Team dinner + trip to Pokhara (Nepal)

Hi all! This last week has gone so quick! Last weekend I had to do some online work for my work back home, hence I booked a nice hotel (Hotel Radisson Kathmandu) to make sure I had internet and electricity for the full two days. It was so nice to stay in a nice hotel, however I spent in one night the same as I usually spend in one week. BUT I got to enjoy a hot shower!

I was working from my hotel room at Radisson for two days
Working from hotel room

I had a lovely night together with my colleagues at Australia Awards as well as staff from the Australian Embassy. Sunita, my contact person in Nepal works at the Australian Embassy (in red in below photo) and she has been amazing. Any question – she will always have an answer, she invites me to events, and she helps me to get in contact with people I want to interview. Could not have asked for a better contact in the field.

Team dinner and drinks with staff from the Australia Awards and the Australian Government
Team dinner and drinks with staff from the Australia Awards and the Australian Government

Last Sunday night my husband Andrew arrived from Sweden! He only had one week in Nepal but it was great to show him around and for him to meet my friends and colleagues. We spent 4 nights at a holiday destination called Pokhara, such a nice place. You can either go by bus approx. 7-12h or fly 25min to get there… In Pokhara we did a fantastic 3h trek to Sarangkot view point where we had a beautiful view of the city as well as the Himalayas mountain range.

My husband and I in Kathmandu
Andrew and I in Kathmandu
View in Pokhara of Phewa Lake and the Himalayans
View in Pokhara of Phewa Lake and the Himalayas
3h trek to Sarangkot View Point - here photo of Pokhara
3h trek to Sarangkot View Point – here photo of Pokhara

I went to a really interesting presentation by Maggie Doyne, an American philanthropist who has built a children’s home, women’s center and school in Surkhet, Nepal. She won the CNN Hero of the Year Award in November 2015. An inspiration!

Presentation by Maggie Doyne
Presentation by Maggie Doyne

Busy week in Kathmandu with events and interviews

Namaste (hello in Nepali)! This week being back in Kathmandu has been very busy. I have had a couple of interviews as well as attended several events organised by the Australian Embassy in Nepal (my host organisation). It was also the Nepali new year. According to the national Nepalese calendar Bikram Sambat it is now 2076.

Each year the Australia Awards Nepal program organise a return home and reintegration workshop for all the alumni that have recently returned from their studies in Australia. I got to meet Rajuna, which I helped to mobilise to Australia 3 years ago when I worked in Adelaide, Australia on the AA program. So good to see her again!

AASWA Return home and reintegration workshop, Rajuna and me
AASWA Return home and reintegration workshop, Rajuna and me
AASWA Return home and reintegration workshop
AASWA Return home and reintegration workshop

I got invited to attend the Australia Awards Nepal inspirational talk program with famous Dr Sanduk Ruit. Dr Ruit is an Australia Global Alumni and today an eminent eye-surgeon and restored the sight of more than 120,000 people across Nepal and beyond. He work to help the poorest of the poor. He has received several international Awards and it was an honor to be there and listen to him.

Australia Awards Nepal hosting an inspiration talk program with Dr Sanduk Ruit
Australia Awards Nepal hosting an inspiration talk program with Dr Sanduk Ruit
Audience at the Australia Awards Nepal talk program with Dr Sanduk Ruit
Audience at the Australia Awards Nepal talk program with Dr Sanduk Ruit

Then I also completed two interviews this week. The first one with the AutismCare Nepal Society and I got to interview two alumni, Sijan and Dr Sunita that both have attended the short course in inclusive education. I got to see their school, a school for children with autism that at this stage are unable to go to a mainstream school.

Interview with AutismCare Nepal Association_Sijan, me and Dr Sunita
Photo: Sijan, me and Dr Sunita, AutismCare Nepal Society

My second interview was with Sagar, he worked for the National Federation of Disabled, Nepal (NFDN) for many years before he earlier this year resigned to work with his project Sangai Hami (Together We) – People with and without disabilities together! Sagar is a great inspiration!

Photo of me and Sagar, from interview
Photo of me and Sagar, from interview

8 days trek to Mardi Himal

Hi! I have just done the most amazing thing!! I completed an 8 days trek to Mardi Himal in the Annapourna region in western Nepal. OMG! After two weeks in Kathmandu I needed a break from the busy city life and to get away from the bad air (Kathmandu has the worst air in the world). Another MFS student (from Stockholm University) and myself booked a tour to trek Mardi Himal for about a week and it was only one other Swedish tourist on the tour which was nice. The trekking company is called Beyond Borders Ethical Adventures and owned by a couple, the wife is Swedish and husband is Nepali so really the best combination.

The trip started with 7h bustrip from Kathmandu to Pokhara. Then we trekked from Pokhara into the depths of Annapourna region. The landscape was just absolutely amazing! Below you see some of the photos:

Walked through a sheep herd
Walked through a sheep herd
Mountain view of Annapourna South
Mountain view of Annapourna South

We stayed at various tea houses, different place every night. Some had electricity however none had internet – I was out of internet for 7 days (and toiled and warm water for longer)!! I met so many fantastic people along the way and learnt lots about Nepali culture and food (yummy momo’s!)

On our way up, view of Mardi Himal in the background
On our way up, view of Mardi Himal in the background
Nepali prayer flags at the Mardi Himal
Nepali prayer flags at the Mardi Himal

The trek was very refreshing after having spent a couple of weeks in a busy city like Kathmandu. You could smell the fresh air, get away from being connected, and to learn about the country. I thought this was fantastic and would recommend everyone to do the same.

I am walking on the ridge of Mardi HImal Trek, just pass upper viewpoint
I am walking on the ridge of Mardi HImal Trek, just pass upper viewpoint
We made it to upper viewpoint of Mardi Himal trek
We made it to upper viewpoint of Mardi Himal trek
This was the Mardi Himal trek team
This was the Mardi Himal trek team

Now the trek is over and it is time to head back to Kathmandu to continue my interviews. It has been an inspiring trip and it feels like I can do anything after this. I am very appreciative of being here, Nepal is an unbelievable country so much history, stories, people, traditions and customs.

Note: for those who are interested in applying / already received / alumni of the SIDA-funded Minor Field Studies (MFS) scholarship program in Nepal. I have just established a Facebook group MFS Nepal which is a forum meant to help conduct our field studies in Nepal and network with each other to share ideas, recommendations, and support each other. Everyone welcome!

First week in Nepal!

Hi all,

It has been an amazing first week in Kathmandu Nepal! I have already met so many fantastic people and been to many beautiful places. Below I will share some of my memories with you.

The first day I visited The Garden of Dreams, a park very central in Kathmandu away from all the busy traffic. Here I spent a couple of hours reading a book and had a juice at a cute cafe in the garden.

Garden of Dreams
Garden of Dreams
Garden of Dreams
Garden of Dreams

Early on I went to meet with my contacts in Nepal, they work at the Australia Awards Nepal (AAN) Office. The AAN team work with prospective scholarship recipients for Australia (Master level)  as well as alumni that returned home from Australia. My project is related to one of their short courses in inclusive education, run both in Nepal and Australia for Government officials as well as NGOs in Nepal. I used to work with AAN scholars when I lived in Australia, my role was to support them through their studies far away from home. It was a great job! It was lovely to see my ex colleagues again!

Lunch with the Australia Awards Nepal team
Lunch with the Australia Awards Nepal team

We started out with lunch and then I came along to one of their information sessions for students interested in the scholarship, there I got to present about my experiences from living in Australia for 8 years.

Australia Awards Nepal information session
Australia Awards Nepal information session

The Australia Awards Nepal team took me out on a day trip to another town called Bhaktapur. We had their famous King Curd, a sweet yoghurt which was yummy.  It is a very old town and much was ruined in the 2015 earthquake, now lot of construction is happening here. Bhaktapur Durbar Square is on the UNESCO World Heritage list.

Me at the Bhaktapur Durbar Square
Me at the Bhaktapur Durbar Square
Me and the Nepali flag
Me and the Nepali flag

In the afternoon we went to Boudha stupa (temple) for a look around as well as sat down at a rooftop for lunch and a sangria. Another colleague working at the Australian Embassy joined us for lunch. The Bouda stupa is one of the Hindus most holiest temples. It was stunning! And the mountains in the background. Could not have asked for better company or a better place for pizza and sangria!

Me and my colleague (holding his daughter) and his brother having a selfie in front of Boudha stupa

Me and my colleague (holding his daughter) and his brother having a selfie in front of Boudha stupa

Bhouda stupa
Bhouda stupa

Thats alll the updates for now, will write more soon. Now it is time for me to check out of my current hotel (Hotel Friends Home) and go to one a bit closer to the office called Cusina Mithu Chha.  See you soon! Regards, Maddie

3210 meter

Tja!!

Mycket har hänt sen sist! Till att börja med så kan vi meddela att alla intervjuer är gjorda. Detta har varit en givande, stark och många gånger gripande erfarenhet. Det har varit en ära att få möta alla dessa starka människor som vågar dela med sig och det har varit så viktigt för oss att höra deras berättelser. Trots liv i uppförsbacke (både bildligt och språkligt) så är det få som klagar. De lägger istället sin energi på att saker och ting ska bli bättre. DETTA ger oss perspektiv.

Innan analysfasen av arbetet drog igång så tog vi ett par dagars ledigt och stack norrut – mot Himalaya. Från staden Pokhara så gav vi oss ut på en 3-dagars vandring med toppen av Poon Hill som mål. Det känns löjligt och lönlöst att försöka sig på en beskrivning av naturen. Vi var helt enkelt mållösa. Och andfådda!!

I grillande sol, regn och under kolsvart natt så vandrade vi ca 5-6 timmar om dagen. Det var en av de tuffaste fysiska ansträngningarna vi vart med om men samtidigt en av de finaste upplevelserna då vi är naturens nr 1 fanboys. På dag 3 nådde vi toppen på 3210 meter!!!

PS. Kan ju informera om att det är 1104 meter högre än Sveriges högsta berg… Så slipper ni UNDRA! Kebnekaise – more like Kebne-not-abig-deal-kaise! Bam!

Bilder kommer när vi sitter under ett mer stabilt Wifi-parasoll…

 

Tryckutjämna!

Hej igen!

Då vi väntar på att våra sista intervjuer ska bli av så har vi åkt på lite utflykter!

Vi tog oss därför till Patan som ligger i södra delen av Katmandudalen. Det här är en stad som genom året växt ihop med Kathmandu. Men även för det otränade ögat så märktes det viss skillnad. Kulturarvet inom konst och hantverk syntes överallt! I vart och varannat hus vi passerade, satt där en eller flera personer, beklädda i sågspån. Verken dem skapade var för fina för fotografier… (Aka jag glömde fotografera)

Philip tog sig även upp i bergen, nordost om Kathmandu. Efter 2 timmars bilresa nådde jag mitt hotell. Hotel at the End of the Universe. Och det var precis så det kändes. En idyll. Biltutorna och smoggen byttes ut mot fågelsång och friska vindar. Promenader genom barrskogar ledde mig till en 360graders outlook post på 2,200 meters höjd. Otrolig utsikt, men kanske ännu coolare var att behöva tryckutjämna påväg upp?

Hörs!

 

One journey ends… another begins

It feels unbelievable that my field research trip in Nepal has come to end. Many emotions and feelings come up as I say goodbye to the wonderful nation of Nepal, a country that has not only provided me with so much valuable material for my thesis but which has left such a great impression on me as a person. As I take a quick glance through the hard-drive of my computer I wonder how I will even begin the task of synthesizing so many pages of material, interview transcripts, project documents, not to mention my field diary which is full of impressions, perceptions and thoughts on NGO project management and the process of Monitoring & Evaluation which my research has focused on. So as my physical journey in Nepal comes to an end, the journey of thesis writing is beginning. One door closes, another opens. But somehow I think the door to Nepal is one that I will be opening again and again in the future.

The research trip has been a great adventure and I am really grateful to have been able to participate in the MFS program and for the support of SIDA without which this trip really would not have been possible. The organisation that supported me, NEAT, has been a valuable source of information, their contacts putting me into contacts with their contacts and so forth. The kind and humble nature of the Nepali’s I met on this journey have always offered helping hands, and many interviewees wished to become lifelong friends, with offers to return to visit them, stay in their homes and celebrate upcoming festivities together. I’m not sure how that fits with the independent researcher approach but I will have to deal with that in my thesis! Nepal is definitely a country that leaves the visitor with many thoughts and perceptions. The poverty is heart-breaking and NGO project management has a long way to go until it makes foreign aid truly effective, but on the other hand, people seem to be doing their best, although corruption is evident, but many are operating from the heart with little formal education, just trusting their instincts and using a trial and error approach. The landscape is both magnificent and challenging. The high mountain ranges make M&E activities difficult, especially when it can take days of trekking just to make a visit to a project location. But the warm gentle nature of the people leaves an impression on the heart and the mind, with people who have so little always offering so much. I have learnt so much as a person and have a whole new mindset with which I see the world. This is definitely a destination I recommend to others and will be visiting again.

Thanks to MAH and SIDA for all the support and I hope that all other MFS researchers abroad have an equally rewarding adventures on the field!

Namaste!

Kara 🙂

The Research Rounds

The last week of research is here. How fast the time has flown. As always, everything happens at once, with many emails and phone calls to say that people I had previously requested interviews from were now, right now, willing to meet and share their knowledge and thoughts with me. Jumping at the opportunity to collect so much great information before my field trip comes to an end, I managed to schedule over 12 interviews into a two week period. But these interviews were not all in the capital, Kathmandu, where I have been mainly situated. They were scattered around the country in various villages and towns. Not wanting to say no and knowing that trying to do interviews via email or phone is rather difficult here, I set myself up for a research route around the country!

First stop on the research trail was the Chitwan area on the southern border of Nepal and India, to meet with one of Nepal’s biggest local NGO monitoring & evaluation specialists. In true Nepali style, my driver who was meant to take me one hour from the hotel to the remote NGO office didn’t show and by the time I was able to get a new driver, the M&E specialist had left the office. Whilst waiting though I spotted a rhinoceros from the rooftop of my guesthouse! Only in Nepal! To compensate, I managed to secure an interview via email and spontaneously visited two other NGO offices getting much valuable information from them.

A very long and bumpy bus ride took me next to the town of Lumbini, the supposed birthplace of the Buddha. Again, having scheduled interviews I turned up only to have no one available at the office when the time came for our meetings! Only in Nepal!

Super long bus journey later (as usual 6 hours estimates journey time inevitably doubles on the high mountain roads), and I arrived in Pokhara, a lovely town set in magnificent surroundings. This time with much more luck I was able to complete all the interviews as anticipated, and even to enjoy a bit of free time for boating on the Fewa Lake and tasting some of the local culinary delights (for instance their cafes famous for wood fire pizza and Japanese pancakes – not so local really!) – Only in Nepal!

Then back to Kathmandu where more interviews than expected have been able to be completed in one week than I thought possible – as per usual, the Nepalese people (once you get a hold of them!) are more than willing to chat and to help put me in contact with more valuable sources of information. I’m still yet to secure that much coveted government interview. I continue to make calls each day to the government office responsible for overseeing NGO projects in Nepal but each time I am out of luck and the Director or Assistant Director (every member of their personnel has one or the other title – only in Nepal!) usually claims a bad line before I get a chance to tell them my full purpose of the call. But I will keep trying till the end of my time here.

Just one more week to go. This country has made such a strong impact on me that it will be difficult to say goodbye but for the meanwhile, for these last days, it is all about making the best out of the moments and keeping on the research route till the very very end!

Nepalese Festivities

I have returned to Kathmandu after some days exploring the valley in areas with limited internet access. It has been wonderful to meet new people and explore the beautiful surroundings of this amazing city. As usual, people I meet along the way always wish to offer help and through random encounters I have been able to secure more interviews for my field work. This place never ceases to amaze me! But now it is time for the Dasain festivities, the biggest celebration in the country where mass internal migration sees millions of people travelling around the nation to celebrate with their families in their home villages. This means that all offices are closed down for the last week and the week to come which means lots of time to begin the mammoth exercise of sorting through all my field notes and interview transcriptions to begin putting the thesis together. With so many people returned to their home villages, Kathmandu is blissfully quiet!

The Dasain festival is a Hindu celebration which celebrates the victorious goddess Durga who in mythical tales won over the forces of evil. In her honour, hundreds of thousands of goats, buffalo and other animals are being sacrificed every day during the festivities. As a vegetarian and animal lover, I was somewhat shocked to see how many animals are being killed in Nepal this week. One Buddhist group here in Kathmandu has been collecting donations to save a goat or a buffalo from slaughter each Dasain festival over the last 10 years or so. And each year over the festival period, they take the saved animals on a pilgrimage around a Buddhist stupa to try to give the animals better karma in their next lifetime. Intrigues by this unusual tradition, I offered to assist in helping the animal sanctuary to walk the goats around the stupa – the buffalo being much to big to get into the garden where the stupa sits. It was a completely unexpected occurrence in a nation which continues with the unexpected but a lot of fun and a lot of laughs as we tried to get these animals a better reincarnation!

Half-way there

Today marks the exact half-way point of my field-trip in Nepal. How fast time flies. It feels like yesterday that I had that kid-on-Christmas-day feeling as my plane descended into Kathmandu Airport. Now with my notebooks already getting full and so many thoughts, impressions and hours of interview recordings I start to wonder if maybe I have actually been here a very long time! In the last week I have met many inspiring individuals, from women working in empowerment programs through garment manufacture, to expats who have come here to try to make a difference on the ground, to NGO project managers that know they need more knowledge to do things right but are not sure where to turn to. Their stories are sometimes sad but always inspiring. So many insights and much data to sort through… I thought I would be able to begin writing my actual thesis by this point but things take time here, so my patience will need to extend to my drafting also. In my daily life here in Nepal I have been lucky to combine field research with reading, yoga, meditation, and many many cups of chai! I’m wondering how I will leave this place come November. But for now, I have planned a ten-day vacation. A self-imposed holiday break to mark the half-way point. It will be off to a remote region where internet access will be limited and I will have much time to gather and sort all the information that is accumulating in my brain before I head off for the last 4-weeks research voyage in more isolated areas to visit and interview local NGOs. A wonderful opportunity to see a little more of this spectacular country, a nation very small in comparison to its giant neighbours but so big when it comes to generosity, kindness and culture.

 Meeting Womens Empowerment Project workers in Pokhara

Mountain traffic jams – travelling with patience

Making new friends along the way to enjoy
cups of spicy masala chai and the amazing Himalayan views