Notes & Anecdotes from Nepal

by Rob Rose, Cub Reporter

Nepal – March 21st, 2005

I’m adjusting to Nepali time, sitting around relaxing, enjoying a cup of tea with my morning toast. Rough, huh? I arrived from India yesterday and am renewing friendships, making plans and coordinating projects.

I’ve fully adjusted to the time change, which in India is about 14 hours ahead. Did you know that the time difference from Nepal to India is 15 minutes? I’ve been told that the Nepalis wanted to be just a bit different from the Indians!

I arrived in Mumbai (Bombay) on the 15th of March after a fifteen hour flight from San Fran to Hong Kong, and then an eight hour jaunt from Hong Kong to Mumbai (Bombay). On arrival at Mumbai airport, I quickly cleared customs and then hired a cab for what was to be about a two block journey to the hotel, where I slept in preparation for my journey to Baroda, India the following day. At the prepaid taxi stand you’re less likely to be ripped-off by prepaying the fare. I thought I’d splurge and get a taxi with a/c. I mean, why not, it was only another buck. All the taxis in Mumbai look exactly the same — same make, same model, same colors. The only difference is their age and condition. My air-conditioned taxi appeared to have seen better days … many better days. My luggage, which wouldn’t have fit in the trunk (boot) anyway, had to be strapped down with a bungie cord. The trunk lid could be raised and lowered, but closing was definitely not an option. I hopped in the back seat of the car, which was built to accommodate someone much smaller than I. Lowering my head to fit, I noticed the driver get into the car and pull out a water bottle. I thought, oh, it’s even hot for the locals here, he must be thirsty … but then he got out, opened the hood of the car and poured water into the radiator! As I mentioned, the trip to the hotel was only about 2 blocks, and we arrived safely — with the car only stalling once.

I spent about four days visiting my old host family from my exchange student days in Baroda (Vadodara), India. You might note that I’m listing both the Indian city names as well as the names that were given to the different cities by the British. Calcutta is now Kolkata, etc. My stay with my Indian brother and his family was great. It was hot there, mid to upper 90’s, and a portion of me has melted away, remaining as a puddle of perspiration, but the mornings and evenings were very pleasant.

Although my trip to Baroda was meant to be strictly leisure, it turned out to be very productive, as I met with Rotarians from the Rotary Club of Baroda and am scoping out several interesting potential projects with them and another organization, Heritage Trust Foundation, which is working on historic preservation of many fantastic sites in the area.

I’m attending RC Patan’s meeting this evening. They are like my Nepali home-club. Afterward they are having a dinner for me! Hey, I could get used to this!

Nepal – March 22nd, 2005

I awoke to the sound of thunder and rain pounding on the window. Bright flashes of lightening lit up the room in the early morning darkness. The weather in Nepal is generally sunny and warm this time of year, but I think I’ve brought with me a traditional Seattle weather pattern!

I’m staying at the home of my best friend and main Rotary counterpart in Nepal, Mr. Raj Rabendra Pandey (aka RR), and his wife, Chandra. RR is my guide and mentor here in Nepal. Owner of Everest Express Tours & Travel here in Kathmandu, he is the main reason that I’ve been so successful in my Rotary project work here.

On this morning we are leaving at 7:00 a.m. to scout possible locations for the Newlife Disabled Center to purchase land and build a new building. I tag along for the ride, hoping for some stellar photo ops, but the rain continues through most of our journey.

This small disabled center with about 30 children is currently located in a very busy, dirty and noisy section of Kathmandu. The landlord has agreed to extend their lease another year or two while they build a new building, but that can’t come too soon in my opinion as the atmosphere here isn’t proper for these children. What was a good-sized courtyard on last year’s visit is quickly being replaced by multistory buildings that are being constructed within a few feet of the disabled center building, along with the associated dust and construction mess. The kitchen and dining room roof is leaky, and I even saw a rat running around in there as if it were its own personal dining room! The toilet area is also in bad shape. The doors are rusty and falling off and toilets aren’t suitable for disabled children. However, never fear, Bellevue Rotaract and Bellevue Rotary Club are here! With the funds we’re matching from the BCC Rotaract Club, we’ll be able to accomplish much, including the roof, toilets and more!

There have been a number of visiting volunteers at the center, including Leonard from Poland and Fran from the UK. Leonard is out of town during my stay, but Fran is there. She has been focusing her life on improving the lives of the children and she’s here almost every day. Her friends and family have been raising funds back home to support the center. Our club has given grant funding in the past and this is the organization for which I’ve sold my scenic photographs. The Rotary Club of Kopundol has a fund from the money that I’ve sent over to pay for the children’s surgeries, and a good portion of the funds remain. This coming Saturday the Rotary Club is having a hands-on volunteer project to help clean up the center with painting, etc. I will be there, of course!

Tomorrow we’re visiting the Nandu-Maya Self-Sustaining orphan home and assessing their needs. I have a bee hat and some candy to give them. The bee hat is because they raise bees for honey, and the candy is dandy for the kids! I’ve also got some pencils, pens and crayons to pass out.

Yours in Rotary,

P.S. Special thanks to DNC volunteer, Fran for relating Sanjay’s life story to me.