Oh yeah, I have a blog

Well then, it’s been a while. Not going to lie, keeping up on a blog is hard. Being halfway around the world really has nothing to do with it, so I’ll spare you that excuse. Honestly though it just feels weird blogging about what’s been going on here because at this point it’s just life. Tuk-tuk broke down on the way home and you had to wait for another one to come along and jump into it while it was still moving? That’s life. Can’t shower because there was no sun today and the landlords didn’t turn on the water pump during non-loadshedding time? That’s life. Saw the elephant from the zoo walking down the main street across the river to pick up its food? Okay, that one was new… I’ll give you that. But as for the rest of it, it all seems very business as usual now, which is probably a good thing in terms of having adapted to living here.

A couple days ago, my counterpart tried to hammer a screw into the wall to hang up a woven mat as a decoration in our new office. As outlandish as that sounds, it’s a pretty good metaphor for my work so far with the organization: right idea, wrong way of getting there. Or maybe not wrong per se, but definitely not the most effective. My organization basically has no funding, and it definitely has no projects, so my work has been focused on setting up internal structures and external connections to ensure that once the ball does get rolling it won’t stop again. It’s tough though. Seeing the endgame while working on such a small part of the initial stages is not an easy thing, but I’m working on it.

In the almost five months that I’ve been in this country, I think I’ve worked for two. Not that I’m complaining… as a most astute observer of the ancient art of procrastination and a long-time sufferer of chronic lack of motivation, I’ve been just fine with the pace that placement has been moving along so far. It’s crazy to think that there’s only three more months left until I’m back in the land of poutine and maple syrup, and while I can for sure finish with my current workload, I feel like there are so many other interesting things that I can also contribute to before I leave. I’ll have to wait and see I guess.

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Gettin’ comfy

I think I have finally reached some sort of comfort level travelling around Kathmandu. Lately, bus rides have been very nearly comfortable, which is astonishing if you’ve ever taken public transportation around these parts. I know where to get on the bus, I know where to get off the bus, and if I ever had to get off early I’d know where that was too. Pretty sure this came in increments, but last weekend I noticed that the journey into the main part of Kathmandu wasn’t stressful, and might even have been enjoyable. We went to Swayambunath – also known as the Monkey Temple – and were able to overlook most of the Kathmandu Valley at night during Tihar, which was really amazing. Right below here is a picture I took of the middle part of the temple complex, and if you look closely you can see the monkeys that were playing around and climbing up it.

Swayambunath

All these bus woes might sound surprising to anyone who’s taken public transit in Canada, but let’s just say that here in Nepal we were pretty shocked when someone found a map of bus routes, never mind even thinking about a locating any kind of schedule. One of the most hilarious things about public buses in Nepal is that there’s really no capacity, as long as people are mainly inside the bus we’re good to go. In other words… it’s a cozy experience.

It’s such a nice feeling to be able to relax and enjoy the city when I’m walking around; not having to worry so much about what’s going on around me or allotting extra time in case I get lost. I’m wondering just how comfortable I’ll become with this city before I leave in April now that I’ve passed the point of disorientation. Still have to work on that Nepali though, it’s a tough one to crack and I don’t get nearly enough practice with it. I have a language milestone to complete by the end of this month (Happy November by the way, woo two months down!), so cross your fingers for me. 🙂

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The Waiting Game

How frustrating is it to know that you can do something, but not yet?

Here in Nepal, we (well, most of us) started work this week. My first day was a little bit rocky, and by that I mean no one showed up at the office so I spent a few hours waiting around and trying – unsuccessfully – to crack the wifi password. BUT yesterday I got to read things, woot woot. In all seriousness though, the proposals and such that I was given to familiarize myself with were really interesting to me. That in itself is exciting because my main worry about coming to Nepal was that I wasn’t going to like my placement… past experiences have caused me to be wary. So all is well on that front.

What I found out yesterday is that the proposals I’d been reading were submitted and one of them got an unofficial okay. Well of course that just means that the organization can be optimistic about the result (hopefully) but can’t actually do anything to move forward right now. And that’s where the frustration is. How is anything supposed to get done if there’s nothing to do? Also, what’s the point of giving an early, unofficial okay if it doesn’t make a difference? We can’t do any project planning, etc because the proposal hasn’t actually been approved, and who knows when that’ll happen. In the mean time maybe I can practice my Nepali and get to know my coworkers and organization a little better – always a silver lining.

I guess this is the first lesson I’ll be learning as a part of this experience. As long as I’m learning something right?

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Namaste from Nepal

So. We made it (hi from the future). Haha, this one’s coming pretty late as it’s already been two weeks… whoops. For those of you who don’t know, I’m in Nepal. Left super early on the 6th and arrived fairly late on the 7th; 30+ hours of travel to get 10 hours into the future, all while losing pretty much all of Saturday somewhere over the Northern Pacific. Let me just tell you, by the last few hours on the plane I was ready to never see one again, and that’s coming from someone who doesn’t get motion sickness – aside from a weird back of the neck nausea feeling that results from spinny carnival rides.

Alright, quick run through…

Got here Sunday night, went to bed. Monday through Thursday were orientation all while staying at a (really nice!) guest house near the CECI office. Started language lessons that Wednesday and have had three hours every weekday morning from 9 till 12 since then. Moved into an apartment down in Lalitpur mid-last week; Wednesday I think it was. It’s nice to finally be able to set up shop and get situated in a semi-permanent location but it sucks that our tours and the resulting familiarity are all surrounding the Baluwatar neighbourhood where the rest of the girls are staying.

And here we are, all important things disclosed – well, except for the delicious quesadilla I had for lunch today, mmmm! As a quick little side note: I’m terrible with uploading pictures to Facebook and whatnot, but I’ve slightly stepped up my Instagram game. So if you don’t mind a little creative license, feel free to follow along there 🙂

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When a ‘developed’ country gets it wrong

We hear all the time about how countries in the Global North are superior to the ones in the Global South; maybe not in those words exactly, but it’s usually implied. That’s why I find it so interesting when a topic comes around that disputes this. I’ve been seeing a lot of discussion about gun control on the internet lately, especially in relation to the mass shootings that have become so heartbreakingly common in the United States in the last couple of years. It’s even gotten to a point of complacency, so that instead of acting to stop these events from happening, the media has sensationalized them to the point where people are almost numb to them.

Check out the first 1:15 of this video from the Daily Show (you can probably watch the whole thing too if you reallllly wanted, it’s pretty good). It’s a perfect illustration of what I’m talking about.

I can’t even fathom how school shootings can become something that we’re numb to. Where is the reaction? Obviously the right to bear arms is a HUGE debate in the United States, but as the video mentions there have been over 70 shootings in 18 months, and I think that necessitates a reaction. Don’t get me wrong, things have definitely been done. Just look at these handy little bulletproof blankets… because why try to end school shootings when you can just turn schools into fortresses and hand out military grade equipment to protect the kids.

bodyguard blankets

The things is, the United States seems to be the only country having this problem. Obviously there’s violence elsewhere in the world, but mass school shootings in Australia, Scotland, and Canada have resulted in stricter regulations, and guess what? It’s not a prevalent problem anymore. You don’t hear about a gunman shooting up a school every other week anywhere except the USA, and I think it’s really interesting that the NRA and other lobbyists are still fighting against safety. What I also find interesting is that this is a ‘developed’ country facing this problem, not a ‘developing’ country but it’s still dealing with a lack of control over an issue that shouldn’t even be one in the first place.

 

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Oh hey big business, want some human rights?

I don’t know how many people have heard about what’s happened in the Supreme Court of the United States (SCOTUS) kind of recently, but let me just tell you… it does not inspire confidence. I guess before I delve into it, I should mention that I don’t think corporations should be given the same rights as people, obviously because they’re not people. There have been enough stories of multinationals abusing their position, and I’m pretty confident they would manage without being able to control the lives of people.

Anyways, enough about me, back to the news. So, the SCOTUS ruled that Hobby Lobby, an American arts and crafts store chain, “can ignore federal law and deny its employees comprehensive health insurance because of its ‘sincerely held religious beliefs'”. So basically, women who work there get to pay for health insurance that they won’t receive. The big one here is contraceptives, because of it’s relation to abortions, which goes against the religious beliefs of the company.

hobbylobby

Keep in mind here that I just said company. I guess I kind of understand that Hobby Lobby is closed on Sundays because of their religious beliefs; store hours don’t really concern me too much. But to provide health care, and then say that you don’t want to provide what is clearly a part of that care because of your personal beliefs is not sitting so well with me here. Whether or not contraception infringes on the beliefs of the owners of Hobby Lobby, this type of backpedaling definitely infringes on the beliefs of the employees who want or need to use contraception. Especially because birth control pills are not JUST used for contraception.

The last thing I wanted to raise here is how these types of situations present themselves in other areas of the world. How corporations use and abuse their rights and legal loopholes can have serious consequences on the parts of the world that they’re exploiting. It seems that as this trend progresses, the power is going to shifts away from countries and toward corporations, which is pretty scary to think about. Public awareness of the ties between government and big business is increasing, so maybe there’s hope that things will improve before they reach a point where corporations have too much control over the lives of people.

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What to do when you don’t know what to do (about politics)

Happy Provincial Election Day Ontario! Hope everyone is more excited than I am about this year’s prospects, but judging from the conversations I’ve been having with people over the past week or so, that seems doubtful. It’s a rough one this year, I’m not going to lie.

For anyone having trouble deciding, there are a lot of awesome places online to check out… CBC has a nice little outline of all the party platforms, and my Facebook newsfeed showed me this handy little questionnaire that’ll help you pick a party on a federal scale.

elections

One major thing that I’ve been seeing for this election is about that idea of what we’re supposed to do when we don’t like any of our candidates. Obviously, getting involved in the political process is important. After all, what’s the point of a democracy if the people aren’t going to be a part of it? But there’s also no point in arbitrarily making a choice because nothing is floating your political boat. Huffington Post has a pretty swell article about just that. You can make your vote count today by handing in a blank ballot, because I guess a declined ballot is better than a spoiled one (how sad that it’s come to that). I have to say, I’d rather be able to actually check off a real person to represent me than to vote-but-not-vote.

Whatever I decide to do today, I can’t help but think about the state of politics around the world (oh INDEV). Elections can be crazy, democracy isn’t universal (and I actually am not entirely convinced that it needs to be, although dictatorships seem a bit much to me), and instability is a common theme in the news. Just look at the coup in Thailand and how they’re now under Martial Law. With all the other development issues that need to be tackled, politics is a messy organism when it comes to what can and should be done.

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