Water Survey with Hari Devkota

Whilst in Kathmandu, both Jolana and me had a meeting with Hari Devkota, who if you weren’t aware, is offering his help and advice to solving the water problems in the village of Aandhimul. We agreed during the meeting that Hari would come to Aandhimul to do a general site survey of the area, including doing an altitude check and measure distances. My task to find an altimeter and get hold of a long measuring tape.

The measuring tape was quite easy to find, especially in Kathmandu, I bought one 50 metres in length. As for an altimeter, they are not easy to come by, and I didn’t want to buy one as they are expensive. However, I thought I would try Himalayan Encounters, a travel agency run by an Englishman Tony Jones, who has been working in Nepal for almost 3 decades and alongside his travel company has done lots of community work to support many projects. It was where Angela, Jolana & Me met and got our first experiences of Nepal, as volunteers for Global Vision International.

My luck was in, Tony was happy to help, and after a few phonecalls he found a paragliding company who were currently in Bandipur and they said they would leave one of their altimeters to help us! Yeah, it was great news. Thank you to Tony and to the Paragliding company for lending us the altimeter.

Once collected from Bandipur Jolana and I met Hari in Aandhimul on Thursday 30th April and the survey began. Also, we had help from Bandipur, 2 staff borrowed from The Old Inn, thanks to the ever helping Ramsaran, who also asked one of his plumber friends who came to the survey too!

First meeting at the school, as seen in the pictures above, we made our way to the water source taking measurements along the way. During this journey we took notes of the exisiting system and it’s failure points. Including a destroyed tap and several areas of pipe cut, due to lack of maintainance and responsibility to prevent damage. An area we know we have to focus on to limit future problems. We have already discussed about the need for a water committee to be set up, with some members of the village in total agreement, though also others with mixed views.

After photos, notes and measurements taken. Hari gave a little talk to some community members and used his knowledge to influence them on potential solutions, and also highlighted on the problems, which can be solved. At the close of the talk it was decided that the village would hold a meeting to discuss possibilities and options on Sunday May 3rd.


Angela, Yoshie & Kirk Say Goodbye

The last night in the village for Angela sadly ended up being a very bad one. She had caught a bad stomach bug that kept her awake most of the night. We had all planned to go up to the school where they wanted to do a presentation to Yoshie, Angela & Kirk, giving flowers and applying tika to the face as a mark of respect and to say thank you for everything they had done. However, because the school is on a hill above where we were staying, away from the way out of the village and especially because of the heat, we decided it best Angela with the support of Mon & some villagers made their way down. Yoshie, Jolana, Kirk and me went to the school to inform the teachers who were very concerned for Angela.

They then came down the hill to meet with Angela and there gave them flowers and applied the traditional tika, as can be seen in the pictures above, in particular the middle photo, Angela in the green top. Angela even had her own Umbrella carrier to protect her from the sun, treated like a queen. I think she was blagging really 🙂

Then we had some light breakfast in Andhi Khola, on the main highway, and after Angela, Yoshie & Kirk said their final goodbye and then the locals flagged down a bus to take us all to Kathmandu.


The Last Full Day in Aandhimul

Today was the last full day that all of us would be together in the village. It turned out to be a day of mixed emotions. Angela, Jolana & Yoshie along with Mon cleared up some of the teacher training, reflecting and doing many questions and answers with the teachers and wrapping the previous weeks work.

Then we finished the day taking in the atmosphere in and around the village. Actually, because of the heat we visited the local swimming pool. A small, natural pool in the valley where two rivers meet. It was Jolana and me who decided to join the kids, as you can see in the pictures above. It was great fun! Also, earlier that day we did our usual morning trip to filter some water from a local spring, see both the video below and pictures above. An important part of our day, though with high temperatures it was very difficult to have enough water for the whole day, and I think that had an effect on us all. Dehydration levels were high, we can see the trouble it must be for the people here especially during the hotter months.

I managed to capture some great pictures of some children eating their breakfast, as you can see in the pictures at the top of the page. But regularly we would notice that many of these children would not get adequately fed, which has strengthed our approach to feeding them well at school, and putting forward other initiatives to help the families too. Even something simple as awareness, because many families do earn enough money to give a reasonable diet but it has been made clear that much money is lost or misused for many different reasons and we want to help change that.


Yoshie’s Big Creative Workshop

This day, as many have started was to go with the flow, something we were all trying to get used too! But of course, Yoshie had made plans, as you may have seen in previous blogs (click here), bought the neccessary materials and was ready for the day. But as for the children’s attendence, that was left to them, maybe a few, maybe a lot as they were currently on school holidays. And at first, when things started we may have had only about 10. Then quickly the word spread and more curious children appeared, more than 25 in the end.

It was now necessary to break into groups, so Angela and one of the teachers took some outside to do some singing and other activities, whilst the first bunch were cutting away some shapes of ears, face, arms, bodies and legs for their collage work. For most, if not all, it was their first experience of using a pair of scissors. But they very quickly picked it up. Also, because Yoshie had previously done this workshop with the teachers (click here) she wanted them to take control working with the children, and along with Angela and Jolana they would support the teachers, and they did.

Then after the cutting came the most fun part, using sticky, white PVA glue, which is easy acccesible in this part of Nepal, to make their characters on the yellow or pink paper bought in a Bandipur stationary shop. Then to give their characters some pizzaz, a tailors in Bandipur had donated lots of scrap fabric, and Yoshie cut into strips for the kids to stick onto their characters. Also before coming to Aandhimul, with Angela & Jolana they had coloured rice, lentils, and dried peas using bright acrylic, water based paints as seen in the blog from the 7th April ‘Preparing for Workshops’. These were also used by the children to stick onto their characters, to bring them to life.

As the afternoon progressed, I became amazed at seeing so many of these children who are usually running around, making noise, being so concentrated. They were loving it and so focused. Not one caused any trouble or problems, as you can see from the pictures above and video below.

What happened this day, and in all the training workshops has made me realise how important creativity, participation and interaction are within education no matter where in the world.

If you are interested in seeing more of Yoshie’s creative workshops, and her work, please visit her own blog click here.


Kirk Joins the Gang!

From arriving back into the village yesterday, we had an extra pair of hands. I mentioned in a few blogs previous that on old friend of mine Kirk was going to join us for a week, and it was nice to add a little extra testosterone into the mix, there was maybe a little too much estrogen floating around 🙂

After the tasty Dal Bhatt the previous evening, we tucked into a tasty breakfast outside the teacher, Pampha’s shop before heading up to the school. This area where here shop/cafe is, is called Aandhi Khola and is an area situated on the main highway that goes between the capital Kathmandu and the tourist hub, Pokhara. It is only form of some shops and roadside cafe, and acts mainly as a drinking place for locals and passers-by, and also a trade point for locals selling either nanglos, or produce grown on their land.

Aandhi Khola is the place where we either get off the bus to walk up to Aandhimul or get on the bus to leave to Bandipur or Kathmandu. So our faces are always regulars down their, especially mine, so I’m no longer an attraction as most people know who I am, and the stares are minimal.

On our way to the school we decided to freshen ourselves in the local river that runs from the hills by Aandhimul down passed Aandhi Khola to the main Masangdhi river running parallel to the highway.

When at school, whilst the Three G’s were with the teachers. Kirk helped prepare some of the windows, ready to be painted. They still had a lot of cement left over from the renovation and needed to be scraped off. It was one job that was still left to do for the renovation, it also includes the window shutters and doors.

As for me, I had only just telephoned Hari, the Nepali water engineer from Australia earlier that morning, and quick as I could think he had arrived in the village late morning and wanted to view the village. So for the next few hours we talked, looked at the water sources (pic 8, Hari has the blue shirt and jeans). He spoke with some village members and then with some of them, Mon, Angela, Joli, Kirk and me we went to a cafe on the highway to discuss possible plans for the water project in Aandhimul. I will be talking in more detail about water in a future blog entry.

On our way down we captured the amazing event of one particular tree’s way of dispensing with it’s pollen. It was almost like snow (see pic 9). We also got some lovely pictures of children with their mothers coming back from their school, in their cute purple and white uniforms. There’s also a nice picture of a village woman carrying her nanglos down to the highway to be sold (pic 13) and them parked up by a wall in Aandhi Khola (pic 14). Yoshie tried her hands at carrying a basketful of kakros (cucumbers). Though what you see in the picture is as far as she got (pic 15), and pic 16 shows the real carrier happy to get in on the photo.

Finally, pic 18 and the video bottom right shows how life is for some 11 years old in the village. Tippee, has already matured to a level of a mother and she’s not even had her twelve birthday. She was pulled out of school a few years ago, and now has the responsibility of looking after her brother and other family members. You can see how well organised she is in preparing food for the evening in the video, it’s almost scary to think of her age. Even with the other children she treats them as an adult would, her childhood almost gone, and the expression on her face often looks like that of a hard worked mother. But what makes me smile is when I make her smile or laugh and within an instant the child is back!

It is girls like Tippee that really drive me to keep going through thick and thin times, especially when the adults in the community make it hard for us, I get relief when I see the smiles on the face of the children and say, ‘Don’t they deserve a chance?

Lunch & Dinner in Aandhimul

Lunch & DInner in Aandhimul or Nepal is, for those of you who don’t know, very simple. You wake at around 6.00am and have tea, which in the morning tends to be black tea, and like any tea in Nepal with exaggerated amounts of sugar. However, in the village some families don’t always have sugar, so they either use salt (tastes like a rehydration drink) or nothing. With that tea in Bandipur you may get biscuits, or roti (bread) with your tea, in the village just tea unless we have brought our own biscuits.

Then anytime between 9.00am and 11.00am is Dal Bhatt 1. In Bandipur we often get a variety of ingredients, but it usually consists of rice, lentil soup, potato curry and vegatables (often green leaf), or whatever is in season, and pickle, again varying in ingredients and flavours and often very tasty. Sometimes we will get meat too, on average once a week. However, in the village we often just get, as Angela puts it “Dal, Bhatt, Aloo” (Lentils, Rice, Potatoes), a mainly high carb meal and little nutrients. There are sometimes vegetables and occassionally a pickle, and on average meat once a month.

Actually, many of us found it difficult at times eating in the village, and with the family that is feeding us we have politely asked if they could give us less rice and less salt, and the taste is better. It’s an issue on discussion between all of usabout how we can help the young families, especially the girls in their cooking skills. A possible future workshop, especially in the food that is fed to the children. But we know one reason is their poverty, but without being too judgemental we have noticed money being spent on cigarettes and alcohol. All we can try and do is be a positive influence to them. Hence, why we have put in a good diet into th school to help give the children some vital nutrients.

As for lunch or as the nepalis call it Khadja (around 2-4pm), normally consists of noodles or chowmein. But also beaten rice, puffed rice and maybe a simple potato curry, or in the more populated areas momos (like chinese dumplings), both veg or meat, mainly buffalo.

Then between 7-9pm Dal Bhatt 2, basically the same as in the morning, lots of it and then to bed! On this particular day we were treated to a very tasty Dal Bhatt outside of the village at Jolana’s mitinee’s house, and we were all impressed with the flavour and variety, see pic 6, and they even gave us bread which isn’t common in Nepali meals (or the ones in this particular area of Nepal), unlike in India. A welcomed change!

Yoshie in Setograss Pre-school

As I said in the previous blog. I wanted Yoshie to see Setograss, and see all the things they make for the school, and lucky for us it was the start of a new year and we got to see all the mothers helping, both with cooking the food for the children and making many things from recycled materials, as educational or just for storage purposes.

They have a great system of mother involvement, I think it’s great to see what they have achieved here in Bandipur. First, they have a purpose built building on the edges of Bandipur and second they are also part of a Setograss community, originally from Kathmandu. They provide advice and experience exchanging and teachers from all visit each others in order to gain inspiration, and just see what others are doing.

You can see in pic 2, they are using bamboo sticks painted blue and testing the children’s co-ordination skills, Yoshie getting involved too! And the teacher in purple is Mon’s wife, Rupa. In pic 3 you can see Yoshie with another teacher, some mothers, and children making mallas (necklaces) from corn sticks, cut and painted in bright colours. Pic 4 shows how their rooms are decorated and as much as possible is handmade, it saves money and allows, teachers and mothers to use their creativity.

Pic 5 shows the mothers doing their best to deal with the smoke, as they cook and create the lunch which all children are provided for by the pre-school. Actually, they eat this lunch between 12.30-1.00pm, but the parents are told to give the children also a little snack/s to bring with them which they eat about 10.30am. It was the food programme here in Setograss that we have taken on in the Aandhimul school, and Mon’s wife who helped with what ingredients to buy and quantities.

We still have a long way to go in Aandhimul, but any help, exchange of ideas and inspirations are so welcomed. We have also planned for our two female teachers to come and visit Setograss in a few weeks time, which will be great for them to see so much stuff and speak to all the teachers.

The Beauty Around Aandhimul

This Saturday Yoshie and I decided to head back to Bandipur for 2 nights, first because my old school friend Kirk Wilson, from my birth town Luton had decided to come and visit and spend a week in the village. But we were meeting in Bandipur on the Saturday and also on the Sunday Yoshie is going to visit Setograss the Montesori Pre-school run by the Notre Dame School in Bandipur. Mainly to get ideas, and if you didn’t know from previous blogs, Mon’s wife works their as a teacher. You will see pics in the next blog.

Jolana decided to walk down with us from the family home in Aandhimul, and take some beautiful pictures of the wonderful nature all around us, which has acted as an amazing destresser at times. I hope you agree with the pictures you see.

Making Flags & ‘Mitinee’ Night

Angela and Jolana started the second week of training focusing on using children and doing mock lessons with the teachers. You can see below in the videos on the top the teachers putting their practice into use, and as I stated in a previous blog, Angela will be writing a blog in the future focused all on the training, as I myself had no involvement apart from photographer, and occassional assistant, it was all down to the great work of Angela, Jolana and Yoshie. They have all been amazing during this time, especially under the difficult living standards. I’ll apologise in advance for what I’m going to say now, can you believe 3 women don’t have a bathroom and there are little complaints, that’s impressive!

Before I get hit many times, I’ll move onto more creative things. To brighten up the rooms Yoshie bought some cheap, brightly coloured cotton and string, and had the idea to decorate the rooms with flags. Instead of just us making it, she involved both teachers and children too, as you can see in the pictures above and videos below.

Then in the evening between the teacher Pampha Gurung and Mon they had arranged this special evening where would be paired with a special friend called ‘Mitinee’ or for men ‘Mitju’, and for the rest of your life you have to call them by this name.

We started the evening drinking some local alcohol and eating some specially prepared snacks, then our mitinees came, who had already been chosen for us. Then follows a process where first you exchanged at the same time a tikka to the forehead, see Angela and her Mitinee doing it in pic 6. Then for women a necklace is exchanged and for men a traditional Nepali hat, following that flowers are put behind the ears of the Mitinee and finally both heads are bashed together by a third person, securing the ritual for life! You can see Jolana’s, Yoshie’s and my mitinees/mitju in pics 7-9.

A night I think none of us will forget!

Yoshie Makes Cards in Bandipur

In Bandipur, whilst Angela and Jolana were in the bazaar. Yoshie was up on the hill in the family house in Bandipur doing what she does best, being creative with the kids!

Yoshie’s mind never stops being creative, she constantly creates in her mind and when she has a good idea she gets it straight out onto paper, and this time she was thinking about what to do back in Japan top raise money and awareness for the project in Nepal. So the idea! To make cards using Nepali material usually used for clothes and other materials collected, and together with children, be creative.

So she had gathered some scrap material for free, from one clothes making shop in Bandipur, paper from the stationary shop and anything else she could find in the family home. She then rounded up the 2 children of the house and a friend too, and began to create. You can see the results in the pictures above.

Yoshie is intending to buy lots of different Nepali material and take back to Japan to do workshops with children their! I’ll keep you updated when they happen.