Marge Ely - Peace Corps Nepal. Community Forester.
Undergraduate at State University of New York at Albany - Mathematics Major and Women's Studies Minor.
Marge is both a Peace Corps Volunteer and a graduate student in the Loret Miller Ruppe Peace Corps Masters International Program at Michigan Tech. Find out more about this program at http://peacecorps.mtu.edu/ .
18 September 2002.
I just wanted to say hi to everybody from Nepal. It is my second day here and baf ra baf! (Holy Cow!), Kathmandu is a trip for sure. We started out vaccinations today and i'm kinda dissapointed with PC on their part because I now that I know the deal, I think PC needs to figure out a way to get us vaccinated before we leave...we have a month here where we won't be immune to a bunch of stuff until the shot kicks in...anyway, besides that things are ekdam miTho (very good) and I am slowly learning the language. People here are very warm and friendly and our training supervisor is way cool. He is from Nepal and met us at the airport at immigration. We then got blessed by the current PCV's (it's called tiki and it yogurt, rice and red dye that is put on your forehead.) we were then shipped off to the American Rec center and met a bunch of people including the American Ambassador....we had dinner and drinks with some current PCV's and got to bed kinda late for being so jetlagged, but I feel good and we have walked around the area of our hotel today and yesterday. we are in the touresty area, but it is still very cool. I saw a cobra in a basket with a snake charmer...how cool and today we had dal bhat for lunch (lentils and rice), I hope all is going well with all of you...Oh and the malaria medicine has given me some vivid dreams but it was not a nightmare so, so far so good. We move from Kathmandu to a city called Bairawaha on the Northern Indian border for training on Saturday.
29 September 2002
I am in a small city call Bhairhawa in the southern terai of Nepal ...it is very hot and humid, but it is getting better as the winter season approaches....I have been sick as my stomach adjusts to the food and drinking treated water, but I am finally feeling better after about a week with cha cha cha (too much info?) Anyway I am getting used to it here somewhat, but I do miss the USA much more than I ever thought I would...I realize now just how pampered we are in the US - even those of us who don't feel so pampered. I also fell like a pin cushion as I have had 10 vaccines in these 11 days in Nepal. It is slower here than Kathmandu and I appreciate it, but the marker place is still pretty crazy - i laugh at the cows who sit in the middle of the road and the cars and trucks that go around them...I have had my first public bus ride experience and boy is it a trip! I cannot really explain, but the country side is beautiful when there is no trash all over it... I went to Lumbini which is the birthplace of Buddha...there are many stupas (temples) of the Buddhist faith here - one from many of the Asian countries (China, Korea, Vietnam, Japan, Tibet, etc) and there is also the World Peace Pagoda - they are beautiful. It was a great relaxing day away from the city and my family.
Marge with Ilma and Ilma's daughter Areka.
I am lucky - two people in my family speak very good English, but the mother (my Didi or older sister) does not, so I get to practice my Nepali with here which is getting better....I was very sad for a while, but i am getting better.....so I need to go now, because I am out of time and my family is here waitin now...email me and write~!!!!
Marge (my Nepali name is Samjana! - it means Remembrance)
16 October 2002
I am going to an extra language class this evening! The language is coming along slowly - it is just difficult to put all the words together to have an actual conversation....I can say sentences, but I have a hard time understanding most people because they talk so fast...I always have to ask people to say it again and slowly! (Those things I can say very well in Nepali!)
Last Saturday we got a break from the terai....we went to the hill town of Tansen (what used to be called Palpa). It used to be a trading center, but not anymore....it is so much smaller than where I am now and the weather is so much more pleasant than the hot sticky weahter here in the terai.....I really wanted to stay! We went for a day hike which was long, but great....physical activity is lacking for me right now as we have class all day and it is sooo hot....some people run in the morning, but we all know that I am not really the early morning type of gal - only once in a while do I make it. So the hike was great - straight down and then straight back up! We went to the ruins of an old palace on a large river. We went through tiny rural villages in the hills with terrace rice patty fields - very beautiful! Now you know why I did not want to return to the hot dirty city of Bhairhawa.....but I did and it's OK...
PST staff members Chakra, Dailat, and Khila in their PC bike helmets.
The festival Dashain (pronounced Dersai) is underway here - it lasts for 9 days and lots of places are closed....yesterday I got blessings from many of the relatives of my host family - it was lots of fun and sooo interesting to watch this culture in action. We went to their village aboput an hour's bus ride from here (bus and jeep riding - what an adventure!). It is a farming village - we ate, we got tikas (rice and yogurt with red coloring) on our foreheads as blessings and $ was given out to all the women and the younger men.
P.S. I am craving salty junk food!!
30 October 2002.
I am back in Kathmandu (KTM) from Bhairhawa. Today starts my site visit and I ended up in the place not far from KTM. I am a little bummed about it, but I will make the most of it. I will not be in the city -so I am glad aobut that - I will be in a small town called Telkot outside of Bhaktapur. It is near Narghokot, which is a tourist town because it is at the rim of the valley and so has spectacular sunrise views of the Himal. I will be working in Telkot and Narghokot. I flew today from Bharatpur (we were on a field trip yesterday where we visited the Tuborg (beer!) factory and a paper mill - Tuborg has the ONLY waste water treatment plant in Nepal - and the treatment is only oxidation. There is no testing for nitrates or phosphates....but, at least they do something....the paper mill was like walking into the industrial revolution - the waste water being pumped out to the nearby river was pink. It was digusting and very sad. On a good note, we got served beer at Tuborg after their tour!). So we flew into KTM today and it was a SMALL plane run by Cosmic Air (about 15 seats or so) and landing was not fun! But I am here and will stay tonight in a hotel in KTM and tomorrow go out to Bhaktapur to meet my supervisor. My counterpart (the person I work with directly) will not be there until after I return in December. So I am hoping that Telkot will provide me with the best of both worlds - mtns and city. It is good to be near the resources in KTM not to mention the good restaurants when you crave some western food (though who can afford them on a PCV allowance - and traditional Nepali food (DBT - dal bhat tarkari - which means lentils,rice, and seasoned veggies) is cheap and delicious!)
On this note, I have learned how to cook some of this food and my favorite food right now are momos (traditional Tibetan style steamed dumplings - I like the veggie kind of course, but you can get chicken or mutton if you like.) I did try mutton (here it is goat, not lamb) a couple weeks ago. The meat is actually tasty, but they don't really do much for cutting the fat or removing the bones, so I probably won't be eating much of it. My family offers me meat here and there, but they don't eat it much either and they understand that I'll try new stuff, but I really don't care for meat.
2 December 2002
I am finally done with training - actually the last month has flown by. Today was our Language proficiency exam and I think I did OK, so I'm quite happy right now. I am excited to get to my site and figure things out over there. I think I'll have a lot of different opportunities because of the location in KTM valley and all the resources available there. I really think I'll have the best of both worlds - city and small town -I plan on making that happen anyway! So, Happy Thanksgiving! Yesterday our whole training class made Thanksgiving dinner at the hotel we are staying at for "Bridge to Service" for about 60 people. A big job like that in the states becomes a HUGE ordeal in Nepal (or any other PC country I am sure.) There aren't any real ovens in most places in Nepal so we made home-made ovens by putting a big pot over a burner and turning over a bowl inside. The dish you are baking goes on top of that and a secured lid goes over that and PRESTO you have an oven! We cooked about 16 pies on Wednesday and then made 45 kilos of mashed potatoes and tons of other food - we had a great time and it really did fell like Thanksgiving. One of my friends told a Nepali man that works at the hotel that Thanksgiving was an excuse for families to get together, eat Turkey, drink beer and watch football so later on he came back with a TV and asked where to put it. It was very sweet, but we decided that we could do without the TV - We made kindergarten hand Turkeys and plastered them all over the wall - Good fun was had by all - we had some Nepali dancing (Nepali's love to sing and dance!) and soon we were all dancing as well!
Group 195 at Swearing In.
So tomorrow starts bridge to service and then I go for two days to a "Natural Resources Volunteer Conference" for two days. It takes place in a town in Nepal that is known for Avocados!!!! And they are in season - I am going to get a bunch and bring them to my post - it's VERY exciting. The little things really do make your day here. Well, I am sad to leave my family here. They've been really great to me - one of my sisters here gave me a "sari" - a traditional Nepali woman's dress. It's pretty cool. I may wear it for weddings and stuff like that. There is this other dress style that I really like. It's called "choebundi" (phonetic spelling). It ties in four places and is really neat looking. There is this fabric made in a town near here that traditionally is used to make this style. It's for cold weather so I'm having a "kurta" ( very long shirt - like a dress worn over pants) made from it. I! can't wait to I get it on Monday.
9 December 2002
I am in KTM once again and as usual I can't wait to get out of the city. Some of the other volunteers in KTM valley have told me that they are always in the city and that is a bit disheartening to me. But, tomorrow I go to Bhaktapur and the day after I will start to look for a derra up around Telkot. There is one volunteer that lives in Bhageswori, which is a small town on the way up to Telkot. She will be my closest PC neighbor. She says that I may be able to find a place to live up between Telkot and Nargokot. I think that might be ideal. Right now that is my focus - finding a place to live. My counterpart will probably not be in for a while because his son is in the hospital - so I still haven't met him. Also, my supervisor did not come to my site team conference that we had at the end of training so I am bit disappointed to say the least. So, I think I ! will try to just get settled a bit and do some networking with some of the NGO's and maybe meet some other staff in the Forestry Office.
19 December 2002 - Excerpts from December quarterly report.
My training site was in Bhairahawa (also called Siddharthanagar -official name), which is a small city in the terai only about 3 km from the Indian border town of Sinouli. It is located in the Rupandehi district located 282km southwest of Kathmandu (KTM) on the Siddarthanagar Highway. It is 22km east of Lumbini, the birthplace of Lord Buddha (whose original name is Siddhartha - hence the Hwy's and town's name.
I lived with the Gyawali family, a Brahman (the highest social caste) family of four. Next door another PCT lived with the brother of the father of my family. Both families also rent out rooms to other small families. In my house were a mother and daughter and the husband sends money from the United Arab Emirates, where he works. Husbands working in other countries and sending money seems to be a common occurrence here. Many of them work for military outfits. My family is a mother and father, I call didi (sister) and dai (brother) and two girls (Bigya and Smritee), as well a female cousin (Biblabi) lives with us because the school is nearby. All the children go to boarding school (which, of course, is nothing like boarding school in the states, but better than the gov't schools.) Also, for most of my time here, my didi's younger sister from KTM was staying with us with her newborn and three year old son. It is customary for a new mother to move in with her own mother for three months after the baby is born. Their mother also lives in Bhairahawa so she goes back and forth between the two houses.
My family is considered relatively wealthy. Before I came here a servant was hired to come daily to sweep and do dishes (before that my didi did it.) My didi is a schoolteacher for a local gov't school and my dai runs a small rice and grains (store.) My didi does a lot of work in the house with not much help from her husband. She gets some help from the girls, but she wants them to do their studies so she does most of it. The women complain a lot about Nepal having a "i na raamro"(a bad) culture, but they just say "i ke garne?" (what to do?) and don't think they can do anything about it. Most things about the culture I enjoy - the togetherness of the family, lots of laughing, many festivals, and lots of foods and (sweets). But, some of the traditions of course do leave a lot to be desired not only to a westerner, but also to many of the women in Nepal today.
I have been given the nicest room in the house, which is a large front room. The other front room is the renter's room and the family is now sharing two rooms (one of which is the kitchen they have put a bed in for now - until I leave.) I have felt bad about taking the room, but PC pays them well and they say they don't mind. They were really excited about having an American living with them and now they are sad that I am about to leave. So am I, actually. They have really helped me to become adjusted here and we have definitely become close over the last 11 weeks.
There are many pipes that pump out well water continuously all over the neighborhood and city. Bhairahawa is not the cleanest city in Nepal. There is really no trash management and so it is thrown in the street or into the bushes and makes its way into the water drainage. Still, it is said that the cleanest water in Nepal comes from the wells here. Many bideshis (foreigners) actually drink the water here including one of the trainers who is a RPCV and one of the PSTs in my group. The rest of us do as medical says and filter and boil all our water. No water in Nepal is considered safe to drink for us. Training has been community based, of course, since we are living with host families. Our "regular" daily schedule was: Language: 7:00/9:30 AM, 9:30/11:00 AM Language: 11:00 /1:30PM Technical: 2:00 /5:00 (or later) This schedule was changed quite often for different field trips and seminar days at the hubsite. Of course, every day when we got home we were still practicing language. One drawback to my family for me was Bigya's excellent English skills. It made it hard to speak Nepali around her, especially at first when I knew very little. Her mother and father always looked to her for translation. As time went on, it got better as my Nepali got better. My didi and I became quite close as we spent more time together and our communication got better. It's amazing how much body language and unspoken communication can be used when it is needed. It has been an important survival skill in many situations.
Technical [training] started with an overview of the Natural Resources of Nepal including information on the five physiographic zones of Nepal, the status of Nepal's forests and deforestation rate and vegetation types. We started to learn some of the tree species in the Terai and the process of the government handing over forests to be managed by the community. Also, NTFP's seems to be a big buzzword right now in the Natural Resources/ Forestry realms in Nepal. We learned about those collected, used and cultivated in Nepal and how many of them are sent to India for processing because Nepal lacks the processing facilities. Field trips included visiting community forest user group committees, looking at roadside tree plantings, and then later going to see a smokeless chulo (cooking stove) built, visiting the ONLY waste water treatment facility in Nepal (which isn't really a treated with anything, but processed to remove sludge and oxygenate it.) Technical training also included information about NGO's that was given to the whole training class on Seminar days. A history was given and lists of existing NGO's in Nepal were given. As of the end of 2001 there are 12,388 NGO's registered in Nepal, but many aren't doing much. Peace Corps works directly with some NGO's such as Women in Development (WID), Green Energy Mission (GEM), and Asia Network for Sustainable Agriculture and Bioresources (ANSAB). Training in Participatory Rural Appraisal and Rapid Rural Appraisal was given to the entire training class. Peace Corps had it's own method called Participatory Analysis for Community Action (PACA) that is basically the same as PRA except it has more gender specific analysis involved. We reviewed mapping techniques, daily scheduling recording, and needs assessment techniques and were given handouts for future reference. Along with these trainings, we performed a PACA activity, a community involvement activity, and a final practicum.
The head forest guard, Rishi Khanal has helped me out this past week since I have been here. I am not his responsibility, but since the DFO and my counterpart are both out of the office, he has taken on the role of counterpart a bit. We have a bit of a language barrier, but it is getting better and he seems genuinely concerned about my finding a good place to live (not near the "drinking men") with a good family. Finding a "i derra" (apartment) is my main concern right now and not knowing where all the people I am supposed to work with are has made it quite difficult. So, I have decided to take my time and try to find out more information before I move into a place.
: There are a ton of cows in Bhairahawa. It probably is the city with the most cows on the street, even our Nepali PST staff said they had never seen so many cows on the roads. It gets interesting at night to not walk into one or have the rickshaw you are on not run into one. There is one day during the "Dersain" holiday that all the cows are taken off the streets and blessed (given red "tika" on their heads.) Supposedly they are all bathed at that time as well. It was strange to walk around town that day and not see the cows.
16 January 2003
So I am now moved into my new derra (that means apartment or flat for those who aren't keeping up with the lingo here - but I can understand how hard that is!) It's really a nice place actually.....it is a mud house, but don't get those pictures in your head of some small little hut. I have two rooms that are quite large in my own separate small house. My new Nepali family's house is two feet away, but I really like the privacy I am able to get this way. That is one thing which is lacking among Nepali families quite often. Because they are so close and live in extended families of aunts and uncles and cousins and grandparents all either in the same home or nearby, they don't understand the concept of wanting to be left alone for a while. It is one of the first things that I really had to let them know about because they hadn't had much contacts with bideshis (foreigners, particul! ary white ones) besides as tourist encounters in the area. But, I have tried to make it clear. They have gotten the picture somewhat, but I still don't think they quite understand it - and they also are very curious about all my things so want to look and touch everything in my room. That is a little harder to negotiate, though I just try to be honest and take things away from them when they pick up something I'd rather they not be handling.....it also makes you keep the things you want really private, hidden away. It's not like they will go through and open things, but the son did try to read a letter I had written - I think just to practice his English.
The one problem I have been having with them (I think is because they are so happy to have a bideshi living with them and because it is still so new), they treate me like this honored guest and won't let me do anything. It has gotten annoying really quick! They also say they are concerned for my safety (getting lost) and do not want me to walk alone anywhere.....and so my dai (means my older brother, but he's actually the father in the family) has gone everywhere with me, even when I am with other people, but might have to walk back alone. We are talking about in the middle of the day and in an area that I know pretty well and would like to search out a bit more ON MY OWN! So, needless to say, this will get nipped in the bud on Sunday when I go back to my site. I thought I was going to scream the other day on my way to Kathmandu when he tried to come with me! He also constantly asks to carry my! backpack....it drives me crazy. I know it is mostly out of helpfulness and concern of me not getting lost or dealing with whoever, but it's definitely has gone a bit overboard......but I think it will be fine once I just put my foot down and let them know how it's gotta be. I can always move if I need to, but the house is really great and the family is cool, too. There is also the mom, one daughter (16) and two boys (11 and 18), and the grandparents (father's side) in one house and then the widowed sister-in-law (also father's side) in a house nearby......I think she is alone now, because her son is in KTM (Kathmandu.) The common house has only the father's side relatives and the grandparents live with one son (usually the youngest I think, which my dai is.)
Monday I am invited to a wedding in the family really nearby....I think it is the sister-in-law's son (I guess that's my dai's nephew) and I am sure that it will be quite interesting. It is arranged, as most Ne li marriages are and I feel bad because it seems the girl is always so upset about the whole thing that she cries most of the whole day. Nowadays the ages vary between families, but it is NOT uncommon for girls of 14 or 16 to get married in the rural areas or even younger!! Pretty sickening!
So, I am actually starting to meet some people that I might be able to work with so I am really happy. I've been in KTM all week for a conference held for all the PC volunteers here and today I went to the District Soil Conservation office to see a Ranger I had met previously up in my village area. I ended up meeting some people from an NGO that does work with biogas, vermin composting, and Improved cooking stoves for rural homes. I am excited to get to work with them in the near future. I also found some excellent resources here at the office and met with another NGO called Green Energy Mission that does lots of things mostly with "non-timber forest products" (mostly herbs and other plants that can be used for medicinal purposes or crafts, etc to make money for the local forest users).
7 February 2003
I am in KTM for two days to see a friend that has come in from another big city in Nepal called Pokhara. I also came into talk to my program assistant about dealing with some "overprotective" issues with my landlord (and family). Sometimes it is hard to negotiate the cultural limbo line that you seem to be on. On one hand you want to respect Nepali culture and their traditions, etc; but on the other hand, things can sometimes go overboard because they feel you are a guest and they need to protect you even more than a Nepali. It's all out of goodness, but it can get a bit overwhelming when you feel like you can't go anywhere alone. I have managed to change that one my own, but the problem now is that Shivaraj (my landlord) seems to have become somewhat uncomfortable around me because he doesn't understand why I have been disliking the fact that he wants to do everything for me, go everywhere with me (or someone el! se), know everything I do and everywhere I go (and people I talk to) and why. It just is too much, so my program officer (Dinesh) and assistant (Anar) are going to come out when Dinesh gets back from the e tern districts of Nepal.
It such a hard issue because I don't want to insult or seem unappreciative of his and his family's help and I don't want to force my own culture on them, but the fact of the matter is that I am from a different culture and to get my work done and stay sane (ok, certain people need to stop laughing, I know that can never really happen!) I need some space, ya know? If my family had their way, I would eat every meal with them, but I have been using a tachnique learned from Daniella in Panama (Hi D!) of eating at different people's houses and that seems to be working except my family sends the boys to come and get me after they finish their own meal - I had to laugh to myself when that first happened, but it was actually quite annoying because the house I was at was literally a thirty second walk from mine!!!
Moving along.... My work has started, but really I am just starting to learn what's going on - kind of! There are five Forest User Groups that have just been handed over their forests from the government - but really they already used them before. It's kind of a weird situation because they are "opening" the forests for the first time next week for the collection of leaf litter be the user's ( no firewood allowed to be taken), but it's quite obvious that the people go in whenever they want and take what they need already. But, I guess now it will be a bit more managed and organized. That's one place I might try to help as well.....but first I really still need to work on language. It's coming along, but it's just so frustrating. I rarely can pick up more than a couple words when Nepali's speak to each other because it is fast and they use loads of slang words and shortened words in everyday speech. I have started working with a local teacher so I hope that it will come along. It is hard to force myself to study at the end of the day because my brain is just so tired from trying to communicate all day!!!
Well, I guess the snow season should be in full bloom over there. I miss my snowboard....I hope all you riders and skiers (downhill and X-country!) are making some great turns! I hope all the urbanites are dealing with the cold and having some warm cozy nights. I sleep with a Nalgene bottle filled with "tato paani" (hot water) in my sleeping bag and I am nice and cozy in my mud house! It rarely gets much below freezing here. Lately the mornings have been beautiful and I went hiking up to the ridge above me where the forest is a few days ago. There's a view of the Himal when it's clear and that morning was spectacular!!! I have decided to do that more often. It was so good for my soul to start my day like that - completely rejuvenating, as well was the day when I went for a hike into the forest with one of the User groups. I realized how important it is for me to get into the forest. ! They don't want me to really go alone and for now I don't know it well enough to do that. I haven't seen any of the government workers go in there ever, but then again I could just be missing those times. The forest does open next week so I hope that means all my work will be in there, as well!
26 February 2003
So right now I feel like there is lots of work for me to do - I am enjoying the place that I live in a lot - it's beautiful. I have been meeting a lot of people and trying to figure out what I am really supposed to be doing so I am very tired sometimes. Speaking another language all day that you are just learning can be very mentally exhausting when you are trying to figure out what people are saying to you and then find the right words to reply - quickly! I just do the best I can - and use my dictionaries (yes I have two - one given to me that translated English to Nepali and one I bought that goes the other way!)
We had spectacular views the a couple of days ago in the late afternoon of the Himalayas (here called the Himal) after the rain. All the dust (or "dhulo" in Nepali) was gone and the "air was clean" as they all told me and so you could see for miles in the valley. My house is south facing so I have a view of the hills (higher than anything on the east coast) from where I am , but not the Himal. But, all I need to do is do a short 15 minute hike to the ridgeline above me where the forest is and then there's a view (weather permitting). So I went up just in time for sunset and it was one of the most spectacular things I've ever seen. The best view I've had since I've been here. Tears in my eyes. We all know I am a lover of the mountains and I am blessed to be here. Not only do I get days like those AND will be able to take vacation trekking days, but the people are really wonderful and love to laugh and sing and dance (maybe even a little too often when work needs to be done - but really fun all the same).
There's a Jazzfest here for two weeks starting soon so I guess I'll be coming back into the city again shortly - there's so many resources here - NGO's and people and libraries I never seem to have enough time when I get here. As well, things take AT LEAST two or three times as long to get anything accomplished so I never get all the things done that I plan on when I'm here. Oh well. I have decided to not have my mail sent to me in Bhaktapur and just pick it up here - It took 8 days to make it to me last time and that's just not worth it so I've basically been coming into the city every two weeks so I'll just pick up it then - I hope a nice fat pile of letters from all my dear friends and family! My new Nepali family is always so worried when I leave - it's cute - they have already starting saying how much they will miss me when I go back to the states after two years and that I must come back after! and visit. I have been told I must come back for the wedding of their daughter in five years. I said I'll try.
Tansen, Palpa District. A typical bazaar scene.
Ok, so this was interesting. I went to this festival call "Salinadi" a couple of weeks ago that was by the river of that name in the valley right below "my" forest. Basically we were in the very northeast section of KTM valley. So the river is considered holy for a month and people come to bathe and worship in this one section of the river. There is a temple there as well and everyone gets "tikas" (blessing on the forehead of red and yellow) and it's just HUGE. People are throwing uncooked rice and other herbs and fruit and money at religious people as they read their books as donations and then into the river as well and onto the many different sculptures, statues and images all over the temple area. Along the river, people are selling things for worship and trinkets. So, we keep walking and to my disbelief as we t! urn a corner, it turns into a carnival/ fair complete with a man-powered Ferris wheel!! Two of the younger girls I was with went on, but I was quite frightened of the workmanship of this machine so I stayed away. Literally two teenaged boys stood in the middle in the air and ran so to power the wheel. Then there were food vendors and all kinds of vendors with knickknacks and clothing and cosmetics, etc. There even was a ring toss! You could win yourself a bar of soap, a coke or a even a packet of chow mien noodles if you were lucky enough to get the ring around that prize.
15 March 2003 - Excerpts from quarterly report.
Community Forestry: The names of the five newly formed Forest User Groups (FUG's) that I have been assigned to work with are Seti devi, Jhalpa devi, Gangarani, Itali devi, and Shreban. All the Community Forests (CF) are located on the north-facing slope of the hill that we live on. The first three in this list I've had much interaction with because we live on the same (south facing) side of the hill below the pine plantation belonging to their CF's. I have gone to many Seti devi committee member meetings and one official meeting each with both Jhalpa devi and Gangarani. There was about two weeks in February where there was much activity in the FUG's. There were many meetings, forest openings for collection of "patkar"(or leaflitter) used for animal bedding and later for compost in the fields) and later for firewood collection, and "Forest Management Trainings". Not all the FUG's are doing all of these activities at the same time, of course.
Jhalpa devi and Gangarani have both had the "Forest Management" Trainings that have been given by the Ranger's from my office. These are four-day trainings - two in the "classroom" and two in the field for approximately thirty people. I attended all four days of Jhalpa devi's training, though I only made it to the last hour of Gangarani's (I had not been informed of the four day training by my counterpart. Rhishi, Telkot Range post head forest guard, had that it was only two days of a self-training and led me to believe it was unimportant. I think it was basically miscommunication). But I did spend a lot of time with Gangarani after that point. The main component of this training is thinning (singling) and pruning and "cleaning" which was basically pulling out much of the small shrubs and grasses that have overgrown in much of these forests. The two days in the field consisted of doing these activities with the Rangers in the field. Basically the people were most interested in collecting the much need firewood that the thinning provided, but because it is actually much needed in these forest areas, the thinning is good both for the people's needs and forest growth/ health. I did observe, however, excessive pruning of some trees for firewood by some people. They would take branches from the crown of healthy larger trees or take almost all the branches of smaller seedling trees that need more time to grow before pruning so intensively. Otherwise, I found these trainings beneficial to the people and the forest. The classroom training also provided some book-keeping/ accounting in terms of charging group members (or others) a small fee for collection of the wood (occurring after the training.)
While the Jhalpa devi group was in the field, they discovered that they have "Dhasingre" which is Gaultheria fragrantissima or wintergreen and a type of forest "Chairito" that is an indigenous medicinal herb. The wintergreen oil is extracted to use for a variety of things like massage oil, flavoring, pharmaceuticals, and perfume. The problem with this NTFP is that you need a large amount to make any money from it. We are not sure there is enough for it to be worth it. The Chairito may not be the correct species that has medicinal value. It is rarely found this low in elevation. Gangarani FUG, the first to have the forest management session, has already conducted its own group training by those who attended the original session. They collected for seven days and charged 10NRs for one five-hand "barri" A "barri" is the generic word for their loads that are tied on their backs and has a strap the goes over the forehead (namlo) and then around the back of load on their backs. A hand is the distance from ones elbow to tip of the fingers (forearm). So, a five-hand barri is approximately two meters in circumference. (It is actually termed another value - but I didn't note the word). These were the agreed upon measurement and price, but while I was there the second day there was an argument about it. The group member wanted a ten-hand barri for the same price.
Three Pictures of Carrying Leaf Litter.
At this same time I have only had short contacts with Itali devi. This group and Shreban live on the lower north facing side of the hill or in the valley at the bottom that slope. I don't get to have the daily contacts with them like I can with the other groups. Itali devi, with the help of two of the Telkot forest guards held their own thinning for two days. It was basically an organized wood collection. But, as the case with all the other groups, this CF needs the thinning.
Shreban and Seti devi were selected to be a part of a Natural Resource Management Sector Assistance Programme (NARMSAP) training for FUG's in Katmandu valley. Two members from each group were selected to go on a weeklong trip to other districts to meet and other successful FUG's and see the activities being performed by these groups. The training was for FUG members only, so I was not permitted to take part, but my "dai" was one of the members selected by my group to go, so we have discussed briefly where they went and did. A more detailed discussion is to follow, I hope.
Recently there was another training for Shreban called "Women's Community Forest Awareness" that's focus was to teach women the "concept" of CF and government policy, the role of the forest in women's lives and women's roles in the forest (though I think they already know that), and to visit another "successful" FUG. I still don't understand when people are talking quickly (but, I am beginning to pick up some words) so many times I get lost in these trainings and don't totally understand why I came. But, the people are always so happy that I am there and on breaks I try to talk with people to get to know them more.
There is one other group that I have been in contact with in my area called Bahal FUG. They are about a 2-hour walk from my house in the "Nargokot Range post area (the next range post office next to Telkot where I live) and I met them on a training with the Nargokot Ranger. It was training on "Institutional Management", which was about networking with NGO's and other organizations after they have figured out which activities that they want to do. I spoke to the group at the training about prioritization and focusing on one activity at a time and that I could be possibly help with strategies of prioritization (from PRA) and by researching about NGO's, etc in Katmandu valley that work on the activities they want to do. We made a date for their next monthly meeting, which I will attend. I will stay there for the night and visit the Women's literacy class that is happening in the area in the evenings. The next day I will go into their CF, see how it compares to ones in Telkot, and try to learn some more species.
Survey of Local Community Forest: I have been told by the DFO that all of the Bhaktapur forests are the same - shrub land. Besides that there are small areas of plantation pine as part of reforestation efforts from other countries (the Swiss and German mostly). All of Katmandu valley, including Bhaktapur District, is consider in the Sub-Tropical belt vegetation type. The dominant trees in Telkot forest as stated in the Seti devi constitution (I had help translating some pages) are Chilaune (indigenous), Katus (Chestnut), Seti kat (?), and sala (pine) plantation. There are also Kafal (Box myrtle), Falat (oak), and Lalighass (rhododendron) among others less dominant that I have yet to identify. The pine is located on the south-facing slope only so belongs only to the three groups whose forest includes this south area, while the rest of the forest is on the north-facing slope. It is called a "mixed forest type" and has "good" regeneration. There is much coppicing that occurs with Chestnut and Chilaune. The soil types are "balaute" (I have yet to translate) and rato (red), the latter of which is used in building their houses and for the daily resurfacing done on the kitchen floors and outside step of the home. I believe the "balaute" is what one FUG member referred to as "raamro khalo matto" or good black soil. I need to verify the classification with the DFO. The slope is 40%.
Seti devi's constitution states that it's members are from five wards in Chhaling Village. (Nepal is divided into regions, districts, village development committee areas-VDC- and then wards.) It has 479 families with 958 women and 896 men (total 1854). The area is 67.16 hectares. The constitution also states the needs of the FUG by firewood, grass, leaflitter, and timber and whether they can be completely filled by the forest - in all cases the situation is no. So, other sources are needed like grass from the field, using dried dung for burning, etc.
Wedding Season. Wedding season is just about over. They last three days and are quite the experience. There is a party at the bride's house where the dowry is given (officially illegal) and any other gifts from her side. They wash the new couple's feet and perform all kinds of worshiping done by the bride. The give each other "mala's" made out of flowers for both and the groom get others that are more elaborate made out of garland. The only thing he had to do is put one "tika" on the bride. So starts the situation of uneven division of labor right from day one. The bride is all in red and has a veil. She is not supposed to be heard or smile. Most are crying because they are scared and young (average 14-18). They are about to be brought to their new home and will probably not be able to see their family very often or ever again. The bride is kept inside when she is not conducting rituals and the groom is outside enjoying dancing and singing. That evening they are brought to the groom's house and the next day or two there is gift giving and a party at this house.
Tourists: White tourists are sometimes very unfriendly to other white people. It's crazy. I live in a tourist area and I will politely say hello to those that I meet or give a smile and sometimes I am completely ignored. It's some kind of weird phenomena that these people are trying to get away from their culture so they don't want to have anything to do with you. I have been somewhat guilty of it - I usually don't have conversations with tourists because there are just so many of them that come by - but there is just disrespect for others and impoliteness that gets expressed. It's probably the same kind of attitudes they are trying to get away from by coming to Nepal!
22 April 2003
Things are getting into a kind of groove, though I really have
no daily schedule to speak of except that I am teaching English
to the Class 4 kids in a nearby school five times a week at 10
AM. Besides that my schedule varies a lot!!! I am working with
one of my Forest User Groups on a tree nursery - though it is
really only two members of the group that do any work besides
me. I am also watching over another nursery started by two other
volunteers in a nearby village. That one is quite small and not
much work. I am trying to get a Girl's Club started, but it is
so difficult. The reason I wanted to try to start one was that
the girls get so little time to be together besides in school
or working in the fields - they really don;t get much time to
study or socialize at all! And this is the reason we are having
trouble getting started!!!!! Girls didn't show up to the first
meeting because in short notice the Community Forest was opened
for people to collect leaflitter (a needed commodity for farm
animal bedding that is later used as compost in the fields when
it has mixed well with the animal's manure) so the girls had to
work collecting and carrying HUGE loads of leaflitter from the
forest to their homes.
Anyway, we will try again this Saturday morning....this time it will be even earlier, too.........yeah, I am up before six am every day and my family thinks that I am sleeping in!!! The mother is up at 4 and the rest of the family up at 5 AM every day!!! I guess it is the farmer's schedule especially now when it is around 80-90 degrees in the afternoon already! Here comes the monsoons!!!! (well we really have a couple months until they start.) Right now it is the dry season and water is starting to run low everywhere.....even by my house, but they say there is always some that comes, just not all day so I should be alright!!!
Not too much else. I try not to get too frustrated, though it is hard sometimes. Daniella had it right in a postcard she sent to me from Panama - sometimes it is soooo frustrating, but then the next moment it is awesome!!!! The kids in my class are really cute and I think they will keep me smiling. My first class I had them write their family member's names and one little girl wrote her mother's name as "Grape" because she knew that it was the English translation of her mother's name "Ungor" so she thought because we were in English class she should write her mother's English name......how cute!!!
Two Pictures of Farm Terraces.
Mid-June 2003. Bits and Pieces from and email.
Iit is raining - a lot. I was sick with a horrible sinus infection for 10 days as the weather changed. And now there are leeches - yuck! And I am walking around with my pants hiked up to my knees or higher (though as a girl it would be inappropriate to just wear shorts - sometimes I just want to scream about some of the cultural limitations. OK, not wearing shorts is not that big of a deal, but well I just cannot "get used to" the boy in my house playing at home all day while his sister goes into the fields and works all day. Now, she is older than him and he isn't very strong, but he isn't required to do any housework while he is home because he is a boy, so Gita (his sister) and their mother have to come home from the fields and start cooking and cleaning and have to clean up after everybody is done.
Ok, so I won't let this email be a total bitch session though things can be frustrating, I have found time to read some really good books! All the Harry Potter's except the new one (what a great story teller) and The Lord of the Rings Trilogy. Now I am reading three books at once - all having to do with religion/ culture in a way. One looks at ancient religions and how they were female based, one that I am almost done with is written by the Dalai Lama about how his country (Tibet) was taken over by the Chinese, and the other I just started is about how we are now in the mist of a societal turning point in the world (now that we are basically one global community.) Besides that I am filling sick days with my first water color painting (goes to mom, of course) and I baked my ! first cake from scratch (and it was just as easy as from a box - who knew???) I have also planted rice with everybody and drank so much chya (tea) that I can't fall asleep at night. ( Now I don't drink tea after 5). My Girl's Club is still going (kinda) strong with all its problems.......ah work, we'll stay away from that subject for the chance it will bring back into another bitch session!!!
We had our six - months - at - site In Service Training two weeks ago (and everybody else was complaining a bit, too imagine that) - it is quickly coming to a year that I am here. WOW!
For now, I will brave the leeches and head back to my little house on the hillside above the barn with termites (did I mention those!) still smiling because the four year girl who lives nearby will talk to me now (she didn't at all for about 3-4 months) and calls me her auntie. She likes when i give her soap to wash her face with - the little things.....
From an email on 7 September 2003.
Work is going well.....girl's club, teaching, some trainings
from Peace Corps and a new project under way on biogas plants.
Besides that monsoon is ending and the weather is getting nice
again - slowly. It is still raining....just not all day every
My year anniversary in Nepal is almost here and it is so hard to believe, yet so much has happened in that year, as well. Sometimes, you feel like there is nothing to do and then bam! - everything happens.....you feel like you are on a yo-yo. There are a couple of people who live near me that I get to see sometimes and it is nice to feel at home with another PCV. Not all that much is exciting and crazy anymore.........it's just life (as fellow Panama MI- PCV said), but it definitely can be interesting at times!
Last week the girl's club i started gave a two hour show for a Nepali festival. It was great!! Lots of fun. I will try to get some photos out soon. Maybe I can get to a scanner one of these days, as well. The girls had been working and practicing for the last ten weeks for the show and it was a success!! We had 13 events of dancing, singing, poem reciting, a comical newscast, and a drama that blew the crowd away!! I am still hearing about it from communtity members who tell me this was the first show of it's kind in our village. AND we raised 285NRs in donations. (not really all that much - but it adds to their savings) Needless to say that I am very proud of "my" girls.
Mid-September 2003. (excerpts from the quarterly report).
For two months the girls worked on putting together a show with singing, dancing, a drama, poetry reading, and a comical newscast. It was a two-hour program that was attended by approximately 200 adults and children from the community. They raved about it all especially the drama, which was about a mother-in-law not sending her daughter- in- law to her own parent's home for the holiday of Tij, but then the same thing happens to her own daughter. She realizes her mistake and allows her daughter-in-law to go home. This program was the first of it's kind in my village. Many community members came up and thanked me for putting it together with the girls and for setting up the club. We raised 285NRs in donations for our club!
The boys and men in the community were motivated by the success of the girl's club show, weekly meetings, fundraising, and other activities to ask my help in the development of their own group mostly focused on community work. The first three activities that have been started simultaneously are road maintenance and reconstruction, a 'Dersain' (Nepali festival) show (in which they have asked the Girl's club members to perform), and curtailing "raksi" (alcohol) consumption in the community. They have gotten men together that usually sit and drink all day to help them in road construction and to be a part of the show. So far they have spent one full day of thirty men and boys to work on improving the road. I believe the club has 35 listed members from Wards 5, 6, and 7.
We are currently working on two different action plans. The first is to put together a parade against "raksi" drinking and private selling in our community. We are inviting six other Community groups (including the boys/men's club) to join us in holding signs and walking throughout the VDC to houses known for raksi selling. Our signs will talk about alternative activities that can be done with the extra time and money available to people who have stopped drinking. The second action plan is being constructed for the goals we created for ourselves. Most of the girls have chosen their goal to be passing the School Leaving Exam (SLC) so we are preparing a schedule for studying and working together.
3 January 2004 - Excerpt from December Quarterly Report.
Along with my very painful ear infection which included dizziness where I couldn't walk for a week and hearing loss (that has now mostly come back, thank goodness!), a pebble sized insect fell out of my ear that must have crawled into my ear from the elephant I was riding in Chitwan National Park. It was NOT the first time the PC Medical Officer had heard of such a thing to my surprise, but it was a first for me!!! I was quite nauseated to say the least because the "little bugger" was still alive! I still had fun on that elephant, though. We saw rhinos and crocodiles up close and personal as well as taking a bath with one in the river! I also was the only one to be allowed to climb up the elephant's trunk to mount him like the trainers. He let me try because we had been talking the whole time in Nepali and was happy and surprised by how well I k could speak. We really had lots of fun.
March 2004 - Excerpt from March Quarterly Report.
Girls Club Group Activities/ Workshops and Cohesiveness:
Two major programs were held one in which my PC advisor came and did a workshop on teambuilding and time management. This three-hour session consisted of some group games, brainstorming about successful teamwork and how to make a good team, and group mini projects that were performed for the entire club. We reviewed a sheet about how people are like types of animals that everyone must work with in a team. We also briefly went over time management ideas. These will be revisited more in depth in our trip to Kathmandu on April 10 (see below plans.) We also went as a group to the "Sali Nadi" festival in the nearby city of Sanku. Here the girls worshipped shortly together at the temple and then enjoyed the rest of the day picnicking, shopping at the fair booths, riding "ping" (Nepali for ferris wheel - these are powered by older boys who run along the inside to keep it going!). Later on in the day we stopped by the edge of a creek in a field and the girls danced together with a tape player we had brought along. I believe this day was very good for bonding among the girls.
Other News from Nepal:
This is baby season. New goats are everywhere and lots of cows and people are pregnant. I just saw a newborn (person) the other day that was only about eight hours old. They had the birth at the house with the grandmother of the new child as the "midwife" (I'd say all the grandmothers and older mothers are midwives in Nepal!) Today in Kathmandu valley and other city areas, women are going more to hospitals for births. This is a good thing because most women are not trained in dealing with complications, but the conditions of most hospitals are horrendous. A health volunteer told me that the infant mortality rate is very high with home births and lower for hospitals ones, but still quite high for the hospitals.
My dai (older brother) fell off a bike into a small creek ravine while I was in the US. He partially fractured his hip and got a big wound on his head from hitting a rock. He will be OK - he is already up and walking around on crutches. The interesting thing is that he is telling people that a "bhoot" or ghost knocked him off the bike and pushed him off the road. He says he knows this is true because he fell down the ravine first and the bike came after and that it was twelve noon and everybody knows that ghosts' time to come out are midnight and twelve noon. He said he felt the push. I told him I don't really believe in ghosts and that he probably just lost his balance and fell off the bike and into the ravine. But, I said it in a polite way. I didn't say that I thought that he is probably just embarrassed that he lost his balance and fell off the bike on a stretch of the road that is flat and easy.
I am not sure if I have mentioned this before, but traditional Nepalis believe that being "motto" or fat is a good thing and they use the word as a compliment. My family is always telling me that I am too thin and that I need to eat more. It is Nepali custom for the serving person to continue to put food on your plate and ask you what else you like three or four times after you have said enough. Some women will even just put it there if you say no or when you are not looking and you are expected to eat it. My family knows that I mostly eat less rice than they can and that when I say enough I am done. Well, I put on a few pounds in the States with all the rich foods so readily available that are not in Nepal like cheeses and sweets and fried foods. Almost every single person I have seen since I have been back has commented on how good and fat I am right now - it's enough to make me crazy! Anyway, my family has been educated that being really fat is unhealthy and that as an American woman, I don't like to be called fat or feel fat. So they do not say anything and my "boujoo"(brother's wife) does not try to push extra food on me, but she laughs when she hears other people say how beautiful and fat and pasty white (from lack of sun in the States when I was home) I have become.
Well the good thing is that I have to walk everywhere in my village to get work done, so as long as I am not "alchi lagyo" (feeling lazy) I will lose the pounds quickly and start getting the insults of how disgustingly thin I am looking! Another option is to drink that water from the tap and a good digestive illness will wipe those pounds off in a flash!
22 June 2004.
Mushroom trainings held were held April 6-9 and April 14-17
with Gangarani (G) and Seti Devi (SD) Community Forest Groups
respectively. The training with Seti Devi was a much better success
than with Gangarani, but I also was able to spend more time with
the committee of Seti Devi to organize it. We had 30 participants
with SD, but only 14 with G. The lower number in G corresponds
to the fact that it was time to harvest the wheat. The training
was supposed to be at the end of March, but had been postponed
more than once by the committee leaders. As well, it was poorly
planned - no room preparation, no necessary electricity (previously
requested), no dishes for eating lunch, and everybody showed up
late. (The lateness was expected, but it compounded the inefficiency
of the group.)
Both groups did complete the training with mushroom seeds planted and set aside to cultivate. They each went through a day's training in business/ budget/ marketing management in order to create a group for selling or even on their own if they wish. Seti Devi's mushrooms "bags" produced much more mushrooms, by far. Gangarani also had the problem that the person whose house they chose to leave all the "bags" did not do any work to watch over them for two weeks. This lead to them drying out and then being having to be resoaked with water. This ultimately lead to a "dhusi" or other fungus/ mold infections that had to be picked out or applied with grain alcohol to kill it. All these together delayed the mushroom production and greatly reduced the quantity. Both groups split the produce between members for them to try on their own. In general, Nepali people do not like to try new foods. They love their "dal, bhat, tarkari" or lentils, rice, and vegetables cooked in turmeric and cumin. But, they tried the mushrooms and many of them liked it once we learned to squeeze them dry somewhat. These are Oyster mushrooms, which are not as tasty as some of the other varieties (most people say this), but are the easiest to cultivate.
Seti Devi members took turns to lightly water the "bags" and to pick the mushrooms. There was some quarrel over whether or not to harvest a whole bag at once as per the training or leave the really little mushrooms to pick after a day or two. We will have to confer with the expert again. His name is Bhimsen Khadka and has been very helpful. He has come back twice since the trainings to see the progress (once the day of our cultural show to see that, as well.) He has also called and been on call for questions and updates to help in the production of both groups' batches.
The first anniversary of the [girls] club passed on "Jeth 2," which was May 15th. In honor of the day the girls organized another cultural show. This one was better than ever! We had been practicing for 2-3 months with dances, songs, a play, poems, and funny skits. This show included not only "Nepali" Hindu cultural acts, but also Tamang (a local ethnic group of Mongolian descent) and Indian Hindi acts. The poems and drama were about issues affecting girls in Nepal today like being made to stay home from school while their brothers have no such obligations when the farm - work labor demand is high, the dowry system, and parents forbidding love and intercaste marriages without exception. Overall it was a great event that we had video recorded and put onto Video CD's, as well so the girls could watch themselves on TV.
Smoke from an improved wood stove.
Rice planting season is here again, as well as are the leeches, mosquitoes, termites, other biting insects and flies, mud, rain, colds and sinus infections from the change in weather and the mold and germs breeding in the heat, as well as the typhoid fever in the village. There are also two cases of scabies in a close neighbors children that I sometimes play with - unrelated to the weather. We thought it was over, but they both have relapsed - mom must not have cleaned the bedding good enough, a hard thing to do with no hot water and unreliable sun to put the bedding out in. Unfortunately I have to avoid visiting that neighbor now except outside. I also have had to move my bed away from the main light in the room as it attracts the insects especially it seems these baby termites or something like that that were just infesting my room. We fumigated more than once and the insects seemed to have died, but then I had dead insects falling on my bed, so I moved the bed away from the light. For now it seems to have done the trick, but hopefully now that the "big rains" have started, the heat loving insects should dwindle somewhat with the coolness the rains bring. Now come more of the damp loving bugs like leeches, worms and slugs.
8 September 2004 - Excerpts from a quarterly report.
Income Generating Activities:
One woman in Seti Devi CFUG cultivated her own mushrooms after the trainings were over and that original batch was about finished. I had no idea that she did it until later and they were finished. She told me that her son had brought her one bottle of seeds and that her own family ate them. I was impressed that she cultivated during monsoon and she said there weren't too much problems with other fungus infections. I have had five women from the group ask me about getting seeds again thus far and I have told them we will go get them at the beginning of the next Nepali month Asorg (about September 16.)
The "Biogas Management Committee" (BMC) has been formed mid July and they have been working since in getting this project going. They have met with BSP and have decided to include the low cost plants in the project. BSP will thus be in charge of the biogas plant building and they will choose the masons to hire in the building. These masons will basically get a training in low cost building, but will also get paid. This makes things a bit easier on the BMC as they don't have to choose a company now (as well the trust issue about being cheated/ arguing over expenses is taken care of as BSP is a respectable internationally certified company.) The BMC has also met with and had the help of a micro-finance expert from Winrock International another NGO in Kathmadu that (among many other programs) is working with small village micro -finance organizations to give out biogas loans. They were (are) very interested in continuing work with this group to see how it works out as they have not seen this done by a CFUG before. This expert helped the BMC to create the loan criteria, how to set up the co-signers in settlement areas, how to write up a loan application, and how to assess each applicant's annual cash-flow.
The BMC created the project goals and action plan, set the loan criteria, set a date for a mass meeting and put up posters to invite CFUG members. About 110 people came to the meeting including all the BMC members, the forest ranger, Prakash and Mahaboob from BSP, and Prem from Winrock. The meeting was run by Sangita and she did quite well for not having much experience with introducing this kind of project. But, many of the men that came to meeting were kind of "heckling." They seemed to find something wrong with everything that she was saying or the CFUG had done. Prakash and Prem did well to support her when questions were asked that she could not answer and just to keep the men in control it seemed. The idea to have them here was good as they provided a validity to the project that the BMC couldn't do on their own and so I was not needed. I successful in not being involved in the meeting except being reference twice and being asked a question directly.
The girls paid two local women (mothers) to teach them how to make these simple knitted door decorations and end - table/ TV covers. Each girl paid 10 rupees a day with 5 in each group most days was 50 rupees for each woman for 2-3 hours of work (they receive 80 a day for farm field work.) The girls used club funds to pay for the first ball of yarn for each girl and the one knitting needle needed to do this simple "lace."
The girls approved for me to buy a volleyball from the funds that were reimbursed by the PC Women in Development Committee for the last Cultural Program. It has been too wet to play so far except once. But I will start teaching the game soon.
The girls have started writing up the "Constitution" for the club. They have been talking about it for months on end and finally started it when I was not in a meeting. I have yet to see or hear what they have written.
18 September 2004
For safety and security reasons Marge and all other Peace Corps Volunteers are evacuated from Nepal.
March 2005. Back in the country, no longer a PCV, to finish research work.
Celebrated the holiday of "Holi" where the girls and boys get to throw water and colors at each other....the only day open flirting is allowed all year between Nepali people. It was interesting (and wet!) to watch and play in the village.
My arrival to Nepal was delayed by two weeks due to political instability in the country and I have seent that the situation in the country has much deteriorated since the evacuation of PC from the country. Luckily, Kathmandu valley is still safe and since the King's take over (which was the delay of my arrival) the valley is actually safer than before. It is outside the valley that is unstable and now there is much news cut off from there. The King has taken awaymany civil liberties in hopes of keeping the Maoists rebels from communicating with the rest of the country. For me this has meant a hightened sense of awareness of what my Nepali friends in and out of the village are telling me about me being in the country and especially in the village. In announcements in districts outside of the valley, Americans have been continually threatened to be arrested for their travel there so I have kept close to the capital.
With this all in mind, I have tried to conduct my work in the quickest and most effecient way and still, of course, maintain quality and accuracy with my data collection and work with the CFUG and community members. As a participant observer, my work now included meeting with new members of the CFUG management committee and hearing their complaints about the way the project was handled and sitting with the biogas subcommittee to hear their thoughts on these new people and their interests in the project (good and bad.) I helped to schedule a meeting in which the ditrict forest officer, my old PC supervisor, the biogas installation company, BSP staff, the new CFUG committee, the old biogas subcommittee members, and myself. This meeting was to come to a decision about how the project would be handled from this point because of the disagreement between the the two committees. The new people want to take over the project from the old subcommittee members and they tried to do this by verbal force because they are men dealing with women in this patriarchal society. The meeting also was held to finally straighten out the issues of the new people about the managment of the project and money before. The outcome of the meeting was a compromise between both groups to manage the project together starting from now. Other work with the villagers included visiting all the new biogas plants and interviewed each household. At these informal and formal surveys, I received comments about how the project has gone in the past few months and whether or not they are happy with the outcome for themselves. As well, I interviewed some people with new ICS as I completed the second half of the community awareness survey.
Backcountry emergency medical care in Yosemite.
Now an Urban Forester for New York City
"The new job is going well.....not much training - just throwing me to the wolves so to speak. I had three rushed days with the guy I replaced. I am taking his position as the "Street Trees Coordinator of Manhattan." Basically, I'm responsible for planting all the street trees and some playground and park trees in Manhattan --- about 400 trees or so per season with an almost $600,000 budget (one tree planting costs about $1500 or less depending on if there is an existing pit or if the contractor has to break through the concrete to create a new one). Central Park is not mine, though...the park has all private $ and does their own thing - the city doesn't pay anything for central park so it is not my work. Anyway, I've been congratulated by a couple people in the office who told me that the Manhattan coordinator is a prestigious position in the office (and a lot of work) and for me to come in and start straight away in this position is uncommon."
2 June 2006
I do find myself missing Nepal a lot and not thinking about all the moments that were really miserable or seeing the good in them. Living in NYC is an experience - it is really loud - but not quite as dirty as Kathmandu. I drive around Manhattan a lot for work and let me say that driving in midtown is a nightmare....it takes a lot of patience.....I am working on mine!! It is cool to see trees that I planned out being planted and greening up the city. I work with all kinds of community members and associations as well as political entities - communty (district) boards, council members, commissioners, etc.
Marge selecting trees for Manhattan.
The Lonely Planet Guide to Nepal.
Background information on Nepal.
The U. of Texas Nepal page.
The Art and Culture of Nepal.
Marge's page on Wind Power in Developing Countries.
Back to the Michigan Tech Peace Corps page.
Page created 22 July 2002.
Updated: 13 June 2006.
Page created and maintained by Blair Orr.