last morning in Kathmandu. Sean, my travel/teaching companion + Luxme, Green Tara’s administrator + I went out for one last look around the city. I feel so sad to be leaving. Our time together as a team has been great + everyone got along so well. Subina, our translator, was wonderful + made the process of changing our presentations into Nepali so much smoother than I imagined it would be. As we were driving to the airport I saw some graffiti on a wall – “we will rise up again” – and I thought of how proud + determined the Nepali people I have met are in striving to improve the lives of their communities. I am so pleased to have been able to contribute a little to this cause.
Sitting here in green Tara’s house, I can’t forget the wonderful work that this charity is doing to help the most disadvantaged communities in Nepal. Without the efforts to improve health status, and thus educational achievement, the poor communities would not make much progress. The links that green Tara have with the U.K. are well established, especially the relationship there is with both LJMU + Bournmouth uni, through the efforts of Padam Simkhada and Edwin van Teijlingen. I am not sure what else I will be able to do to be part of this work, but I will certainly be fundraising in the future. I will never forget the conditions that I saw in Nawalparasi, but also the enthusiasm of the ANM’s who are committed to supporting the women in those communities. The reason for our work there was because of the rising suicide rate; I just hope that the efforts being made have the desired outcome.
Although Nepal is fairly small in size (the size of England + Wales), there is huge geographical diversity. From high mountains to jungle, a large % of the population living remote areas without access or services, due to basic gaps in the country’s infrastructure. This is not helped by frequent changes in government and of course last year’s earthquake has had and still has a devastating effect. Bordered and land locked by the two superpowers of China and India, it seems like Nepal has no way out. But they are an amazingly resilient people and are keen to progress. With a population of 26.5, 125 diverse caste + ethnic groups, each with its own distinct language + culture, there is huge diversity. Although Nepali is the official language, only44% of the population speak it. Enough of the lesson ! This is a picture of Nawalparasi children on their way to school.
This has been such a lovely break + we are now on the last leg of the journey. Back to Kathmandu today and then home on Monday. I can’t believe my time in Nepal is nearly over. I have loved it all, and especially pokhara. Such a pity that the mountains were not visible because of the haze.
We have had a day off – no that is not totally true as we are meeting yet another person from a private university to talk about scholarships for Nepali students. They have lots of undergraduate studies, but no post grad ones, so everyone is keen to remedy the situation. Education is indeed the way out of poverty for many young Nepalese people. We spent some time in Lakeside, which was lovely, but the mountains were obscured by the haze. Such a shame.
i have found it difficult to eat as much as my Nepali colleagues! Each day we have been offered omelette and roti for breakfast, but I have opted just for a banana and bread. On our last day there was no choice- the breakfast just arrived and consisted of roti, boiled egg, chickpea curry + yoghurt – I felt sick at the thought of eating this at 7.30am. I didn’t want to offend, so ate a bit of roti, the boiled egg and the yoghurt! We then had rice, curry and veg at lunchtime and generally loads of starters and then curry again for dinner! I generally have just eaten a tiny portion or I would be coming home enormous! I just can’t understand how the Nepalese are thin- they also take lots of sugar in tea + coffee. I asked for coffee with no sugar + was given coffee with saccharine!
Today was the last day of training + then we travelled to pokhara for a couple of days rest + sightseeing. The training went well and the participants enjoyed the Hokey Cokey ( as a way of showing a good connection with others and having fun!) The drive to pokhara over the hills was striking. Lush green terraced slopes with houses perched on the hillside. I didn’t manage to get a good photo as our driver didn’t slow down for a moment- the journey was a bit hairy and the seatbelt wouldn’t fasten, so I did feel a bit vulnerable. I shouldn’t have watched the Walking the Himalayas programme, especially when the taxi plunged down a ravine!
Firstly I need to revise what I said in my last blog about food. Over 9 million Nepalis live in areas where there is a lack of nutrition and severe food insecurity. More than half of all districts in Nepal are food deficient, particularly in the mountainous and terai regions. We are now on our way to pokhara and have decided to drive on the country roads rather than the main highway as there are roadworks + road blocks. Our driver is very cautious so that is good, but the roads are awful. Some have Tarmac, others have a base layer and then there are some that are simply rubble. I can’t help thinking about the guy in the Walking the Himalayas programme, where the taxi went down a ravine!! But we arrived safely, even although it was not possible to take any photos as it was late at night. This was the baby of one of the ANM’s.
I was surprised just how medicalised the birthing centre was. All of the women are encouraged to give birth on a surgical bed! The good thing is that the women get some money if they go to the centre and there has been a reduction in the maternal and infant mortality as a result. The difficulty is when there are complications as they then have to travel quite a long was to the hospital. The ANM told us a story of one girl who had complications and her family had very little money, so they had to sell their buffalo to fund the transport to the hospital – which, incidentally, was a cart pulled by two Buffaloes, but then she actually delivered her baby on the road to the hospital.
This morning we visited one of the 23 Green Tara Trust birthing centres before we did our day’s training. This was in a very poor area which was difficult to look at as the people living here had such poor home conditions. Padam said that this was not the worst area as at least there was a community of people living here, they have a water pump and have made latrines, so the number of children dying from diarrhoea was much reduced. 80% of the women also deliver their babies in the birthing centre which is much safer than at home and 98% breast feed exclusively for the first six months. Certainly all the babies I have seen have been chubby, but the toddlers quite thin. I would have loved to have taken some pictures of the children, but we just landed in the little hamlet + it felt very intrusive to be there, so I certainly did not want to make this worse by getting my camera out. The parents just stared at us, but the children were more curious. Not every day that an old pale skinned grey haired woman turns up at your door