Wednesday, 19 March 2008

Getting down to work

We have now finished our language and orientation programme completely and are starting to get involved in school and finally get back to teaching, feels like a long time since we’ve done that!

We spent a week at the end of our language programme staying with a Nepali family with the aim of practicing our Nepali, and also learning about the culture. This was a really enjoyable week. We were staying with a relatively wealthy Nepali family. There was mum, dad and two sons. The eldest is 24 and in America at university so we didn’t meet him. The younger is 15 and at school. He spoke quite good English which helped us when we got really stuck with our Nepali! The mother decided to adopt Dan as her son to replace her eldest while he is in America.

We were still in school during the week, so we spent our evenings there, stayed overnight and then after breakfast each day went to school for the day. This was good as it meant we had a break during the day, I think it would have been hard work trying to talk in Nepali all day every day. As I’m sure you won’t be surprised to know our Nepali is still very limited even after 8 weeks of lessons! One evening they took us to see their Hindu temple. It turned out that the temple they visit regularly is called Pashupatinath, and one of the biggest and best known in Nepal, as it a well known cremation site. It was interesting, but also quite strange to watch people cremating their family members. They have big platforms alongside the river where the dead are put on large funeral pyres and burned while their family and friends watch, and across the river there are holy men who perform rituals by ringing bells, dancing and chanting to help the dead onto the next life.

We are now in school full time, and starting to take some lessons. We are both going to be working alongside current staff instead of taking over as they leave which we had thought was possible. This is good as it allows us to provide continuity for the children as we work alongside the current teachers and take over some classes when appropriate. Dan will be in charge of the ICT curriculum and doing a large bulk of the teaching in his department, as the other guy is more skilled at managing the school system. Dan will also be responsible for timetabling and exams and will therefore also be on the Senior Management Team. Becky will be running most of the Geography as the current Geography teacher will be taking on the secondary headship role from after the summer holiday. We are glad to be getting back to it, and enjoying teaching very well behaved and enthusiastic pupils.

Since writing the above this morning I have had an interesting experience, so thought I'd tell you about it. As you may know cows are considered holy in Hinduism, so are often allowed to wonder round the streets freely, often near the temples as they get fed there. Anyway this evening I was up in Kathmandu with two other girls from school doing a bit of shopping. We were walking down a narrow lane which was heaving with people, with busy shops down both sides when I heard people shouting behind me. I turned around to see the lane had cleared and running straight down the lane towards us was a huge bull! So as you expect we dived into a shop next to us with everyone else as it charged passed behind a man who had obviously antagonised it! Quite scary, but to all the Nepalis apparently quite amusing.

This Friday is a Hindu festival called Holi. You may have seen it on the TV as it is the one where they throw paint powder at each other all day. So this week the children have been practising their aims by throwing water balloons at passers by from their roof tops. Fortunately I haven't been got despite a few near misses, but Dan was got yesterday evening on his way home from the shop. Being Good Friday school is closed anyway so we are planning on staying indoors as apparently foreigners do get targeted. We will try and watch some of it from the relative safety of our roof top.

We shall be thinking of you all this weekend as we remember and celebrate the sacrifice that Jesus made for us all. Happy Easter!

Dan & Becky

Sunday, 2 March 2008


A lot has happened since we last wrote. Life is moving along fast here and it already feels like we’ve been here ages. We’ve settled into our house really well, and have nearly finished our Nepali lessons, which means we can get back to teaching again!

One thing that has been really noticeable on the streets the last few weeks has been the petrol queues. Very little petrol and diesel has been getting into the city due to strikes in the Terai region. This is the strip of Nepal that runs between the border with India and the start of the hills. Most of Nepal’s natural produce comes from here and anything that doesn’t comes through here from India.

Last weekend the headline in the paper read “172 fuel trucks cross the border” which indicates how much of an issue this was. The fuel trucks needed armed escorts and the regions they drove through were put under curfew. The queues in Kathmandu have been miles long with people waiting over night, and even parking up their cars while the stations are shut, leaving them and coming back later to inch forward every now and then.

It’s not just petrol though; kerosene which most of the poorer Nepalese use for cooking creates queues almost as long. You pass a long line of petrol cans all tied together on a rope to stop others pushing in as people mill about waiting for the kerosene to arrive. There is also currently a three week wait for Gas canisters which are used for cooking and heating, although the weather is getting warmer now.

The shortage of fuel and problems in the Terai has meant that food prices have risen and shortages were predicted. The prices are still well below English prices, but for the poor this is little consolation as they are stretched even further. However there has been good news in the last few days as an agreement has been reached between the interim government and the parties representing those leading the strikes in the Terai.

Water and power are also in short supply. This has nothing to do with the problems in the Terai. It is partly to do with the lack of rain this winter (and last monsoon in the summer) as all of Nepal’s electricity comes from Hydroelectric dams. This means we currently have 8 hours of power cuts every day, 6 days a week. Wednesday is our best day as we have power all day. Our school survives using a diesel generator (although as the first part of this blog suggests this hasn’t been to reliable in the last few weeks) and our landlord uses an inverter (basically a big car battery) to supply us with a light or two when it gets dark. Again this is not an option for the poor.

The sad thing is that Nepal has one of the greatest potentials in the world for hydroelectric power, but just hasn’t got itself organised to tap that potential, mostly due to an inadequate infrastructure.

Dan & Becky