Saturday, August 23, 2014

My Irish friend

This is a brief post about my friend, Katie, who I met in the hostel. We had a good time together. She was only in Nepal for a month, but it was nice to have a friend back at the hostel. Every couple of day we’d walk around town to get mangoes or see the town. One night during loadshedding she told me to tell her a ghost story. I only know one, so I said,

“You are the last person alive on the entire planet. You’re sitting at home, when someone knocks on the door…”

“Huh, that’s interesting,” she said. “The Irish version is: You are the last person alive on the entire planet. You’re sitting at home, when you smell someone else’s fart…” I thought that was hilarious because for some reason that just doesn’t seem scary.

One day we rented a scooter and went on a little adventure. First we rode around town looking for gas. None of the gas places would sell to us. I suspect it was because they only fueled up buses and cars. We rode back to the place we rented from and they said the fuel tank was full but the meter was broken. So, after doing loops around town, we went to where Katie was volunteering, the spinal hospital. It was a really nice facility.

Then we drove straight out of town and into the countryside. Katie drove most of the time (I might have crashed the scooter into a rice paddy). Other than that, it was really nice. We came across a large suspension bridge. After crossing it we found a little Buddhist monastery. It was a nice find!

Katie left while I was in western Nepal. She left me a hilarious note. She was supposed to go to India, but the visa didn’t work out for some reason. So I think she’s in Chitwan riding an elephant or something.
Trying to refuel the scooter

At the hospital with a small friend

Testing out the wheelchair. Quite a workout, glad I can walk

Sometimes people play wheelchair basket ball.

Spinal Clinic
The bridge we stumbled upon

Small buddhist monastery


One day in Banepa, I got to try giving farming a hand! I did 2 parts. First I stood about ankle deep in watery mud and ripped out rice shoots. When I had a good handful, I’d shake the roots around in the water to get the mud off. Then with a piece of straw, I’d tie the shoots together in a bundle.

Next, we took many of the bundles over to a new plot of land. It was also deep, watery mud. When I hopped in, it was warm from the sun and reached up to my calves. It was gross at first, but after awhile, it felt really nice. It was like wading around in soupy mashed potatoes. Anyways, we untied the bundles of rice, then shoot by shoot we re-planted the rice into the mud. We planted them less densely than where we took the shoots from. The rice will eventually fill in.

Uprooting the rice. I'm in the green shirt

Plowing through the mud

Transporting the bundles of rice

Notice how deep the mud is


The last day of the trip to western Nepal, we went to Lumbini, the birthplace of Buddha. There was a large gated compound. Many different countries had built their own monasteries, including France, Cambodia, China, Thailand, and many more. We only had time to see a few. We also saw the actual birthplace of Buddha. There were some ruins of the old palace (he was born a prince). We were not allowed to take pictures inside. There were foundations of part of the palace, and in the center, there was a slab of stone on the floor that could be seen through a window. They said that it was the exact place of his birth. 

Me, Anup, and Rubita

The Ashok pillar

Chinese Monastery

Thai Monastery

Myanmar monastery

Ruins of the old palace

Cambodian Monastery

Cambodian Monastery

Thai monastery
Thai Monastery
Back on the road. People transporting an entire house by foot

Friday, August 8, 2014


About a week ago, there was a landslide in Lamosango. My sister, Sommaya, and her 3 month old baby were living in the village that took the brunt of the landslide. Prem went up to the site to identify bodies. As soon as he found Sommaya, he called let the family know and we all drove up to Lamosango. We saw body bags and the gigantic pile of earth that had completely blocked up the river. Sommaya's house was completely gone, but her shop was still standing. Villages downstream (including Prem's) were advised to evacuate to higher grounds in case the dam broke and caused flash floods. There is currently water flowing through, so flood threats have vanished.

The family is devastated. Prem took the clothes and fabric reams from Sommaya's old sewing shop. I spent a couple days in the village with him and we washed everything to get the mud out. He's going to give the fabric to Sommaya's husband to sell. Sommaya's husband, Ramesh, and older daughter, Prathana (7yrs old) were luckily not in the town when the landslide happened. Lamosango is Ramesh's hometown. He also lost three siblings and their spouses. Sommaya's body was taken to Pashupati - the large crematorium in Kathmandu. Prem didn't go, and I stayed with him. Kanchan, Smita, and Ramesh all went. I haven't seen Prathana, so I have no idea if she understands the situation.

After getting back from the village, I went back to Lamosango with the NGO and the affiliated Rotary club. We distributed 150 bags of food. Each bag should last a family of 5 for a week.


In  Nepalgunj we went to visit a farm that had had its water pumps stolen by the Maoists years ago. The Maoists dismantled the equipment and sold it to buy weapons. They also took copper wire from the telephone lines to sell.

This water pump is similar to the one that was demonstrated to us in Kailali. It is larger and can water about 75 hectares of land. Since the pump has been gone, the farmers have not been able to grow rice. Rice takes a lot of water - more than the rain can provide in the Tarai. This is a huge problem because The Tarai region is flat, so it's ideal for producing rice. It is where the bulk of the country's rice is produced. Since farms have not been very productive, farmers have become more poor, rice has had to be imported, and consequently the cost of rice has increased. In order to survive, farmers have been planting other things, but they have not been as lucrative or sustainable as rice. The farmers here have been asking for new water pumps for awhile. The government hasn't listened or provided new equipment so CDRA has stepped in to take a look.

Speaking of the government, I have been trying to figure out what's going on with it. Most Nepalis don't seem to know and they don't seem to care either. They say it is very corrupt and lazy. People pay taxes so they stay out of their business, but otherwise the government does very little. One of my friends here was saying he preferred having a king. He said that even though the king wasn't great, it was better than the nothing they have now. At least there was order. The government is a 600 party system. My friends were telling me that in the elections last year, there were many parties to vote for, but none of them were any better than the other. They said that no matter who you vote for, the government would not change. They say this is why many young Nepalis are trying to get out of Nepal.

Buffalo in the water

Where the pump used to be

Barren farmland due to lack of water.
Anyways, in this region, there were a lot of Muslims. We drove past a mosque and I saw a few women in burqas.

Woman in a burqa and many bikes

The road is being widened. The red numbers indicate how much of the building is to be chopped off (1.6 meters off the front here). The people won't be compensated for getting their homes pushed back because they're not supposed to build their homes so close to the road.

Buying mangoes

Ashok showing us how to properly cut up a chicken
On the way back, we saw some people selling stuff on the side of the road. There was some discussion in the car: "Photokich?" "yeah yeah" "ok ok  pull over."
In Nepali, "photo kichnu" means "to take a photo." So, I thought everyone was saying, "let's take a photo!" I was wondering what was so special about this situation. Why were they so eager to take a photo on the side of the road? We bought a few bags of mushrooms that the people on the side of the road were selling. I dutifully took some photos of the transaction and the people.

"Libby, you know what these are?"
"Chocolate? Mushrooms?" (they were covered in mud so they looked chocolate-y)
"They are special mushrooms. They only pop up after it rains. No one knows why. Usually they're expensive in Kathmandu. Here they're cheap. They're called putukis." (pootoo kees)
"Ohhhh those are putukis? I thought you were saying 'photo kich! photokich!!' which is why I took some pictures."

They thought that was hilarious. We stopped 2 more times and bought more bags of the mushrooms.
"Wow, so these mushrooms must be really good. Why are you buying so many?"
"Yeah they're great! Here they're really cheap, and Ashok likes to help poor kids." Ashok is full of charity. I thought that was really cool.

We tasted some later that night. They're really stiff and crunchy. I wasn't a huge fan. Someone said it was like a goat's ear. I thought it was more like eating a goat's eyeball.
people selling putukis on the side of the road

We bought 2 bag-fuls

Bought these too

Bull-drawn cart. Common in this area.

Super rainy. Crossing a river that doesn't really have a bridge.

Sunday, August 3, 2014

Rotary Installments

We attended two rotary installment ceremonies.  They inducted new Rotarians and recognized people for projects they had done over the year. The first one was in Dhangadi. 

In the hotel at Dhangadi
Before the installation ceremony

Dhangadi rotary installment

The next one was back in Dang. The club requested that Ashok help them run the ceremony. At this ceremony, I got to hand out some school bags filled with health supplies and stationary. The money to purchase these supplies was donated by Americans, so I represented the country.

Dang rotary installment

Ashok with the newly inducted president

Handing over bags to the new president.

Me, school principal, Ashok, new president, and a rotarian