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Tsivia's Notes From Nepal

By Tsivia Chonoles
On April 27, 2017

Ginger Farming Training at the sustainable village.
Photo By Tsivia Chonoles

Greetings readers! As of this past weekend (April 15), I have been in Nepal for a total of 12 weeks – roughly three months. It doesn’t feel like it’s been that long, and having only two months left is a rather bittersweet feeling for me. Last time, I was writing to you from Gorsyang – a small village in Nuwakot about a seven hour bus ride from Kathmandu. However, you didn’t hear my voice; instead you got to hear from two of the friends I have made on this trip. Now, I’ll add my own experience.  

 For the past three weeks, I had the opportunity to visit several of VolNepal’s ongoing projects in the Nuwakot area. Nuwakot and Kathmandu were the two areas hit hardest by the earthquakes, and while Kathmandu seems to be well on its way to a full recovery – in no small part thanks to its bustling tourist district I’m sure – Nuwakot still has a way to go. Many peoples’ homes were damaged and though they may still be standing, they are too dangerous to live in, so temporary tin and bamboo structures can often be found. Government assistance has been extremely slow, and in some cases even non-existent. One of VolNepal’s projects, which is in Gorsyang, is the rebuilding of the Shree Nil Saraswoti Lower Secondary School – which I discussed in my last article.

    In the nearby village of Bhamara, VolNepal had previously completed the construction of a new two-room building for the Shree Bhamara Lower Secondary School. One room is being used as a staff room for the teachers, while the second room was set up by VolNepal as a computer lab for the students to use. It’s a good example of a successfully completed project; since the computer lab has been up and running at the school for students to use in their classes, attendance by the students has been up and their overall interest in their studies has increased. The computers are also used by the teachers to research new methods of instruction and to connect with a partner school.

    VolNepal’s newest project in the Nuwakot area is in the village of Chainbaur: the Sustainable Village project. The week that I was in Chainbaur, the fifteen women participating in the project received instruction from three agriculture students as to the proper way to plant ginger, what problems to look out for, and how to avoid them. In roughly six months, these women will hopefully be harvesting their first crop of ginger, some of which they will be able to sell as-is and some of which they will turn into ginger candy to sell as well. This is important for two reasons. One: although many people in Nepal are farmers, they do so only at a subsistence level, farming only for themselves and their families. The goal of the sustainable village is to create a commercial farming community that will benefit these women and their families more than just farming at a subsistence level; it will also, hopefully lend to the second important reason: the overall empowerment of women in Nepal.

One of the biggest problems in Nuwakot – and in many of the small, rural villages in Nepal – is the quality of education. Camilla, one of the volunteers I interviewed in my last article, shared with me that many parents would like to send their children to school in Kathmandu so they can learn better English, but it’s too expensive for them. In the rural areas, the only schools around are the public schools – and there is a clear difference in quality. In just about every private school I have seen, the word “English” is in their name – meaning that the language of instruction for all the classes (except Nepali) is English. This is not true in the government schools. During a conversation I had with a Nepali woman who happened to be an English teacher at a government school, she told me that she used to work in a private school, but she moved to the government school because she felt that they needed her more, since English in the government schools is not so good.

    This past Friday was the Nepali New Year – Happy 2076! I spent the entire day on a bus. What was supposed to be a seven hour trip to Chitwan National Park turned into a twelve hour trip when all of the traffic stopped for more than three hours due to a landslide. When people talk about Nepali Time (everything happening fifteen minutes to an hour behind what schedule you may have planned), this is exactly what we mean. It’s not to say that the people don’t care about timeliness or punctuality, but simply the fact that – as a developing nation – things are bound to come up. With many roads still unpaved, traffic is sometimes unreliable. On a particularly rainy day, the single bus to Gorsyang won’t run at all because it’s too dangerous to make its way up the muddy, winding mountain road. When I took the bus back to Kathmandu from Pokhara after my trek, we spent an hour sitting in the bus park in Pokhara because there were protests going on and the police wouldn’t let us leave. It’s not that people don’t care, it’s just the fact that they have accepted that things sometimes happen beyond their control, so why stress about it?

    As always, you can find me on Twitter @GetScaredLater or on Instagram @Get_Scared_Later.

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