Yaknak Projects

Nepal Diary - 2009

February 2009 - Back in Nepal

Written by Kathryn

It's three years since we opened Ketaketi House and now time for house number two. I've got five months here in Kathmandu to try to find a new house manager, a house to rent, an ama, a didi, furnish the house, move the children in, get them settled and started at school and … find a better name than 'house number 2'!

Before that though, I'm going to enjoy some time with the Ketaketi boys. My fortnight long trips here are usually jam packed so it feels great to have a little bit of time to relax and have fun with them. A trip to Brikuti Mandap (Nepal's only funfair) and a hike/picnic/rhodedendron hunt high in the hills behind our house were a great start to my stay here.

March 2009 - Rotary

Written by Kathryn

To work legally (and effectively) here we need a Nepali partner organisation and we're working with a local rotary club, The Rotary Club of Rudramati, for this project. I'm long acquainted with Kim, an active member of this club, who suggested this project to his club members a while back. I knew before coming out here that they were keen to work with us but it was still great to attend a club meeting, meet the members and hear from them directly about the support they can give. Six members of the club visited Ketaketi House last week to see how it runs and meet the boys, and seemed to like what they saw. There were suggestions about increasing numbers at Ketaketi but we discussed a family-style approach where the focus is on building a small 'family' with close relationships which are important for the children and that you do not get in larger hostels and children's homes. Everyone seemed keen on this approach for the next house.

The next suggestion was that I join the rotary club. I don't know much about the rotary but from the little I do (that it's 'a global network of business and professional leaders') I didn't think I was a likely candidate for membership. But in for a penny and all that … ! Joining will mean getting to know the members properly so should make working together much easier and who knows, there might even be other projects I can lend a hand with whilst I'm here.

March 2009 - Water

Written by Kathryn

Pani aio! = Water came! We got a full tank from our local supply today. We should get this daily but due to loadshedding (see below) water is only being pumped every three days and even then rarely for long enough for us to get a full tank. Also, a builder round the back of our house had water going spare. He was cleaning out a pump and pipes for drinking water so filled our spare tank on the koshi* with not-drinking-water-clean but clean-enough-to-wash-in-clean water. Fantastic!

All the boys had a bath. Some for the first time in weeks. Eight football loving boys - you can imagine the smell. I enjoyed a full bucket of cold water to shower with. The first I've had in the twelve days I've been living at Ketaketi House. Until now I've 'borrowed' a couple of jugfuls from a neighbour to wash my hair twice and had the odd jug for dirty feet etc, a mouthful daily for cleaning my teeth and - as in lieu of any other option - a large packet of baby wipes.

As every good pupil here will tell you: Nepal is the second water richest country in the world (Brazil is first). So it's ironic and depressing to be living with so little water and to see Kathmandu city so dry.

We should be getting a full tank of water (750 litres) a day from a local co-operative who have invested in digging 6 or 7 bores and now pump water to about 690 houses locally. It cost us 10,000 rupees (£92) to join this scheme and 150 rupees (£1.38) a month to receive water. However, since electricity is required to pump the water, the supply has been seriously limited by electricity loadsheddding. Unable to produce enough electricity to power Kathmandu, the government has restricted supply to each area of the city to 8 hours a day. Instead of daily our water is now being pumped every third day. Even then there often insufficient electricity to give us a full tank. Sometimes we're lucky, sometimes half a tank, sometimes only around 200 litres. According to the World Health Organisation a person need five litres of water a day just for drinking and cooking. That means at times we have as little as 50 litres of water for cleaning, bathing, dish washing, clothes washing and watering the vegetables in a household of ten people over three days.

Hydro power plants are barely effective at the moment as insufficient rainfall this winter means the rivers are dry. People are hoping that the monsoon season will rectify this bringing both a reduction in loadshedding and therefore more power to pump water. I'll keep you posted when the rain comes.

* The koshi is the flat roof of our house where we can sit in the sun, hang washing etc. A gagri is a traditional Nepali pot used for fetching, carrying and storing water. It holds about 18 litres.

March 2009 - "Technical Issues" in Nepal!

Written by Keith

We are having problems with getting photos on to a PC from a camera. Of course, once they are off, getting them uploaded with load shedding and unreliable net connections will also be a challenge! Hopefully we will have some photos for everyone to see soon.

March 2009 - House Manager Hunt

Written by Kathryn

It hasn't been easy! The initial round of advertising and interviewing yielded no results (much to the dismay of the Rotary Club who seemed to think I was just being fussy!). Then our second advert in the Kantipur, Kathmandu's biggest selling daily paper, threw up another fifty CVs. Candidates dropped off their CVs in person at 'my office' (on loan from a kind rotarian for the day) which was slightly overwhelming as I hadn't anticipated quite so many people! However, it was good to have plenty to choose from and became clear at the interview stage that we had a unanimous firm favourite and, luckily, we hadn't managed to put him off so our new House Manager, R.B. Gurung joined the team on 1st April. Hooray!

April 2009 - End of School Year

Written by Kathryn

Time for exam results, parent's day and holidays. All boys passed their exams with flying colours. Parent's day couldn't be missed as we had three boys receiving school medals for 1st in relay race, 1st in table tennis and 2nd position in class. Some boys were able to visit family during the holiday. For those who couldn't we took a trip to Manakamana which is a very famous temple reached by a four hour bus ride and a day's hike up a very big hill. I've done the climb on a previous trip but this time we sampled the delights of Nepal's only cable car to get to the top. Exciting for the boys - nervewracking for me!

Small world - I bumped into some of my former pupils from Devi Bal school at the top.

April 2009 - Festivals

Written by Kathryn

You're never far away from a holiday, festival or auspicious occasion here in Nepal. In recent weeks we've celebrated:

Holi
The festival of colours. Celebrated by throwing coloured powders and water over everyone in sight! If you leave home you need to be prepared to get wet as there's no dodging the ubiquitous water balloons. It's lots of fun although in these times of water shortages safer to play at home where you know your water source. Due to lack of water children are prone to filling up their balloons from any available source be it puddle, drain or worse. YUK!

Easter
Everyone's probably a bit more familiar with this one (or if not then just google 'Jesus'). Well, could I find a chocolate egg in Kathmandu? Nope. However, I did happen upon some Ferrero Rocher in a large supermarket favoured by ex-pats which if not quite egg shaped are at least round and contain chocolate. Chocolate brazil nuts were as oval as I could get. The real challenge though was getting up early enough to transport them to the house before the sun came up to melt them beyond edibility. We had an egg painting and rolling competition (yes, they're teenagers but anything's fun the first time you do it!) and if I can get my camera to work you yourself will be marvelling at the creative output to be gotten from a dozen hard boiled eggs and a packet of felt tips. Faberge eat your yolk out.

New Year
Not to be confused with either Sherpa or Hyolmo Losar - two other new year celebrations that took place last month - April 14th, or rather Baisak 1st, said goodbye to the year 2065. We celebrated with a feast of homemade momos (buffalo dumplings) which took about four hours to make and four minutes to scoff! Wishing everyone a happy and successful 2066!

April 2009 - House Hunt

Written by Kathryn

The perfect house is proving elusive. So far we've asked absolutely everyone we know to put the word out (at least three times!), put an advert in the local papers and sent the boys out to local shops across the area to paste our 'House Wanted' notice. We've seen a number of places but none are quite what we're looking for. So far they've been either too big, too small, too expensive or unsuitable for reasons such as they don't have a water supply or in one case the property had a tin roof held on by bricks and an outdoor toilet. The other problem is we're being offered lots of flats but we want to be self contained. One storey properties (like our first house) are hard to find though. People here usually buy land, build the first floor and as soon as they've got more money build the next floor and rent out any rooms they don't use themselves. And because land is expensive but building isn't, the houses just keep on going upwards and upwards. We were lucky with our first Ketaketi House - no sooner had the owner built the ground floor than he won the US Green Card lottery, left town and stopped building.

So we'll just have to keep on looking and really it's a case of walking around, asking locals and spotting likely looking vacant properties. Fingers crossed because no house = no children.

April 2009 - Ama, Didi and Dai Hunt

Written by Kathryn

There are, of course, plenty of other things to be doing whilst R.B. is off house hunting. Last week we recruited our Dai (brother) for the new house. Dai will visit the house three times a week as a mentor/tutor/big brother to help the boys with homework, any settling in problems, take them on outings and for family visits and just generally be an additional support for them. Of course we don't have any children yet so in the meantime … yes, he's house hunting!

Of course the house on its own won't be much use so we've also circulated our advert for Ama and Didi. Response hasn't been quite what we'd hoped (certainly not the overwhelming response we got for the manager post) but R.B. and I are hoping to hold interviews this week. If we can get our full team together then as soon as we get the house we'll be ready to go.

I really hope I can update you with some good house news soon!

May 2009 - Gas Theft

Written by Kathryn

The terai region of Nepal borders with India and is the route into the country for many everyday supplies such as petrol, gas, rice and other foodstuffs. Due to ongoing strikes these items are often in short supply here in Kathmandu.

Our neighbour runs a small shop selling every day groceries and providing a resting spot for a cup of tea or bowl of noodles. She also supplies cooking gas cylinders.

Last night a thief, or more probably a small team of thieves, broke into her house via the door on her rooftop and stole 13 gas cylinders. How she, her family and us (our house practically touches hers) managed to sleep through this I don’t know as the cylinders weigh an absolute ton and make a clanking racket if you knock them against anything.

I’d heard our dog barking like crazy through the night but the howling of dogs is constant sleep disturbing feature here in Kathmandu so it didn’t alert anyone to anything. And anyway, our dog, Tiger, makes the same fuss and racket supposing he sees a gang of murderers, a beetle or a crow.

I told a friend what happened. She had her own story to tell; in the middle of the afternoon a thief walked into their house and into their bathroom locking the door and proceeded to nick their taps and other fittings. Nobody saw a thing. And it happened twice! They padlock the door now.

I recently queried the false economy of fitting cheap, inefficient plastic taps on our outdoor water tanks. Our house manager told me that he’d previously fitted a brass ones only to have them stolen in the night.

May 2009 - Rain

Written by Kathryn

It rained! At last! In the three months I’ve been here we’ve had thunder and lightning and the threat of a storm resulting in a mere spattering of rain on a couple of occasions. But yesterday and today it has really rained – a downpour washing away the dust and pollution that hangs in the Kathmandu valley.

People are HAPPY! It’s long overdue as the usual winter rains did not come this year. And the city is just so dry and thirsty. People can walk about without face masks now (worn by many to combat the thick cloud of dust that hangs in the air and flies up from passing trucks and cars rather than the threat of swine flu).

The valley even LOOKS clean. I came to Kapan and from our rooftop the city looks brighter and fresher. People here love to paint their houses and the brighter the better. But recently everything looked brown and dirty covered with the thick dust. Kathmandu looks colourful again.

May 2009 - Caves

Written by Kathryn

What better way to spend a Saturday afternoon than in a small underground tunnel with two ten year olds?

It was time for an outing so on Saturday, after breakfast of dal bhat, we set off for Chaubar to visit some caves. Now I was aware we’d need a torch but not that it would need to be strapped to our heads as our hands would be otherwise occupied.

It seems there’s been a minor translation glitch at the Nepal Tourist Board. By “cave”, I believe what the NTB in fact meant was “a labyrinth of terrifyingly narrow, oxygenless underground tunnels”. “A trip to see the caves” might also be better described as potholing. An activity that’s appeal I have never been able to fathom.

However, pushing aside thoughts of the predicted and overdue earthquake and reassuring myself that it was highly unlikely that our overweight friend who’d (similarly unwittingly) accompanied us was REALLY stuck (he’d wriggle free with some help from our guide, surely?!), I somehow managed to enjoy the experience of clamouring through dark tunnels on hands and knees and belly whilst gently suggesting that our youngest boys not perch on that particular rock beside a goodnessknowshowmanyfeet drop to nowhere and survived to tell the tell.

Another slight oversight was wearing cream trousers – unlikely to ever be the same again.

The older boys did the medium route (the four of us had opted for the short one after the guide said the medium was “ali ali garo” – a wee bit tricky!). All boys said it was scary and fun. Apart from one who just said it was scary and he’d bumped his head.

Watch out, Keith dai – they’re keen to take you there on your next visit!

MAy 2009 - New House Team Ready to Go!

Written by Kathryn

Hooray! Welcome on board to Januka, Sarita and Manoj. Respectively our new house Ama, Didi and Dai (Mum, Sister and Brother). So now we just need a house, a school and some boys (in that order!).

R.B. recently found a house and we thought this is it! Finally! Only to have the owner call the next day and say some of his family wanted to move in so it was no longer available to rent, ah, well. Fingers crossed we’ll find it soon.

June 2009 - Recycling

Written by Kathryn

Kathmandu has very little in the way of refuse collection - hence the huge piles of rubbish that adorn the streets and are periodically burned by locals. The few landfill sites that do exist tend to be in controversial areas. Next to a drinking water reservoir is one example that springs to mind.

However, there are lots of individuals busy with recycling initiatives. This tends to be driven by the need for money rather than an environmental agenda but is just as effective. Kitchen waste goes to the stray cows which roam the city and plastics are picked up and sold on by street children (or sometimes refilled and sold so drink mineral water at your peril). Eight boys go through a lot of jotters in a school year and I had noticed two huge sackfulls under the stairs and was musing on paper wastage. However, one day a tinkling bell alerted the boys to the arrival of the paper collection guy – he roams from house to house picking up used jotters and text books. We got 15 rupees per kilo of jotters and 8 rupees for a kilo of old books. Not bad.

June 2009 - Swim

Written by Kathryn

Friends of my age tell me they used to swim in the various rivers flowing through Kathmandu when they were young. The idea is unthinkable to our boys who only know the open sewers and dumping grounds that the city’s rivers have become.

So swimming is a very rare treat here. We took the boys to an outdoor pool owned by a hotel, a short bus trip from our house. With only one near drowning and nobody actually succeeding in splitting their head open whilst attempting ambitious backflips into the pool, a good day was had!

June 2009 - Hoose!

Written by Kathryn

At last! After losing out on several properties (due to owners changing their minds) we’ve finally signed a lease for Ketaketi House #2!

The house is a ten minute walk north of our current house and a minute or two away from Banglamukhi temple. Banglamukhi is a goddess (one of the 33 million from the Hindu pantheon) and if you were thinking that it might be in any way auspicious (a much favoured word here in Nepal) to be situated so close to a temple then you’d be wrong. It’s impossible to be more than a stone’s throw from a religious monument here. Well, with 33 million gods to house (and that’s just Hinduism) there’d have to be.

Anyway, having a house means we now also have a house name! Banglamukhi House (or Bangla House if it’s a bit of a mouthful for the folks at home) is now being carpeted, furnished ready for ama, didi and the boys to move in.

It’s a bit different from our house at Kapan as we’re sharing it. We’re renting the ground floor with our landlord and his family living upstairs. Fingers crossed this is the beginning of a beautiful friendship. It’s going very well so far but then we don’t have eight noisy teenage boys in residence yet.

The location is beautiful. The house sits on a hill at the edge of the city so the view is fantastic. We’ve got a huge Buddhist monastery above us and lots of open spaces around us – great for children to play – and the local school is a five minute stroll down the hill.

Look forward to updating you again soon!

June 2009 - Fitba

Written by Kathryn

The coca cola school cup kicked off this week in Nepal and since our very own Santosh (our oldest boy) had been selected for the school team I was keen to be in the audience. As the schools were on strike that day (a blow for children’s education across the country but boost for supporter numbers) the whole family was able to attend.

Delighted to report that Joseph High were victorious over Little Gems Academy with a score of 3-1 with Santosh scoring the opening goal!

The only other live match I’ve been to was Aberdeen vs Dundee United at Pittodrie in 1996 (score 3-3). It was harder to keep your eye on the ball at this match what with grass only covering about 40% of the pitch and clouds of dust flying up around the players’ feet but it was definitely much more exciting! (A touch warmer than Pittodrie too, of course).

June 2009 - Strike

Written by Kathryn

Argh! Nepal bhanda = Nepal closed.

It seems petty to moan about the new house carpet fitting being delayed when repeated strikes are ruining children’s education, forcing businesses to the brink of collapse and creating greater and greater political instability for the nation. But I’m going to anyway.

The plan was: carpets in today, curtains measured up, mattresses delivered tomorrow and meet with R.B. to plan the rest of our “to do before the boys move in” list.

Well, the Maoist led strike means no to all of the above. I can’t even meet R.B. as he lives across town and no vehicles are allowed on the road. Our rotary meeting will also be cancelled which is a shame as it was to be held at our president’s house who has some spare furniture to donate.

It’s rumoured to be a two day strike so I may have to curb my impatience tomorrow as well.

I should be used to it – it’s cancelled meetings, delayed children’s outings, disrupted our interviews for house staff – and I should adopt the Nepali attitude: shrug and say “ke garne” (what to do? with the implication that there’s nothing to be done) but I just can’t help but feel continually dismayed to see the country which is already struggling so much be ground to a halt and held back more.

June 2009 - Countdown

Written by Kathryn

Final preparations are well underway now as we get ready for the arrival of our new boys.

Tuesday

House cleaned and carpets fitted.

Wednesday

Held our first staff meeting up at the house to show everyone around and start moving everyone in. Fortunately, everyone seemed to like it. When Ama and Didi said they were ready to move in "tomorrow" I took them at their word. However, I don't know how I managed to forget this but obviously we couldn't just move in without checking it was an auspicious enough day for such activities! Well, it wasn't going to be – apparently Thursdays never are. The priest advised Friday between 1 – 3pm would suit us best and ensure prosperity for the future so...

Thursday

Not auspicious enough = nothing happening.

Friday

Moving day! Ama and Didi arrived with their bags. So did ten mattresses, two gas cylinders (for cooking), kitchenware, water pots and a water filter.

We also descended en masse – R.B, the didis from our Kapan House along with all the boys and my Dad who's visiting this week. We got there just in time (2.45pm) to fall within the auspicious time and participate in a pouja ceremony to bless our new home.

Saturday

Curtains, ten pillows, ten blankets, ten towels, keram board (traditional Nepali game), football and marbles for the boys.

Sunday

TV, gas stove, food for a family of ten for a month and metal trunks – one for each boy to keep his stuff in.

Monday

This morning I took Miss Bagwati – a member of the CWIN team – up to Bangla house to give staff some training in working with children and to plan the boys' induction into the house.

The children CWIN have selected for our new house do not all have a street background. These children are from the CWIN peace home for children displaced by the Maoist conflict. CWIN housed around 150 children in their peace home during the ten year conflict and once the peace agreement was signed (2 years ago) they began to reunite children with families and send them back to their villages. However, this isn't always possible for children whose parents have been killed, are in prison or have disappeared. We'll provide a new home for eight such boys.

The Rest of The Week

If all goes to plan (and when does it ever?!) we're hoping the boys will arrive on Wednesday (has anyone checked if it's auspicious?) and take the rest of the week to settle into the house, get to know Ama and Didi and visit their new school. We're planning a big picnic on Saturday with the boys from both houses and various other friends so we can all get to know each other. The boys will then start school on Sunday.

It might sound very fast but CWIN have been doing lots of work to prepare the boys for the move – apparently they're all very excited and keen to start school too.

June 2009 - Things Go To Plan

Written by Kathryn

Wednesday - Moving in day

Not sure what happened on Wednesday but our new boys moved into Banglamukhi House on Thursday! Welcome to Sujan, Umesh, Umakanta, Hira, Purna, Bhimsen, Bibek and Dalbir all aged 9 – 13 years.

After a day to settle in, the boys visited their new school on Friday to sit a wee test to determine which class they'll read in. They got measured for their new uniforms, collected their textbooks and then visited the barbers to get their heads shaved to get rid of lice.

I visited with Dad in the evening for a short while to say hello, get some photos and play some carom (finger billiards in English, apparently wikipedia.org/wiki/Carrom).

Picninc

After MUCH deliberation and mind changing we FINALLY settled on Thankot as our picnic location. The bus was booked and all the food bought but ... Sushil from our Kapan house got up in the morning and nipped down to the shops to pick up some last minute stuff for the picnic and came off his bike. We were in A&E by about 6.30am and he didn't get home until about 2pm. He's fine now - just badly cut with a fractured finger. Thank goodness that's all as he had a nasty head wound so we were worried for a while. Anyway, picnic cancelled obviously so once back from the hospital the Bangla boys came down to Kapan to meet everyone, play football and have a bit of a picnic in the house! (Reminds me of picnics at home where it's so wet you end up eating your egg sandwiches in the car). After the new boys left, Hemanta asked if they could visit each other EVERY Saturday so I think it went well!

Hungry

The new boys were VERY disappointed that the picnic meat curry was cancelled. So Ama took the situation in hand and visited the butcher for Sunday's dinner. The new boys are very thin, are eating for about four people each and were, I'm sure, very happy to tuck into chicken curry last night.