Friday, May 29, 2009

The First 36 Hours

It's great being back home in Nepal.

After being efficiently screened for swine flu, Sudip greeted me and whisked me away from Tribhuvan Airport in a trusty taxi. We ate lunch at one of our favorite rooftop cafes and caught up on the news. It was good to see my family at Himalaya's Guest House and READ Nepal.

I also had a fun evening at the Entrepreneurs of Nepal meeting at Buzz Cafe meeting the powerfully creative trio: Ashutosh Tiwari, Ujwal Thapa and Sagar Onta...the group's founders. Good to see around 40 young people in attendance. If a jet-lag induced sleep hadn't been about to overtake me I would've stayed longer.

I slept well to a beautiful monsoon rainfall and enjoyed a very interesting breakfast conversation with Pem, Moni's husband. The bitten rice was pretty cool too.

It is good to have Viviane in the READ office and we are about to head over to Mike's Breakfast for a photo exhibit that will be introduced by the American ambassador.

Tonight is a Newari "eating festival" as it was explained to me by my host Dad, Mohan.

Trust me. Newari eating festivals are ALWAYS a good thing!

Can you see why I love this place?

Sunday, May 24, 2009

Happy Anniversary!

One year ago today, May 26th, I landed in Nepal for the very first time.

Little did I know then that I would be returning for my third visit one year later.

On May 28th I depart Little Rock for my home away from home.

That day also marks Nepal's first anniversary as a federal republic.


Friday, May 22, 2009

I depart Little Rock for Kathmandu in 4 days and I find myself in familiar emotional territory.

Two things, at the same time, all together in one space...confirming the largeness of life without duality. You have to have space in your life for everything all at the same time:

1. I want to go. I want to land and find myself in the rich stimulation of the senses that is KTM: the chaotic, honking traffic, the scent of incense, the colors of kurtas and sarees, the creamy taste of Nepali chia, the warm gazes and smiles of my friends, the stimulation of always being surprised by my home away from home.

2. I don't want to go. I find myself craving extra time with Katie, Maggie, my beautiful garden. My time with Katie is so brief before we both head off on our next big adventures. She is headed to Camp Highlander this summer to work as a counselor. She will have such a great time hiking, kayaking, and swimming with her campers.

And I find that I don't want to leave George. Who is this George person who has appeared in my life as I am about to leave the country? Oh yeah. Nevermind. I recognize him...I surely do...

So I am filled with wistful, bittersweet feelings today. Familiar.

Yet this time I know that a departure is not an ending. Everything continues no matter the distance. I know that now. That is the difference from a year ago when I first departed for Nepal. There is no loss. If anything, life is richer experience to share with someone because of the adventures.

All the beautiful richness of life is out there waiting on surely is...

Monday, May 11, 2009

I'm so impressed.

A 28 year old powerhouse of initiative in Nepal, Santosh Shah, has debuted Powertalks - the only English talk show in Nepal. The assistant director and scripwriter is 18, the producer is 26 and the assistant producer is 22. At a time when some of the leaders and citizens of Nepal have only a myopic view of their own political chaose, these young leaders are presenting Nepal in its international context with the goal of integrating into the international community at a quicker than present pace.

Instead of playing Nepal's age-old blame game, these young people are interviewing world leaders about their own countries and regions and their views on Nepal.

How refreshing!

Since I'm still in the US, I'm watching what they post on as much as possible.

In Nepal, Powertalks can be found Image TV and on the radio at 97.9 nationwide and 103.6 in the Kathmandu Valley.

Tune in!

Thursday, May 7, 2009

In an earlier blogpost I wrote about the murder of 26 year old Uma Singh, a journalist in southeastern Nepal who was a champion for the rights of women. Her murder spotlighted Nepal's violent culture of impunity (Still no one has been charged with her murder although it was witnessed...the people are too afraid). Her murder was also viewed as an attempt to silence women journalists, and warn away young girls who might consider entering the profession.

Recently, however,the Nepali Times published a story about women journalists who continue to practice their profession despite or perhaps because of the danger. Go Girls!!!

There are several good stories in the article linked here:

Here is an excerpt...

In Biratnagar, Radio Purbanchal is another all-female station which is trying to address the pressing problems of gender discrimination in the eastern Tarai. At Purbanchal, the only man is the security guard. Station manager Kamala Kadel is a 55-year-old mother who used to be a social worker before starting the radio to empower women through grassroots communications. The station's reach has grown in the past two years, reaching 75 per cent of households in Sunsari and Morang with close to one million regular listeners. There are around 40 community level organisations affiliated to the station and 2,000 households contributed funds and start-up capital.

The station employs 18 journalists and studio technicians, all 20-30 year olds from disadvantaged communities. Some are students like Lalima Ragbanshi who divides her time between her studies and working as a radio technician. "I'm excited to be in this environment where there's so much room for growth," says the 21-year-old.

Others are housewives like Uma Thapa who finds satisfaction and freedom working beyond the domestic domain and Gita Biswas, the co-host of the news and agricultural program Kakram Hama Samacht (Our Society) whose husband has now taken over the housework.

Daily news bulletins are aired in four languages: Nepali, Tharu, Urab and Santhali. "Most radio stations broadcast news in Nepali and this is problematic for other ethnic communities who don't understand the language,"
says Urab news presenter Mahamaya Urab.

Other programs include children's education, labour and employment forums, with the most popular, The Voice of Labour, reaching out to 400 businesses in the district.

"What keeps us going is our desire to spread greater awareness about the rights and situation of Tarai women, who are restrained by social deprivation in education, economic and health care aspects," says radio journalist Durga Sapkota, "community radio can be a powerful agent of change."

Asked about how the murder of radio journalist Uma Singh in Janakpur affected women reporters, Kamala says it highlights the critical working conditions that women journalists face.

She added: "We're saddened but unbeaten. There's nothing to fear if we're united."

Friday, May 1, 2009

I love dispelling myths and delivering surprising news about Nepal. As most of you know I absolutely detest the terms "developing country" or "poor nation" for they skew or perceptions and bias us in unbelievable ways. These words hide the rich, vibrant and progressive nature of Nepal.

Most of my friends are quite surprised when I tell them that YES! Nepal has a Food and Wine magazine. If you don't believe me, check it out for yourself:

In this month's issue the cover story profiles successful young women in the hospitality industry. Take THAT old guard patriarchy!

There are also articles on new world wines, dealing with stress, east african delicacies, and even (hehe) a review of a film about an intercultural lesbian relationship.

Congrats to my new friend Suresh KC and his team for publishing such a nice magazine. May it continue to grow and flourish in Nepal!

Less than Four Weeks

In less than four weeks I will once again plant my feet on the soil of my second home...Nepal. I can't wait to see Sudip and to laugh and laugh and laugh with him. This time I get to play hostess for a few American friends. Ahead of me will arrive, Viviane, student at the Clinton School, in Nepal for her international project with READ. Following me will be Ellen who will be on a buying trip with me for our new women's design business (Stay Tuned!) Someone else who is smart enough to visit Nepal is Joe, my Clinton School classmate.

I'll be staying, at least at first, with my family, the Mulepatis, in the guesthouse. It will be fun to see all of my friends in the Basantapur/Freak Street/Durbar Square neighborhood. I love the rhythms of that part of town.
I'm also looking forward to meeting many of my new Facebook friends there.

I have missed eating momos,yomari, curries, and drinking milk tea (it just ain't the same here)!

Anyhooooooooooooo.....I can't wait.

Yet I know I'll be returning to an insecure Nepal, a country struggling to take shape. The loadshedding is much worse and we can expect 8-12 hours without electricity per day. C'mon monsoons! the rains make the water that makes the electricity. We'll be facing water shortages, more numerous transportation strikes, chaka jams and bandhs. For now, the Terai is closed and Chitwan is inaccessible. Heading east to Darjeeling, a dream, is dicey. Getting to Pokhara is possible but delays are likely. I feel my capacity for patience growing just thinking about it all.