Wednesday, July 30, 2014

Off to Chisapani

Before going to Chisapani, we went to a rotary meeting in Dang and one in Tulsipur. The rotary club of Dang is very new and they need a lot of support and motivation from Ashok. He gave them ideas and tips on how to run their club. We dropped off a few bags at this club to be donated to some school children. The bags were prepared before we left Banepa. In each of them are a few pencils, notebooks, soap, a tooth brush & toothpaste, Q-tips, powder, nailclippers, lotion, a comb, and band aids. We passed out a lot of these bags.

The rotary club in Tulsipur seemed more put together. When we arrived there was a crowd of kids there. They were kids who were rescued from child labor. After the meeting finished, we gave out bags to each of the kids. We also donated a walker.
Handing over the walker

Giving bags one by one to the kids

All the kids and rotary

The road to Chisapani was very flat. In the Tarai, people and animals use the road. In some parts, the roads are really crowded with 10 parts animal, 1 part human. People in the Tarai also bike a lot. Bikes are cheap and it’s not very hilly so it’s the preferred mode of transportation. Women seemed to ride bikes as much as men. There are also many rickshaws (photo here) in the Tarai cities. The Tarai region is very poor, so people can’t afford taxis. In Kathmandu, I usually only saw rickshaws in the touristy part of town. In the Tarai, they’re everywhere. There are also many bulls in this region because they’re used to pull carts. There aren’t many sows because they’re not as strong. Back on the road, there was an elephant spotting. I’m pretty sure it was wild because we were near a forest and there was no one controlling it.

Elephant spotting!
All four of us matching: Rubita, me, Anup, Rupak. Squished in the backseat for the entire road trip like this.

We also stopped to visit a friend of Ashok’s. When we meet new people he says, “and this, this is my local connection.” Ashok has local connections everywhere. This man’s oldest daughter died last year from a snakebite. We gave his kids pens and notebooks.

Ashok's friend and family
At Chisapani we stayed at a nice hotel. It was right on a huge river. We grilled some fish and goat meat. After we had a beer and ate all the meat, we went upstairs and… Surprise!! Time for dinner! I was confused. Apparently the meat was just an appetizer, we still had to eat a full course of dal bhat. I was so full.

Having tea at the hotel by the river

Fish about to be marinated

Goat meat

Grilling the fish

Rubita and I trying to figure out how to fit the rice into our stomachs

On the way to Dang

I made a 5 day road trip out to western Nepal with Ashok (CDRA Director), Bikram (driver), Anup (Ashok’s son/volunteer), Rupak (volunteer), and Rubita (volunteer). We spent most of the time in the southern plains, called the Tarai region. It’s very flat and extremely hot and humid.  It is also very rural and poor.

Traffic out of Kathmandu
The first day we drove from Banepa to Dang. On the way there, we stopped at one of CDRA’s previous projects. A guy named Lou Capozzola was visiting his daughter in Nepal and saw a newspaper headline about a rope bridge that snapped. A few people drowned in the water below. He decided to fund a project to build a suspension bridge over a river. Before the suspension bridge was in place, people crossed the river by pulling them selves across in flimsy seats on a single cable or rope. There are still many bridges like this. It is hard for farmers to cross with their produce and for children who cross the river every day to go to school. The new bridge makes traffic easier and safer for everyone.

Dedication plaque
The whole bridge.

Bikram, local kids, Rubita, me

Next, we briefly visited an eye hospital. This coming fall, CDRA will host a large eye camp. This is one of the locations where they will set up shop.

Vision test conducted outside



More hospital

Operating theater


Thursday, July 17, 2014


 Today I met royalty! The former queen's sister, Jaya Shah, was just elected to governor of one of the rotary clubs in Kathmandu. I'm not sure if she was actually the queen's sister because they use the word sister when they refer to cousins and other distant relatives. I googled her and it looks like she's distantly related. We met at her house in order to meet her son, Rajeev Shah. He's a politician in the area we want to start some projects. Her house was really fancy and I got to pet a dalmatian for the first time. Her son is one of the white-est Nepali's I've ever met. Which sounds weird, but when he walked in, I thought he was a westerner at first. They both had really good English and for some reason their Nepali was also easier to understand. 

We came with the intent of starting projects to build a bridge, school, and health clinic. Rajeev told us that the region is still very rural and that he's trying to get roads built first. Without the roads, the areas we want to work in are highly inaccessible. There is also the problem of corrupt local politicians. He told us that they won't even let us build anything unless the politicians are given half of the money.  We were planning to go there for a site visit. However, it is so rainy that the rivers cover the roads, there are unpredictable landslides, and the roads are muddy. We will go to the edge of the district, talk to some politicians, and visit some schools that CDRA has already built. The district is Jajarkot, in western Nepal. I have never been that far west, so that'll be interesting. We're going in about 4 days and we'll be gone for about 5 days.
Jaya Shah and her house

Rajeev Shah
Rubita and I borrowed some bikes and went for a long bike ride. It was really nice and pretty flat. We ended up at a tiny village.
If you click on this picture, you might be able to see all the tiny black specks in the air. Those are hundreds of these 2-inch long bugs. They were only over the corn, so something in there is tasty. Rubita said the monsoons make them active. She didn't know why.

yours truly (look mum, wearing a helmet!)

Sunday, July 13, 2014

Kathmandu weekend

Briefly went to Kathmandu.

Katie needed to get an Indian visa so she could visit Delhi for a couple days. She convinced me to come along and paid for a really nice hotel in Thamel. We met a french friend-of-a-friend of hers for dinner one night, and the next night met up with Rubita.

We went to the Indian embassy and discovered that she was highly unprepared to get a visa. So that didn't happen unfortunately. We also did a lot of shopping and visited Swayambhunath aka the monkey temple aka the-one-with-steep-stairs-you-have-to-climb-in-the-blazing-sun. Usually I can get into temples/palaces for free/reduced price because I look Nepali. This last visit to the temple was the first time the guard actually asked if I was Nepali. In Nepali. So luckily I understood him, and replied minimally to avoid detection of my foreign accent that I'm 100% sure exists.

Now I'm back in Banepa and I've edited another report/proposal for a mobile medical clinic. It will be submitted to donors and other rotary clubs for support. It sounds like a good plan.

Finally, this Blogger site can track page views and collect other data. Some of these page views have been viewed with internet explorer and Safari. To those of you still using those browsers, I'd recommend chrome or firefox. Just kidding, do what you want. I thought it was funny I could see that data. Also, there have been frequent page views from Slovakia. Who do I know in Slovakia???

Kids' hospital and Bangladeshi journalists

This a disability hospital for kids. All of them here are missing a limb or have broken one. Some have traveled here from small villages far away. They have about 80 beds and currently 60 of them are occupied. Rubita and I went there and distributed pens and notebooks for the kids to draw in because they spend all day in bed. Then we went and drew pictures with some of them for an hour. I taught a couple of them how to make origami boxes.

This hospital is supported by a different rotary guy. He is into prostheses and can manufacture them onsite, custom-made to each kid. They are pretty basic, but they cost about $10 USD.

It's interesting to think how different these kids' lives will be in a country that isn't conducive to handicaps. The prostheses definitely help, but I think it still must be hard going back to work or school. I was talking to Katie who is volunteering at the Spinal hospital. It seems REALLY hard to get used to a wheelchair. None of the streets or buildings here have ramps or elevators. Almost all the toilets are squatters. The family needs training on how to help their paralyzed family member. I guess it's hard back home too, but everyone just seems more unaware of paraplegics. I don't see many wheelchairs around.

Disability hospital


prosthetic molds

Inside a ward

Inside the hospital

Finishing the box!

One day, my day didn't start til 5pm. Ashok whisked me off to a dinner with Bangladeshi journalists, Nepali journalists, and a couple rotarians. The Bangladeshi journalists were there for a few days doing research on Nepali healthcare. If possible, they seemed more unorganized than I'd expect a Nepali group to be. There was always someone missing for a photo or talking during a speech. Or, we were taking a bus to see the new eye clinic, and 2 of them hopped off to take pictures. They didn't wander back for 15 minutes and caused the bus to be really late.

Anyways, the rest of the night consisted of a Q&A session, a traditional Nepali dance performance, general dancing, and cake. At one point, their leader took the mike and invited people up to sing or make speeches. The Bangladeshi journalists spent a long time singing yelling into the microphone. It was funny the first time. The next 10 songs were painful. Some people made small speeches including a Shakespeare couplet. Then their leader asked for the American daughter to come up and make a speech. WHAT IS UP WITH THESE SPONTANEOUS SPEECHES. He told me to sing or make a speech. No. I protested but I was very stuck. Out of the blue, I recited the American pledge of allegiance in Spanish. It seemed to be enough. Only a couple of the journalists' daughters who were studying Spanish understood anything.

At the end of the night, I had a few business cards, a new facebook friend, an invitation to stay in Bangladesh for a week, an invite to visit a university in Banepa, and a full bladder from tea and coke and more tea.

Group photo. The Bangladeshi rotary governor is the guy figuring out his red iPad.
Traditional Nepali dancing
Caught Ashok dancing
Birthday cake for one of the journalists
general reminder: you can click on the photos to view them larger.

Wednesday, July 9, 2014

Baluwa and Balephi

We took about an hour drive out to Baluwa village. Two of the projects we saw were a buffalo farm and a technology training center, both supported and coordinated by CDRA.

Buffalo farm. Buffaloes are bought when they are small, raised here, then later sold to a butcher or farmer.

This contraption cuts grass for the buffalo to eat.
Technology training center. I think I will come back here and teach a couple classes. They learn how to use computers and the internet. I told them I could help with Word/Excel/Powerpoint lessons.
After Baluwa, we ended up in Balephi! Ashok learned I was from Balephi and said it was only "20 minutes" from Baluwa and did I want to go visit my birthdad? I said sure! Why not! It ended up being more like an hour away from where we were, but we made it! I surprised Prem. It was nice to see the village and family. I stayed for about an hour then headed home. 
Ashok, Subarna, Suresh, Prem, me

On the way back it was raining, so the windshield would fog up. The driver gave Ashok a rag to wipe the fog off. I noticed the heater/defroster wasn't on. At first I thought they didn't have it on because it just didn't work, but then I realized that maybe they didn't know what it was used for. I told Ashok how to turn it on and the fog disappeared. It surprised me that they didn't know about the defroster, but now they know! No more steam.

Later I did some henna with Katie. Pretty fun! We've also been eating mangoes and playing games on her iPad when the lights go out at night.

self-administered henna

Tuesday, July 8, 2014

More site visits

A couple days in a row, we did more site visits. Working with the NGO has been feeling more like an internship than volunteering. I'm fine with that because it's interesting to see how the NGO works and make connections with all of their connections.

One day, we went to a meeting of a women's micro finance group. CDRA had to reprimand them for not doing more community outreach projects. There was a lot of bickering that I didn't catch much of.
Family with livestock that was donated through sponsors of CDRA-Nepal

Woman in the micro finance group at her farm

Rubita and a cute kid
A gigantic radish that I was given to eat. yikes. It was both spicy and bitter. I couldn't tell if I liked it or not.
Cleaning radishes
On this day, we visited a school for mentally disabled kids. We walked in on a teacher's training. The teachers came from many different districts to be trained, but only a handful stayed to teach at this school. We were sitting in the room with the teachers. Ashok and a fellow rotarian made speeches to the effect of "You're doing well, good luck, we appreciate it...etc." Then out of the blue Ashok told me to make a speech! In Nepali! I didn't know what to say. I stood up and said they were good people and to keep working hard and good luck with teaching. No idea if they could even understand my Nepali yikes. Then they handed out some packets of materials. Ashok's rotary friend handed out half and then Ashok asked if I wanted to. I told him that his friend seemed much more important and should probably do the honors, but I ended up handing out packets anyways. Feelin' VIP.

Preparing packets for the teachers to take home.
Giving out the packets to some of the teachers.
 Ashok took me and Rubita to his weekly Rotary Club meeting. All the people there are involved in some interesting stuff. They had just inaugurated a new president, so it was his first meeting. A couple of the people I met there I will work with later.

Fancy hotel for meeting
Dhulikhel Rotary group