Still no concrete developments re returning to Nepal. The visa process has hit a significant hurdle so there is a major re-evaluation of what to do next. We are still in the UK and are based in Birmingham for a period but may be sent to Calcutta for a while! The uncertainty is hard but for this blog I didn’t want to focus on that but the generosity people have shown us during our time in the UK.
Over the last 3 months families, friends and even strangers have given us wonderful meals, open hospitality, interest and encouragement. They have lent us cars, holiday cottages, cd’s, videos, books. We have shared their wine, cheese, chocolate, lamb, fish and beer, (all things not available in Nepal in the quality and variety we have here). As nomadic wanderers we have been well cared for and looked after.
We are trying to see this delay through the eyes of a generous God. Not being able to return at the expected time makes us realise what a precious gift the 3 years we have had in Nepal has been. At the end of our official home assignment we were quite drained and the last month has been a gift of time for restoration and renewal. We have had more time to catch up with family than expected. We have time for the kind of quality preparation of materials we rarely have in Nepal.
It is a frustrating and worrying time but it has also been a good time. Even learning again that not all of life is in our control is a helpful lesson. Still, we hope for news of a way forward before too long.
I thought Nepali friends would find this amusing. A farmer charging people £18 (Rs 2700) to come and try milking a cow! Most villagers in Nepal have a buffalo or goat and milking is always by hand. I’m sure they would be very happy to let someone milk their buffalo for £18.
There are many such contrasts between Nepal and England and we have never been more aware of that than today. We were meant to fly to Kathmandu last night and this morning we would have arrived to the chaos of the capital’s traffic in monsoon season. Instead we were in the rolling hills of south Devon visiting a stately home and watching a steam train pass by.
The 5 year agreement INF have to make with the government of Nepal about the work they will undertake and the amount of visa posts they will have is still in process. Therefore we, along with most other ex-pats, can’t yet return to the country. No one knows how long this will take and there is a faint chance that we may not be able to return.
We are concerned about how long this will continue and how it will effect Jenny’s work, Andy’s voluntary teaching (term is about to start) and INF’s ongoing work. We have no choice about the situation and will try and make the most of the situation however long it lasts. For the moment its lovely to have a little time to ourselves and this weekend we are staying at the most wonderful cottage we have ever had a holiday in.
After this our plans for the next 3 months are:
- A couple of weeks working on personal projects re what we do in Nepal and on producing some home group material for mission workers.
- 5 days retreat time. Jenny at a retreat centre and Andy walking.
- From August 19th we will be based at the BMS International Mission Centre in Birmingham where we will help out with training activities as needs arise.
- Or BMS may send us on a short term project abroad. No details yet, it’s just been floated as a possibility.
- If there is no progress with visas by October 31st then we will start exploring with BMS the possibility of moving to another country instead of Nepal. This is not what any of us would choose but we have to be realistic about the possibility this could happen.
One of the things we love about the UK is the greenness. One of the (few) joys of a climate where it can (and usually does) rain all year is that it is a green and pleasant land. In particular English grass is different to anything you seem to find in Nepal. Lawns are a luxury and an art. Few people in Nepal have the luxury of land on which to grow a lawn or the knowledge of how to keep one. England is one of the few places to still play lawn tennis and we are currently enjoying Wimbledon (though this photo is from Nottingham).
The tennis is a welcome distraction. Our country is going through the greatest turmoil I can remember. The decision to leave Europe has been followed by a policy vacuum, shambolic preperations for leadership elections in both main partie s and an embarassing football defeat. It seems no one in power believed that Brexit would happen and now it has there is no one in power. Everyone is talking about it, most people are anxious, everyone is confused.
Our situation is also confused. We were due to return to Nepal on July 21. However the 5-year agreement between INF (the NGO Jenny works for) and the government is still in process. After it is finally agreed there will be a 4-5 week delay before we can go back. We’re not sure what we will do with this extra time or where we will be based but I’m sure it will include plenty of discussion about our green and troubled land.
We forget just how wonderfully restorative the English (and Welsh!) late spring weather is. Coming from the dry, hot, pre-monsoon season in a very dusty Kathmandu we are loving the greenness, freshness, long days, wild places, parks and gardens here. We have also struck it lucky with the weather and the sun has followed us around the country as we have visited family, friends and churches in Lincoln, Wales and Devon.
It is very relaxing to be in a place where everyone speaks English, things are so orderly, and we understand how most things work. After a couple of months we will probably be looking forward to the chaos and adventure of Nepal again but for a few weeks its lovely to be able to relax into a familiar culture.There is plenty of majestic scenery in Nepal but its not easy to find the relaxing, pretty, unspoiled, sit and soak it in countryside that surrounds us here. And of course there is the sea…….
We started our church visits last week by returning to Hope in Plymouth and our tour of supporting churches begins this Sunday. Our timetable is below and it would be lovely to see you:
Sun 12 June Crediton URC
Sun 19 June Fleckney BC
Tues 21 June Waddington PC
Sun 26 June Devonport BC
Sun 3 July Brecon BC
Sun 17 July Hope BC
Other news: INF’s visa agreement with the government has been on hold for a month and unless it moves on quickly we will be delayed in the UK for a while. This would be particularly difficult for the College where Andy volunteers as he would miss valuable teaching time.
This was the scene which greeted us this morning. Good preparation for UK weather. However it is still about 20 degrees in Kathmandu and there is only a light, warm wind so its a very comfortable temperature. We fly back to the UK this evening and I will have to raid the charity shops immediately to find some warm layers.
Most of the foreigners working with INF will also be leaving this week and the rest will follow shortly. The 5 year agreement is still being processed by the government and this year they are not giving visa extensions. So we all had to go on to tourist visas and they only last for 5 months. Last week we all met together for a refreshing but shortened INF conference. One of the highlights was dressing up in a variety of tribal national costumes and being taught a ridiculously complicated Nepali dance.
The rain is very welcome here. Having had gas and petrol shortages the latest problem is water. The well in the college has run nearly dry and is so dirty it needs to be filtered with this home made device just to use water for clothes washing and ‘bathing’. The water table under Kathmandu is dropping fast due to excessive demand. This has been made worse through the earthquake disrupting underground water flow.
Tankers work all day round bringing potable water into the city. It costs £10 for a tankerfull. Now their supplies have been drying up and they have to travel further to refill. In some places the price has doubled. As ever we are mindful of those who can’t afford tankers or filters.
We had poor winter rains so these pre-monsoon rains are very welcome.
Hope to see many of you soon!
Monday will be the anniversary of the earthquake that hit Nepal one year ago. The following photos show before and after shots of two of Kathmandu’s landmarks.
Below are two of my own photos. They are of a small village community on the edge of the Kathmandu Valley. The first was taken one week after the earthquake, the second one year on.
As you can see, the community have got themselves organised in terms of clearing rubble so that pathways can be used and building temporary, tin shelters. Walking around the village you see children playing, ladies collecting water and small groups quietly chatting. One young man told me that they have received aid from NGO’s but nothing yet from the government.
The newspapers are critical of the government because although $4 billion was quickly pledged by donors it took them 9 months to form the reconstruction authority. About 800,000 houses need to be rebuilt. A $2000 dollar gift and a $3000 low interest loan has been promised but so far only a handful of people have received anything. The money is dependent on following one of the governments designs for earthquake proof construction which people are still waiting for. The governments target is to complete reconstruction within 5 years.
Last week I cycled with a young lady from Christchurch, New Zealand. She told me that 5 years on from their earthquake many people are still battling with insurance companies and waiting for government support. Only recently has much rebuilding seemed to get started. It puts Nepal’s situation in context but as ever it is the poorest who are most vulnerable and 5 years is a long time to endure cold winters and hot summers in a tin hut.
For our annual retreat we took our students to Anandaban (‘joyful woods’) hospital. Its a leprosy hospital serving Kathmandu and the villages to the south of the city. I introduced the day with a trip down memory lane and taught the students to play chain tag which used to be a daily ocurrence when I was at Newton St Cyres Primary School. The idea was to start talking about the power of touch
Students enact Jesus encounter with a leper
and the fear that used to surround contact with lepers.
Later in the day we had a tour of the hospital and were stunned to see patients with no fingers or toes but just stumps at the end of their limbs. The doctor would often hold the damaged arm or leg as he examined patients and told us a little of their stories. The most severe patients had had leprosy since childhood and only recently been brought for treatment. It was very moving to see a lady with no feet or hands fitting on specially designed boots all by herself and then proudly showing off how fast she could walk while the doctor shouted “Slowly, be careful”. Her face was aglow.
Other news: Andy spent the morning getting a tourist visa for the rest of our time before UK assignment. We will have to come back 12/13 May so we have enough annual visa days to re-enter the country again.
Our church has started an Alpha coursewhich we will both be speaking at in the next few weeks.