Category Archives: Personal Info

Coming down from the clouds

Wednesday morning arrived midst the sound of wailing coming from the street below. I went out onto the balcony off our kitchen and noticed a number of our neighbours also gathering on their balconies to check out the commotion below. Down in the street was a distraught woman being comforted by the people gathering round her. Kyle went up onto the roof to get a better view and try to figure out what was happening. He came back to tell us that he thought the woman had been sideswiped by a motorcycle as she was walking down the street. Her dozen eggs were smashed and her leg and arm had been injured (although she was still walking and swinging her arms wildly about and there was no evidence of blood). The motorcycle was nowhere to be seen. As the audience gathered the wailing got louder. People on the balconies were starting to grin and then began moving back indoors. I never did see police or ambulance. Eventually the noise died down and the crowd and victim dispersed.

I took my bowl of cereal up onto the rooftop for one last breakfast “in the clouds”. Now that the wailing woman had gone, the street was back to its usual morning sights and sounds. The clouds had descended onto the surrounding hills. I could smell the burning incense from the house next door and heard the tinkling bell calling the virtuous forces to enter their house. I could hear dogs barking from yard to yard and somewhere a rooster was still crowing. The woman across the street was opening up her shop and laying out her fruits.
The fellow who rides around on his bicycle calling out a nasal chant for recyclable plastic bottles went down the street. I will miss it all.

The plane wasn’t to leave until 7 pm leaving lots of time for some last-minute shopping. Bernie had been living with Courtney and Jenn, two other CECI volunteers who had come to Nepal last November. I hadn’t met them yet because they had been in Bangkok seeing doctors since both had been ill. Now they were back and Jenn had offered to take Bernie and I to get some jewelry. Anne and Courtney joined us and we headed for Thamel on foot. I’m finally starting to be able to find my way around Thamel – now that we are leaving. Jenn took us up a staircase to a second story shop that I would never have found on my own, where Bernie and I were able to get some lovely items for our families.

Lunch was at the Garden of Dreams which is a restored palatial gardens modeled on the European garden style with pavilions and balustrades. It is a quiet haven away from the honking and crowds of the Thamel streets.
Garden of Dreams in Thamel
While we were eating, the heavens opened up and the rain swept in. The waiters were running around balancing the plates and an umbrella trying to avoid getting wet. It had only slightly let up when we left the Garden to pile into taxis to take us back so that we could finish our packing.

Kyle and Carly had already been whisked off to the airport since their flight was three hours earlier than ours. I wrote a couple of thank-you notes, delivered some gifts to the watchman at the CECI gate and tidied up my room. Way too soon the CECI vehicle showed up with Bernie to take us to the airport. I was excited to head for home but it was hard to leave this wonderful adventure. The drive to the airport was a bit quieter than usual since the day was a holiday. Bernie had his camera out as usual, snapping the scenery as we drove. The whole time we had been in Kathmandu he had been saying that he wanted to catch a shot of a family of four riding a motorcycle and up to now it hadn’t happened. Suddenly a family appeared beside our vehicle and before they could ride off he got a couple of great shots.

At the airport we said our goodbyes to our driver and lugged our bags through the security and into the terminal. We were frisked a couple of times and our bags went through the camera checks at least twice. Bernie ended up having to dash a security fellow who took an enormous interest in his wallet of Canadian money. As on our flight from Bahrain to Katmandu, the Gulf Air flight carried a large contingent of migrant workers. They were heading to Saudi and the UAE. It was the first time I have ever been on a flight that actually left earlier than scheduled.

In Bahrain we met up with Carly and Kyle for a four hour stop-over. They had already been waiting for three hours. Bernie gave Kyle and I a lesson on Adobe Photoshop while we sipped lattes and mochas in a coffee shop. It was almost 1 am when we caught our Gulf Air flight to Heathrow. We weren’t on the same flight out of Heathrow, so Bernie and I said our goodbyes to Carly and Kyle and went off to catch our next flight. I think this is the first time I have actually seen Greenland as we flew over. Even icebergs were visible in the surrounding ocean. We arrived back in Canada after a relatively uneventful eight hour flight. Since I don’t seem to be able to sleep on airplanes, I was totally exhausted. Luckily customs and bag retrieval went smoothly and before we knew it Bernie and I were saying our goodbyes.

Nepal was an incredible experience. I hope to be able to go back to see some of the things that the monsoon hid from me. It will have to be in the spring or fall next time, but there will definitely be a next time.

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Filed under Kathmandu, Personal Info, Sue On Leave

Farewell parties

Tomorrow we leave this lovely country behind. Today our new friends threw us parties to thank us for our friendship and whatever we were able to do for them. I spent the morning making sure the laptop and backup drives were ready to hand over to CMF. Then I headed to Thamel looking for the National Bookstore. A Nepali friend, Raja, back in Canada had asked that I pick up a book from there. As it turned out, the National Bookstore was not in Thamel but was near Asan a short distance to the south. I ended up taking a rickshaw and had a great chat with the driver all the way there.
Rickshaw driver in Thamel
He had been driving rickshaw for eighteen years and really loved the work.

The bookstore didn’t have the book though they had others by the same author. So I headed back to CECI where I totally enjoyed lazing about for a change.

Kyle came back from his farewell party laden down with gifts. He had been working with his organization for three months and had made quite an impression. Carly was still at her farewell party and Bernie’s party was this evening as was mine.

Around 5:30 I headed for CMF dressed in my new kurta and salwar. Ruchi was still working so I caught a picture of her with our new system.
Ruchi working with KnowledgeTree
When she was done we headed for the rooftop where people were beginning to gather. I had a lovely chat with a gentleman who was the former head of the Bank of Nepal. He seems to be totally committed to the micro-finance model and spoke quite eloquently of the benefits. Plates laden with chicken, fish, chips, and marinated peanuts were handed around along with glasses of wine or whiskey. The sun set over the distant hills as we ate and chatted. It was quite lovely. Ruchi and Tejhari gave touching speeches thanking me. I thanked them for the wonderful (although short) time I had had with them. The party broke up soon afterward with lots of hugs and good wishes.

So now I am back at CECI spending a nice quiet evening. The others have gone out with their buddies for a last fling. I am going to curl up with my book and enjoy the quiet. (Well, if that guy doing all the yelling a couple of houses over will fall into a drunken stupor I should get some quiet.)

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Filed under Centre for Micro Finance, Kathmandu, Personal Info, Sue On Leave, Travel


The goal for this morning was to see whether Ruchi could re-install Knowledgetree and load in the latest backup with just the manual to guide her. She was totally prepared and dove into the task with a grin. An hour later we were patting each other on the back. She had loaded the system onto my little netbook and restored it to the same state as the main system on the HP laptop. I have every confidence that she will be able to carry on without me.

I left to get caught up on my blogging and email and prepare for a de-briefing session at CMF with Nikunja Nepal of CECI, Tejhari Ghimire, the CEO of CMF, Ruchi and myself. We gathered in Tejhari’s office to discuss the project and its outcomes. The biggest concern will be the mindset shift for the CMF staff to actually use the system. This is typical of any new computer system and will probably take some time. But hopefully they will come to see the advantages (with urging from Ruchi) and it will become a part of their daily routines. The whole experience has been extremely satisfying for both Ruchi and myself. We have learned a lot and truly enjoyed working together.

I headed back to CECI and met up with Bernie. We wanted to re-visit the Fair Trade shops in Patan to pick up a few more items. From there we began an inner-city trek taking us from the southern part, north cross the Bagmati River along the Ram Shah Path (actually a fairly large and busy road) to the Narayanhiti Palace Museum and then west towards Thamel. The trees of the Palace Museum are loaded with hundreds of birds who serenade you as you walk along the Palace wall.

Bernie had not been to Thamel which is the tourist mecca of Kathmandu. It is chock full of tourists and vendors trying to separate them from their money. We eventually found the Rum Doodle restaurant, went up onto the rooftop and ate another great meal. The Rum Doodle restaurant is a famous starting point for many of the mountain expeditions and the walls are covered with footprints labelled with the signatures of the climbers. I understand Sir Edmund Hilary and a number of famous Sherpas are there.

Satisfaction came in many forms today – the professional satisfaction of a good project, the personal satisfaction of trekking this city and crossing those crazy streets without getting hit, and the overall satisfaction of getting the internet back and regaining contact with family.


Filed under CECI/Uniterra, Centre for Micro Finance, Kathmandu, Personal Info, Sue On Leave, Travel

Nuns, monks and rain

Our internet disappeared early on Saturday and was gone for the rest of the weekend so I didn’t get a chance to update this blog. On the positive side, though, I had lots of time to work on the software maintenance manual that I will leave with Ruchi.

Saturday ended up mainly a Buddhist day. Bernie and I headed back to Boudah nath (the first site we had been taken to when we were introduced to Kathmandu). This time we were able to take it in at our own pace. I had seen someone’s picture of the Stoupa with the Boudah eyes peeking through the prayer flags so I took one of my own.Peeking Boudah
While circling the stoupa in the appropriate direction (clockwise) and spinning the prayer wheels as we went, a young man noticed the soles of Bernie’s boots “were talking” and he suggested an overhaul. After a bit of negotiating, Bernie relinquished his boots for a pair of crocks and we continued circling the stoupa, enjoying the atmosphere and snapping pictures.
Bernie's boot gets a facelift
This fellow did an amazing job on the boots – actually sewing them where the Canadian shoemaker had only glued.
To carry on with the buddhist theme, we headed for the eastern edge of town and climbed up into the outlying hills heading for some of the 27 monasteries that circle the city. The first we came to was the Kapan nunnery where we found a shady stoop to relax and eat our lunch. Young nuns would greet us as they passed. They dress like the monks and shave their heads as well so at first I thought they were monks.
From here we headed up the road towards the Kapan monastery. It is a popular place for westerners to stay and meditate when visiting Nepal. It is a beautiful building atop a knoll which can be reached in a roundabout way by road or a steep shortcut by foot. Guess which method we took?
Monastery on the Hill
By the time we hit the top of the hill we were drenched in sweat. Not the most dignified way to visit a very spiritual sanctuary. We explored the temple with its many wall paintings. The paintings depicting many different aspects of Buddah brought to mind the paintings of the different acts of St Francis in the church in Assisi, Italy.
There were at least two (probably three) more monasteries nearby so Bernie and I headed out to visit them all. The views of Kathmandu from the monasteries were spectacular. I’m not sure that my pictures can do it justice.
There were a couple of nuns and a friend sitting giggling together on the lawn of one of the monasteries.
Giggling nuns and friend
That night we sat at Buzz’s cafe listening to a very drunk but quite famous Nepalese musician, an Indian musician and a group of others singing and playing drums and guitar all evening. It was a great way to end the day.

Next morning I was up bright and early to work on the manual that I am producing for Ruchi to maintain the system we have so labouriously set up together. By early afternoon I had progressed well into the workings of the manual and thought I could give myself a break.

Joel (a French Canadian volunteer that was visiting from the Chitwan region) and I headed off to meet Kyle at an internet cafe in Thamel. We both lugged our Acer Aspires along so that we could get caught up on our email. Soon Carly joined us and then we headed out. Joel and Kyle wanted to buy gifts for their families and Carly was recruited (quite willingly) to take us around to her favourite Thamel vendors. And no shopping is quite complete without its requisite bargaining session so each visit to a shop can end up being quite prolonged. I went ahead to search out a shop I had seen the last time while Joel and Carly checked out a Thanku painting shop she liked. Before I had gone 100 meters the heavens opened up and I had to take shelter in a storefront.
It didn’t appear to be ending soon so eventually I bought myself an umbrella and ventured back to where Carly and Joel were enjoying a cup of tea with the Thanku painters. As the rain let up, we moved on to a few other shops and I have to admit I bought a few things I had not really intended to buy. I really shouldn’t go to Thamel.

Not long afterward we headed back to Baluwatar where I hunkered down to seriously tackle the manual. By midnight I had completed the 47 page tome.


Filed under Kathmandu, Personal Info, Sue On Leave, Travel