Monday, June 30, 2008
One of the overarching themes of my time here in Kathmandu is the juxtaposition of grass roots flavor in this urban (population 600,000+), nation's capital, INGO office (right down the street from the Prime Minister's residence) environment. Nepal is also a country that is home to UNESCO World Heritage Sites.
[OK, Jehan Raheem...NOW I get it! DUH!]
Everyday we are faced with these seemingly contradictory and paradoxical images and experiences:
- Riding in a taxi through these crowded and noisy urban streets next to a human-powered bicycle rickshaw then stopping for several minutes while a group of cows crosses the street.
- Sitting in an internet cafe, across from a temple in Durbar Square (a UNESCO site)in order to email a work document in to school or the office...when the two-hour rolling power blackout descends.
- Upper middle class Nepali women draped in their colorful silk saris and gold jewelry walking through the garbage piles on their way to a day of shopping.
- External work deadlines to meet on a day when the Internet is down all day.
- Smartly dressed businessmen walking to their jobs in banking or retail because they can't obtain petrol or can't find a taxi willing to cross the strike line.
- Walking by an office building beside a man carrying a refrigerator or 5 computers on his back balanced by his forehead strap.
- Travelling to the office of a major INGO (Poverty Alleviation Fund/World Bank) down a muddy alleyway with goats grazing on the side.
- Schools closed and business meetings cancelled because of transportation strikes or political protests...or lack of texting printing!
I spent 9 hours walking to and from work.
I spent 6 hours without power during hours I had planned to work on my documents for READ.
I spent 5 extra hours dealing with technology issues: locating internet access; printing problems; booting up email, etc....including waiting on other staff members who are dealing with their very own technology issues.
My Nepali friends remind me of how much better it is now than during the time of the Maoist-led conflict. During that time, the blackouts lasted for several hours a day; transportation strikes lasted for weeks at a time and petrol shortages were a daily crisis. Layered upon that was the very real fear of violence, kidnappings, extortions, and daily protests.
Maintaining patience and perspective are important skills here!