Ancient and Modern

Gender, power, identity, patriarchy and sexuality were the subjects for Kathmandu’s international photography festival. I look forward to this event every year for several reasons:

  1. It is the dry season so many of the exhibitions are mounted oputside in public spaces and its wonderful hunting down the exhibition sites in Kathmandu’s back streets and courtyards.
  2. The juxtaposition of such modern themes in ancient settings is striking. I love to watch people wandering by about their daily business and getting caught up in the pictures and stories on their way.
  3. There is no vandalism. Some of the themes were very challenging and the images unsettling but everything is left outside for a month and then taken down in pristine condition (except for the dust).
  4. Its great to take some students to visit and expose them to subjects which rarely come up on the college syllabus. This year they were very taken by a lady photographer whose exhibition was on patriarchy and was so brave to bring personal experiences that are normally hidden into the open.
  5. We get a bit starved of good art.
  6. I love seeing dogs in art exhibitions.
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Nepali Summer

After the monsoon has gradually lost it’s power there comes a magical period of 1-4 weeks in Kathmandu where the nights are cooler and the days crystal clear with sun all day. This year it was as if some almighty hand suddenly decided to adjust the thermostat and in the space of 3 weeks I went from living in shorts, t-shirt and sandals to needing four layers in the evening and early morning. Yet in the day time it gets to 24/25 deg every day.

Its the time to clear the diary of all but essentials and get out into the hills on bike or foot whenever possible and to spend every morning and evening on the roof watching the sun on the himalayas.

Today I took a group of students ‘treking’ in the local hills. There are only two buses per day to Lakhure Bhanjang so I arrived at the bus station at 4:55am to catch the 5am bus. The students arrived at 5:30 and still there was no sign of the bus. We took an alternative bus which meant more uphill walking to the village in the pass. Our efforts were put into perspective by the young gurkhas running up the hill with 25kg of sand in a ‘dokho’.

The students hadn’t had breakfast so we had a snack of boiled egg and chick peas and then meandered on up the hill through pine forests with views of Annapurna, Manaslu and even Everest. An hour and a half after breakfast the students announced it was time for lunch so we ate the picnic they had brought of pilau rice, curried chicken, roast chicken, curried potato, pickle, beaten rice and salad. If I had taken the picnic I think they would have been a little dissapointed with cheese sandwiches.

Coming from the villages the students all know a lot about the names of trees and flowers and which ones are good for eating or for medicine. We didn’t go very fast because everyone wanted to pose for photos but the route down was enlivened by Tika Ram telling me stories he had studied in English Literature. One of his favourites is ‘Big Brother’ which is all about the importance of obeying authority he told me.

Teacher Appreciation Day

I was invited to attend Teacher Appreciation Day at Nepal Baptist Bible College and give a short (very short) speech.

I reflected on the different experiences of teaching in the Uk and Nepal. The pay and paperwork are exponentially higher in the UK! But the culture of learning and respect in Nepal is rather higher than in the UK.

One of the challenges in Nepal is to make teaching more interactive and creative so it was very encouraging to see how creative the students were in leading the service. There was dancing, a specially written song, a thoughtfully written speech (not mine!), and footwashing.

Being surrounded by such young people, (I could be the father of all the college faculty), I looked at this slide and thought, ‘Who on earth is that old man’.

Birthday adventure

 

My birthday birthday started at 5:30 am with a solo cycle into the hills.

 

 

 

My plan was to descend the ‘Young Communist League trail no 4’. Arriving at the start for the first time since the monsoon I found that the first section was unridable because of a landslide.

Thought to self, ‘I’m sure it will be better round the corner’.

 

 

 

 

 

It wasn’t. But maybe round the next corner…..

 

 

 

 

 

 

Not being able to face a bike carry all the way back I tiptoed my way across a huge landslide, negotiated the bike across great boulders in a narrow ravine and finally made it to the quarry at the bottom.

A lorry driver was relieving himself next to the cliff. He looked at me and the route I’d come down with a deap pan expression, ‘that road closed’.

 

I was planning to return home via the ‘Deception Roundabout’ trail. However it was impossible to access because bulldozers building a new ‘motorway’ had destroyed the access path.

 

Rather later than planned I joined Jenny to spend the rest of the day at a local swimming pool and share an Italian meal.

 

The Building Site

It sometimes seems like Kathmandu is one big building site. Recently our lane was dug up to fit new sewage pipes so for a week we could only get to our house by walkng along a slippery, muddy ledge above the trenches and then clmbing into the 4 foot ditch to approach our gate.The neighbours and our landlord watched the workmen all day (and made them food!) to check it was being done correctly.

 

 

When I arrived at the College one morning it was almost impossible to get through as a digger was carving out a hole that went down aboout 15 feet. In the last year and a half virtually every street in the city has been dug up to put in new water pipes for a big new reservoir project. Its great to see such development but there is no expectation that workmen will clear up behind them so piles of rubble and sometimes huge holes are left behind.

 

 

Cycling around the valley there are new projects being built everywhere: roads, new buildings and earthquake damaged buildings being replaced. One project that has progressed very quickly this last year is the new ring road. In our area the transformation from a 2 lane to a 6 lane road is nearly complete. On the plus side this has reduced the number of traffic jams and the amount of dust in the atmosphere greatly. However traffic is now moving much faster and there is no central reservation so it seems a lot more dangerous. Last week the General Secretary of the Baptist Union had his leg broken when his motor bike was hit by a truck. I still avoid the ring road wherever possible.

We’ve left the building site behind for a few weeks to visit churches in the UK. The freshness of the air and the vibrancy of the colours are overwhelming and invigorating. If you live near the following venues do come and say hi:

  • 20 May           Hope, Plymouth
  • 27 May           Whittington, St Giles  9:30 and 6:30
  • 3 June            Plymouth, Hooe 10:30
  • 4 June            Plymouth, Mutley 19:30
  • 10 June          Exmouth 10:30
  • 17 June          Telford, Dawley 10:45
  • 19 June          Brecon 7:30
  • 24 June          Kings Langley, Christ Church 10:30
  • 1 July              Westbury-on-Trym 10:30

Bears Attract Honey

Living in an area where many other ex-pats reside means that sharp eyed businesses spot a great opportunity to make some money. In the four years that we have been here at least 5 new bakeries have started. Now we have 11 bakeries within ten minutes walk of our house!

 

 

12 Baskets: the newest addition – great pizza bread and french sticks.

 

 

 

 

Hermann Helmers: Long established and popular with the germans.

 

 

 

 

La Pana: Argentinian bakery making the best and cheapest chocolate brownies in town.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Ageno: Loaf of brown bread for 45p, great fresh chocolate donuts and the chocolate torte (chef’s own recipe) is the best cake in the area.

 

 

 

The Smart Bakery: Their croissants and pain-au-chocolat are superb. Also currently our favourite for bread.

 

 

 

Sara’s Bakery: Great bread and cakes but a little expensive. Two shops within 10 mins of our house.

 

 

 

 

Higher Ground: Good all round bakery and popular for breakfasts.

 

 

 

I’ve missed out the Vienna bakery and the German bakery. And then there is the ‘Secret bakery’ near the British School that I couldn’t possible include a picture of.

There are also seven high end mountain bike shops within ten minutes walk and countless restaurants including Thai, Vietnamese, Japanese, European, Nepali, Indian, Continental, Italian.

It makes for a slightly odd mix alongside ancient temples and road side shrines but it all helps to keep these bears happy.

 

 

 

 

Perfect Day

At 6:15am, with the first signs of dawn, we could see the mountains were ‘out’. It was Saturday morning, we had no church responsibilities and made a snap decision to give ourselves a treat. We had a quick breakfast, packed lunch and took a taxi to the Chandragiri Cable Car station. We had been up with friends ten months ago and spent the day walking in cold rain, so we decided then that the next opportunity that came we would take.

Everest is the one with the plume.

It was a rare perfect day and from 2500 metres we could see Dhaulagiri, Annapurna, Manaslu, Cho Oyu and Everest, five peaks over 8000 metres. This last month we’ve been engulfed in smog most of the time and there seemed no reason why the skies suddenly cleared. We’ve both had busy periods at work so it was a tonic to get out of the city and walk 8 miles up and down the wooded ridge of hills lying behind our flat.

It was one of those rare days when we kept looking at one another with disbelief that the views were so clear and feeling like we were the luckiest people in the world (along with the thousands who had the same idea of course). The walk finished with banana lassi at the Hatiban resort, watching the eagles doing acrobatics, and then a walk down to the road. This is where the dream usually ends as its a horrible windy, dusty, road/track back to Kathmandu. But a group of Nepali rock climbers in a new four wheel drive saw me scouring the road for a bus and offered us a lift back to our door.

A perfect day.