The view of my neighbourhood from my patio
It is the morning of my fourth day living in Dobhighat Chowk, a suburb on the outskirts of Patan, a neighbouring city of Kathmandu in Nepal. I have just returned from walking my bilingual dog (called Putali meaning butterfly) in the field behind my house. Sadly, after attempting to learn Nepali while I was in London, Putali seems to know more words than me.
Holy cows hanging out in Patan
Putali and I have had a number of disagreements since I arrived. The nightly sleeping arrangements have been a recurring issue as she insists on sleeping on my bed as close to my face as possible, and has the capacity to snore more loudly than a grown man. Daily dog walks are also a bit of an ordeal. This morning, only hours after the latest downpour from the monsoon rains, we were chased by two holy cows. While I was trying to run away, Putali was pulling towards the cows and I lost my balance and slipped on a puddle of mud. I returned home just now to be greeted by the cleaning lady whose first words were “I clean you”.
A Tibetan Buddhist Shrine
Arriving in Kathmandu on Tuesday was a bit trialling. There are very few street signs in Nepal and even fewer street numbers (addresses) so most people work out where to go by using landmarks. The instructions I was given for getting to my new address were as follows: take a taxi to Ring Road (the only signposted road anywhere near my home) to the area called Dobhighat Chowk and ask people on the street for Sunrise Towers. Take the dirt road that leads to Sunrise Towers (still under construction, expected date of completion 2007) and then continue on for another 100m until the wood factory and call ‘Ram’ on his mobile. Unfortunately, Ram (the security guard/fix it man at my house) had not topped up his phone with credit so I couldn’t get through and there were a number of wood factories on my street. I was forced to go down the culturally imperialistic route of walking from one wood factory to another asking where the ‘white people live’, since I am living in a predominantly Nepalese community in an apartment above an American lady.
At long last I arrived at my apartment and couldn’t have been more pleased with the place. The house is three storeys high and has been divided into three apartments with mine on top. There is a garden below that Ram tends to everyday and a rooftop patio above me. I have one bedroom, a study, lounge room, bathroom and outdoor kitchen and for the whole month it is less than what I paid for a single week’s in London. At the moment I even have a functioning shower (luke warm), constant electricity and internet. This is all pretty unusual for Nepal. When Jess and I visited Mukti Orphanage in Kathmandu in 2007, showering was done with a bucket and the power frequently went off, which prompted the kids at Mukti to sit in a circle in the dark praying for the power to come back on. Needless to say, I will be appreciating the showers and electricity while they last.
A handful of the children from Mukti Orphanage
I have spent my free days before starting work by wandering around the temples, visiting Mukti Orphanage and sussing out the hygienic food options in my area since my first dinner here consisted of dal and a potato curry for 70 cents and several free flies. On Wednesday I spent the afternoon at Mukti and was pretty shocked to see how run down it has become since Jess and I were there two years ago. The orphanage has moved to a new building and now all thirty children sleep in one bedroom. Most of the children were sick and they didn’t seem to be as happy or energetic as they used to be. I am trying to make a film at the moment, which will hopefully be posted on here soon that will help to raise funds for Mukti. Yesterday I made it into the heart of Patan and was befriended by a Nepalese guy called Summit who proceeded to take me to some pretty remarkable Buddhist temples including one that is constructed out of 9999 Buddha statues and another that holds a festival every Thursday for women so they can pray for their husbands to live a long life.
Durbar Square in the heart of Patan
I begin work tomorrow with a field visit to a village in the mountains about 20km from here to meet a group of women that are hoping to take out loans with Kiva. Hopefully I will have enough content to write a second blog within a week or two so please visit again soon!
This blog is intended to be the first of several that I will write as part of my Kiva Fellowship. All of the blogs will be published on this site and a number (more work related) will also be published on the Kiva Fellows Blog; a public site that contains stories from Kiva Fellows located all around the world.
I have just begun a seven month Fellowship with Kiva. My first placement with Kiva is in Nepal and my second placement is undecided at this stage.
Kiva is an organisation that connects people all around the world through lending, for the sake of alleviating poverty. It allows an individual to lend a small amount of money to an entrepreneur in a number of developing countries around the world. Usually the business is relatively small for example a woman in Nepal might need a loan of $400 to buy a cow so she can sell milk to her neighbours. Once the entrepreneur has repaid the loan, the lender can re-lend their money to help another entrepreneur.
My task as a Kiva Fellow is to connect the lender with the borrower to make the lending and borrowing experience as personal as possible. I will help to create a ‘borrower profile’ which will include a photo of the entrepreneur and the story of their business and hopes for the future. To follow up, I will send journals out to the lenders which will contain stories, videos and photos from the field that will let the lender know how the entrepreneur they helped is going.
To get a better idea of how Kiva works, please visit: www.kiva.org