#1 It has been an interesting and varied month to kick off 2015. Building up to a proposed date for a draft constitution release on January 22nd by the Constituent Assembly of Nepal, many of the opposing/minority parties joined forces to organise a form of strike called a ‘banda’. Essentially by enforcing a ban on all motor vehicles and forcing shops & businesses to remain closed on assigned days the parties cause disruption and highlight their political causes. In the end, as far as I have managed to understand there was no draft constitution released on January 22nd as planned but what happens now is hazy – at least to me. What the bandas certainly did mean is a few days of spookily peaceful streets, cleaner air and relishing my 20 minute walk to work;
#2 On top of the ‘bandas’ there has been an increasing shortage of LPG (liquified petroleum gas) across the country. In urban areas in Nepal most cooking and heating is gas powered although there is no centrally piped supply of gas to people’s houses in Nepal. Electricity in urban areas is heavily affected by loadshedding (currently 11 hours a day in the Kathmandu valley) as the government shares out the available electricity. Hence people rely heavily on cylinders of LPG imported from India which for various political and logistical reasons has been suffering from a shortage. The appeal of energy independence through renewable energy including biogas has never been more appealing. This is a shot of one LPG gas store on my way home from work. The crowd are there with their empty LPG cylinders forming an orderly queue;
#3 In between all the political excitement I’ve also been entertaining (finally!?) in my new home; Getting my guests to do the cooking (as usual) or enjoying the last of the sunshine together on my balcony;
January 1st was my New Year’s Day, the start of the year 2015 and a public holiday in Nepal. However, as with virtually all things in Nepal nothing is so simple… Many of the different ethnic groups within Nepal celebrate different New Year’s depending on their own history and beliefs. The official Nepali New Year will take place in April when the new year will become 2072 – but more on that in a later post… On January 21st this year was the Tamang New Year’s Day or Sonam Losar so I headed back to Pharsidol to spend the day with Suku and Sarindra. It was a lovely day with Suku’s family and friends practising my Nepali, enjoying the spring sunshine and eating far too much delicious home cooked food.
#4 Astoundingly, the valley had been completely transformed again from when I first saw it; from lush and green with rice paddy in September to golden and sun-baked, ready for the harvest in November to now grey and transformed for the winter months into one of many large scale brick making factories. The land owned by the brick factories is rented by the local families during the spring and summer for crop raising. However for the winter, families from the Terai plains move in to produce bricks from the earth. Nicknamed ‘blood bricks’ for a reason, I had my first disturbing glimpse just from afar of the children and animals working hard alongside the adults;
#5 I’ve been keeping myself busy in a number of ways including writing an article on partnership on behalf of VSO Nepal for the Himalayan Times. I was really pleased to see my final article in the printed newspaper in my hand. However, as Dianne the poor lady who asked me to write the article, and hence had to help me edit it, can testify to – it was an extremely painful process! As the quote from my Mum and Dad regarding the article rather supports; “We seem to remember that one reason for choosing Maths and Physics at A level was because you thought it would involve less writing!” Indeed;
#6 It has truly been a busy and varied start to the year – I’ve even been interviewed on Slovenian radio!? Unfortunately I cannot work out how to get the recording onto the blog but when a listener got in touch about wanting to volunteer in Nepal my old friend Ana from my days in Slovenia thought of me and through the wonder of mobile phones (& good editing equipment) got me on the radio. Radio Center to be specific, interviewed by the lovely Ana Praznik (another Ana). It’s only a few minutes long and mostly in Slovenian but with my ‘words of wisdom’ edited throughout – hilarious! The things that on a random Thursday afternoon in Nepal…