Tuesday, January 20, 2009

The news of the brutal murder of journalist and human rights Uma Singh effected me deeply.

Uma was only 26 years old.

She worked for the Janakpur Today Daily and Radio Today FM.

On January 11th, she was attacked after she returned from work by a gang of around 15men who burst into the room she rented in Janakpur who battered her repeatedly with blunt objects, in front of other tenants. She died of her injuries shortly before midnight while being driven to Kathmandu.

No one intervened as they witnessed the attack.
No one identified the attackers even though they knew them.
Such is the culture of impunity in Nepal today. The context of Uma's murder proves just how bad things really are.

It was reported that one of the attackers said, as he beat Uma, "This is for talking too much."

Police have so far not identified any motive for the killing. Some of Uma Singh’s articles made waves in the region, particularly those in which she criticized the dowry system and spoke out of behalf of women's rights.

The murder of Uma Singh is the latest in a long list of arrests and murders of journalists in Nepal in recent months. Three journalists were killed last year and one was kidnapped. Nepalese journalists plan to hold a demonstration on today to urge the government to provide them with protection.

No one is in charge in this country.

Monday, January 19, 2009

Shifting Again

My plan to only write positive things has been derailed...by the murder of journalist Uma Singh. (more on this later)

Now I believe my job is to write a balanced blog about the many positive aspects of Nepal while reporting the troubling current state.

Because Nepal is both, really. A stunningly beautiful place, rich in culture and history yet continually challenged by a government in transition and a weakening of security and the rule of law.

I pray that she does not become a failed state.

There are too many wonderful people who would suffer and many of them I call friend.

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

Yo=to like + Mari=delicacy. Yomari=the delicacy that everyone likes! Yomari origates from the Newars,the ethnic group from the Katmandu Valley, and is a rice flour dumpling filled with good stuff. The most common filling is Chaku, which a sweet molasses-like concoction. It may also be filled with dhal (bean stuff). The triangular shape represents half of Saraswati, the goddess of knowledge, music and the arts. That's the anthropology lesson. All I know is that it is beautiful gooey goodness.

Here's a quick 60 second video on making yomari - copy and paste the link in your browser:

Monday, January 12, 2009

These beautiful pillows are just three of the designs made at the Janakpur Art Center. The fabric is from the nettle plant and the vegetable-dyed colors are very rich. All very Mother Earth friendly. I have four of these pillows, all with indigenous motifs.

The Janakpur Art Center is located in, well, uh, Janakpur and it is another example of a women's craft cooperative changing the lives of women artisans and their families through economic development. They are working with me to create additional items such as table runners, placemats and coasters. The motifs are traditionl ones from the Mithilia culture. Janakpur is located in southeast Nepal near the border of India.

The people of this region (including the northern part of India)also depict scenes from their daily lives in Mithila paintings. These scenes can now be found on photo frames, jewelry boxes, textiles, and furniture. The women are adapting their art in ways that will be marketable and will help sustain the tradition. Oh yeah, their craft puts rice (instead of bread) on the table too. Below is a village marriage ceremony scene. The best part is to sit with someone from the Terai region of Nepal and enjoy their teachings on what the symbols and scenes in the painting mean. Enjoy!

Friday, January 9, 2009

There's a Facebook group out there called Entrepreneurs for Nepal

"Description: A network for Young, Creative People who have ideas and who want to implement it in the context of Nepal.
Interested in "creating opportunities" in Nepal? Share your ideas below and get constructive feedback. We'll try our best to help you shape your idea.
There is nothing such as "small" when it comes to an idea. Lets keep the ball rolling !!!
ARE YOU GOING TO NEPAL SOON and want to discuss some potential ideas? Contact us and we will connect you with the right people."

Their New Year meeting is January 15 at 5:30pm at Nanglo on Durbar Marg.
If you're in Nepal and trying to do business - GO!

It's a place to meet all those creative, smart people I've been telling you about.

Monday, January 5, 2009

The Kathmandu Valley has a history of making silver jewelry including ancient religious and cultural motifs. Here's a sample:

Sunday, January 4, 2009

This past Spring, Sarah Miller, a young woman from Southern California took her first trip out of the country...to Nepal. In this video she compares her life in American with life in Nepal and somehow captures, better than I ever could in my own words, how being with the Nepali people changes you forever.

To my Nepali friends, I know that I can never explain how much you mean to those of us who have been lucky enough to visit your country, but I hope this video gives you some idea...

Thanks, Sarah!

I have not yet met Anuradha Koirala but I really hope to one day.

She is a widely recognized activist and lecturer who has dedicated her life to combating the sexual exploitation of Nepal's women and children. A former professor of English, she is the founder and Executive Director of Maiti Nepal and a world class hero.

Maiti Nepal is a vibrant organization combatting the dark underground of sex trafficking. Maiti Nepal works by:
***Direct intervention at the border with India. Twelve Intervention Center sites are staffed by volunteers who themselves were formally trafficked and understand the strategies of the traffickers. Located at the outposts are 'safe houses' providing shelter or safe passage home for the girls and women.
***Offering its rescued young women education with on-the-job practical training in Food Service, Carpentry, Massage Therapy, Baking, Mechanics, Hairdressing, Housekeeping, Security Guarding, Floriculture or Handcrafts
***Participating in infectious disease health research. Recent publications are found in JAMA and Emerging Infectious Diseases. Maiti Nepal's participation in the identifying and tracking of diseases like HIV/AIDS, TB and Hepatitis among the women is critical to crafting appropriate responses.
***Providing access to health and mental health services.
***Establishing hospice care. Maiti Nepal has established two hospices for the treatment of the women and children who are terminally ill.

The work of Maiti Nepal is not without risk. The criminal elements that "deliver" young girls are a ruthless enemy and have political connections at the highest levels in India and Nepal. Maiti Nepal's main office in Kathmandu has been destroyed twice and Maiti workers must travel with a bodyguard when overseeing rescue missions in India.

Anuradha Koirala gives gives much of the credit to her largely volunteer staff. Most of the workers are rescued girls and young women who are healthy enough to work. "They need little incentive from me," states Ms Koirala. "They are working to help their sisters and they know the horror of the victims." She adds, "Society rejects me and my girls, but they are the most important thing in my life."


There is a US based group that supports Maiti Nepal. Here's the link:

Thursday, January 1, 2009

New Year's Shift

After discussions with a few of my Nepali business friends I've decided to shift the tone of this blog. In their opinion, the negative press that comes out of Nepal builds a misperception among their partners abroad and hurts their export business.

From the major news sources, the world only hears about what's wrong in Nepal with the government, services, security, etc. The blogosphere is also a place that is full of rants about the government and living conditions.Those stories are important and the world should hear them.

But what is right about Nepal far outweighs what is wrong, and I plan to talk more about that.

There are so many bright, funny, creative, talented, cultural people, places and things in Nepal. I'll have plenty to write about.

Of course, I won't be able to avoid the occasional rant against injustice. It's in my bones. But for every injustice there are people in Nepal fighting it in creative ways so I'll strive to balance the challenges with the solutions.

Stay tuned!!!

p.s. I've added a link (in the right column) to a brand new site that keeps up with the Nepali news. It's superior to anything I've come across to date.
The name is Nepal Watch (www.nepalwatch.com )

Shout out to my friend Sanjay Amatya for this site!