A Tune For Nepal
David and Jackie Britten have left the comforts of Wiltshire to work with children in Nepal. We don’t have a TV in Nepal. Home-grown Nepali programmes seem to fit two models, roughly equivalent to BBC 24 hour news and the Chuckle Brothers. So we rely on BBC World Service and listen to music. Listening to our music it occurred to me that many of the tunes are very apt to life in Nepal.
U2 - Where The Streets Have No Name
They really don’t! If you want to tell people where you live you either just name the village or, if you live in a bigger town, the nearest road junction. We live in Bel Chowk, Bel being the name of a tree that happens to grow at the junction (chowk). Since most of the adult population are illiterate there is little need for postal services. As we are the only Europeans in our city we are easy to find!
Fun Lovin’ Criminals - We Have All The Time In The World
The local time zone is NST (GMT +5:45); I think it stands for Nepali Stretchable Time. Nepali people are inclined to be polite by nature and don’t like to give offence. Saying “no” is seen as a lack of respect. Things will get done, but it may take a little time. Patience is a virtue here. The Nepali calendar is in year 2068 now; when someone says a project will be complete by 2069 it’s worth checking which calendar they’re using.
Sheryl Crow - Every Day Is A Winding Road
The Romans didn’t make it to Nepal. They don’t build roads straight here. Kathmandu is 80 Km from Narayangarh, our home town, but the road winds for 160 Km along the valleys. Of course the terrain is partly responsible, but we’re not talking about journeys in the Himalaya, we live in the Terai, as flat as the proverbial pancake, Kathmandu is in the hills, by no means mountainous. There are very few bridges across the main rivers and no tunnels through hills. The lack of transport infrastructure severely limits Nepal’s economy.
Cat Stevens - Where Do The Children Play?
I used this for a promotional video for our trip before we left the UK and it will always remind me of our Nepali experience. There are few playgrounds for children and they have little room at home; most families live in one room. Of course they are resourceful and make their own playgrounds in the streets and fields; using bent trees for see-saws, discarded rope for swings, plastic bags for kites.
Louis Armstrong - What a Wonderful World
I have to end on a positive note. Nepal has lots of issues but our time here has been memorable. The country has stunning scenery from the high Himalaya down through the hills to the sub tropical jungle. The cultural heritage is outstanding; the Kathmandu valley has the greatest density of world heritage sites. But a country is made from its people and the people have welcomed us unreservedly, we have made many friends here and we will miss them when we return; we would love to show them our country, but few, if any, can consider visiting because of the cost.
Suzanne Vega - Night Vision
Nepal has Load Sharing (also known as power cuts). This can be up to 16 hours per day in the dry season (electricity is generated from hydroelectric power). But at least we have some electricity; many people in Nepal have no access to power. We get through a lot of candles.
U2 - I Still Haven’t Found What I’m Looking For
There is no shortage of shops here; every new building is built with the capability of a corner shop on the ground floor. Napoleon famously called Britain a nation of shopkeepers, Nepal is the modern equivalent. However finding something specific can be a challenge as each shop has a curious combination of goods.
Eurythmics - Here Comes the Rain Again
Anyone who’s lived with monsoon will know what this is about. It rains a lot and it rains heavily. The unmetalled roads turn to mud, the low lying areas get flooded and the roads through the hills get washed away in landslides.
Robert Palmer - Some Like it Hot
If you ask people what to expect from the climate in Nepal most people will assume it’s at altitude and cold. That’s true in the Himalaya, but we live in the Terai, sub tropical jungle mostly transformed into fertile agricultural land following the eradication of malaria from the region. Summer temperatures are 35-40. Then there is the food, which uses liberal amounts of chilli. In restaurants just in case there isn’t enough in the food, a supply of green chilli sauce is available for the discerning diner.
Carole King - I feel the Earth Move
We had a big earthquake here, magnitude 7.6. The epicentre was a long way off, but it still shook our house and there were casualties in Kathmandu and eastern Nepal. The Kathmandu valley is reckoned by the UN to be well overdue for a BIG earthquake. The last big one was in 1934. The Himalaya is caused by the two tectonic plates pushing together and they continue to do so – Mount Everest is getting higher every year. The vast majority of buildings in Nepal are not designed to be earthquake proof, so when it does come it will be devastating.