Wednesday 26 September 2018

The Last Day, The First Day

After 11 years and 2 weeks today was our last day with BMS. We started with them in mid-September 2007 when we came to Birmingham to start training. It seems a little poetic that our last day was also spent here in Birmingham, living at the same training centre.

Sam and Mim are settling into their school. It is definitely a learning curve for them and us too, but generally they are enjoying it and doing well. We have managed to connect with a couple of Mums at the school and Becky is planning to go along to the next PTA meeting in a week.

Fish & Chips to celebrate getting work!
Today was also the first day of a new adventure for Dan. He spent today in a school having a trial day for a long-term supply. The school have offered him a maternity cover for the rest of the school year, which he has taken. It is teaching secondary ICT mostly Years 7-9 in a large comprehensive in West Birmingham. Its great for us as a family to have a long term and reliable income as we continue to settle. Becky is also job hunting and has started to apply for jobs.

With that in mind we have also started house hunting close to the children’s school. The flat we are in is great, but it is small and it’s quite a trip to school each morning. It can take from between 10 to 30 minutes to get across there, depending on traffic. So we’re looking for places within walking distance to the school which is in a nice and popular area.

On this last day there is so much we could say and reflect on as our time with BMS comes to a close. We want to thank you all for your interest, support and prayers over the years. The journey turned out to be a lot longer than we expected when we wrote our first blog in 2007. It has been an amazing adventure and a huge part of our lives. We look forward to the next one. But we probably won’t blog about that.

Thank you.

Wednesday 22 August 2018


What’s next? Why Birmingham? What will you be doing there? Where will you live? What job will you do? What church will you go to? How are you feeling about being back in the UK?
We’ve been asked these questions a lot in the last few weeks – and we don’t mind – we appreciate the interest and the care. But it’s hard work answering them, especially when the answers to so many of them are “We don’t know!”

The kids room gets filled up
But today the new adventure began, and hopefully some of the answers to these questions might start to become clearer.

This morning we moved to IMC in Birmingham. This is the training centre we moved to in September 2007 to train to go to Nepal. This will be our temporary home for the next few months. We have a small 2 bedroom flat in the building, but with the communal and outside space being quite significant we shouldn’t feel cramped!

The kids have both got into a school about 2 ½ miles away from IMC. The school is in an area called King’s Heath, and we will look to find a house and a local church to attend in that area. We are starting to research these things now in preparation.

Dan is signed up with a local supply agency and hopes by the end of September to start work as a supply teacher in local schools. Like so many things in our life at the minute he is excited and nervous about this.

View from our flat at the gardens
We have decided that initially Becky will not work but take time to settle the kids and scope the area. She intends to work teaching English to English language learners, but in what context we don’t know yet.

So this week we have packed up, loaded up and come up to Birmingham. Made slightly more challenging by Dan’s recent medical issue, as he can’t lift anything, but we’ve had plenty of help from family and friends.

11 years to the week after we left our last English home in Liverpool we are heading on our next new adventure and to our new home town. 

Tuesday 14 August 2018


Last Thursday I (Dan) was in a lot of pain in my stomach and quite unwell. When I woke on Friday and the pain was still there and had moved into the lower abdomen I feared what this meant. A call to the NHS 111 helpline confirmed that I needed to see a doctor, who then diagnosed suspected appendicitis.  

Waiting for surgery
Becky and I headed up to the John Radcliffe hospital in Oxford, locally known by all as the JR. Having been referred to the Emergency Surgical Unit we were well aware of what might be ahead, and indeed the diagnosis was confirmed and I was told to prepare for surgery. We did have to wait a few hours, but less than 12 hours after seeing a doctor for the first time I was being wheeled down the corridors towards the operating theatre.

First up I got to meet the anaesthesiologists. These were a very friendly bunch who greeted you and joked with you like you were about to become life long friends. They then knock you out and you never see them again. I awoke a few hours later and was soon dispatched to the ward, the pain, along with regular checks through the night by the automatic machine which suddenly takes your blood pressure without warning (imagine your partner suddenly grabbing hold of your arm very tightly at random intervals through the night!) and the nurse who kept checking my temperature and scanning my barcode meant that sleep was fitful.
In the morning it was clear I’d had surgery from my nice scars and the pain! As the consultant said though, “Is the pain different? Cause if it’s the same pain then our surgery obviously hasn’t worked, at least if the pain is different we know we’ve done something.” I was pleased to report the pain was different. A few hours later I was discharged and now it’s the slow recovery. Okay, a few weeks isn’t that long compared to those who have major surgery, but not lifting anything more than a kettle for 2 weeks will definitely be frustrating at times!

An appendectomy is apparently the most commonly performed surgery worldwide and while all surgery carries some risk, it’s appears to be (from my extensive knowledge or internet research) one of the more straightforward and least risky surgeries. I’m sure many of you reading have had this or had someone you know go through this.

Hospital souvenirs 
A number of people have asked “Are you glad this happened now or a few weeks back in Nepal.” Honestly this question has got me thinking. I know that the medical care in Nepal would have been fine, I’ve had friends go through this surgery there, and they do the keyhole too, and they do a good job. The doctors I would have seen would have probably spoken fluent English, as most well-educated people in Kathmandu can. In Nepal Becky would have been able to stay with me all the way through (except the actual surgery), whereas here she got sent home an hour or so before I went for surgery as visiting times were over. Of course, in Nepal she, or someone, would have been required to stay with me as healthcare doesn’t include any extra care. She’d have had to get my medicines and meals. In the UK they do explain things in much more detail which is reassuring that you really do know what’s going on. And then of course there is the cost.

In Nepal as we left the hospital our final act would have been to pay the bill which we recall from others would have been several hundred pounds. Of course, we had insurance which would have covered the costs, after the initial outlay, but for many of our Nepali friends that wasn’t an option and hospital bills just have to be paid out of their income and savings, if they have any. At KISC we had a fund that helped cover costs when there were emergencies such as this for our Nepali staff, but these were all things to help. None of them solved the problem that Nepal doesn’t have universal healthcare. Something for which I am so thankful that the UK provides us all with. God Bless the NHS!

Thursday 14 June 2018

Momo Day

Mmmmm, momos

This week Mim was skipping up our corridor singing “It’s Momo Day”. It is the most popular day of the term for many people and also one of the busiest for some sections of KISC. On Momo day 2,000 Momos are made and consumed.

But what are Momo’s? They are a favourite food of Nepal, although they are Tibetan in origin. The large number of Tibetan refugees in Nepal, mean that they are very popular here, although they have probably been made and sold in Kathmandu for centuries. Momos are a steamed dumpling that are filled with either meat, usually chicken or buff, or vegetables. They are available in almost every restaurant in Kathmandu and once or twice a term we get them for lunch at KISC. This is known as Momo Day.

Enjoying a plate a few months back

If you order them in a restaurant you’ll usually get a plate of about 12, although the KISC momo eating champion claims he can eat more than 30 in one sitting. There are actually momo eating competitions in Kathmandu!

Helping prepare momos with the kitchen staff
On KISC days it’s always chicken and you have the choice of steamed or fried. As they have to make around 2000 momos we have to hire in extra staff to help. This past week they had a special guest! I wanted to know how to make them and so I joined the kitchen staff for an hour to help. As I very slowly folded my momo, the kitchen staff powered through, making very neat and uniform looking momos. Mine were all wonky and each looked unique. Although, as one of them pointed out, they’d been doing it for 25 years, whereas I’d been doing it for 25 minutes. The good news was that all mine still got eaten, and nobody complained theirs didn’t look as good.

Momos are definitely one of the things that 3 of us will miss, Becky isn’t too fused. The time in the kitchen will maybe help me know what to do and I can try to make them in the UK. We’ll see!

Thursday 7 June 2018

Changing seasons

The crops are growing
We are reliably informed that monsoon is only a few days away. The heat has arrived mercifully late this year. I’ve only started carrying my umbrella everywhere this week. We need it at all times once the summer begins, either to shade from the sun or shelter from the rain. We also need all weather shoes for sun and rain. The paths quickly turn to mud where we are now on the edge of the city and the roads in the city flood surprisingly fast. Crops are growing everywhere in the fields around our new home in the countryside, corn, potatoes and chillies seem to be the crops of choice near us. Rice is being planted, or will be soon further out of the city.

Arriving at our school farewell, with marching band!
As the season here changes our minds are definitely looking to what is next. We fly in less than 3 weeks, saying goodbye to our home of 10 years. The goodbyes are in full swing. The official school ones have now been done. Including an enormous surprise one with marching band and special school assembly.

We are now taking time to be with close friends when we can. As well as the school work and practicalities of packing up to be finished. Boxes and suitcases are starting to get filled as we’ll be on that plane before we know it!

It's not just our thoughts that are turning to the next step.  We're pushing on with organising practicalities for the UK as best we can from afar.  It is of course much easier in our globally connected world. We’ve just bought a car, so you’ll see us zipping around in a silver ford fiesta this summer! We’re researching schools, churches and neighbourhoods. Dan's applying for jobs and we're close enough in time that he'll actually be able to attend interviews if called. Birmingham remains our destination, unless there is a late twist in the tale.

Tuesday 10 April 2018

Helambu Trek

Over the Easter break we had the opportunity to go trekking for 6 days with some friends including fellow BMS workers, Chris and Debbie Drew. We were 5 adults, four children aged 6-9 and four teenagers. We travelled less than two hours to the north side of Kathmandu and were trekking by 8.30am on the first day. We spent 3 days heading north towards the Langtang mountain range before turning East.

This is a very Tibetan area, most people coming from the Sherpa people group. We enjoyed their cosy lodges with wood burning stoves and delicious Tibetan bread, as well as the more commonly found chapatis and dhal bhat (Lentil curry and rice).

We saw beautiful scenery, stunning terraced hillsides dotted with villages, rhododendron forests just coming into bloom, yaks, jumas (half yak, half cow) and of course, mountains. Sam and Mim even got to see their first snow – which we were not very well prepared for!

The area we were trekking in was badly affected by the Earthquake in 2015. We passed through many villages which seemed to be just starting the rebuilding process, and stayed in two where nothing survived the Earthquake. Many houses we saw and stayed in were built from corrugated iron and wood. There was rebuilding starting everywhere but for many they have spent nearly 3 years in temporary accomodation. We were glad to see that the rebuilding seems to be being done well, with lots of rebar (iron reinforcement rods) being used. We were glad to be able to bring a little income into these communities to help them with the rebuilding process.

EQ damaged houses stripped and left to balance.

A village we stayed in the second night, every house was destroyed
This week we are back to school, feeling a little tired and achy, but enjoying being back. This is our final term at KISC, so it feels quite strange as we are excited for what’s ahead and sad to be leaving our home of 10 years.

Thursday 1 March 2018

New School

Clearing field
Over the past 30 years KISC has led a relatively nomadic existence being located at 5 different locations. As we said in our last blog, the longest was Dhobighat, where it had been from January 2008 until it closed there on February 8 2018.

Then on February 9 we set to work, packing and moving. The move was supposed take 12 days with reopening on the 21 February. However, due to some slight delays in the building process we made the decision to push back the reopening to the 26 February. This meant students had a slightly longer than anticipated half term break – just over 2 weeks.

Ready for students
This was a strange couple of weeks. Initially intense as we packed up and the movers started moving things up. Then a lull as rooms weren’t ready as we anticipated meaning we’d moved more stuff than the site was ready to receive. Then disappointment as we knew it wouldn’t be ready in time. Then anxiousness as we wondered whether we would make the new date, then frantic as we completed moving and getting rooms ready.

Finished Main building
Last Sunday, the 25th, we had all staff on site completing the final touches. The school hall had been used as a dumping ground for spare furniture and maintenance materials and PE equipment (the room they were supposed to be in was being used as a paint store by the builders). A large group of staff spent the morning clearing this stuff out into other temporary storage and then cleaning the hall ready for use on Monday. The staff spread out over the field to check for and clear any last remaining rubbish from the builders and we went through the routines for the Monday.

I arrived at the school on Monday morning, to find that there had been some last minute work leaving a mess in the corridors of the secondary. A group of teachers and our cleaning staff quickly set to work sweeping the corridors while I led a whole school assembly in the hall to mark the opening.
Primary Lunchtime
Then we set the students loose on the school. They are enjoying the new site, especially the space. Dhobighat was a small inner-city site. Now we have a large field, wide corridors, and the site is spread out enough that when you are sat in the eating area having lunch, you can’t hear the primary students playing!

Of course there were and remain, teething issues. Enough water for the toilets being a headache on Monday and fluctuating electrical supplies. The contractors doing the network hadn’t quite finished so we’ve had to remember again how to teach with less technology, and so on.

Lessons in progress
The site has been described as looking like a college campus and we’ve still got a basketball court coming next week and a covered sports ground in about 6 weeks. Discussions in the staff room this week have included rainwater harvesting, a mountain bike track around the site, having a pond, an outdoor amphitheatre classroom, a kitchen garden and space for forest school. All on the site! It’s amazing!