30 Seconds: Monkeyin’ Around

Monkeys are everywhere in Kathmandu, especially around temples or scraps of undeveloped land.  They are so fun to watch, but can also be annoying pests and even dangerous at times.  I had fun filming them on the Bagmati River last week. I think they were actually hamming it up for the camera. Here’s a few seconds worth.  Enjoy!

Sign Language: Signs of Change?


Over the last few weeks, I’ve noticed these billboards going up around Kathmandu. They are meant to be arresting and thought-provoking.  And indeed they are.  On so many levels…  The problem of violence against women here is huge.  It cuts across all income, caste, and cultural backgrounds (much like statistics elsewhere, I believe) but is so prevalent and yet largely unaddressed publicly in the mainstream media.  Its not uncommon to hear NGO groups conduct awareness events or see street art with banners proclaiming “No to Violence Against Women and Girls”.  But on a billboard sign, next to a supermarket, next to the ads for concrete and building supplies?  Really? What does it mean?

It raised so many questions:

A magazine just for Nepali men… really? Actually, a magazine for relatively affluent, English-speaking, educated men.  That’s a niche market alright. But is its big enough to sustain a magazine like this? What did they have to say? I took a look at their website and was pleasantly surprised.  The articles were mostly about real issues rather than how to have tighter abs or buy flashy cars.  Articles like Choices in Contraception speak to the absence of real information here on taboo subjects.

A magazine published here? Almost everything here in from China or India, or imported from elsewhere.  Do they even have a high quality colour printing press in Kathmandu? Perhaps this particular niche market is one that already owns iPads and has easy internet access? Looking at their quality website, perhaps the main readership comes from an internet-based audience like so many magazines now in the developed world?

A magazine has the budget to advertise on billboards? Coca-cola, plywood, cement, rebar, paint and overseas educational opportunities… what else is there to advertise?  Here in Kathmandu, little else it appears.  If its not about construction (or the ubiquitous Coca-cola), then it seems there is no budget for billboards or posters.  Then, suddenly there’s this.  Maybe its not just about the cost?

What do men really think about this issue? Rape, sexual harassment in the office, feminism.. these are subjects that would be brave articles in Western mens’ magazines.  Brave in the sense that it might turn off readers.  I think its encouraging that Nepali editors are willing to take these subjects.  But what do the male readers think?

What does this mean in terms of changing attitudes?  Does this mean attitudes are changing? If gender-based violence cuts across all educational and economic backgrounds, will this eventually start to change with educated readers like this?  Why does every young man I speak to say that women should be empowered and that violence against women is wrong. But there’s so little evidence that this is happening. Is it just lip service? Will only real change come when the country develops?

And you thought it was just another billboard!…….

Sign Language: English Lessons

I couldn’t resist. If it had been a notice about washing your hands, or turning off the lights, anything else really…. I would have left it unedited. But the subject made it too tempting to ignore. So I made the corrections:


Afterwards, I must say I felt guilty. Did I shame someone who’s already trying to work on their less than perfect English? Someone who may have poor English only because they never got the chance to study properly at school? Perhaps someone more sensitive than me took down the sign after I left? Ugh. I felt like a bad person.

Or maybe they appreciated it? The sign may have taught me a lesson too.

Early Morning in Pokhara

Last month in Pokhara, at about seven in the morning, I was leaving my room for breakfast before starting work with some students in a hotel across the street. I was thinking about whether I had enough pairs of scissors and where I put my presentation notes. So at first I didn’t look up. The night before had been stormy and drizzly, and it had been too miserable to go out and explore. So I had stayed in the room and had an early night. Yet, first thing the next morning, this is the view that greeted me. I had to go back for the camera: DSCF5036
There’s nothing like a little storm to clear the air first thing in the morning.  And here clear air = stunning views of the Himalayans!


30 Seconds: Saturday at Swayambhunath

Nepalis work a 6-day week and Saturday is the day off.  Its a family day and the streets are quieter, so I decided to sneak off to Swayambhunath temple for a couple of hours to watch the monkeys and soak in the atmosphere.  I thought a 9am departure was pretty early and that I would get there before any crowds.  I was wrong!

Family time was in already in full swing when I arrived and the monkeys had long since split.  However, it was fun to watch the lines at temple, the coin tossing in the pond, and the general mayhem going on around me.  Families were setting up for a picnic in the most unlikely locations — and by picnic I mean cooking pot and granny peeling vegetables — and musicians blared and dueled with one another.  I just sat with my camera and watched.

Yet, surprisingly, there were still quiet corners.  As usual, I tried to capture a little here:  


I loved doing this Travel Theme challenge. Here in Nepal where the country has so many bright, vibrant colours, I headed off to collect riots of orange, red, yellow…. and yet I found myself drawn towards more muted tones, which was kind of surprising. My favourite is the dog, whose grime-streaked coat looks so much like the marble where he’s sleeping!

sleeping dog
engraved bell prayer wheels


On the Road Again?


This is probably not what Willie Nelson had in mind.

Despite its name, it does appear to be capable of mobility, yet it never moves. Its always parked on one of the main streets in Kathmandu, amid of all the chaos of micro buses and trucks. Judging from my general experience of Nepali toilets, I can’t even begin to imagine what its like inside. In a city with no such thing as chemical toilets and no drains, quite how it works, I’m not sure.. As for the red and blue buckets…the mind boggles!

30 Seconds: Bandh

Bandhs are general strikes. They have plagued this country in recent years: closing businesses, banning public transportation, and generally inconveniencing everyone for days at a time.  After a relatively bandh-free year, they are back and the Maoists who instigate them called for a three-day ban, starting today.  They seem to be having a harder and harder time making them stick…but still managed to take the chaos of Kathmandu down to a very strange kind of crawl today. Motorized vehicles vanished, schools closed, people walked to work or didn’t go at all.  The only vehicles allowed were essential deliveries, emergency services, tourist buses and diplomatic vehicles.  Those who disobeyed faced the possibility of confrontation or violence, so police were at every street corner.  Yet, despite the threat,  pedestrians filled the streets and the roads were quiet and more than a bit spooky.

So, in complete contrast to my earlier video of Kathmandu traffic, here’s a look at what happened today: