Monday, October 25, 2010

In happier helpful news!

I’m going to Pohkara tomorrow!

And, I have a project for when I get back. There is a spare room here that I would like to convert into a library/reading room for the girls. If any one feels like donating a few dollars, it would be greatly appreciated. I need to buy carpet, cushions, a low table, shelving and BOOKS. Books are so cheap here that even a few dollars will buy one or two children’s books, and the kids will have somewhere to do their homework and chill out.


I set up a paypal account to make it easy, I put a donate button to the left. You guys are awesome, and contributing to a worthwhile cause! Promise!

It’s a man’s world.

So having been taken to a shopping mall and had a coffee I have gotten over my homesickness and realised that it isn’t so much the tangible things I’m missing, its the unrepressed society. What actually set me off was a night out on Friday. I’d been meaning to write about women in Nepal for a while, but wanted to gather more information.  (Sorry Sam, just warning you, you’re going to have to do some reading)

This is a truly patriarchal society.

On Friday night I went out with some of the so-called liberal, up-and-coming young middle-class. I have never felt more anger under the surface for an entire night, and been unable to do anything about it.

It is wrong of me to make generalisations about the men in Nepal, Nepali people are very friendly, generous, and laid back, but Nepali men have this possessive, insecure, obnoxious and abusive side to them when it comes to their girlfriends. Like the girls belong to them. (Actually, having researched a bit, its standard that husbands and senior members of the household have the right to control women, and it often leads to police trying to resolve domestic abuse cases without using the law, i.e. the female should accept the situation.) What set my anger was when one seemingly rational, ‘liberal’, young Nepali man turned into a controlling, irrational freak who rang every few minutes to check on his girlfriend, believing her to be lying to him and cheating on him, then proceeded to ban her from partying that night, or going away for the weekend, then verbally abused her through text messages and down the phone, and this turns out to be acceptable behaviour, to be laughed off slightly shakenly, with every attempt to placate the arsehole, the mind boggles.

This, apparently, is normal.

And these people are the up-and-coming middle class of Nepal. These are the liberals who want a new government (or any kind of democratic government as a start), hate the corruption and the lies of the politicians, discuss philosophy and human rights, are champions for the villagers, and want progress for the country. Yet the entrenched discrimination against women is ignored, and the way they treat their girlfriends is appalling. And tolerated. I didn’t write about it straight away because I wanted to calm down and (try) to think objectively about it. But I’m not at uni anymore, and this is an editorial not a analytical paper, so I’m just going to mind-blurt.

In Nepal women are disadvantaged when it comes to work, education, health, and property.

There are approximately half a million children out of school, more than 60% of them female. 34.9% of females in the country are literate, in contrast to 62.7% of males. (2001 Census).

A report from the National Women Commission (NWC) showed that only 0.78% of houses in 68 of the 75 districts were legally owned by women – about 3 houses in every 500, 5.25% had land ownership certificates and 16% of women had a regular income. 8% of the civil-service and private sector is made up of women.


Nepali women seem to do ALL the work around home, especially in the villages where women cook, clean, do the heavy labouring and manual work, carry massive loads on their backs, can move huge rocks, and are seen as second class to males. They work harder, longer, for less reward. Other issues facing women here are human trafficking, selling young girls as indentured servants to higher-caste homes, forced marriages, caste stigma, witchery-accusations and domestic abuse.

In legal news:

  • If a women does not bear her husband a son within 10 years of marriage, the man is legally allowed to take a second wife.
  • In 2005 a law was passed allowing a women under 35 to apply for a passport without her parents or husbands permission.
  • A bill to provide support for domestic violence victims (and differentiate domestic violence from other acts of violence – at the moment there is only a law regarding assault that can be used), come up in parliament for 13 years, was dismissed at the end of the 2008 session.
  • The rural custom of banning a women from the house while she had her period was only made illegal in 2005.

There is hope though! There are many cooperatives for women in Nepal, providing employment and training, education, health care and support for their children. One is the Association for Craft Producers, who are actually a producer group that sells to Trade Aid in New Zealand, and who I am hoping to go visit next week. They have a store here in Kathmandu called Dhukuti. Another shop I visited last week with Mum was also a women’s co-operative called  Spiral Foundation in conjunction with Himalayan Healthcare. Rubbish is recycled and turned into beautiful crafts. All the net proceeds go towards healthcare, adult literacy classes, school support and income to the women in remote mountain villages.

The National Women Commission was also set up by the Nepali Government to create a ‘gender equal society.’ 2010 was pronounced by the Prime Minister last year to be the year to end violence against women as Nepal makes the transformation from traditional Hindu monarchy to modern secular state. The Himalayan Times today had more to say about the steps being taken to become a secular state, but with the erratic internet access today I’m finding it hard to get information.

The female mortality rate has gone up since the 90’s, as has the literacy rate (by 4%), women are no longer likely to die before men, and the

House of Hope’s main priority is to educate girls. One of the reasons there are mainly girls here is because of the tradition to pull girls out of school in times of financial stress, or just in general because it is thought to be pointless since the girl will move to another family when married. All the girls here are from small villages where this would have happened, not only because they have no immediate family, but because they can or will not be supported by their families.

Which reminds me, look at the little ones in their school uniforms!! So smart! So cute! So ragged, – I am going to buy a buttons, cotton and a needle and fix their shirts. I think the school tie is to hide the fact that their shirts don’t have buttons up the front! Also shoe laces. And new socks.

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I think there’s probably some quite interesting reading to be found, and I almost wish i was still at university to go on JStor to find out. Almost. :P Actually, this did manage to load before the last power cut, and though some of that stats aren’t current it reports on many of the issues faced by women in Nepal.

Sunday, October 24, 2010

Culture fatigue

- homesickness that comes on slowly, as Patrick so aptly put it.

I am missing Western society. Or maybe just NZ society. I’m missing coffee, cheese, wine, working, having someone to speak to everyday in English, someone to cuddle who isn’t five years old! I’ve had the biggest cravings for nachos with chilli beans, cheese, avocado…. for my dad’s prawns, for summer barbeques, for the beach, for good company and solid conversation!! I’m missing the freedom of being able to do what I want, when I want, and I’m missing the news! I miss secularism, and feminism as the norm.

I also miss being ignored, as opposed to stared at by groups of men in the village as I walk home, or hassled by street hawkers and beggars, and a million little voices wanting Didi to run around with them! Actually, I don’t mind the last one so much – but man, I don’t think I’ve run as much in my life as here playing tag and Water and Ice. They don’t understand “Alex-Didi is tired and needs to fall over now”. Though they kinda understand the flaming red cheeks. Smile

Mum bought me an Economist last week, and I’ve been trawling through it for news of the outside world. I visit stuff news everyday, and it sucks btw. BBC is better, but I don’t like there new layout so the part in me that dislikes change is being obstinate.

I am really looking forward to trekking on Tuesday and seeing Kinnari. We’re doing part of the Annapurna circuit, and I’m going paragliding!! With the eagles Open-mouthed smile

How do I turn the stupid emoticons off?

Saturday, October 23, 2010


The other night Abheshek and Ester showed me how to get on the roof. After a second attempt I got over my crippling fear of heights and made it up to the top… where I clung, lying flat on my stomach giggling.

I didn’t take any photos during the day, but had fun playing with the settings on my camera. I am not an experienced photographer – far from it, I rely on my fancy camera to take great photos. Soooo, if anyone wants to give me some tips on how to take sunset/landscape/dusk photos, I would be very grateful! There was an epic sunset on the Himalaya’s this evening and I couldn’t get it to be anything other than too dark, or blurry. (I don’t have a tripod).

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Good night, sleep tight, don’t let the bed bugs bite! (Seriously) x

Thursday, October 21, 2010

A visit to the zoo, and new clothes!

After dropping mum at the airport we met up with the younger girls who hadn’t gone home for Dasain, and Ester and Prerna at the zoo. They were so excited! They had gotten the bus into Jawalakhel, and were all dressed up in their good clothes (half of which were from mum).

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The zoo wasn’t as dire as I could have expected, but not great… The cages were small, and the animals seemed to be asleep. It wasn’t hugely busy, but there was a good sized crowd. Apparently there are concerns about the welfare of many of the animals,a nd the zoo has a high number of deaths. To be honest, its amazing there even is a zoo, seeing how the infrastructure (or lack of) and other community needs are met. We managed to see a tiger, leopards, rhinocerous, hippos, crocodiles, a giant tortoise, lots of birds, two hyenas, monkeys and deer. The kids were ecstatic the entire time, and we had lunch afterwards at the little restaurant? inside the zoo. We caught the bus back home afterwards, and Kunchan fell asleep on my lap, everyone was very tired from their big excursion!

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Farewell Mama!


Lisa left this morning, having delighted the orphanage with her presence Smile The little girls were looking at pictures I’d taken of her and call her Lisa-Mummy! As opposed to Alex-Didi, which means big sister. I realised I don’t have any photos of her with the girls, but I do have lots from our weekend together! I think she has more. She might hate this post, but it is an ode to her generous, kind, amazing spirit! That’s probably as good as I get at giving compliments, but she really leaves such a great wake behind. Eli and Gopal, Prerna and Abheshek all loved her, and so did the kids. And me of course! She bought the children enough new underwear, stationery and a heap of clothes from NZ (which she missed seeing them in this afternoon), with the intention of starting penpals up for the kids from the local intermediate school in New Plymouth.

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She is a truly wonderful woman, a great traveller, and manages to look gorgeous the entire time. Love you Mum!




We were early to the airport so Abheshek took us to Bodhnath or Boudhanath Stupa again. We got some info about the stupa this time, so i can tell you a bit more about it. It is a UNESCO World Heritage Site, and one of the most sacred places to Himalayan Buddhists. Boudhanath means ‘lord of wisdom’. It is approximately 120ft in diameter and 43m high. It has a thick layer of whitewash and the form of a double lotus depicted in saffron water colours it. There is no concrete answer to how old the stupa is, but varying reports put it at 1300-1600 years old. 

Monday, October 18, 2010

A lovely few days with my mother and a post for Sophie.

Lisa turned up early, so we got to hang out for longer! She is here tomorrow as well, but I thought I’d share some photos. We have done LOTS of shopping, and I got skipping ropes for the kids. Man, best idea EVER. This evening was spent with giggling little girls, shrieking girls, excited girls, and a slightly bemused Rajan.

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Having a crazy hair day. Having a crazy hair month I think. The girls were so excited though! It makes me want to go buy so many toys for them, they are so appreciative and get so much joy out of the smallest things.

The post for my dear friend Sophie is more to do with our shopping excursions, and all the fabulous fabrics, and embroidery we’ve come across. Mum bought a cashmere cardigan in Thamel, and I got some beautiful pashminas to give as gifts.

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Lots of hand-dyed, or hand-printed, or hand-embroidered, and little crazy sewing machine embroidered, wall hangings, sheets, scarves, quilts, stacked in shops, hanging in the street, piled everywhere! If I manage to find out more I’ll let you know.

The other day Prerna came into Thamel with us, and we visited the Garden of Dreams. I had already been there with Kinnari the other day (still haven’t gotten round to writing about it), but it is a BEAUTIFUL little tranquil spot right in Kathmandu, and you couldn’t believe it. It cuts out the hot, dusty, noisy street and leaves you with a serene, quiet, cool garden based on Edwardian estates in the UK.

In the 1920’s the son of the Prime Minister, Kaiser some-one, won 1 lak (100,000 rupees) in a game of cowrie shells with his father. He spent the money on a 4 acre garden based on the ones he’d seen in the UK, to complement his palace, with 6 pavilions for each of the Nepali seasons. It fell into complete disrepair, and turned almost jungle like, until 2006 when an Austrian organisation funded its restoration. There are a few changes to the original, and it is now only 1 acre with 3 pavilions, but it is a true little oasis inside Kathmandu. Along with free wi-fi, you can lie on the grass on lawn mats in the sun, or swing on the bamboo swing set up for Dasain, or even eat in the flashy little cafe in the eastern Pavilion. Man, I just re-read that and I sound like an advertisement. But here are photos to prove it! Most are from my trip in with Kinnari when we spent 3 hours here, writing postcards, looking around, escaping the heat and drinking ice-tea.

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This photo is from House of Hope this evening. Sweet dreams! I hope the cicadas are out now. x