Saturday, December 5, 2015

Babies Are Still Being Born in Nepal in These Harsh Times



Written by Sajana Bhadel, Chairperson of Kay Garnay for Nepal

Many people were left homeless and alone after the devastating earthquake April 2015. When I look out from the window of the bus we can see many temporary camps with tarps and aluminum shelters along the side of road. This week we went to a camp in Bhouda to distribute some clothes for new born babies. Imagine being born in Nepal during this time, or being suddenly a single mother due to entire families being swept away. 

What shocked me the most is that I came to meet a 16 year old girl who just gave birth to a baby 14 days prior and they are having to live in this harsh lifestyle struggling with the cold every day. She is thinking of going back her own village in Sindupalchowk, but the continuous trembling has weakened the hills and left the villages either cracked, fallen or beneath tons of earth from the landslides. We are providing what few resources we have to share and joining with other NGOs to help and try to make a difference.

Sajana brought this young mother money to go back to her village.

Our volunteers from NZ brought a couple of huge bags of baby clothes lovingly knitted by women in a knitting club and even some lovely, quilted blankets. The mothers were so appreciative and I enjoyed handing them out to the mothers, one hat, a knitted shirt and booties each.
I know this isn’t enough.


Our NGO, Kay Garnay for Nepal, is mostly funded with Ama’s little bit of money or donations from our volunteers. These baby clothes came from Kerensa Clark's friends, NZ and were hand carried by Steve and Wendy Trevella, also from NZ. Steve and Wendy brought Andy and Fynn and they all worked full days to get more shelters built-25 more! We are so happy to have been a part of building over 50 high quality shelters in the area already. 
An INGO donated 7 sewing machines but left without giving training.

Changunarayan is on the Valley Rim trekking route. Lots of bikers come through, too.

Here Steve and Wendy are giving Ama $1,000 for 2 more shelters.


It seems the big picture is not even being looked at for Nepal's future. What these women really need is a job and warm place to live. We have plans for a women’s initiative, but no money to buy the carpet looms, wool yarn, etc. We will be putting a crowd funding project up very shortly for this project.  We plan to get the women trained and putting them to work in our knitting/carpet initiative. We hope to work with some of the existing carpet manufacturing factories to help fund our administration costs-rent and my salary, etc. 

Hope you follow along with us as we help during this time of rebuilding Nepal. We plan to be a big part of it. http://KayGarnay.org

Sajana and Steve distributing the clothing they brought from NZ


Friday, October 23, 2015

Celebrating Dashain During Crisis-Updated



October 25, 2015 update: We have been told the border to China will open on Tuesday, but please keep up on the news. If the deal falls through this is what you can expect:

It seems most Nepali were able to get back to their family's village for the Dashain festival in spite of the current fuel crisis. Our hilltop is alive with families enjoying this most special festival.  We have this giant festival swing for both young and old alike to enjoy. Swinging on it during this festival will keep you young and I can testify to that. I'm feeling younger already.

Being in  Kathmandu during this festival time is not always a good idea for tourists. Here in the Kathmandu Valley most of the staff are gone and most of the businesses are completely closed; there seems no reason to open because no one can get to your store due to the fuel crisis. But even in normal years many small businesses close during this week.

I started getting stressed out about this crisis; as an American I'd never seen anything like this. I realized that the government is providing a lot more electricity than usual, so I looked online for an electric cook stove or frying pan, anything to cook with when this last tank of gas is finished. I found a Bajaj induction table-top stove and bought 2 of them. Two problems, when I tried to use the first one I put it on the wrong setting and burned my pan, then later, after Krishna read the manual with me, it worked so well I decided to put the other one on. The electric blew on the invertor line for the night (no, we weren't on load-shed). However, I did manage to use one the next morning to make me a believer. Quick, super-quick cooking. Amazing!
The local people are going with the flow and Bernard, our volunteer from France, went down and swung on the giant swing and took pictures. He had such a good time. Everyone invited him to their homes and were so friendly to him. I think he's been smitten with 'Changunarayan-itis,' that feeling that you'll never forget this village or its people. It happens to just about everyone. We had a situation  whereby I allowed my volunteers to help anyone, anywhere while they were staying at the guest house for free. They chose to omit Changu and I had some serious explaining to do with my neighbors. Forgiveness is another quality of my neighbors. For me, I just love to feel like I'm a part of healing anyone anywhere in Nepal-just to feel like I'm a part of it, that's all I ask.


No Nepali festival is complete without a parade down our street to the hilltop.
It's amazing at how resilient the Nepali are. They are still smiling and enjoying this festival as if there was nothing unusual going on. I imagine many people will be stuck in the villages if the situation doesn't become remedied soon. They share food as if there is an abundance. The reality is lentils, which are not grown here, have gone up substantially in price and shortages are certainly a possibility, now as much as $2 per Kg. Tourists often forget the generosity of the people of Nepal. This is a prime example of how kind and generous the people are. Imagine entertaining strangers when the meal costs almost your entire day's pay. That's hospitality.


I would highly recommend enjoying Dashain in Nepal if you like village life. There are traditional festival ceremonies and such enjoyable people. But if you do not want to be at a village home-stay during Dashain you will find it quite a disruption-even in normal years. If you are in the Kathmandu Valley you'll find much of the staff at restaurants and guest houses are away in their family villages. This means the owner is having to cook and bringing a particularly dangerous time for stomach bacteria.

Everything is closed anyway, but during any other year you will find someone still open somewhere, but not this year. Consider the fact that much of our water needs to be trucked in. That is quite an expense and then when it comes to preparing tea for you, you need to keep in mind that fuel is a real problem so it might not be boiled properly. Be sure to ask for 'blue jug water' even when there is no crisis.

If you are  coming to Nepal in November or December 2015 please contact me at:  FrugalTravelsNepal@gmail.com  I will give you an insider's prospective and I promise to be honest and forthcoming. This issue with fuel may not have hit bottom quite yet. Please do not come until the petrol begins to flow again unless you want to tell a long and complicated story about your time in Nepal.

Tips for coming to Nepal: Try to avoid re-fried rice for breakfast, as it will be made from the rice cooked the day before. Also avoid 'bitten' rice. This is popular among Nepali, but everyone scoops it out of the bag with their hands and it isn't cooked prior to serving.


Gifts: If you wonder what to bring your host family this year check to see if lentils (dal) is grown in their district. If not, consider bringing a bag of lentils.

Saturday, October 17, 2015

What’s Happening in Nepal


As I write this article there are few buses with enough petrol to run. Yes, there is gas being brought in, but in such small quantities that even the rescue helicopters are not flying. I’m fortunate to be in a farming village in the Kathmandu Valley because few buses are bringing supplies to anywhere. They are so packed people are riding on the roofs and hanging onto the back. There aren’t many on the road anymore and we are just waiting for someone to make all this craziness go away. This picture was taken in 2012 during another fuel crisis, but this time the cars and motorcycles are just parked and abandoned for miles.

The sad thing is that we finally got the constitution the Nepali have been waiting so many years for. Now it is clear why it’s taken so long to get. India wouldn’t allow it, but finally they did it and the people were happy, at least the people I know. I try to stay out of politics because it isn’t my issue. I am a guest in this lovely country hope I don't over-step my place here.

I don’t know what I will do if it lasts beyond these couple weeks of cooking fuel, but by that time if it doesn’t end there will be few choices left. I won’t be able to leave and there will be little food for those outside the Valley. But I’ll be fine. 

Why is this happening? Apparently, the unofficial word on the street, India wanted the Nepal constitution to reflect India’s needs better. They actually wanted to have the new constitution include a proviso that an Indian man can marry a Nepali woman and be able to run for prime minister. So, what can the people of Nepal do? Nothing. What can the government do? Nothing. 

I was hoping Nepal would open up fuel trade with China, but there are some monopoly issues around the petrol supplier and some trade stuff with India. 

This issue is complicated, indeed, but it boils down to a couple of facts: Nepal is quite small, Nepal is landlocked with two giants at its borders and India has been at the source of much of the problems. Nepal doesn’t stand a chance against these giants and neither SAARC, nor the UN, seem to want to deal with what’s actually going on. It’s a war on an unarmed nation.People are dying. Hospitals are running out of petrol for things like oxygen and so much more. 

However, India is managing to bring in fruit and vegetables that are sitting in Kathmandu starting to rot because they cannot get anywhere. So, how is this situation due to Nepali rioting in the streets? What the media is saying is the blockade is caused by Nepali at the border towns. What they don't say is that the rioters (in one small region of Nepal) are mostly of Indian origin and are getting paid by India's political parties to keep it up. 

Prior to the constitution being signed, there were problems in some regions of Nepal where the people wanted special recognition of their caste like their district would be the Mugar, Sherpa or Chhetri district (These are just examples of caste names; I don't know the actual castes wanting their own districts).

What can we do? I'm happy we have an NGO now because it makes it so much easier to get people to listen and do. What I am doing bringing solar cooking stoves and ovens to our village. We have 6 months of sunlight without clouds or rainy days. This could actually be a good thing, well, maybe a bad thing with some adjustments that will help us all in the long run.

Any volunteers who would like to come build shelters or help us with the solar cooking project please come. We always have enough to share, even though showers and laundry will be limited. Please note: We've had to start charging the normal volunteer charge of $5 a day due to the damage to the guest house and missing and broken things. I think it's best this way, anyway, so as not to take a volunteer from another NGO.

We've been making rectangle shelters, but these look interesting, too, and maybe a little less expensive.
 

Monday, October 12, 2015

Clean-up Campaign in Changunarayan

Written by: Maartje Geverinck, volunteer from the Netherlands 

Kay Garnay for Nepal, an NGO registered in Nepal, is the brain child of Amanda Summers, a retired expat living in the Kathmandu Valley. It is a humanitarian, nonprofit agency with the goal of supporting the artists, craftsmen and other residents of Changunarayan, an ancient village in Nepal, as well as those in neighboring communities.

Clean-up Campaign in Changunarayan


People talk about how Nepali are litterbugs and don't care about the environment. There are actually some good reasons for this to appear to be true.
 
First, there are very few sanitary landfills in the entire country. Additionally even municipalities will use the river as dumpsites.

We, at Kay Garnay for Nepal, NGO, wanted to clean Changunarayan before the coming festival, Dashain. Our chairperson, Sajana, purchased gloves and other clean-up gear and about 50 people participated in the morning activities. This was our first of such community activities, so we learned a lot.

10 October 2015 - 7 o' clock in the morning


People in Changu gather to start picking up trash.
Gloves, mouth masks and some homemade litter spears were provided.
All in all about 50 people, young to old, were eager to start cleaning up their village. There was only one tourist among the volunteers.

Sajana and I went together as we picked up litter.
Rather than using plastic bags, we used bamboo baskets and wheelbarrows to collect the debris.

Bio-degradable organic materials were supposed to be put in one pit and another one dug for the plastics.
However, that didn’t happen as planned.
Afterwards, according to our plan, a truck would come from Kathmandu to collect everything and take it to the recycling center - not to the river or burned.

The locals weren't informed properly to make this first clean-up campaign successful. There was just no awareness that if, for example, you sprinkle insecticide along the road most of the insects will just move to a nearby garden or farm.
Yes, posters were made beforehand and distributed to places frequently visited by locals, but there was a lack of knowledge on how to start cleaning and how to get rid of the trash. We need to keep in mind as Westerners that it was we who introduced such poisons into this environment only 60 years ago.

While seeing how everyone was working and doing all the best they could, I saw boys cutting greenery from the walls with bamboo sticks and girls using the Nepali brooms to push the cut greenery from one side of the road down the hill. Not all plastics were removed first and the greens and sand were just put on top. So I was witnessing a worst case scenario. But yeah: “Kay Garnay” (meaning: “What to do?”)

The problem is that you cannot blame the Nepali people. They do not get the required education to obtain the right knowledge on how to keep the Earth clean and safe to live on.

In my head, several new ways of how to tackle this situation have arisen meanwhile. We could find some handy pocket-size reusable bags and distribute these among the locals so that they can do their grocery shopping etc. by using these bags.

Also, we could make a presentation showing kids in school, ages 14-15, the 'Circle of Life' – and meanwhile hoping they will spread the message and be a living example of it.

Furthermore, a great effort must be done to reach the outside world by spreading messages about the actual situation and hopefully we will attract more eco-minded people to volunteer and help not only this city, but the entire Nepal with their ideas.

Sunday, October 11, 2015

What to Do in Nepal If You Only Have a Week?



What to do if you can only be in Nepal for a week? You aren't going to have much time so you need to pick an area to explore. If coming by land you could see Lumbini and Chitwan area. Here in my village I say it's like a step back in time, but in Chitwan time just stops. You will hear yourself say 3 times, "Is it still Tuesday?" It's quite hot there throughout most of the year, but it's great in January.

Tip: Bring binoculars. Bird watching is amazing.

As I write this, in October 2015, there is a bit of a political problem in that area because Nepal didn't make the new constitution the way India wanted them to make it. So, be sure to check the news regularly. It's probably not a good idea to come until the blockade India has made is gone. The conditions are becoming quite dire.

Be careful about just camping out in that area; a rino wandered through our guest house property when I was there.


If you come by air you'll want to stay around the Kathmandu Valley. You can do several permit-free trekking routes, the Valley Rim Route will take you through many lovely little villages and to some incredible views of the Himalayas. You'll walk through a forest and can catch views of Mt. Everest along the way. You can see Bhaktapur ($15 admission) Changunarayan ($3 admission) Nagarkot (free), Panauti (?) Dhulikel (free) and Nama Buddha (?). You can do this in 2-4 days. You'll experience the 'real' Nepal and see exceptional views.

Stay in Thamel the first and last two nights and you will have a great time.  There are guest houses on every corner, but if you'd like a recommendation for nice, clean, budget guest house call Gupal at Hotel Bright Star. I've been recommending him for a few years and everyone really likes him and his wife. The price will be in the $10 range. +977 014423944 Hotel Bright Star weathered the earthquakes well enough, but the guest house next door didn't do so well.The street is cleaned up and Gupal has made the repairs and they are back in business. 

Monday, October 5, 2015

One Day In A Rice Fields

And such an amazing day
The following post was written by Laura, from Lille in Northern France. Laura is one of our Volunteers from our NGO, Kay Garnay for Nepal. She's only been here at the guest house for a little over a week, but got into the spirit right away and has been a wonderful Helpx.net helper (http://www.helpx.net/profile.asp?email=lora.raph@yahoo.com). As one of her volunteer tasks, she wrote the following article:

We had an amazing experience in the rice fields in Changu Narayan. Almost all the team went to the Krishna and Bagvati’s fields and enjoyed a lot. For sure,  It’s Harvest time.


 On the road to the Fields
We went down to the valley through many houses, some half destroyed by the earthquakes. We did not cross paths with many locals along the road and the views is just peaceful. 

After 30 minutes, we were surounded by rice lands and finally arrived at our field destination. All the villagers were there. We finally understood why houses looked so empty.


Rice fields

Rice plant










And So On …
It’s time to work. After a warm welcome and some rice beer we are ready to start.
Armed with a sickle, we watched our co-workers who showed us Nepali techniques. 
 Really physical work! We tried to be as efficient as  the locals, but we still need more  practice. 

Sickles







Time to pedal
The rice was cut but work  wasn’t ending yet.  Now comes the shell times. And nothing is better than human forces so we pedaled the closest thing to modern equipment the day had to offer. 



After a  break for eating lunch we finished carrying loads and removing grains of rice of plants. 
We had a typical Nepali meal. So good and so spicy :)
Crispy rice and Dal

 
Well done



It’s almost 4 p.m when we moved to the river nearby..
Everybody relaxed and admired the quiet place near the river. Some took advantage of the situation and did their laundry.





Lets carry some loads
On the way back we met our friends from the rice fields. Theys asked us if we wanted to carry a rice bag to the Changunarayan Village at the top of the hill. Some tried but it was really heavy, around 22 kilograms/50 pounds. K√©vin, our canadian volunteer, was the exception and carried the bag up to the top. Villagers and volunteers encouraged him!! Ah ! Canadian strength !
Well ! end of the history, end of the article but not the end of the adventure.
Everybody went home with many souvenirs in their head. Tomorrow is a new day with many other activities to do.. 
ByeBye

Friday, September 4, 2015

More on Medical Issues in Nepal



We've seen many tourists in various stages of stomach upset at the Star View Guest House throughout the past year. And yes, we've even had two incidents of cross contamination from our own kitchen. Apologies can never be enough for someone who's suffered from a bacteria invasion. Assurances can only be met with skepticism because the causes are usually impossible to predict or avoid entirely.

The saddest part of the stomach bug issue is that a person can never actually prove where they got it unless others who ate the same foods also becomes ill. Some of the bacteria can take weeks to become symptomatic while others show themselves before you finish eating. I've noticed a bit of pepper taste from the foods that have made me ill in the past, but I've never actually heard of that being a symptom.

For our most recent guests who came down with the bacteria, I found something to share. However, although we fed over 10 people, only two developed symptoms. Of the two, one was fine within a few hours, but the other one has suffered throughout her stay and even after she returned home. It was our cook's first night cooking for us, but he certainly learned the necessity of washing his hands and cleaning the counter with disinfectant. 

Our last cook was not a good learner. One night I saw him come out of the toilet without washing his hands. How do I know? I have the towel hanging outside of the toilet so I can see them dry their hands. I'm not adverse to smelling for soap, either. So, I reminded him to wash. His reaction, "I only did short toilet." "So how did you manage that without touching yourself?" He didn't last long. 

We had a couple of incidents with guests having fried rice or bitten rice from local restaurants, particularly for breakfast. Rice is a natural breeding grounds for bacteria, especially since soap is at a premium in Nepal and everyone uses their hands for everything. I strongly suggest avoiding bitten rice and being very careful about fried rice by making sure it isn't made from left-over rice from the night before. Most local restaurants leave things like left-over rice on the counter over-night. 

Here's the article I read. I hope this probiotic is readily available in the West at health food stores. If so, I'd suggest taking it before and throughout the time you are traveling. Keep in mind that these bacteria can live for a time on the door knobs; I open the bathroom door slightly before I wash my hands.

"Efficacy and safety of the probiotic Saccharomyces boulardii for the prevention and therapy of gastrointestinal disorders" http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/22423260/
One product containing this probiotic can be found here:
 http://www.optibacprobiotics.co.uk/shop/saccharomyces-boulardii 

I recently fell while stepping down from the kitchen and tore the ligament in my ankle. I mention it here because this is the way homes are made in Nepal and I've almost fallen while stepping down there many times before. The pipes are laid above the floor making it necessary to step up into the toilet or kitchen. This step is usually a bit higher than the stairwell steps, which makes it awkward. By the way, 'Bathrooms' or 'restrooms' are referred to as 'toilets' in Nepal.

The good news here is that it only cost around $40 to have it checked out at the local hospital, including X-rays, exam and cast. The bad news was there was only a squat toilet at the hospital; it was not fun doing the one legged squat. I plan to bring a couple of handicap toilets to the hospital as a donation. I'm finally helping to form a nonprofit agency which will include random acts of kindness in the goals and guidelines.

I have guidelines for finding excellent medical care in Nepal in my eBook, Nepal: A Tourist's Manual. It is finally available again via the link on this blog and $15 of the $19.95 goes to our NGO projects to rebuild our village (through December 2015). It is 300 pages of searchable topics that will make your time in Nepal easier in a variety of ways because it covers everything from ordering food to suggestions for interesting things to see and do that are not written about elsewhere. 

Always use the 'shower shoes' your guest house provided for the bathroom. Bathrooms almost always have tile on the floor, which can be quite slippery. Athlete's foot fungus is unheard of in this part of the world because people take off their shoes so much. However, there is a similar fungus that many young people have on their faces. Make sure you always sleep on a clean pillow case to avoid this. 

I hope you have a fun, adventure filled time in Nepal without such inconveniences or health issues.