THE CAN BLOG: by Anne Manger, Date Sunday 29th November
It seemed a great idea, before leaving the security of home and Stewart Hill and Cumbria in general, to write a daily blog of this particular trip for the CAN website – a journey which was to be a first for me never having been to Nepal before. It should be added at this point that the opinions expressed over the following days are my own and, like any caveat expressed by any editorial, should not be taken to necessarily reflect those of CAN.
No doubt like other similar suggestions the overriding issue then becomes a factor of time management and squeezing in those moments to sit at a computer – which hopefully works and has an internet connection, something of an issue at the moment in Kathmandu – and tap away.
By way of introduction my name is Anne Manger and I have worked for CAN for the past sixteen months providing what can best be described as office back up to Ruth Moore. Theoretically this was to be part time but since the catastrophic earthquakes in April/May this year the work load has increased to such an extent that some weeks are virtually full-time. Consequently, my involvement with all aspects of the charity has brought me into contact with loyal and generous supporters, many of whom who are so knowledgeable about all aspects of CAN and the projects which were being supported, as to make me feel extraordinarily ignorant and made me realize how important it would be to make my own very personal “recce”. Doug was very supportive and with very little time for preparation I had purchased my ticket [TIP: anyone planning a visit go to Ash at Deurali Travel! He sorted out my return flight with Oman Air for under £450.00]. So, leaving Ruth to hold the fort for the next three weeks I left the office on Monday afternoon November 23rd on the first stage of the journey. It goes without saying that it would not have been possible to get away if Ruth’s support and understanding had not been forthcoming – she has my sincere gratitude as the office remains extremely busy.
DAY ONE – TUESDAY, 24th NOVEMBER: TRAVEL DAY: What can one say to make a journey by air read as something exceptionally exciting? I’m not sure that one can save that I joined up with Denise Prior in London and we flew out together delighting in the companionship of a shared journey. Denise was making the trip on CAN’s behalf with reasons similar to my own. She needed to know more about the staff and on-going projects in order to feed that knowledge back when talking to supporters and developing fund raising initiatives. She was also making the journey on behalf of Community Action Treks [CAT] to familiarize herself with certain areas she had not previously visited, especially the region around Ghunsa.
We both had an abundance of luggage as Doug had asked us to take much needed items with us [another bonus with Oman Air was that even in steerage we each had a 40 kg baggage allowance] so to have help handling the bags was wonderful. At the last moment I had bought an enormous 96 litre capacity suitcase in a sale at Carlisle – a case nicknamed “vulgar” which is a more than apt description. Sadly, when packed this whopper weighed in at nearly 30 kg which, along with my other grip, brought me well over my limit. The staff at check in [no queue, no waiting around time – all very civilized] then graciously allowed us a combined weight allowance which fortunately did not exceed the limit and meant that boots, text books, items of clothing found a way in.
It was spectacular to fly down the Gulf and land at an airport surrounded by desert and mountains but the stopover was short and within a couple of hours we were on the last leg to Kathmandu. On this leg of the journey we were accompanied by many Nepali’s returning home for leave. Irony of irony that they were working in construction in an oil/fuel rich kingdom but returning home to one from which fuel was being deliberately withheld – in this case by India – more on this later.
We were met at the airport by Bhai Tamang – Community Action Treks in-country trekking partner – who hung garlands of marigolds around our necks and ensured we all squeezed in beside his driver – “vulgar” taking up most of the boot space – to make the journey to the Hotel Malla. To me it seemed as if the roads were crazy with traffic but to those who know the real Kathmandu I was assured that in fact we shouldn’t have been able to drive straight through without being caught in a traffic jam! And when we arrived at the Hotel Malla who should be waiting to greet us in the lobby but our very own Captain Tek? It was wonderful to see him on his own patch and not just in the office at Stewart Hill. It was exceptionally kind of him to come in person as the fuel situation means that any journey has to be considered as “is this journey really essential”? We were presented with the most beautiful of wedding invitations and, although we’d both been invited informally when in the office, this was very special. The wedding celebrated the marriage of his brother-in-law Kamal which was to take place the following afternoon.
The image of the day shows two rather bleary eyed travellers standing in the hotel corridor displaying garlands of welcome although, before stumbling into bed, we had chance for a brief catch-up with Dr. Richard Parkin whose flight had arrived a few hours after ours – we agreed to meet up for breakfast, or at least this was the plan provided I remembered to ring him at 0740 for his wake up call!
DAY TWO WEDNESDAY 25th but DAY ONE IN NEPAL: In spite of the previous long day spent in travel we did breakfast together at 8.00 o’clock [and at Richard’s suggestion asked for one of the Malla’s wonderful omelettes] to be followed almost immediately with the arrival of Murari Gautam, CAN’s Manager in Nepal and Bhai Tamang. We adjourned to the hotel’s garden and sat in glorious sunshine [for me a totally unexpected bonus] where we continued our discussions and were brought up to date with the current fuel crisis and political situation.
Walking out from the oasis of calm in the hotel and out onto the streets of Thamel for a first timer like me it is true to say that all one’s senses were called into play! The noisy hustle and bustle and miraculous near misses of bicycles, cars, rickshaws, vans along with the incessant parping of horns was such fun. Once again I was reminded that actually the lanes were not really as crowded as they should have been and it was “quiet”. All I have to say to that is that if that is “quiet” I dread to think what “busy” would be!
We called into CAN’s offices and met the staff including Binita, Laxman, Kalpana and Sharmila and made our Namaste’s to a group of nurses who were in the process of being interviewed. [By the time we called back a day later three candidates had been selected; regrettably the only name I can remember is one which when shortened became Pritti so with apologies to the other two. We wished them all well and welcomed them to the CAN family].
Murari was holding a meeting with a member of one of the government committees – it all seemed relatively informal and our arrival only a slight distraction – which was an indication of the sound working relationships Murari has been able to achieve. This gentleman kindly took the picture which shows us all in the office saying the Nepali equivalent of “smile” which is “yak cheese”.
But the grand finale to the day was being royally welcomed to the wedding between Kamal and Beda – another sumptuous feast of colour and sounds and taste – with the most exquisite saris on display. Denise and I had done our best to smarten up but were completely outshone by so many hummingbirds of colour. Bhai has some incriminating video footage of Denise and I trying out the local dance moves – I doubt either of us will be called up for Bollyhood any time soon.