Back to Kathmandu for round 2

On August 18th, after a wonderful few weeks back in the UK relaxing with family and friends, I landed back in Kathmandu to commence my second year as a VSO volunteer. As I met to formally finish my placement with AEPC and handover my files and equipment it was still not clear what exactly the alternative plan was going to look like. Luckily, alongside updating visas and attempting to clarify future plans there was plenty going on around the valley to keep me entertained;

#1 On August 21st the Rebuilding Bungamati group held a live performance art session called the “Vernacular Sense and Essence of Bungamati”. The event is nicely described in this article on artudio.net “The event was organised by Kathmandu University, Centre for Art and Design. The event also hosted the local screenings of Digital Storytelling produced in collaboration with Willemijn Van Kol and Elizabeth Hacker (two former VSO Nepal volunteers and good friends of mine still based in Nepal) in tea shops and vernacular spaces in Bungamati”
01 living art
#2 The Rebuilding Bungamati group have been working tirelessly to support the community of Bungamati to rebuild after the earthquake through building shelters and community structures but also holistically helping through creating murals, art workshops and engaging all generations of the community in the efforts;
02 the art
#3 Great to see the locals and visitors to Bungamati interacting with the art in different ways;
03 observed art
#4 Weather wise, the monsoon has been in full swing. Though not as heavy and incessant as in other neighbouring countries, the Nepali monsoon still knows how to deliver a punch. When it rains, it really rains. As a result the garden is looking extremely lush and the wealth of vegetables and fruits becoming ripe proving here to be too good to miss for some of the more exotic local wildlife;
04 monkeys
#5 August 30th saw the festival of Gai Jatra which was one of my very first festivals last year. Gai Jatra is the festival where many Nepali people remember and honour family members and friends who have died in the previous 12 months. This year’s festivities were particularly poignant as I returned to Bhaktapur for a second year, however this year over 300 men, women and children had died as a result of the earthquakes. The entire community was there to support, sometimes sitting on the steps of mighty temples which have been reduced to piles of bricks;
05 temples
#6 The dancers were as lively and rhythmic as ever, dancing enthusiastically to the beat with their traditional sticks for hours on end in the hot sun. Individual floats for each of the deceased were carried in solemn procession escorted by mourners, as well as the groups of dancers and musicians and thousands of onlookers, past the propped up buildings of the main Durbar Square and around the city;
05B gaijatra 2
#7 The men and women looked amazing as they danced and sung in different parts of the procession;
06 gaijatra ladies
#8 The children of the town were also heavily involved wearing traditional costumes of important gods or specific dances. Many hundreds more also simply joined in the characteristic beat of the traditional stick dances;
07 gaijatra costumes
#9 I also took the opportunity of weekends in the valley to join the Himalayan Hash House Harriers for some walks. Admiring the lush, hazy views from the hills around the valley edge;
08 valley views
#10 The rice paddies are an amazing range of shades of green right now as a sign that the hard work is starting to pay off;
09 rice
#11 Nepal, as stunning as ever also on a micro-level;
10 wildlife

But now time to get on with some real work again so from September 1st I headed back to Chautara…

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