Dave and Jackie left the comforts of Wiltshire to work with children in Nepal. They didn’t have
a TV there. Home-
BBC 24 hour news and the Chuckle Brothers. So they relied on the BBC World Service and
listened to music. Listening to their music it occurred to Dave that many of the tunes are very
apt to life in Nepal. Here are his top ten:
They really don’t! If you want to tell people where you live you either just name the village or, if you live in a bigger town, the nearest road junction. We live in Bel Chowk, Bel being the name of a tree that happens to grow at the junction (Chowk). Since most of the adult population are illiterate there is little need for postal services. As we are the only Europeans in our city we are easy to find!
Fun Lovin’ Criminals -
The local time zone is NST (GMT +5:45); I think it stands for Nepali Stretchable Time. Nepali people are inclined to be polite by nature and don’t like to give offence. Saying “no” is seen as a lack of respect. Things will get done, but it may take a little time. Patience is a virtue here. The Nepali calendar is in year 2068 now; when someone says a project will be complete by 2069 it’s worth checking which calendar they’re using.
Sheryl Crow -
The Romans didn’t make it to Nepal. They don’t build roads straight here. Kathmandu is 80 Km from Narayangarh, our home town, but the road winds for 160 Km along the valleys. Of course the terrain is partly responsible, but we’re not talking about journeys in the Himalayas, we live in the Terai, as flat as the proverbial pancake, Kathmandu is in the hills, by no means mountainous. There are very few bridges across the main rivers and no tunnels through hills. The lack of transport infrastructure severely limits Nepal’s economy.
Cat Stevens -
I used this for a promotional video for our trip before we left the UK and it will always remind me of our Nepali experience. There are few playgrounds for children and they have little room at home; most families live in one room. Of course they are resourceful and make their own playgrounds in the streets and fields; using bent trees for see-
Suzanne Vega -
Nepal has Load Sharing (also known as power cuts). This can be up to 16 hours per day in the dry season (electricity is generated from hydroelectric power). But at least we have some electricity; many people in Nepal have no access to power. We get through a lot of candles.
There is no shortage of shops here; every new building is built with the capability of a corner shop on the ground floor. Napoleon famously called Britain a nation of shopkeepers, Nepal is the modern equivalent. However finding something specific can be a challenge as each shop has a curious combination of goods.
Anyone who’s lived with monsoon will know what this is about. It rains a lot and it rains heavily. The unmetalled roads turn to mud, the low lying areas get flooded and the roads through the hills get washed away in landslides.
Robert Palmer -
If you ask people what to expect from the climate in Nepal most people will assume it’s at altitude and cold. That’s true in the Himalayas, but we live in the Terai, sub tropical jungle mostly transformed into fertile agricultural land following the eradication of malaria from the region. Summer temperatures are 35-
Carole King -
We had a big earthquake here, magnitude 7.6. The epicentre was a long way off, but it still shook our house and there were casualties in Kathmandu and eastern Nepal. The Kathmandu valley is reckoned by the UN to be well overdue for a BIG earthquake. The last big one was in 1934. The Himalayas were formed by the two tectonic plates pushing together and they continue to do so – Mount Everest is getting higher every year. The vast majority of buildings in Nepal are not designed to be earthquake proof, so when it does come it will be devastating.
Louis Armstrong -
I have to end on a positive note. Nepal has lots of issues but our time here has been memorable. The country has stunning scenery from the high Himalayas down through the hills to the sub tropical jungle. The cultural heritage is outstanding; the Kathmandu valley has the greatest density of world heritage sites. But a country is made from its people and the people have welcomed us unreservedly, we have made many friends here and we will miss them when we return; we would love to show them our country, but few, if any, can consider visiting because of the cost.
Here, Dave talks us through a typical day in Nepal.
0500 Wake up to the sound of the hand pump at the community well outside our house.
Chorus of throat clearing follows. Most Nepalis believe that expelling contents of the
throat is essential for good health and dedicate time in the morning for this activity,
not a pleasant sound for the faint hearted.
0530 Jackie’s school’s principal, who lives upstairs, uses the hand pump at the house well,
turns on the electric pump to fill the water tank on the roof (if there is electricity) and
wakes the local gods with incantations and bell ringing. Hindu gods are not ethereal,
they are numerous and living amongst us; Nepalis will talk to their gods to ensure that
they are in a benevolent rather than malevolent mood.
0600 Have cold shower. There is no hot water. In the summer when it can be 40°C this is refreshing. On a winter morning it is, shall we
say, invigorating. Wash clothes at the well, using the “cold wash” setting!
0630 Breakfast of puffed rice with chiya. Chiya is the Nepali equivalent of Indian Chai; boiled milk infused with tea, mountains of sugar
and chef’s own recipe of spices, e.g. cardamom, cloves.
0700 Go to homework club, where I tutor pupils from age 4 to 15 in English, maths and science. The walk has a magnificent view of
the Himalayas, including Manislu, at 8,163 m the world’s eighth highest mountain. The Cotswolds are pretty, but this is impressive.
The students mostly go to English language schools, so language is not often an issue except when explaining complex
0830 Read local English language newspaper to find news of UK Premier League football, world cricket and Nepali political
manoeuvrings. The civil war is thankfully long over, but writing a constitution for the new Nepal is taking forever.
0900 Arrive back home to find (second) breakfast on table, daal bhaat; daal is lentil soup, bhaat is steamed rice served with tarkarry
(vegetable curry) and achar (VERY bitter pickle).
0930 Buy fruit from barrows or street traders. Fruit is always seasonal so changes with the seasons. In the Spring mangoes were
plentiful and delicious. Bananas have always been available as have apples brought down from the hills. In the summer lemons,
limes and pineapples filled the barrows and now autumn fruits such as papaya and omba (not seen in UK) are here.
1000 Walk into town to meet street children at busy junctions, recycling centres and riverside. Distribute fruit and gather information for
research paper. The street children now know me and are happy to talk even if I don’t have food for them. Their situation is clearly
desperate however they always seem to have a smile. They work collecting rubbish for recycling centres, but spend most of their
money on drugs to relieve the pain of their lives. Recycling centres are not like in the UK; they are on unused plots with mountains
of sorted recyclable refuse from plastic, glass, paper, metal to lorry parts. Usually run by Indian immigrants the family live on the
site; you may imagine the conditions that they and their children live in.
1200 Nepali lesson. I’m becoming more confident at speaking; my most frequent phrase is “ma ali ali Nepali bolchhu”, which means
“I (only) speak a little Nepali”.
1300 Cook and eat lunch. For variety have chiuraa, beaten rice instead of bhaat with the tarkarry and daal.
1400 Nepali homework. My vocabulary is not yet extensive, also now learning the Devanagari alphabet.
1500 Take laptop to Cyber café. If they have electricity send and download emails, catch up with Facebook friends. On way home stop
at market to buy vegetables. Like the fruit it is all seasonal, none imported.
1600 Walk to Hamro Ghar (Our House) children’s home. There are 15 boys at the home, ages from 4 to 16. I help the boys with their
homework and English, they help me with my Nepali and we play games, typically football, marbles, badminton, ludo or carrom.
They feed me kheer, rice pudding and chiya. In Nepal it is essential to feed visitors as a sign of respect. As a visitor it is
disrespectful to refuse a second plate of rice.
1800 Walk home. Two small boys that live in our house visit for help with their homework and to play games. If there is no electricity
then this is by candlelight. Power cuts are routine here. Despite vast amounts of potential hydroelectric power (a lot of water moves
south and east through Nepal) production is at 60% of demand; we have daily power cuts of up to 14 hours per day in the dry
1900 Visit friends and eat (another) meal of daal bhaat. Nepalis eat a lot of rice. Two or three platefuls three or four times a day. And
a plateful is large, called “himal bhaat” literally “rice mountain”. A family can get through 25 kg of chaamal (uncooked rice) each
week. After the meal there is always singing and dancing. Nepalis love to sing and dance, do it from an early age and are good.
Initially we were reluctant, but now we join in with enthusiasm if not with aptitude.
2100 Time for bed. Try to ignore the howling dogs that are a nightly nuisance and the nightly rat visitors that roam the flat, but
fortunately don’t get into the kitchen or the bedroom unless we leave the door open, when I chase them out with the broom.
Our Street Our Children is pleased to announce delivery of a new ship of the line. OSOC Bear Necessities is the latest of the Nepal class vessels that work in partnership with the Royal Navy, providing a vital buffer against defence cuts after the MOD’s decision to mothball the inland waterway fleet. Commodore David Britten said that “It was an honour to take delivery after the naming ceremony, although I think with hindsight the use of cider instead of champagne was a false economy due to the corrosive effect on the steel plating.” To cement the close working relationship with the Senior Service and to prevent any misunderstandings regarding seniority, Our Street Our Children uses the same ranks for its crews. Reproduced below are the ranks, along with the qualifying criteria.
Qualifying criteria for ratings
Able to distinguish between sharp & blunt end of boat. Embarks and disembarks without getting wet.
Holds mooring rope without self injury. Knows which end of windlass to hold.
Opens and closes lock paddles and gates without falling into lock. Fills water tank without sinking boat.
Chief Petty Officer
Opens and closes lock paddles and gates in correct sequence. Replaces gas bottle without need for bomb disposal team.
Warrant Officer (class 1)
Ties mooring ropes (both ends). Makes tea for officer without scalding foot.
Warrant Officer (class 2)
Unties own mooring knots without knife. Makes bacon sandwich for officer without fire brigade in attendance.
Qualifying criteria for officers
Takes tiller on canal without causing panic.
Appreciates that rank does not imply boat is submersible on river.
Waits for gate to be open before exiting lock.
Waits for boat to exit before entering lock.
Manoeuvres through locks without causing damage.
Steers into lock without touching sides
Does not require crew (exception: crew refusing to board).
Prepared to be hanged for the cause “pour encourager les autres”.
Adds to the fleet’s list of unusual and curious vices.
Takes credit for successes, assigns blame for mishaps.
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