Monday, October 15, 2012

Welcome to Nepal

Getting to the airport from The Sunder was easy enough - the staff summoned a taxi for me and a nice Sikh guy drove me there with plenty of time. In contrast to the hotel guys, who kept bugging me for 'room service tip' (I hadn't used any room service at all) while I was checking out, I was happy to give 150 Rp to the nice taxi driver who seemed very grateful for it! I'm trying not to seem like a tight westerner, but I still believe that tipping should be used to reward service over-and-above the call of duty.

Anyway, Delhi Airport was amazing (boasting 'the only airport in India with 3 operational runways!) and very modern. I had a big breakfast buffet but also had a free meal on the plane, even though it was only a 1h30 flight Eastwards to Kathmandu, but being Jet Airways I should have guessed!

The view for most of the flight was just cloudtops, but once we descended through them, we were greeted with the most stunning view of Nepal and I instantly loved what I saw! Lush valleys, tall mountains and beautiful cumulus, all improved by the clear air. I wish I could have had a window seat in order to enjoy it more!


Thanks Jet Airways for another trouble-free flight.

After going through the visa-on-arrival application process, where I handed over the $100 saved from the USA and the passport photos I had taken in India, I was met outside the airport by a Nepali guy who arranged for a taxi to take me to the school where I would be spending the next 8 weeks. He didn't talk much so I was able to take in the views on the short journey - traffic was similarly chaotic to India, just less busy! Weather seemed perfect at about 24 degrees.

We trundled through some back streets and then I was in the school - it's already in lovely shape but there are some exterior walls that still need building and decorating, at least that much I could surmise from my initial glance round:

At this point I also met the other BUNAC participants in the scheme - these are Amy, Nicky and Archie, all from the SW of England (though Amy is originally from Scotland). Archie and I had arrived that day; Nicky the day before and Amy had already been in Kathmandu for a few days, staying at a hostel in town.

We had a chat and a wander round the school, and we also met Bal the manager of Ideal Friendship Nepal () and also the principal of the school. It turns out that we are at Urbana School, a private pre-school for kids up to 6 years old but funding available for those who need it. It has been built up and improved for a couple of years with the assistance of volunteers from all over the world, and recently in partnership with BUNAC in the UK.

Afterwards, the 4 of us went for a brief wander round the locality. we are in an area called Lokanthali very close to the airport and we hear and see small turbojet airliners (B737s, A320s) and smaller turboprop planes taking off every 10-15 minutes. But this is great for me and the other plane-spotters in the group!

The views remained stunning and our little village has rice paddies all over. Clearly, there is little dependence on importing food from elsewhere in the valley and there were many little shops within walking distance selling local produce and also furniture, snacks, toothpaste and other toiletries.  

When we got back, I set up my bed which came complete with mosquito net (although there is not a big problem in this part of the valley) and we had our first meal together: rice, a tasty vegetable mix, lentil soup (for pouring onto the rice) and a sweet tea that I actually enjoyed eating. It was very tasty and, although I don't think there will be much variety, I was happy with the first impressions :-)

So here I am, settled into my home til early December. This marks a very different segment of my round-the-world travel; I am expecting to have lots more opportunities to relax and also hold down a 25 hours per week 'job' (although there is no pay of course). I'll be updating the blog a bit more sporadically from now on, when internet and electricity and interesting things to write about permit. But this time in Nepal is my own and I will be doing my best to make the most of it, however this happens.

The last 8 weeks of travelling have been absolutely incredible - you need only read a few snippets of my blog to realise this! I've met people and visited places and learnt about cultures that I could only dream about beforehand. The engineering aspects have been so useful to my early career and of course I can thank only the Royal Academy of Engineering and my colleagues at Rolls-Royce for the amazing opportunities in these areas. But I'm now very happy for a pleasant place to settle down, ponder what I've learnt and how I'm going to live my life, and relax just a little bit before I start serious work in January. I'm really lucky to be in Nepal during two of the biggest festivals of the year, so I will be trying to integrate with the local culture as much as possible. But most of all, I want to switch off from the busy world and do some good for other people for just a short period of time. I think it will be really good for me, too.

Wish me luck and I will still share things on occasion :-) And greetings from the year 2069, for that's how the calendar works here!
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  1. Congrats on surviving your last 8 hectic weeks - we have enjoyed following your adventures, Colin.

    One question - we thought you already had your airport taxi driver "on the hook" in India, from your arrival day - or did he wriggle off it?

  2. Colin,

    I am loving your blog and following your adventures! Hope you enjoy being 'settled' for a few weeks, looking forward to hearing about the school and Nepal a bit more soon :)

    Lucy x