WPC: Earth Education


When I think about Earth Day, my strongest memories come from our time in Nepal and the opportunity I had to connect with many Nepali schools on the subject of the environment. In Nepal something like 40% of its population is under the age of 25. In recent years, private schools have sprung up all over Kathmandu in response to this rise in the youth population and the exceedingly poor education offered in public schools. Some private schools are better than others, but some are outstanding, offering education in English and Nepali, and include environmental issues in their curriculum. After the economic growth of the last twenty years, so many developing countries are now knee deep in trash and pollution, and there is a whole generation of young people who think that trashed filled rivers and polluted air are normal.  Kathmandu is no exception.  Education in understanding how to preserve the environment and build a more ecologically-friendly city is an important start to raising environmentally aware adults of the future.

I visited many of schools while I was there, learning about their eco-clubs and recycling efforts, participating in environmental projects with them and teaching “upcycling” as a creative way of making use of waste.  Of course, through necessity, poor countries know more about upcycling than their first world counterparts, but plastic particularly is seen as just trash that needs to be burnt.

Above:  Learning how to make useful items out of plastic bottles.  I showed them a technique on how make storage containers and vases and then challenged them to come up with their own ideas.

Above:  An Eco Club exhibit at a school outside of Kathmandu.  The kids came up with allsorts of decorative and practical ideas.

Lastly, one organization collected clean wrappers from packaged food and trained women how to weave them into recyclable products such as colourful baskets and bags, which were sold to tourists to create a livelihood project in the local community.



WPC: Rice Paddy Harvest (Dense)


From tending the nursery rice paddies shown here in the background….

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…to the thick, verdant harvest…

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….its back-breaking work.


I loved meeting with this friendly Nepalese family and the lush, dense paddies outside of Kathmandu.


Happy Memories!

For this week’s Photo Challenge, Dense: https://dailypost.wordpress.com/photo-challenges/dense/

WPC: Nepalese Doors

This week’s Weekly Photo Challenge: Doors is an opportunity to feature Nepali doors – plain and ornate. I may have just left, but I think I’ve many a Nepali post still to come!

30 Seconds: Packout

Well..’tis done.  Everything is back in the box and heading into the pale blue grey, dusty yonder…

The packers were very professional and fast.  I was pleasantly surprised to be truthful.  It was very encouraging.

Its hard to be leaving, and its not quite sunk in yet.  Here’s a little video glimpse:

Honey, did the earth move for you?


When your partner rolls over in bed it feels a lot like a tremor.  The simple movement of a leg or the adjustment of a pillow sends mini aftershocks through the mattress, which at 2am feels a lot like the beginning of another quake.  In the middle of the night its hard to be rational about these things. Sleeping through the night has been tricky for a while, after the quake its been more challenging still.    Before the second quake, it was sort of comforting that the aftershocks were rapidly decreasing in magnitude and frequency.  We felt them, paused to look at one another in the eye–an unspoken did you feel that?— and then continued with what we are doing.  Since the second quake, we know that the earthquake is not just a slowly dying beast, but one that can roar back to life at any time.   The ramifications of that mindset are everywhere….and its not just the bed springs that keep us on edge. After nearly a month of living in an earthquake zone, here are a few of the challenges:

Large earthquakes can bring a lot of after quakes.  I had no idea how many:

Nepal has had:
2 earthquakes today
33 earthquakes in the past 7 days
109 earthquakes in the past month
120 earthquakes in the past year

Large aftershocks trigger their own aftershocks, sometimes leaving you with the sickening feeling that this will never end.

Feeling after quakes all the time.  Everyone says, “Was that me?” ( or was that really a quake?)  Sometimes I’ve felt it, sometimes not.  And I do it too.  For my own sanity, I keep a bottle of water at eye level on the windowsill next to my desk. I’ve become super sensitive to the noises and rumblings of the building. I can feel and hear when pumps or AC motors turn on, and my eye automatically checks the water for movement.

The noise. When I think back to the major quake, I don’t remember any noise except the thud of my own heart and other people screaming.  But there is a noise that comes with the quake.  Some people say they hear a train coming, I hear rumbling and a bang.  Here in the middle of noisy Kathmandu there are plenty of unexpectedly slamming windows, rumbling trucks, or generators clunking back on that set of an alarm in my head.  I don’t run screaming from the building, but the hairs stand up on my arms.

The fear of other people.  I don’t like going out in public much at the moment.  I go, but now I particularly avoid being around too many people.  At the slightest tremor, they panic and scream, and waves of hysteria really don’t help. I don’t need to add being trampled to death to the list of dangers.

Birds.  A lot of the CCTV and tourist video captures the sudden flight of birds that take off seconds before we feel the quake.  They sense it before we do and startled crows are now another way to make you twitch.

Is it safe?  A year ago we went to a movie on the 7th floor of a Kathmandu shopping mall.  After, as we left, the city power went out and the generator took way too long to turn on.  We stumbled around in a dark passageway that was blocked with boxes and trash.  It felt like the most unsafe building in the city and we never went back. Apart from this incident, we’ve felt pretty safe exploring the city, enjoyed historic temples and the old Rana palaces that are now libraries and restaurants.  Before, an assessment was based on whether a place would have decent service or not make us sick.  Now I’m checking it for cracks and an exit strategy.

Exhaustion.   We work, function, cook, garden, shower and mostly carry on as normal but are completely spent by 8pm.  I don’t understand why I’m exhausted as though I’ve been carrying bricks all day… until I remember the disturbed sleep and the weight of all the stresses above – then it sort of makes sense.

WPC: Forces of Nature

I can hardly believe this week’s theme given what just happened here in Kathmandu.  Nature showed us what she could do to people, their lives, their property, and even the ground beneath our feet.  As we all struggle to find our footing again, I find myself driving around town, looking aghast at some of the changes the earthquake brought.  People are so accustomed to seeing dramatic pictures of world disasters on TV, or spectacular images of disasters occurring in movies. Perhaps people won’t think these images of broken bookcases or cracked walls are much evidence of the immense force  of an earthquake?  But for me, when I look at the destruction, it makes me remember the feeling of helplessness that an earthquake brings; feeling ant-like and hopelessly powerless, standing on a moving plate that is shaking kilometers below with enough force to do this kind of damage:

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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!…….

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: