21 June 2013
Anne and Andrew Hudson have hosted several Nepali students from Pestalozzi since the introduction of the host family scheme in 2006. They recently visited Kathmandu and caught up with some of their former host students.
One of our first host students, Ram K Rijal, is now back in Kathmandu after graduating from MIT in 2012. Laxmi Rajak, whom we hosted from 2009 to 2011, is now at Duke University. She was going to be home in Kathmandu during May 2013, so it was a good opportunity for us to visit. Andrew had stopped briefly in Kathmandu in 1966 and was interested in how it had changed. For Anne it was to be a new experience.
After researching travel and accommodation on the web, we decided to fly with Oman Air via Muscat and to stay at the Yak and Yeti Hotel. On Ram’s advice, we obtained our visas in advance by visiting the Nepalese Embassy in London. We landed at Tribhuvan International Airport at 6pm local time. Emerging with our luggage, we were pleased to see Ram waving to us from a seething mass of people and vehicles. Ram works for the World Bank, which has offices in the Yak and Yeti. We had our first experience of the chaotic traffic before checking in at the hotel. Ram made a few phone calls and our programme for the weekend was settled.
On Friday morning, Laxmi came to meet us and we travelled by taxi to her home near Bhaktapur. We were warmly greeted by her mother and sister who had cooked lunch for us. We later met her brother when he came home.
After lunch we visited the SOS School Sanothimi, where Laxmi had studied before being selected for Pestalozzi. We unexpectedly met the headmaster who was pleased that another of their pupils is coming to Pestalozzi in September. We then went to Laxmi’s uncle’s house back in Kathmandu, where we were hospitably entertained.
On Saturday morning, we were picked up, along with Laxmi as our interpreter, by the father of Susmita Ghimire, who is one of our current host students. We were taken to Susmita’s family home in Patan and had an extended and very pleasant lunch. We met Susmita’s lively nephew, aged three and half, who read to Anne from his English alphabet book.
Our journey back to the hotel was interrupted as Durbar Marg was closed for Purple Saturday, a street festival organised by Ncell. The centre of Kathmandu was gridlocked. Purple is the company colour for Ncell and also celebrates the Jacaranda Trees in full bloom. In the end we abandoned our lift and walked! In the evening Ram came and took us out to dinner at a traditional restaurant in Thamel.
On Sunday afternoon, Ram took us to visit Bloom Nepal School, which he has set up and which formally opened its doors on 28 April 2013. (Nepal follows the ancient Vedic calendar, which has the resting day on Saturday and the first day of the working week on Sunday. Schools in Nepal are off on Saturdays, so it is common for students to go to school Sunday through Friday.) The visit to the school was a memorable experience. The children were in two lines waiting for us and we were presented with flowers. After meeting the staff, we went inside to the library and sat in front of a whiteboard while the children introduced themselves and then asked us questions. Deepika, aged 5, danced for us and another girl sang.
Later that day, we had our first meeting with a Kathmandu Soroptimist. Uma Ghimire and her husband run a home for orphan girls as part of RUWON (Rural Women’s Network Nepal). On Monday, we visited the RUWON home, where Anne was able to talk with some of the girls and the staff including Amy, an Australian volunteer from Perth.
We left early on Tuesday morning and caught the 30 minute flight to Pokhara. The relative quiet and calm, together with the clean air, contrasted sharply with conditions in Kathmandu. We decided to be tourists and booked a car with a guide and driver for the morning and afternoon. We visited a Tibetan Refugee Village, where the older women were spinning and the younger ones weaving carpets, then took a boat ride on Phewa Tal before heading through the old town via a Hindu Temple, where a wedding was in progress, and up into the mountains. After enjoying spectacular views, our guide took us to his family farm where we drank tea with his parents, wife and children and inspected his buffalo and goats. We were interested to see that he had a solar panel and a biogas plant.
On Thursday morning a group of Kathmandu Soroptimists came to the Yak and Yeti to meet Anne. Later Laxmi arrived with her uncle to take Anne shopping for traditional clothing. In the evening we took Laxmi, Ram and two other Pestalozzi alumni, Prity and Jyoti, to the Lal Durbar Restaurant. We enjoyed a traditional six course meal along with a floor show. Laxmi could not resist joining the dancers on stage for their last item. Eventually, we said our farewells and went to finish packing.
It was a memorable trip, meeting again with students we had known in Pestalozzi and sharing meals with their families. We now have a better understanding of the problems that Pestalozzi students face, and renewed admiration for their achievements.
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