Thursday, January 10, 2013

Hello from Nepal #2

Hi everyone!

It's been an epic couple of weeks over here. Whilst all my friends back in Melbourne have been struggling with 40+ degree days, in Nepal it has been cold, cold, cold. As much as I am experiencing some really amazing things over here I won't say it hasn't been tough in equal measures.

I knew before I came here that this trip would be difficult for me, and that's a huge part of why I decided to come. I am a person who likes my relatively familiar, comfortable and simple life. I am proud of my home, my work, my family and my relationships back in Melbourne. I don't feel the need to uproot myself to find wonder and amazement somewhere else. Melbourne is my home and I feel proud of the fact that I've really build something great for myself there.

Here on the other hand I am faced on a daily basis with things that I inherently find difficult. unfamiliarity; being away from home, loved ones and routine. The cold; oh man it's been cold. Patience; things happen on "Nepali time" here, and often in a seemingly absurd and confusing manner. People; I am naturally introverted and sometimes I have to push myself to be around people and make conversation.

The other day I was feeling so upset at myself for struggling so much whilst I've been here. Not being able to "live in the moment" all the time or find everything spectacularly amazing and wonderful. But then I had a realisation that maybe I'm actually doing okay. For the most part I have been happy here. I've had some teary moments and homesick moments but for the most part I am making the most of it. I could be doing a lot worse. I can't expect myself to be like everyone else so I should be happy with the fact that I am doing the best I can.

Anyway, that all aside, here are some more photo snippets of the great things we've done in the last few days!

First and foremost, a visit to the Foundation for Sustainable Technologies which was established by a man named Sani Kaji, possibly the most endearing, enthusiastic and inspirational person we've met here. Sani has dedicated the latter part of his career designing sustainable alternatives for the Nepalese people, in particular his unique "Briquettes"which are made from a compressed combination of waste paper and biomass (sawdust, grass, leaves or rice husks etc). 1.5kg of his briquettes is the equivalent to 5-8kg of timber in terms of cooking capacity, and he is training people to make their own.

Social entrepreneur Sanu Kaji in his greenhouse

Sanu Kaji's briquettes

Making briquettes from paper pulp and biomass (sawdust, grass, leaves or rice husks etc)

Next up, a trip to Chitwan National Park! We floated down the river in a massive canoe made from a single dug out log (past 3m crocodiles!), went trekking, and slightly contentiously went for an elephant ride through the jungle. I'm not 100% sure about the ethics of elephant riding. It does seem very different here to places like Thailand; most of the elephants seem to be cared for in people's back yards amongst their chickens and goats which is nice. Not sure if that makes it ok though. I do know that the elephants are largely used for conservation in the jungle as it's the safest way for the rangers to patrol the area. But it has also definitely burgeoned into a tourist attraction and I don't think elephants being raised for that kind of life is necessarily the best thing.

A rhino in Chitwan National Park

Thanking my elephant for the privilege

On the way back from Chitwan we detoured to the very rural district of Gorkha. Visting Gorkha has to be up there in terms of the most difficult experiences of my life, mostly due to the cold and lots of waiting around in the cold due to "Nepali time". Whilst Kathmandu is sunny during the day, the mountain areas were foggy the whole time we were there. There isn't much distinction between outdoors and indoors and certainly nothing resembling heating (not even a fire to huddle around). That said it was beautiful to witness the simplicity of rural life. And it certainly made returning to Kathmandu feel like a luxury.

Rural living in the Gorkha district

Last highlight of our trip - teaching a class of students at the local school! They were gorgeous and so enthusiastic and asked for our autographs at the end, funny!

My class of kids at Precious National College

Kids at Precious National College

6 more days and I'll be back in my beloved Melbourne town. I'd best go make the most of it. See you back home soon!

xx Lara.

Saturday, January 05, 2013

Hello from Nepal!

Hello and a Happy New Year from Kathmandu!

I've been here only a week but it feels like months. We've done and seen so much that it feels impossible to distil my experiences into a single blog post. In short it's been a sensory and emotional overload. The streets of Kathmandu are as you would imagine - narrow, colourful, rambling, loud and chaotic. But strangely there's an amazing sense of calm and order in that chaos; not once have I felt concerned or unsafe on the streets here. Even though the roads are teeming with people and motorbikes and cars and bicycles all tooting their horns and weaving in between one another, it's all done with a cheery disposition. You never get the sense that anyone is anxious or aggressive. They just go with the flow and it works.

Nepalese people are renowned for being friendly and cheerful and that definitely seems to be true. They have an infectiously warm and positive nature. Their lives don't revolve around working, they are centred around family and community. Although these people might be 'poor' by western standards they seem truly happier. This might sound flippant and naive but it really does seem that the simpler your life is the happier you can be. As humans (particularly westerners) we find it so hard to be content, but having less opportunities, lofty ambitions or obsession with material goods can be somewhat liberating.

Poverty is another thing, and there are definitely degrees of poverty and injustice that just aren't good through any lens. The work that Seven Women are doing here is aimed at instances of extreme poverty and discrimination. Women with disabilities are hugely discriminated against over here, since the Nepalese belief is that these women committed sins in a previous life. We've had the pleasure of meeting some of the women that are now living and/or working at the Seven Women centre and they are truly lovely. I had such a fantastic time working beside these women teaching them how to make some new products.

I could prattle on for ages, but instead I'm just going to fill the rest of this post with pictures!

Hello from Hotel Moonlight, Kathmandu! Very cold here so I'm perpetually rugged up in mum's knitting - thanks to Ravelry for the patterns! (Copenhagen Cowl and Kabuto Hat)

The view from our hotel rooftop. Marigolds are everywhere here.

Working with Kumari and Selena on some new products at the Seven Women centre

Pink house with matching pink creeper - very Kathmandu!

A group of women making felt ball mats at the fair trade felt factory

Felt balls drying in the sun

A woman rolls felt balls at the fair trade felt factory

Walking down from Nargacot we visited this small rural village

Village children with their homemade street luge! (photo by Annelise Hickey)

Rural farmland on the hillside

Love this tiny rural farmhouse with it's goats, chickens and cows in the yard

View from the rooftop of our hotel in Bhaktapur

One of many, MANY fabric stores I've seen here. Lots of tailors too. How fashion should be.

Hope to write more soon! xx