so dark that you could not even see each other when you were standing side by side, two of the goats were convinced that they heard a leopard roar very close to where they were sleeping. All they could do was to bleat loudly, so the rest of the herd woke up from the noise and wondered what was going on. When the two still terribly scared goats explained that they had heard a leopard, the others started to bleat their head off, they found it incredibly funny that the two were so scared. Because in fact they were all sleeping next to a farm house and close to a village, so the other goats teased the two that it was for sure just a cute little cat asking for a cuddle that they had heard. The next morning at breakfast the discussion was still going on. The two were convinced of what they had heard and the others were teasing them about the cat.
Finally they decided to leave this topic and to go on an adventure. The area near the farm had delicious grass, but they had heard of a place high up on the hill on the opposite side of the valley with grass so lush that they just had to try it out. So when the people at the farm were eating breakfast in the house, the goats stealed off, walking one after another through the rice fields near the farm and taking care not to slip on the wet ground. After only half an hour – no one had recognized their disappearance – they reached the beautiful river meandering freely from one side of the valley to the other. They saw that the path was continuing on the other side, so they crossed it carefully. The water was very clear and refreshing, some would have enjoyed to stay longer. But the goat who knew best about the path reminded the others that the journey to the top of the hill would take quite some time, so they actually didn’t stop for longer breaks at all, apart from eating lunch. And from time to time they had to stop to remove leeches from their legs. They didn’t like the worms crawling around and sucking their blood, so as soon as they had spotted one on their hoof, they pushed it away and quickly moved on, as other leeches would immediately follow. On their way up they came across many small villages with rice fields. Some of them were abandoned so weed and young trees would grow in the fields. They also met some grazing buffalos, but for some reason they were more afraid of the goats than the goats were scared of the huge, dark and grumpy-looking buffalos. So the goats continued, walked through a forest that was even more dense than the one at the farm, and finally reached the flat area high up on the hill, where they would rest overnight. They each found their preferred spot and cleaned themselves after the tiring walk.
They actually had expected that there would be many other animals grazing there too, but there were just a few. To be honest, the grass was very damp because it was not quite the right season to go there, one month later would have been better. But the eleven goats didn’t mind to much, they were chatting all night and drank fresh water until they got a little tipsy and started to hop around to see who of them was most skilled in coordinating the four hooves. Others were playing a game were you have different kinds of black and white stones and you try to get the other goat’s stones. So all had fun and were happy to be cheeky enough to go on such an adventure. And as the farm far away at the bottom of the valley was hidden by fog and clouds, no one of them thought about it anymore. Instead they decided that they would try a different path the next morning, down on the other side of the hill and on to new adventures. And they lived happily ever after.
So this was the story of the eleven young goats. If you stand still for a moment while you wander across the beautiful countryside of Nepal you might still hear their joyful bleating or the sound of their hoof walking up and down the many hills. But as you stand there and watch out for the famous eleven goats, mind the leeches, they are just as cheeky as the goats.
The day started as it ends – rainy. Regarding the weather up at Australian Camp we were definitely unlucky. Kind of ironic that each and every Hotel was named in relation to the supposed great mountain view – just that we couldn’t see any of them. Bijay gave us the hint that it would be the best idea to get up very early, since the sky is clear often during monsoon in the mornings. If it won’t be like that, he explained, we should just go to bed again. So I stood up in the morning at around 05:15 am to get a glimpse outside if the weather ultimately cleared up. Unfortunately it didn’t. Still, it was a nice experience and a really special, mysterious sight in the morning hours. After enjoying it a bit I, indeed, got to bed again, waking up a second time to get breakfast. It was very cosy in the main house and we for sure had too much pancakes due to their tastiness – so it was still worth the full tummy afterwards!
When we were just about to head back down, it started raining. I prepared myself mentally by expecting the worst – slippery stone carved steps and even more leeches (which aren’t that bad, but rather annoying since the wound afterwards does not stop bleeding for a longer time). Though, it wasn’t that steep and slippery in the end. And I just got one leech – even though it was quite a big one that had a rough bite actually. But Bijay showed me a plant that contained a great amount of bitter compounds which grew everywhere around. He pulverized one of these and held it beside the leech – in dislike the leech just plopped down, which was quite nicer than salt that would have killed it. Especially because dying leeches tend to vomit in the wound, which is the true reason for infections caused by leeches as they normally do no
transmit any diseases. After only one and a half hour we arrived at the pickup spot, were the van already was awaiting us. We headed towards a Monastery were we attended a Buddhist ceremony and where we kindly were offered the tasty Nepali milk tea while we were observing the reverent scenery in the temple.
With those impressions we left, driving to Pokhara, where we arrived around late noon. Everyone was just happy to get a warm shower after the past wet and partly cold days. We had lunch together and afterwards had some free time. I took again the opportunity to visit once more a Himalayan Java Coffee shop: Regarding the design, it reminds a little bit of the well-known global chain with the mermaid logo, but in a Nepali and, especially, in a good, trustworthy way! They are known for being an original Nepali company, paying attention to promote fair conditions to local famers, selling locally produced coffee
(https://himalayanjava.com/index.php). Enjoying my tasty Honey Latte, I once more realized the existing duality in Nepal: Just behind the houses, there was a huge, loud DJ Set from one of the neighbouring restaurants – very fancy, playing quite good electronic music. Just right next to it, there was a men doing some farming. For me, this scene illustrated best the contrast one finds in Nepal, seeing itself in-between an ongoing struggle regarding so many political and economic developmental processes and, on the other hand, a country which can’t keep pace with the energy and the spirit of its young population.