Saturday, 19 December 2009

Happy Christmas

Christmas time in Nepal is not quite like the UK, as you can probably imagine. For starters we’ve only really become aware that Christmas is upon us in the last 7 days. Not like the UK where cards where appearing in some shops before we left back in September.

In the last 7 days we’ve had the Kathmandu Chorale, a choral group made up of mostly ex-pats, give their annual Christmas Concert, the British Embassy Christmas Carol Service and KISC’s Christmas Carol Service. They are already forming part of our Christmas tradition here (indeed for more information on them just look at last December’s blog).

This year there is also the threat of a nationwide, general strike by the Maoist party. They are in the third phase of the protests about the actions of the President back in May. The strike they are planning will initially be for just 3 days, but if their demands aren’t met they are saying it will continue indefinitely. This means that there is the possibility of everything being closed for quite some time if the strike is as serious as some believe it might be. So yesterday we went out and stocked up, including everything we need for Christmas dinner.

Changing tact completely Copenhagen has dominated the news everywhere this last week or so. You may have seen on the news that the Nepali government held a Cabinet meeting at Everest Base Camp a few weeks back, with the aim of raising awareness of Climate Change; flying everyone up there in helicopters for a short meeting. They’ve also taken about 400 delegates to Copenhagen. The words footprint and Carbon spring to mind.

Of course it is the poorer countries, like Nepal, that are likely to be most affected by changes to the climate. We saw evidence of this last year when trekking in the Himalayas we saw a Glacier that had retreated quite some way, compared to photos of just 50 years ago. However, we know it is also many of the poorer countries that are the worst polluters as they strive to catch up with the west in terms of development. But change is happening so fast in places like Kathmandu policies and procedures aren’t put in place to moderate the development and protect the environment. We see that daily with streets thronging with traffic pumping out thick black fumes and the outskirts of the city littered with hundreds of brick factories making the bricks to keep up with the city’s unregulated growth and adding plenty of their own fumes to the atmosphere.

Anyway, Hope you all have a very Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year.

Dan, Becky & Samuel

Sunday, 22 November 2009

General News

We’ve been meaning to update our blog for a little while now, but keep struggling to think of a good topic. So this time the update will just contain some general news.

This week Samuel has started on grown up food. Well if you can call carrot mashed up and mixed with breast milk, grown up food. He seems to be taking to it okay so far, although he’s not had too many delicacies so far. However we’re aiming for smoked salmon and caviar soon. He’ll need to learn to get a bit more in his mouth before we actually try that on him. The faces he pulls when he tries new flavours are quite something, but he gobbles it down fairly quickly.

They’ve gone away over the last couple of days, but over the previous few weeks we’ve had some truly spectacular views of the mountains. October/November is usually one of the best times of the year to get good views of them and this season has given us some of the best views we’ve ever had. I think we’ve especially enjoyed them recently as we now have a flat where we can actually see them from inside and also immediate access to the roof which gives us a great panorama.

We are now half way through the second term of the school year at KISC and everything seems to be going well for Dan as he works away there. However the Secondary Principal goes back to Australia for 6 months in 2 weeks, which will mean a lot more work for him. Becky has settled in well to life as a full time Mum and has already joined a number of mums and tots style groups. Some good friends, who also had their first baby in the summer, have just returned to Kathmandu. The wife of the couple and Becky have been out together this week which caused even more interest than normal.

Sunday, 25 October 2009


Last week saw the Hindu festival of Tihar, better known as Diwali outside of Nepal. This is the festival of lights, so it kind of feels like Christmas with everyone putting up lots of lights inside and outside their houses. They also set of lots of fireworks and bangers, which tend to be very loud, but thankfully never disturbed Samuel.

The festival lasts for about 5 days and includes one day of worshipping the dogs, so they put garlands and tikka’s on the dogs. There is another day where they worship the god of wealth and as part of this they paint a path with red clay from the money box out onto the street. They then decorate the street end of the path and often light the path with tea lights. This festival is surely the best for burgulars.

It is a much happier festival than Dhosai which was at the beginning of October and Nepali’s seem to really enjoy the celebrations. There were numerous parties going on in many of the houses nearby, including one where the (bad) Karaoke went on until 2 in the morning. We were not impressed.

As a family we are starting to feel very settled in our flat and are starting to make it feel more homely for us. Just yesterday we moved all the furniture (inherited from the previous tenants) in our living room around to get a layout that is just ours.

Tuesday, 29 September 2009

Two weeks in

We've now been back in Kathmandu for 2 weeks and felt it was probably about time we updated our blog. Time has flown, but also it's starting to feel like we were never away from Kathmandu. It has been great seeing friends, catching up on news and just spending time with people we've not seen for 5 months. The welcome and help we have recieved has been great, both at the airport (see photo), with settling into our flat and even having meals provided for the first week. It has reminded us about the great community atmosphere here which is one of the things we've loved about living as ex-pats.

Samuel has seemed to cope fine with everything that has been thrown at him so far. It's a lot hotter than in the UK, despite the Indian Summer you're having, but he's been fine with that. But it's also all the things we got used to before, but are very different to the UK, he's taken in his stride. Things like the traffic, the attention recieved from the locals and the dogs barking as we walk along the streets. The Nepali's are enjoying him too, they are quite used to Bideshi's (foreigners) walking the streets, but to see a Bideshi with a baby causes much pointing, staring and quite a bit of poking and silly voices. Much like the time he spent with his Grandfathers!

Friday, 11 September 2009

Time to Return

Well time is rapidly running out on our stay here in the UK. Our suitcases are partially packed and will probably face being repacked several times before we leave on Monday. Many goodbyes have been said, but some, most notably those to Samuel’s grandparents remain.

We have had a great time here in the UK but we are also looking forward to returning to Nepal. Of course the main event of our time here has been the arrival of Samuel. He has coped remarkably well with our attempts at parenting and is thriving in all ways a child can at 3 months. Of course I am slightly biased but we think he’s great. He was just telling us yesterday how keen he is to get to Nepal and meet everyone there.

This Sunday we had a Service of Dedication for Samuel which was a great event. Many of our family and friends were able to join with us for this special event, including four of Samuel’s five Great-Grandparents. We really enjoyed the service and it was a great chance for us to refocus on what we are doing and why we are doing it, both as parents and as we return to Nepal.

So now all that is left is packing, more packing, goodbyes, a wedding on Saturday and then some more packing. It’s going to be busy.

Wednesday, 5 August 2009

The foreseeable future

It has been a while since we've updated our blog, and our time since then has been devoted to looking after a certain young man. It's been amazing to see how he has grown and developed over the last 2 months. It's been an exciting and challenging time for us dealing with him and all his demands.

Samuel hasn't been our only focus of the last 2 months. Dan's sister Hannah was over from Australia for 2 weeks at the beginning of July and it was great to spend some quality time with her. We've also had a number of family events over the summer, meeting up with various family members and showing off Samuel.

In the middle of July we were able to get away for a weeks holiday with Becky's parents. We stayed in a little cottage in Ringwood, just outside the New Forest and we had a wonderful week. We spent our days wondering around the forest and along the coast. It reminded us what a beautiful country it is we live in and it was great for Samuel to be able to spend plenty of time with one set of grandparents, who also provided some helpful respite for the parents.

And then the week after the holiday we attended interview for BMS. As many of you reading this will know we've been considering for some time about committing to Nepal for a longer period than just the initial 2 years we went for. Well the interview was for the position of long term workers with BMS. We were accepted and this means that once our initial 2 years is up (at the end of this year) we will transfer from BMS's mid-term program to their long term program.

What does this mean in practice? Well it now means we are committed to Nepal for the foreseeable future. The official minimum is 4 years, which takes us to 2014. Beyond that we do not know what the future holds for us, but we figure that's far enough away to not worry about it too much now. For now it's just a case of getting ready to return to Nepal, which we are due to do on September 14th.

Friday, 5 June 2009

Samuel Timothy

As you may well know this week we celebrated the birth of our first son. He was born on Wednesday 3rd June 2009 at 10.11pm and weighed 8lbs exactly.

The labour was long, Becky was having contractions for 4 days and we spent all day Wednesday in hospital. Arriving at about 8am and having a long wait till he finally turned up.

He is now home and Mum, Dad and baby are starting to settle into life as a family. Having our own private midwife certainly helps though. (Becky's mum is a midwife).

We shall be adding more pictures to facebook over the next few days (which you can still see even if you're not on facebook). For now there are a couple here to see.

Dan, Becky and Samuel.

Wednesday, 6 May 2009

Back in England

We’ve now been back in England for a month. It’s been a busy month catching up with lots of people and getting ready for the imminent arrival of a baby.
It has been great to see many of you; and those we haven’t seen we will hopefully see sometime soon while we are home.

We have spent a week in Liverpool catching up with friends there, and were also able to go to Wales with our church’s weekend away. The photo on the right is our caravan’s effort into a photo competition, for which we won a Chocolate Orange Selection tub. Sorry they’ve all been eaten. We have also been visiting grandparents, all very excited to be great grandparents soon!

This last weekend we were at the Baptist Assembly in Bournemouth, a good opportunity to catch up with people from BMS world mission and also others that Becky particularly has known for many years from Bangladesh and Sri Lanka days. Dan enjoyed the stories of Becky’s childish antics.

We have also spent a considerable amount of time wondering around shops such as Mothercare and Babies R Us looking for baby things that we will need. This was a little overwhelming at first as we realised we had no idea what we needed. However, we did get our heads around things eventually and think we now have most things ready. We have even packed Becky’s hospital bag and last night went to our first antenatal class, taught by Grandma to be; Becky’s mum! As of today Becky is 37 weeks pregnant and so the baby is classed as full term now and could come any day.

We moved into the BMS house yesterday which we will be staying in for the rest of our time here in the UK. If you’d like to know the address then let us know. We will try and continue to keep you updated using this blog while we are home, and will let you know when the baby is born and put up some pictures .

Wednesday, 18 March 2009


Tonight it rained. For the first time since the beginning of October.

Drought has been affecting 2 significant areas of life here. The first is power which we have already mentioned in our blog recently. The second is of course water supply.

Water supply is always a bit hit and miss here even in the middle of monsoon. If you have any significant number of people living on your property you probably don't get enough through the main city water line, unless you pay the right minister a bribe, or live near someone paying a nice bribe.

For most people water only comes down the line for a short period of time each day and you have to pump the water from the main line into the property. Of course with only having 8 hours of power a day the chances of the water coming past on the main line coinciding with when you have power are significantly reduced.

We have friends who live in properties that are so short on water they haven't been able to shower for over a week, or wash their clothes for a few weeks.

You can order in tankers that bring water from streams outside Kathmandu, however their is now only one stream in the valley that still has enough water to supply these tankers. So no new orders are being taken, and current orders are having to be reduced. School usually has 4 or 5 tanker visits a week and is now down to half that, which when we have 200 people using the site daily poses problems for flushing toilets and washing hands. So far we've been okay but it has the potential...

So this is why everyone here is so pleased it rained tonight. Not that one evening shower solves all the problems of course, but it does mean that the season for rain is coming and the situation will hopefully improve. Until this time next year.

Saturday, 7 March 2009

Nepali Wedding

Mid-January to Mid-March is wedding Season here in Nepal and last week we were privileged to be invited to a Nepali wedding. In fact it’s not actually that much of a privilege as traditionally in Asia the person hosting the wedding has to invite basically everyone they know. So much so that we have even been invited to weddings of people we’ve never met before in our time here.

However the wedding last week was a special wedding as it was the wedding of a colleague from school; our IT technician, a man who Dan works quite closely with. Nitin is 28 years old and had been introduced to his new wife through his Uncle. The week before the wedding Dan and the other ICT guy at school took him out for a stag-do! It involved about 10 staff from school going out for Momo’s, a Nepali favourite and Nitin’s favourite food.

Nitin actually got married down in the village his wife’s family come from, about 3-4 hours drive from Kathmandu. The marriage ceremony itself is normally a much smaller event than the marriage celebration which takes place a few days after the ceremony. It is to this that the world and his wife are invited.

Traditionally at a Nepali wedding the bride is supposed to look unhappy, so as to not offend her family as in Nepali culture it is viewed that she is leaving her family to join his. However it’s a good job that the groom is not subject to the same requirements as Nitin is always smiling. Although he’s not smiling as much as normal in this photo he did carry a big grin for most of the wedding. Keen readers of our blog may recognise the other guy as Ryan who we mentioned back in June when his wife had just given birth to their third child.

Talking of children, Becky and bump are doing very well. She is now into her third trimester and growing by the day. The baby is very active and as far as we are aware healthy. It’s now only one month until we return to the UK and we are starting to pack up our house. It doesn’t seem long ago that we were doing likewise in our house back in Liverpool.

By the way the second photo was taken on a recent walk with a group of friends. Not sure if we shall update our blog again before we return so if we don’t we are due back in the UK on the 4th April. We are currently trying to arrange meeting up with people, so if you’d like to meet up with us then do let us know and we’ll try and book you in. We’ll also use the blog to keep people up-to-date with baby announcements etc while we are back.

See you soon…

Thursday, 5 February 2009

Load Shedding

Well it has been a while since we last wrote, and actually there isn’t that much news. We’ve been back at school for four weeks now. The last few have been very busy with the whole school doing exams which we had to mark and then write reports for all the students. Thankfully that is over now and we are just getting on with regular teaching stuff. For Becky, they were the last set of reports for some time! Just 8 weeks until we return to the UK. Becky is growing by the day and definitely looking pregnant, as you can see in the picture on the left, now with a very active little one inside her – lots of kicking!

Anyway I’ve entitled this update "load shedding", as we have had a lot of it recently. Load shedding is what they call the scheduled power cuts here. Most Nepali electricity is from hydroelectric schemes, and so when the water runs low they can’t generate enough power. This winter has been particularly bad for a number of reasons; the amount of rain was low the last year and so the reservoirs were not filled up, bureaucracy and political instability over a number of years has also led to existing power stations not being properly maintained so we’ve had one or two that have broken down. Then, as a result of floods at the end of the monsoon last year the power lines that bring extra power up from India were washed away and not fixed.

So all this culminated in us having up to 16 hours a day without power at the worst point. We had 4 hours of power during the day and 4 hours in the middle of the night, so really only 4 hours of power a day. As well as the obvious problems this brings (such as teaching ICT for Dan) it also leads to water shortages for washing and drinking as all our water is pumped up to the roof using an electric pump that has to be manually switched on, usually about twice a day. So if there is no power for most of the day it means someone has to get up in the night to pump it up. Thankfully our landlord sorted this out so we're not up in the night, although it is a noisy pump so it is hard to sleep.

We’ve started to get used to this now and just have to plan our days around it. School has a generator which is used for large amounts of the day, however this is expensive to run and cannot run all day as it overheats and so people have to coordinate their power needs and plan ahead, especially if you need photocopying or want to watch a video with a class. At home it means making sure laptops are fully charged so we can run off the batteries when power is out, and also planning what nights we have power so when we can use the oven to cook and when we only have the hob.

It is amazing how quickly you get used to it though and when I look back to living in England I realise how much I took electricity and even the regular hot water supply for granted! Still we’re looking forward to the treat of 5 months with no load shedding and long hot showers!

Saturday, 3 January 2009


A very Happy New Year to you all from Kathmandu. We're now back here having been away since Boxing Day making the most of our time off school. We decided that this holiday we would go to a more remote part of Nepali away from the tourists. So while we did spend some time in Pokhara, we also travelled to Tansen about 120km South West of Pokhara.

Tansen is a medium sized (for Nepal) town that sits atop a ridge overlooking a valley known as the White Lake. This name was in evidence each morning as we looked into the valley and saw a white lake of clouds that looked lovely and picturesque. Tansen is well known throughout Nepal as it was the site of one of the first Mission hospitals set up here when the country opened up in the early 1950’s. In the past people used to come from all over the Western side of Nepal, and parts of northern India to be treated there. While there are now many more hospitals around it is still a popular hospital with a very good reputation.

We were staying in the guest house next to the hospital, which is mostly used by short term workers who come out for a few months to help out. The guest house was lovely and the home cooking by the cook was exceptional. Good quality western food. We spent most of our time lazing around, reading and going for wonders around the town.

Acting as our guide to Tansen was Khim, our Nepali friend who works with us at KISC as the school administrator. Khim grew up in a small village about 10km from Tansen and then moved to Tansen itself when he was 15. He finished his schooling and went to college in the town and then worked at the mission hospital, mostly as a language teacher for a number of years before he moved to Kathmandu. Wondering around the town with Khim was a bit like being in an episode of “This is Your life”. He seemed to know so many of the people, particularly those living near the hospital, and in a culture where most people spend their life outside their front door we never got far without Khim being asked how he was, or how his mother was.

A number of his family still live around the area and one day we walked past the village where one of his sisters lives, so we popped in to say hello. Nepali people, particularly those outside the main cities are very accommodating and welcoming, and Khim’s sister was no exception. Upon arriving she instantly offered us a cup of chiyaa (Nepali spicy tea where the milk is boiled with tea and spices) and proceeded to go and milk the buffalo in order to make us the tea. Her next door neighbours were also excited to see us and Khim in particular and sent their children off to the next house, just down the hill to pick some oranges from their tree to give to us. (The chiyaa was excellent by the way).

The next day we decided to pay a visit with Khim to the village where he grew up. Khim, now 33, reckons he hadn’t been back for nearly 10 years, and as we started to walk up the hill from the road to his village he was surprised to find they had now built a road up to the village! As we struggled up the steep hill, Khim bounded ahead pointing out his school which was on top of the next hill. He used to have to walk for an hour and a half to get there each morning, all the way down one hill and up the next.

Upon arriving in the village we went from house to house saying hello and greeting the people who had been his neighbours 20 years ago, but still remembered him and his mum. At nearly every house we were offered Chiyaa and Dhalbhat, although we only accepted chiyaa twice. Upon finally reaching his house, quite some way up the hill from the centre of the village we met the distant relative who now lives in the house. She was delighted to see Khim and they spent some time catching up and filling each other in on family news. She told us about a landslide that last monsoon had taken out her stables, killing 3 goats and her buffalo, basically her means of survival. She had had to take a loan to buy a new buffalo nearly bankrupting herself.

Back down the hill we got talking to an old friend of Khim’s who showed us the school the village now has, built a few years after Khim left the village. It was far too small for the numbers of children they get every day and so they had attempted to build an extension, but run out of money before they got to the roof. The school also lacks any toilets. Khim’s friend is Chair of the School Management Committee (Nepali equivalent of the Board of Governors) and had been trying to raise the money to roof the extension for quite some time.

The Government pays for a few of the teachers in the school, but not enough for the number of children and nothing towards resources, such as books, pencils or buildings. It was amazing to see what humble beginnings someone like Khim, who has become very successful as an adult, has come from. However there is a desire amongst the village to move away, most houses were occupied by grandparents, looking after the farm land and the children, as the middle generation have all had to go to places like India or the Middle East to earn enough money to survive. Just as we were leaving we noticed high up in a tree a cable TV box that supplies the TV for the entire village. The children growing up in this village see the fancy cars and the wealth of the west and all they want to do is escape this life.