Tuesday, December 12, 2006

Back in the field

The three weeks in Kathmandu has passed and I am back in Terai for a week before going on Christmas holiday. It is good to be back in the warmer climate, though the winter is also felt here in the cool nights.

It has been planned for a long time that I this week would go to Surkhet with my colleagues from CWD. Surkhet is a district two hours drive north of where I live and an area I have not visited yet.

We had planned to leave Monday morning but due to a bad storm the night before it was postponed till Tuesday. At first I believed it to be the Nepali fear of rain that has caused this delay but once I saw the road and the many landslides I was quite glad that we had waited.
Not more than 50 km. from my house the hills starts (or what we in Denmark would call mountains). It was an incredible beautiful road but also in a very poor condition because of the many landslides. On top of that it is a very narrow road with some mighty big buses coming towards us. My colleagues were quite impressed with the beautiful views which included the snowcapped mountains of the Himalayas. Unfortunately, I had to keep both eyes on the road with less time to enjoy the views.

We reached Chhinchun County without problems and were able to start the programme of the day which basically consisted of introducing me to our groups in the area. Surkhet is an area that has been badly affected by the conflict and great parts of the district have been under Maoist control. This means that my colleagues have been hesitant to visit the area and our groups here have received few visits from CWD throughout the last 10 years. It was quite easy to feel the dissatisfaction within our groups and they had also decided to act upon the lack of support by starting their own organisation. In principal a good idea expect for one thing; they have no money!
They had hoped for help from MS but I had to inform them that that was rather unlikely. Instead, I offered to give them training in proposal writing in order for them to apply for funds from other organisations in the area. Now that peace has come to Nepal the money is pouring in from all sides and it is necessary to join the “race for funds”. It looks to be an interesting project for me to start on, even though it seems I would have to spend some time with these women first to ensure that they take an active part in the process. I have no idea of which organisations there are in the area so that is where they would have to step in – something I sensed they were not too keen on.
No matter what the first step will be to go to the office tomorrow and talk to my colleagues about our possibilities for supporting these women in starting their own organisation and then take it from there. One thing is for sure, though, I hope to return to Surkhet soon, since it is an incredible beautiful area.

Sunday, November 26, 2006

Kathmandu Blues

It has been awhile since I last wrote and you are probably wondering what I am doing… so let me share with you: after two weeks of language training in Nepalgunj I am now in Kathmandu for three weeks of language and lots of meetings.

When living in a small isolated town it is great to arrive at a civilised place, however, it isn’t all good: it is cold here, I miss my colleagues and friends in Nepalgunj, I miss my apartment, it is extremely expensive here and most of all it is just too cold!!! Yet not everything is bad – just to mention a few good things:

Exciting meetings and workshop
Being a member of the MS Policy Advisory Board I attended a meeting last week in that board. We have had two MS DK people visiting and with them we have discussed the new democracy focus of MS and how to operationalise this focus. It was a really interesting 2-day meeting.
At the moment we have yet another two MS DK people visiting monitoring how MS Nepal works with gender mainstreaming. We had an interesting one-day workshop and now it will be interesting to see whether the discussed ideas will be implemented.

Get on the bike

Since I am here for three weeks there is enough time for training – not only in language but also in how to ride a motorcycle. My transportation officer has from the beginning claimed that a bike would be useful for my work – and I tend to agree with him, so he has started training me. After two lessons on a very bad field I have now been given the keys and permission to drive in the MS parking lot….oh yes, I am learning! Luckily, the police authorities had already foreseen that I would need a license to ride a motorcycle, so they were nice enough to issue this when I had my license for the car made 3 months ago, which means that I won’t have to worry about taking a test…..hurrah for incompetent Nepalese.

Goodbye and thank you

I made it to Kathmandu just in time to say goodbye and thank you to a colleague and friend, Sussie. I met her during my first days in Kathmandu and since she has been a big part of my visits to Kathmandu – it will not be the same visiting Kathmandu without her being there and I am glad to be in Kathmandu to see her off.

Thank you for everything, Sussie, and good luck with everything back in Denmark.

Good food and drinks
Though I don’t exactly starve in Nepalgunj I do enjoy being in Kathmandu where delicious steaks, exotic cocktails and Danish food is available. Yesterday I attended the Grand opening of a new restaurant owned by a Danish guy, Soren Cook. Not only does he make delicious food he also bakes amazing rugbrød (Danish ryebread). I think there is little doubt that I will be a frequent visitor there for the next two years.
Besides from that it is just great being able to go to a bar – one thing that is missing in Nepalgunj. At the moment it is high season and the town is full of tourists, so the nightlife is busy. I try to take an active part in it, but am still affected by the fact that normal bedtime in Nepalgunj is 10 p.m.

Meeting new and old friends
Four new Development Workers and two spouses have arrived in Nepal and are staying in Kathmandu for language training. Amongst them is Karen, my good friend from University. It is great – not only to see her again – but also to meet the many new people who will be my future colleague. We all stay at the MS Guest House and are having a great time, especially since the table tennis table has been installed right next to the pool table. We have also gotten a few children here, which is great. Just last Saturday we held little Christians 1-year birthday.
I have also had time to meet friends from other organizations, who have been working in Nepalgunj for longer or shorter periods and are now living in Kathmandu. I do try to socialise every chance I get….

That was a short update on what I am doing these days. Unfortunately, I have also gotten a bit of a cold because of this horrible climate, but hopefully the two hours massage I am going to now will help on that….

Monday, October 30, 2006

….bringing the toothbrush to work!

Since the great festival month is over there now seems to be time for the many conflict creating activities that this country suffers under.

The new trend in Nepal is to make Banda. The Maoists have been using this method during the entire armed conflict, but now the local population also has developed a taste for it. These days a Banda is normally started because of a road accident where one or several person dies. Banda means closed and that is what happens when a Banda takes places. The people in the area of the accident simply close down the road thereby stopping al traffic. If an accident happens the family of the victims demands compensation from the bus- or transportation company involved. Until this compensation is paid no one are allowed to use the roads.

Neither politicians nor police interfere with these Bandas. Actually it seems like the local police rather enjoys having a change to wander around talking to the many travellers being held hostage on the highways.

At the moment Nepalgunj is paralysed by a huge Banda, which has made life difficult for many people. Lucky for me my colleague Sara lives in the northern part of town, where I can safely park my car and bicycle the rest of the way home – after lifting my bike through the Banda of course. The morning I was expecting to go all the way to work – 20 km. – on bike, since the transportation company involved in the accident that killed a small girl had decided to make a contra-Banda. However, I did manage to get the car on the road and get to work. Now it will be exciting to see whether I will be able to get back home. I have just been told that a new Banda between my work and Nepalgunj is being made…..so it will be with a bit of nervousness that I will drive the 20 km. home from work this afternoon – I might have to turn the car around and sleep in the office tonight….

Wednesday, October 25, 2006

Sara - my colleague

I guess I never did introduce my colleague Sara so I better do that now.

Sara is a real Swedish girl better known as one of the many “Wanna-be-Danish”. Like me she is 30 years old. She is a human rights lawyer and in Nepalgunj she works with a human rights organization, HURON.

Sara and I met each other at a MS-seminar in Helsingør in April. We were together on the course in Tanzania and during the introduction period in Kathmandu. We moved to Nepalgunj and started working at the same time.

Though our work and everyday life is quite different it is incredibly nice to have a good friend and colleague to share it all with - and someone to help putting on the sari…..

Tihar - yet another festival

Nepal certainly is the land of festivals and October is the festival month. Tihar is the second big festival in October and is basically about honoring sisters and brothers, who give each other tika and exchange gifts.

However, the festival is also an opportunity for improvised song and dance groups to make extra money. Scores of these groups – especially children – go from door to door and perform singing the same monotone song before plugging in the small stereo to dance to Nepali music.

The children expect a bit of candy and 5-10 rupees for their performance, whilst the adults demands 200-500 rupees to their uninvited appearance. Since this is a great chance to make money these groups work around the clock during Tihar. We lock our gate pretty early, but the neighbour keeps it open all night, so thanks to the loud Nepali music coming from their front yard I haven’t been able to get much sleep during this festival.

Since Tihar is a family festival I have been invited to join my families in the celebration (my family in Nepal is my colleagues). This naturally requires that I show up in Sari and dance Nepali dance in front of the entire village. I do enjoy this part of the festival though. The hard part comes when dinner is served. You are expected to eat ½ kg. of rice and an equal amount of vegetables and meat. If you are not able to finish this and ask for extra rice your host will be extremely disappointed and unhappy. Yes, it is not always easy to be a foreigner in the land of festivals and dal bhat…..

Sunday, October 15, 2006

The honeymooner!

As some of you might have noticed I am extremely happy with my life at the moment – Nepal is an exciting place to be, the job and colleagues are great, my apartment is nice and the weather is hot and humid just as I like it!

According to the literature on expats I am going through the first phase of a long cycle during my stay here. This phase is called “The Honeymoon”. Often when I talk to people how has lived long they shake their head, look at me with a knowing smile and tell me that the honeymoon period will not least…

Well, that might be but for now I am planning on making the most of it. My idea of honeymoon has something to do with nice beaches and cocktails and where better to get that than in Thailand. So during Dashain – the biggest festival in Nepal – I used my 9 day forced holiday to go on my honeymoon in Thailand.

The good thing about Thailand is that I have been there so many times now that I don’t have to worry about sight-seeing, I can just relax and hang out – so that I did!

My first day in Thailand I met up with Hans, one of my oldest friends from Denmark, he and his friend were at the end of their holiday flying home the same evening. But there was time for a lovely lunch drinking beer out of cups (apparently there is a law against serving alcohol between 2 and 5 pm!).

Later that night I met up with another wonderful friend, Akbar. He lives in Bangkok and through him I experienced some of the many great restaurants, bars and clubs in the city.
I also went with Akbar to Koh Samet for some quality time on the beach. Akbar could only stay for a few days though. Being by myself on the beach – with my cocktails and books - just made my honeymoon even more special and it was some of the must relaxing days I have had for years. The last days of my honeymoon was spent in Bangkok; shopping during the day and hanging out with Akbar in the evenings - absolutely lovely!

Now I am back in Nepal with lots of new energy. I am still happy as can be, so I guess the honeymoon will continue for a bit. According to the literature on expats I should be getting close to the so-called half-year crises – maybe this blog will reflect that; time will tell!

Monday, September 18, 2006

My first dinner party

After living as a student for many years I am finally able to live in a place big enough for parties. And being a sucker for parties I decided to throw one right away.

The first people to invite into my new place was naturally my Nepali family; my colleagues. Since they all live far away it had to be in the daytime, so I invited everybody for Dal Bhat (the national dish here) for 11 a.m. Most of them showed up 2 hours late, but that is Nepali culture!

Having next to nothing in my kitchen I had ordered food from my favourite restaurant and it was great – especially since it was 90 rps. pr. person (a bit more than US$1). There was also plenty of it, so I was looking at living on Dal Bhat the next weeks, but luckily they took all the left-over with them……

This being my first real dinner party for 25 people I must say that is all went very well, but then again my guest where very easy to please. Most of them live in houses constructed of mud and the fact that I had no furniture was no problem to them – the floor was easily accepted. The only thing I did not regard was the fact that when it is as hot as it is here 25 people can consume an enormous amount of water – without the water pump outside my house I would probably have had people fainting all over the house.

The real reason for this little get-together was actually a small meeting – about me. As you know I work in two different organisations and it has been a big problem to figure out when to work where. So this meeting sorted it all out – at least I think so…strange participating in a meeting about me without knowing what is being said – I really need to learn this language.

After this very quick meeting it was time to dance – despite of the heat – and everybody had a great time. Unfortunately, people had to travel a bit to get home, so the party ended early – maybe next time I should arrange a sleep-over....

Wednesday, September 06, 2006

Driving in Nepal

Before coming here I had a lot of ideas of what it would be like to be driving in Nepal, but for once I was wrong:

In Nepal you drive in the left-hand side
According to the law that is true, but I found out that in Nepal you drive where there is room! Sometimes that is on the left side of the road other times on the right side. Mostly you simply drive in the middle of the road!

The roads are made for vehicles
No, actually there are very few cars on the road in the Terai. In stead there seems to be everything else; the roads serve as big pedestrian streets where people cheerfully wander around stopping to chat with friends and street vendors. On top of that there are horse carriages, bicycle rickshaws, donkeys, buffalos and cows lying in the middle of the road.

Always use your rear-view mirror
No, there is so much happening on the road in front of you, that there simply is no time to look in the rear-view mirror. The road is often full of potholes and often a goat comes jumping out in front of the car. That is why you have to concentrate 100 % on looking ahead of you.

Only use the horn when absolutely necessary
Wrong again. You use the horn all the time. Since you don’t use the rear-view mirror, you have no chance of knowing whether or not somebody is about to overtake you – unless they use their horn. Besides from that people are very reluctant to move, if they have found a nice spot on the road. The horn can be your only weapon on the road.

Only overtaken when there is room
No, you overtake when the thing in front of you is moving too slow (bus, car, horse carriage, buffalo, etc.) whether or not there is room is not so important. Often you drive off-road when overtaking and should a car come towards you, well then, it just has to slow down or stop even, until you have passed.

My car is my work tool
Yes and no. Of course it is there to make my work easier but also to make life easier for everybody I know and their friends and acquaintances. So far I have managed to have ten passengers with my in the car; front- and backseat. This includes a music group who entertained with Nepali songs during the ride.

Well, you can say a lot about driving in Nepal, but it is never dull. I am in the lucky position that MS has provided me with a nice big Hi-Lux that never fails to bring me home safely. So I can just shake my head of the traffic culture here and take it all as a great experience….

Wednesday, August 09, 2006


The universal symbol of Hinduism is the tika; a mark or dot placed in the middle of the forehead. A tika may be a small plastic dot, a smeared line of sindoor (red power), or a forehead-wide mixture of yogurt, rice, and sindoor.
The tike is a mark of blessing from the gods. It is also an acknowledgment of the divine within us all.

In many pictures of Shiva (one of the greatest Hindu gods), he is seen with a third eye placed in the middle of his forehead. The tika symbolises this third eye.

Receiving a tika is a common part of most ceremonies, an acknowledgment of the divine presence of the occasion and an invocation of divine protection for those receiving it. Receiving a tika on arrival or departure is an indication of the respect and affection of the people involved.

During my short time in Nepalgunj I have managed to receive numerous tikas from my future colleagues and women’s groups. I find it to be a beautiful ceremony and appreciate the symbolism of the tika. However, I have also learned the usefulness of caring a small mirror in your purse – and never wear white under a tika ceremony.

Tuesday, August 08, 2006

CWD – Centre for Women Development

Besides from working with DWO half of my time will be spent with CWD, Centre for Women Development. CWD is a small community based organisation started by women from the area in 1997. The overall vision of the organisation is to improve the livelihood of women in Nepal. The organisation works with 40 women’s groups – established by CWD – in Banke, Bardiya and Surkhet districts. These groups receive training in everything from literacy, health and group formation to bookkeeping, human rights and domestic violence.

CWD gives these women the knowledge and self-esteem they need to be able to improve their life and the life of their family. CWD helps these women become independent women able to demand their rights on both local and national level.

During my visit with CWD we visited two of these women’s groups. It is clear that CWD have had great success with their work. One of the groups has functioned in almost 10 years and all the women are now able to make their own money – thanks to CWD. Not only does this mean that they are able to feed their family, but also that they can send all of their children to school. One of the women in this group has been elected as board member of CWD, while another woman has been offered a job with a national NGO. These progresses would have been unimaginable for these women only 10 years ago.

My work with CWD
As with DWO my role at CWD is as advisor. I will mainly work at the organisations office (see the picture) in Khajura about 4 miles from Nepalgunj. But naturally I will also be visiting the different women’s groups in order to form an impression of the work in the groups and asses in which areas CWD can improve their support to the groups.
Despite the fact that I will be working in the same areas as with DWO, the tasks are quite different. Especially one task sounds appealing to me; 6 of the groups have decided to get together and form a cooperative and thereby leave CWD. This decision is fully backed by CWD, but they are very much aware that the cooperative will need a lot of support and help in the initial start-up phase, where many important decisions need to be made. CWD has asked me to advise them in this process. It will be incredibly exciting to work with and follow the creation of this cooperative during the next two years.

My colleagues at CWD are all women. The vast majority are women who themselves started as member of a women’s group and now have worked their way up to organisational level. They are strong and committed women that feel really strongly about their work with CWD. I will be working closely with Khagi, project coordinator and Purnakala, the organisations secretary. Both are great women but unfortunately, they hardly speak any English, so the first couple of months will be hard.

CWD is an organisation that in only 10 years has worked its way up to being the leading women rights organisation in Mid-West Nepal and it will be incredibly exciting to work with such a dynamic organisation.

DWO Banke-Bardiya

On my first visit to Nepalgunj I got the opportunity to meet the two organisations I will be working with, namely DWO and CWD. In this post I will tell you about DWO, where I will be working 50 % of my time – sorry about the length but there is a lot to tell.

Dalit Welfare Organisation
DWO – Dalit Welfare Organisation – is a Nepali organisation working for the rights of Dalit people on local and national level. The Dalits are the people in the bottom of the caste system. I have written a bit about the caste system at the end of this post.

DWO was founded in 1994 and works with the vision to create a justifiable by eliminating caste discrimination. DWO is an organisation founded by Dalits working solemnly to help other Dalits. The organisation focuses on raising the livelihood of the Dalit societies by raising the self-esteem of Dalits and build institutional capacities on grass-root level.

In the communities DWO works with women’s groups. The organisation helps the poor Dalit women to organise themselves in a group. This group then receives different kinds of training first and foremost in literacy and group formation process. Besides from that they are informed of their rights and DWO helps kill many myths about Dalits and how they are worth less than other people. Thanks to the efforts of DWO these women are beginning to see themselves as equal to their neighbours.

Through these groups the women also start a small saving scheme. The money they collect are given to women in the group, who uses them to start a small income-generating activity, so she in that way can support her family. After some month she will start to repay the loan and the money will be disbursed to other women.
During my visit in Terai I had the chance to visit two of these Dalit women groups and I was impressed with the work that DWO has done. Women, who previously was afraid to say their own name, now stood up and told me about their problems and the support that DWO had given them in order to take manners into own hands and improve their livelihood.

My work with DWO
Though DWO is a large national organisation I will only be working with the regional office covering the Mid-West region. The office is located in Kohalpur about 12 miles north of Nepalgunj. My work will be as advisor to DWO helping them become more efficient as an organisation. Amongst others I will help them improve their programme planning and implementation, revised their monitoring and evaluation system, strengthen their networking abilities and hopefully influence them with a bit of Danish working culture. There is enough work to do and it will be a very exciting job. The majority of my colleagues are Dalit women, who have worked their way from the women’s groups to the organisational level. Because of that very few of them speaks English. Ishwori (see the picture), the daily manager and one of the few men in the organisation, will be my counterpart and close colleague for the coming two years. Luckily, he speaks English, so in the beginning I will have to rely a lot on him. But he is a great guy who loves a good laugh, so I am sure that we will have fun working together. I am looking very much forward to getting started and will keep you posted on my work with DWO.

The caste system
The population of Nepal is, just like in India, divided into a caste system. The caste system is more than 1000 years old and at the time of its creation it divided people into groups depending on their profession. There are four main castes each with several 100 sub castes and it is almost impossible to keep track of the 3000 castes that exist in Nepal today. The top caste, Brahmin, deals with religious tasks (priest and teachers), the following caste, Kshatriya, takes care of the political issues (elite and warriors), trades – and craftsmen belong to the Vaishy caste and in the bottom of the hierarchy the Dalit people are – also known as casteless or untouchable.

Since the Dalits perform the “dirtiest” jobs in the country people from other castes do not wish to get into contact with these people. Despite the fact that caste discrimination was made illegal in 1990 the Dalits still suffers under the system. The untouchables, representing 20 % of the population, live under conditions similar to apartheid being discrimination against on all levels of society. They are not allowed to eat with people from higher castes or use the same water source. Almost daily I read about a Dalit being beaten up because he has been drinking from a public water tap. This not only applies to adults, last week I read about a 7 year old girl being beaten up by a teacher because she drank water from a public tap.
Because the Dalits do not have access to the same resources as the rest of the population the vast majority of them live in great poverty. Besides from this they also have a very low self-esteem because they were raised in a society that considers them as untouchable.

In the Hindu religion people believe in karma and reincarnation. For this reason the caste system still exists since people believe that they were born into their caste because of actions in their previous lives. This also means that when an organisation like DWO are fighting to abolish all caste discrimination they are fighting against very old and strong traditions and beliefs – however, DWO are fighting hard and have done an amazing job.

Read more about DWO on: www.dwo.org.np

Saturday, August 05, 2006

Nepalgunj – first impression

After having waited for more than four months I finally arrived at Nepalgunj, the town I will be living in the next two years. The journey from Kathmandu to Terai is close to 600 km. (370 miles) and takes between 10 and 14 hours depending on road condition and weather. It is a really beautiful trip; through the mountains (though here they are called hills, being no more than a few thousand meters high) and down to the Terai, the most southern part of Nepal. Terai goes all the way from East to West and is totally flat. It is the most fertile part of the country which means that a great part of the population – including me – lives here.

Nepalgunj is supposed to be a big, dirty and uncharming town, so I had expected the worse. Luckily, I was positively surprised for several reasons. First of all, it doesn’t seem as big as expected. You don’t have to drive more than 10 min. either East or West before you find yourself in the paddy fields – however, if you go 10 min. South you will end up in India with a very chaotic border with lots of trade. Besides from that Nepalgunj has a very nice bazaar. There is a majority of Muslims living here and the small, narrow streets in the bazaar are reflecting that. You can get a great biryani (rice- and vegetable dish), lots of interesting spices and a bunch of other more or less exotic things.

Another surprise was the many street kitchens and small restaurants – the food here is really delicious including one of the many Nepalgunj specialties; BBQ mutton – yummy! Also there is a hotel owned by an American lady and rumour has it that she makes the best cheese burgers. So in case, you overdose on the Indian/Nepali food it is possible with a bit of junk food as well. And yes, there are other foreigners living here. So far I have met 10-12 bideshis, meaning that there are a few of use to share the great amount of attention given to us by the extremely curious locals. Like in Bangladesh it seems to be a hobby for people to stare at each other and strangers – preferably for several hours. Luckily, I have found a wonderful apartment away from the crowds. I have the entire roof top to myself and with its 3 story it is the highest house in the area, so hopefully I can find some peace there.

Of course there are less positive sides of Nepalgunj too such as the heat, the traffic, the many people and animals, the impossible internet- and Mobil connection and the many power cuts. But since I am not moving to the town for another two weeks those things haven’t started to bother me – yet! And when that time comes you can be sure to find a few entries on it on this blog.

Thursday, July 13, 2006

My first weeks in Nepal

I have now been in Nepal for three weeks and I have to admit that it has been difficult for me to decide on what to put on this blog. There simply have been too many impressions, so instead I will use this entry to write about what I have been doing and what I will do….

First of all it is so incredible amazing to be back in South Asia. I love this chaos that seems to control the place: the many people, the crazy traffic, the cows on the streets, the noise, the sweet tea, the heat, the many strange smells and this feeling of being 100 % alive. It is difficult for me to comprehend that I am lucky enough to be living here of the next two years.

I am staying at the MS guest house situated on the ground floor of the MS office in the heart of Kathmandu. This means that my trip to work every day consists of about 30 steps up the staircase to the office. My first 8 weeks in the country I will be participating in an introduction course. So far I have had 2 weeks of language training as well as one week introduction to the country and the MS programme here. It has been some exciting weeks.

Next week will be even more exciting since I will be leaving Kathmandu on a partner visit in Nepalgunj, the town I will be living and working in the next two years. It is a 10 day field trip including 4 days transportation leaving me with 6 days to visit the two organisations I will be working in, the communities they work in, finding a house and getting to know the town, so it will be a very busy schedule. Still, I am super thrilled about going – it will be so exciting. Once back in Kathmandu I will continue with another two weeks of language training before moving – in mid-August – to the hottest place in Nepal….the Terai.

Monday, July 10, 2006

To learn Nepali....

One of my first tasks in Kathmandu is to learn to speak, understand, write and read Nepali – and yes, it is just as hard as it sounds! Luckily, I have always enjoyed learning languages and it has proven especially fun in a country as Nepal where everybody has the time and patience to be test dummies, while I stutter my way through the sentences and the grammar.

However, it is not all fun. I am constantly reminded of the importance of learning the language. First of all it seems that none of my future colleagues speak English – reasonably enough since most of them are extreme poor women – so if I am to work with them in any kind of productive way I need to learn the language. Besides from this it seems that without knowing the language you can easily find yourself in a situation where you might know where you are but not where you are going……

Because of the above mentioned reasons I have thrown myself into language training. To start with I only get 2 x 2 weeks before starting to work, so it is quite intensive training. Not only is the grammar incredible complicated and turned upside down, they also use totally different letters – pretty rude in a country where the only thing talked about is inclusiveness; currently I am feeling pretty excluded!

Lucky for me MS Nepal has two amazing language trainers who manage to make the training fun and the language understandable – partly. I have already learned 34 different letters so I am progressing, now I only need to learn another 26 letters – and then being able to tell the difference between them, naturally. So hopefully, I will be speaking Nepali in about 2 years when my contract expires…..

Saturday, June 24, 2006

Just a few comments

Namaste from Kathmandy where I have already spent five fantastic days. Since the next couple of weeks will be filled with new impression and knowledge – I will start learning Sanskrit – as well as a lot of late nights watching football, I fear that there will be little time for this log – I am sure we will all survive though ;-)

I just wanted to thank all of you who wrote me on mail, SMS, through this blog or telepathies to wish me a happy birthday. It really means a lot to me so thank you for that.

Besides from that I wish to answer a question/complaint I have had from a few of you: NO, there will be no dirt on this blog – my parents are reading it!!! Besides I must admit that I do expect to spent most of my time working and not chasing microscopic small Asian men ;-)

To those of you who have become addicted to news from my social life I have one thing to say: "Show me yours and I will show you mine!" – through e-mail, please!!!


Sunday, June 18, 2006

The Birthday Girl!!!

…and then I turned 30 – and I have to admit that it feels pretty good to become a grown-up!!!

My birthday was celebrated with a combined farewell/birthday party Friday night. The party was a big success – partly because of the way too strong (read: effective) welcome drink made by Per – thanks for that, Per!

The following day was spent saying goodbye to my colleagues, who are now spread all over Africa and Latin America – also I did spend some time recovering from the night before. Thanks to a days rest I was kinda okay Sunday morning, which was rather lucky since I was woken before 8 with morning singing! It was a nice surprise from Rikke and Sara and I was even more surprised when I opened the door and found it sealed with paper that I then had to jump through (see pix). Apparently it is a tradition somewhere (any knows from where – help me!) to jump into your birthday. A bit hard way to start a Sunday morning – especially the Sunday when you are turning 30!!!

The rest of the day was nice and relaxed; breakfast with Rikke, Sara and Renuka. Lunch in Moshi followed by beer and football at night. Sara was also nice enough to let me win a few games of pool – a game I never really learnt…..

Monday Sara and I went to Arusha to visit the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda, where Sara previously worked as an intern. It was extremely interesting to witness a trial in court, looking at some of the generals who were behind the genocide in 1994.

Later that day we said goodbye to Africa and started our journey to Asia....so see you in Nepal!

Saturday, June 17, 2006

Extracurricular activities

Well, the three week long course in Tanzania has now come to an end. It has been a great course and I must admit, that I have learned more than expected. Especially the activities that took place outside of the class room were very interesting and educational. Let me share a few with you:

Car maintenance
Even though I have tried to convince MS that I will be fine with just a bicycle there is no way around it – I am getting a huge 4WD truck. At least MS has been smart enough to offer a 4-hour session in car maintenance. And I can now claim that there is nothing that I don’t know about a 4WD truck. We tried to change a wheel (and those are a lot heavier than normal wheels), check the oil both here and there including the oil filter (apparently the mechanic will tell that he has changed it, when actually he hasn’t), we also learned how to use the 4WD and went down to the pit to have a look and explanation about the bottom of the car – I almost became interested in mechanics!!! So now I am ready to become a driver in Nepal – how that turns out I will let you know...

Becoming a Masai sister
During the course we also visited a Masai village. The Masai is a very well-known nomadic tribe living in Kenya and Tanzania. They have managed to “resist” influence from other cultures and therefore in many ways live as they did 100 years ago. We visited the village because a local organization, HiMS, worked with the community there – the following week we did a consultancy job for them.
It was an interesting experience where we had the chance of playing tourist getting really close to a Masai village and where they got a big donation from us – so everybody was happy. It caused great excitement when I told them that I was going to Nepal to work with similar women groups and when the official part of the visit was over I was giving a Masai necklace. I was told that this was a sign of me now being a Masai sister and that I would always be a part of them now. All together a great afternoon.

Working with HiMS
As mentioned we used the last days of the course trying out some of the technics we had learned. We were split into two teams who each visited a local help organisation. Our team was to work with HiMS (http://www.hims-tanzania.org/) who worked with local groups in the communities. For the two day workshop 15 very committed women participated and they really worked hard. They had asked us to come and help them develop a organizational assessment tool – that is a tool to gain a common understanding of their organization and identify in which areas special attention is needed (capacity building). It was an interesting assignment and very relevant since I most likely will be working with this in Nepal. The workshop was quite successful and everybody gained from it. After that experience I am really looking forward to start my work in Nepal, since I am convinced that the women I will be working with there will be equally committed.

Saturday, June 10, 2006

A technical note on my job….

As mentioned the holidays are over and work has started. I have to go through a longer introduction period, which starts with a 3 week course in Tanzania. In total we are 15 participants from different countries (Brazil, Denmark, Sweden, Malawi and Zimbabwe), all employed by MS around the globe. It is extremely exciting with so many nationalities and so many different experiences and opinions – all reflecting in the long discussion we take once in a while.

The course is very intensive, since all aspects of the work as a DW need to be covered. We have received training in PPA, LFA, PM&E, policy advocacy, gender mainstreaming, intercultural co-operation, OD/OCB, conflict management, facilitation techniques, etc.
Those of you working within development have – hopefully – heard of these concepts. For the rest of you; it is all about the different tools/methods useful in different stages of development work such as:
  • How to identify – with the beneficiaries (in my case women), which problems
    exist and what options there are to solve them
  • How to create a structure in a project
  • How to influence decision makers (politicians)
  • How to evaluate a project in co-operation with all stakeholders
  • And many, many more things……

My job title is: Organisational Capacity Building Advisor. This is naturally a very broad title, which is why my first task will be to sit down with the partner organisation and make an organisational analysis so that we together can identify the areas where the organisation needs capacity building, and where I can use my experience and expertise to help the organisation grow stronger. Confused? So am I, but hopefully that will change during the next couple of months…..

Monday, June 05, 2006

On safari

Well, you can’t go to Africa without going on a safari – so naturally I went. This time of year the big migration in Serengeti National Park takes place; more than 1.2 million zebras and wilder beasts seek north in the search of food. It was an amazing sight to see the many animals in one joint movement towards the horizon. It kind of reminded me of my own migration towards east in search of new fields to play on.....

Well, back to the safari….I went on a five day camping safari with three other mzungu’s (that is what they call white people in these parts of the world). The decision to go was made on a bus and despite – and maybe because – I had no idea of what I had agreed to (and paid an extreme amount for) it became a fantastic tour. During the five days we managed to visit Tarangire National Park, the Ngorongoro crater, Serengeti National Park and Lake Myanara. All parks are unique because of their diverse nature and concentration of animals and I certainly got what I came for. I didn’t get to see all of “The big five” though I saw four of them: elephant, giraffe, water buffalo and the lion – the leopards were hiding well. I also got to seeplenty of baby animals - everywhere there were little giraffes, zebras, lion cubs and tiny elephant and of course a lot of mini monkeys….

To camp in the middle of the famous Serengeti National Park was an amazing experience. The surroundings were quite rustic but a few strong beers helped and also gave me the courage to visit the toilets at the edge of the camp. We had been told to turn around should we see red eyes near the toilets, since there were hyenas in the area. Fortunately, we never saw any hyenas but we heard both them and the lions during the night. It wasn’t all scary though, one of the things I will remember the most from my night in Serengeti was the absolutely amazing star sky, I don’t think I have ever seen anything as beautiful.

The following night we camped at the Ngorongoro crater. It was extremely cold and once again a few strong beers seemed to be the answer – of the brand Safari naturally. This time we had an elephant visiting. At first we were quite entertained by its attempting to drink out of the water tank, however, the atmosphere quickly changed when the elephant started heading towards the place we were sitting. I think the guides found it quite amusing to observe a group of mzungu’s running confused around in different directions.

But everything good must come to an end and my holiday ended the same day as the safari. Our guide was kind enough to take me directly to the MS center in Usa River. Already in the reception did I run into “the real world” in the shape of MS’s HR director Lars, who interviewed me for this position. It was a bit surreal to come directly from land of lions to land of work, to see familiar faces and to step into a small piece of Denmark in the middle of Tanzania with private baths, internet on the rooms and delicious food – but you will get no complaints from me! For the next three weeks I will be here “training” to become a good development worker, but more about that later….

Tuesday, May 23, 2006

First week in Tanzania

My first week in Tanzania was fantastic; wonderful and relaxing. I started in Dar-es-salaam, where I visited Cille and Thomas. It was great seeing them again and I enjoyed some relaxing days in their lovely house. After having looked at bit at Dar I went to Zanzibar just a few hours by boat from Dar. Once again the main purpose was to relax….a holiday activity I greatly appreciate….so all my time on the island was used in Stonetown just walking around looking at old historical buildings.

Stonetown is one big maze of tiny alleys not more than a few meters wide. The streets are winding and the perfect place to lose oneself. As some of you might know I haven’t got the faintest idea of where north or south is, so the probability of me getting lost was rather big. For exactly that reason I had planned an entire afternoon just to get lost and was actually looking forward to the experience, since I had all the time in the world. But the world just doesn’t work that way; after only 15 min. in the maze I was back on the main street….totally against my will!!! And naturally, when I later that afternoon wanted to leave the maze to see the sunset it was completely impossible for me to find my way out. Luckily the friendly locals helped me and I made it in time for the mandatory sunset beer at the African house rooftop.

After a few days I went back to Dar. Cille and Vibe took me to South Beach for a fantastic day on the beach – contrary to everything that is Danish I managed to avoid total sunburn (mostly because it was too hot to be in the sun).

As written it was great to see Cille and Thomas again and at the same time get an insight into the expat life of Dar-es-salaam. I am sure that it is something I will longingly think back on once or twice during my two years in a small town in the western Nepal….
Now my journey continues north to the safari land of Tanzania….so guess I have to write: “to be continued…..”

Tuesday, February 28, 2006

The Call!

Today I finally got the call!!!! A call I had been waiting for for a long time......A call offering me my first "real" job within development.......A call informing me that I was going with MS (A danish NGO) to Nepal for two years.

Now, everything hasn't been finalised yet, but it looks like I will be leaving on a jet-plane mid-May 2006. My first stop will be Arusha, Tanzania for three week MS-seminar - so all of you in Kenya and Tanzaniz should prepare yourselfes for a visit. After the three weeks in Africa I will be heading directly back to South Asia and three months in Kathmandu before reaching my final destination: Nepalganj, Banke, Nepal!!!!!

Oh, happy days!!!!

Welcome to my blog!

The purpose of this blog is simply to keep you all informed of my whereabouts and adventures. Hopefully, I will be able to update it frequently with stories and photos.

If you would like to see the Danish version of this blog, please visit: http://nepalanne.blogspot.com