Dear friends and family,
This is our final few days in Kathmandu, in a country for which we’ve developed enormous affection. Nepal is one of the most beautiful countries in Asia. And the people are among the best we’ve encountered.
We just wrapped up another contract working for the National Democratic Institute here. Like our last time in Kathmandu, we were conducting a week of training for the country’s major political parties. This time we were training the parties own trainers. Karen provided training on giving effective workshops and training sessions, a workshop she’s given many times for the Canadian Cancer Society, and also provided four days of training on campaigns and organizing. Scott provided four days of training on message development, and effective internal and external communications. All of the participants were experienced trainers, and they were very skilled and engaged. We got so much out of our time working here.
The party participants at the training conference were inspiring to us, actually. Nepal has emerged from an incredibly difficult period of civil war and political chaos, and building effective stable democratic institutions takes time. But it’s very clear to us now that Nepalis are deeply committed to a democratic future. It has been a real privilege to work with so many talented people. We are so grateful to have had the opportunity to meet Nepalis from every political party in Nepal, to hear about their history and their struggles, and to learn so much about the politics here.
We also had an opportunity to co-facilitate another session on Social Media. This was was the third time we’ve conducted this training, this time for the UCPN (M) or Unified Communist Party of Nepal (Maoist). They are the current governing party. They are not to be confused with the CPN – M or Communist Party of Nepal – Maoist, a disgruntled splinter party. Nor is this the same as the Communist Party of Nepal – Unified Marxist-Leninist or CPN – UML, nor its own offshoot the Communist Party of Nepal – Marxist-Leninist or CPN – ML. At first, we found the distinctions very confusing… But after a while, it started to make sense, sort of. Nepal is a complex place, for sure.
It’s not often one gets the chance to work in a another country. Instead of just seeing through the eyes of tourists, we were given the chance to see a very different side of a country we visited. For this we are very grateful. And we will miss the many new friends we made here.
Tomorrow we will begin a new phase in our journey, boarding a bus to Lumbini in the Terai region of southern Nepal. Lumbini is the place identified by archeologists as the birthplace of Siddartha Gautama Sakyamuni, the Buddha. Along with Mount Everest, being the birthplace of the Buddha, and the country where he grew up, is a point of great pride for Nepalis. Lumbini is located right near the Indian border, and thus we will head south across the border into the Indian state of Bihar on September 20. We applied for our Indian visas about 10 days ago but, after speaking to people who work for various agencies here in Nepal, such as the UN, UNHCR, NDI, USAID, and others, we worried about whether we might face some challenges. The Indian embassy here is notorious for being corrupt (we met many people who met demands for bribes to process their applications in addition to demands to appear at the embassy in person, as well as restricted duration visas). It’s the most stringent and stingy when handing out visas to foreigners. Great. As it happens, we made the very wise decision to use an agent we trust in Kathmandu instead of trying to do it on our own. Nirmal Nakarni at Himalayan Magic has helped us arrange many things during our time here in Nepal, and like always, he came through with our visas without any trouble. What a relief.
Our plans for the rest of our journey has changed quite a bit since last we wrote. We will no longer be conducting a 10-day Vipassana course in Burma. As it turns out, the centre in Yangon will be preparing for a visit by the Vipassana teacher, S.N. Goenka. So there will be cleaning, repairs, and upgrading there during the time we would have been there. This change led us to a decision to take a modernity break in the UK. We were going to attend a 30-day Vipassana course in Jaipur; instead we will sit a 30-day course at our favourite long-course centre in Hereford, UK from October 17 – November 17. We will also spend a few days in Hereford enjoying the late fall in England. We are positive we’ll freeze, but it’ll be nice not having diarrhea and stomach upset for a few weeks… Plus, we’ll eat all the fruit and fresh salad and vegetables that we’ve been missing lately.
We were lucky to find a cheap flight from Delhi to London, return to Bangkok. Amazing, really. The flight even threw in a free night at the hotel at Heathrow so we’ll get a rest before taking the bus to Hereford.
When we return to Bangkok in late November, we’ll get a visa and then spend December visiting Burma. Burma will be our last country before we fly home to Vancouver in time for Christmas with our family.
We are excited about visiting historical buddha sites in both Nepal and India. We hope to provide a day by day review of our 24 day pilgrimage. Of course, we have no idea how the internet will be on our tour, but hopefully we’ll be able to post once a week.
Till next we write….
with all our love,