Monday, 8 May 2017

Electioneering

It seems that elections are all around us at the minute. Maybe you feel like Brenda - “Not again” or maybe you're excited… ok, probably not.

Supporters of one party campaigning down our lane
Nepal, like the UK is gearing up for elections. These are taking place this coming Sunday, 14 May. These are local elections, but they are the first local elections to take place for about 20 years, although national elections took place in 2008 and 2013. Following years of political struggle, a civil war, and a constitution process that took 8 years, it feels like this is a significant step in the process of turning Nepal into a democracy. These elections will be for 700 village and municipality assemblies.

Electioneering is well underway in Kathmandu now. This last week flags of one of the parties have been put up on all the telegraph poles in our street. We have also had at least two groups of supporters come down our street. They have been in a large group of 20-30 people, with the flags of their party. Each party has a flag with a simple symbol in the centre so that they are easily identified for the illiterate and under educated, particularly in the rural areas.

Public Information Posters (click to see them in more detail) 

This evening a group came along with a loud speaker on the back of a motor bike and a guy with a microphone shouting slogans and explaining why his party was the one to vote for.


We’ve also seen public information notices appear on walls near our house. As you can see from the photo, they include helpful pictures making it clear what inappropriate behaviour is at election time, including having a party with food to coerce people to vote for you and trying to get people to vote for your party by threatening them with knives and guns. Good to know.

Sunday, 30 April 2017

Weddings

During our time in Nepal we’ve been to many weddings, both Hindu and Christian weddings, both of which look quite different to a western wedding, full of their own traditions. We did blog about one back in 2009, but we've been to plenty since then.

The bride, a colleague from KISC
We’ve never actually been to the wedding ceremony for a Hindu wedding, as these are usually just for closest friends and family, just the reception which usually happens on a different day. You arrive at the reception, go and meet the party, who are usually sat on thrones and give them a gift and your blessings. Then you socialise, while drinks and snacks are passed around. Often there is a room with loud music for those who enjoy a dance. Once you are done, you go and get your Dhal Bhat (rice and curry), and then leave.

You might be there for a few hours, but for that whole time the wedding party are sat receiving guests and gifts, looking unhappy (it’s a traditional requirement for the bride as you are required to be sad to be leaving your family), as literally hundreds of guests arrive. The largest wedding I went to had over 900 guests.

Another factor, strange to our western experience, is that most of the weddings I’ve been to I don’t know the bride or groom. We have usually been invited as we know the parents of one or the other. The first ever wedding we went to was our landlords niece's, and we'd only been in our flat a week at the time! It is very much tradition that you invite everyone you know to your child’s wedding. These can be very expensive events to cater a Dhal Bhat for several hundred people.

With the Bride and Groom at a recent wedding. The father
of the Bride is a colleague
The people group who traditionally hail from the Kathmandu valley are called Newari – and at these wedding receptions you don’t even get the groom! If you know the bride, then you are invited to the bride’s reception, which takes place a few days before the actual marriage ceremony. Only the bride’s friends and family are invited to the bride’s reception. Then a few day’s later, after the marriage ceremony is the grooms reception, which both bride and groom attend.

Christian weddings tend to be a mix of the traditional Nepali wedding and western weddings. On arrival there is usually the snacks, but then there is a wedding service, quite similar to a western service with vows and songs. The bride wears white as opposed to the traditional red sari and parades in at the start of the service, although they still sit on thrones at the front of the church. And of course afterwards there is the Dhal Bhat. You can’t have an event in Nepal without the Dhal Bhat.


Monday, 24 April 2017

Trekking

Friends on a trek
Early on in our time in Nepal we managed to do a few treks. We went to Annapurna Base Camp and trekked on the north side of the Himalayas. We even did a trek with Sam when he was about 18 months old, but apart from Dan joining the year 7 trek for activity week in 2015, we haven’t trekked for some years.

Several of our friends with similar aged or slightly older kids had done it though, and shared with us about how good it is and how well their kids tended to do. The secret – go with friends. Then it’s just friends running along a path together rather than an arduous walk.

Morning Views
So this Easter break we decided to venture out. We went with another family with similar aged children, 2 boys a year either side of Sam and a girl a year younger than Mim. We did a 3 day trek, walking for 4-5 hours each day, for 10 or so miles, through the hills just south of the Annapurna Mountains.

We reached a peak altitude of just over 2000m, had two days where we climbed about 500m during the day, and navigated probably a thousand steps. We had fantastic views of Annapurna South, touring above us at nearly 8,000 metres but only a few miles away. And we had a lot of fun. The kids, especially the boys, were hard to keep up with and the girls did great, Mim managed to walk every step.


Two highlights of the trek involved water. The first, at the peak of our trek was hot springs, which was a great way to relax after 2 days of walking enjoying fabulously warm water. The second was an impromptu dip in the freezing cold mountain stream on the last day, including finding a natural slide in the stream. Nepal really is an amazing place to grow up!



Monday, 27 February 2017

Birthday


At the start of February KISC celebrated its 30th birthday! Formed in 1987 as a small study centre for about a dozen or so children secondary aged children, it has changed a lot in the last 30 years.

Since then it has grown to around 220 students, ranging from 4 to 19 years old. We also work with several partner schools in 3 regions of Nepal through our teacher training branch EQUIP. We support another similar school in Pokhara and there is the plan and vision to start a teacher training college in the next few years. We also have a new site to move to hopefully by the end of this year, with our own buildings, after 30 years of nomadic existence.

It’s an exciting time to be part of KISC and we are privelleged to be able to play a role in the work that is going on at KISC. We came for 2 years nearly a decade ago, and it has proven to be a big part of our lives.

The birthday itself has become our Global Day of Prayer for KISC, this year was the 3rd time we’ve held this. We had people from all around the world sign up to pray for KISC. Then on the following day we had a community lunch, a special service of celebration and of course, cake! Part of the service included a video showing the history of KISC, which you can watch here if you'd like. 

Happy Birthday KISC!


Sunday, 26 February 2017

CELTA

This is a very delayed blog!  Back in November I (Becky) completed a CELTA (Certificate in Teaching English to speakers of other Languages) course. This is an intensive 4 week course run by the British Council in Nepal but awarded by Cambridge English in the UK.

About 60% of our students at KISC speak English as their second language (ESL) and so over our time here we have learnt to adapt our teaching to support these ESL students and help them to access their education. In the autumn of 2015 the opportunity came up for me to cover an ESL teacher for 6 months while she was on home leave. I enjoyed working with the ESL students, directly supporting them as they worked to improve their English and therefore access their education better. I decided that I'd like to stay teaching ESL.

So this school year I have been working solely in the ESL department working with students in years 1, 2 and 6. It has been a big change from teaching Secondary Geography, and so the CELTA course provided some much needed training!

With my certificate
As I mentioned above it is an intensive course, 5 days a week full time plus working every evening and weekend to get assignments and lesson plans done. It was exhausting. Nine of us started the course and only six passed which shows you how grueling it was. The course looked at the theory of teaching English through classes every morning plus practical experience as we taught either beginner or intermediate level students each afternoon.

I certainly felt like I had earned my certificate by the end. It was a tough course, but rigorous.

The course finished two weeks before the end of KISC school's term so I returned to work for two weeks before a well earned break over Christmas and New Year. Now I have to apply all I learned.

Tuesday, 24 January 2017

Loadshedding

“Put the kettle on”, “I might take a shower”, “I need to charge my phone”. When these thoughts pop in your head you can just do it, right? Well it depends on where you live in the world, and for the last nine years of our life we haven’t been able to do these things whenever we want because of Loadshedding.

Load shedding is the name given here for the rolling power cuts that we have endured throughout our time in Nepal. We’ve blogged about it before. The city is divided into groups and each group has two scheduled power cuts a day. The daily total cuts can range from 2-12 hours depending on the time of year and how little rain there has been.

That is all until November when suddenly the scheduled power cuts stopped without warning. Initially nobody seemed to know why, although we weren’t complaining.

Anyhow, it turned out that there was a new head to the Nepal Electricity Authority, and having looked at everything, he decided that we didn’t need the power cuts, but that with some efficiency saving plans, mostly involving cutting out corruption, there was enough power for the city. You can read more about it by clicking here.


So now we are enjoying 24/7 power (apart from the odd unscheduled and usually short outage), amazing how quickly you get used to something good. We’re trying not to take it for granted though, especially when we think back to the blockade and all the shortages last year. Life is anything but predictable!

Friday, 16 December 2016

Christmas Stories

Mim as donkey. Second from right.
This week we have seen both Sam and Mim involved in the Christmas story. On Tuesday Mim’s class did a Nativity for their class assembly in front of the primary school. Mim played the part of a donkey and gave a very enthusiastic “Eee-Orrr” when it was her turn. Watching eight 4 & 5 year olds doing a nativity is of course very cute and it was very fun to enjoy for all the school and their parents, of course.

Then on Thursday night KISC had our annual Christmas Carol Service, which this year included a play by the Primary School. The whole Primary school from Year 1-6 (so not Mim’s class), were part of the chorus, but Sam auditioned for, and got the small part of a narrator in the play itself. Our unbiased opinion is that Sam delivered his 3 lines excellently. The play was about the choosing of a star to shine over Bethlehem to light the way for Mary & Joseph as they headed to give birth.
Sam is front left wearing a hat.
The evening, outside, in the cold, with the KISC courtyard lit up with Christmas lights, was a great evening and we enjoyed singing carols in Kathmandu. Another highlight of the evening was an outstanding performance of the song “Noel” by an ensemble group of students. Sam and his friend apparently said it was as good as professionals. We’ve put a video of this song (by professionals) here for you to watch and enjoy as you prepare for Christmas.


Come and see what God has done.