zondag 9 september 2012

1,5 year in Kathmandu… Part II: The sports

During my time here I have become acquainted with a phenomenon called the Hash House Harriers. A crazy bunch of drinkers with a running problem. Every Saturday we would meet up and run! The first time running I thought I never did anything that tough, climbing up the mountain and running back down! It is great how Antoine would always cheer me on and we would keep each other going! The reward of a cold beer combined with the fun of Jimi's circle is the best thing ever!

Some weekends I would go trekking, for example with Marie and Deep trekking the Helambu trail, where I fell in love with the mountain views, the little tea houses on the way and learned that trekking is beautiful!

Or I would do a couple of days of mountainbiking with Robbert, Ziggy the puppy, Simone and Ben. Thinking we could do about 60 km a day, not taking in mind the mountains along the way...

During the week I would visit Edoyes amazing energetic Zumba class, finishing with a cup of coffee in the Roadhouse Cafe.

Never before had I thought that coming to Nepal would make me love to do running, trekking and would make me take zumba classes. Thank you Deep, Marie, Antoine, Jimi, Ben, Simone, Edoye and Robbert for broadening my sports horizon and of course your fun and friendship!

dinsdag 4 september 2012

1,5 year in Kathmandu… Part I: An ode to friendship

As most of you know I will be leaving soon. Time to reflect on my last 1,5 years in Kathmandu.

Friends come and go here in Kathmandu, but I’ve learned that with many people you meet you have a lot in common: a sense of adventure and an ambition to, besides all the partying and fun, make sure you leave something behind and create something meaningful in terms of developing this beautiful country.

I would like to start out with the first group of friends I have met and the first group that I have shared my astonishment and amazement about Kathmandu crazy life in general. Pretty much all of them have left but I would like to call this group: The pointless fish gang (to the band that John was in and that never fully came in to being) ref to https://stepsinnepal.wordpress.com/2012/04/17/the-dude-replies/

In generally days with this gang would go from hanging around in the Sterling Club and eating cheesecakes in Imago Dei, discussing our daily lives and work to the fullest. And then into the nightlife of Kathmandu in Jazz Upstairs, Blue Note, DelaSoul, changing locations after being pushed out by the army at eleven. Then go to either mine or Johns house, finally ending after a four hour night with "Linda’s spectacular english breakfast". Canada day, the famous Queensday, the band Naya Faya in 1905, Jazz Upstairs, Separate Choice, the Old School party or the Blue Note party. These days and nights are best described and remembered by John Callaways song 'Kathmandu'.

Thanks Katie, Robbert, John, Tiffany, Simone, Edoye, Luca, Liffy, Alec and everybody else involved during my first half year in Kathmandu!

Listen to John's song here:
Pointless Fish Redux

donderdag 26 juli 2012

Kathmandu Kora 50 KM Challenge: Thanks for all your support!

The 50 kilometers have been cycled and the money was given this week to the Social Tours Group who have organised everything and are gonna transfer it to Save the Children. 100% of the money will be used for birthing facilities in Rukum, Nepal.
Thanks everybody!

maandag 9 juli 2012

Robberts goodbye post: The Bideshi (Foreigner) guide to Kathmandu traffic

I’ve been in Kathmandu for 5 months now and for the most part really enjoy life here. It did take me a while to get used to the traffic though. It’s loud, chaotic and for the most part looks like there is no structure too it. I’ve heard stories of western volunteers who got so scared of crossing the street that they were unable to function normally and had to go back home. It really is not that bad! To the untrained eye it might seem like some of the drivers here in Kathmandu had never seen a car until they got behind the wheel earlier that day, but the truth is that there is an unwritten set of rules that help guide the traffic into the wild, chaotic, obnoxiously loud, mess that it is. I’ve written them down here so now you can also learn to drive like a Nepali.

Please note that there is a different set of rules for truck drivers on the road from Kathmandu to Pokhara. Their road rules mainly involve finding creative new ways to flip their truck upside down on bottleneck bridges and taking it off sweet jumps into the gorge.

Nepali road rules for motorised vehicles:

Getting into your car:
Open the door to your car, get behind the steering wheel, close the door.
Start the engine. Horn once (to check if it is working). Please ignore seatbelt and mirrors, you will not be using them. Say a little prayer to the shrine on your dashboard. The safety of your journey is entirely in the hands of your deity, you have no influence over it what-so-ever.

Starting out:
Okay, so you are in your car, the engine is running and the horn is working. If you are parked on the road (and you should be), wait until a vehicle is passing you and start driving. He will horn at you. Horn back. The vehicle that is now driving next to you is forced to drive on the wrong side of the road. Do not worry, your vehicle is faster (even from standstill) and he will eventually have to back off.
If you are parked on a driveway (why would you do this? The car needs to be on the road anyway, so why take it somewhere else?) roll your car onto the street until the hood is blocking traffic completely. The other traffic will let you know when you reach this point by horning at you. When this happens, look right, left, right again, horn and start driving.

Okay you are on the road now! Here is where the rules get a little bit more tricky, but just remember, when in doubt: HORN.
If you see another vehicle (both parked or moving): Horn once
If you see a person anywhere: Horn once
Animal on or near the road: Horn once
Pothole in the road: Horn once
Clear road ahead, no vehicles: Horn once
Turn left or right: Horn once (Signal light is broken. Always. Even when it is not)
Brake: Horn once (Signal light might be working. Maybe)
Overtake someone: Horn three times.  Once when you start overtaking, once when you are next to him and once when you passed him.
Overtake someone overtaking someone: Horn once
Overtake someone overtaking someone overtaking someone: You should effectively be as far on the wrong side of the road as possible. No horn is needed until someone is coming from the other direction. At that point hold down your horn until they break. (this manoeuvre is known as Nepali Chicken)
Something funny on the radio: Horn once
In conversation with someone in the car and unable to watch the traffic at the same time: horn at regular intervals until conversation is over.
Bored: Horn once
Getting stopped by traffic-cop: Horn angrily at him. Notice that they are a cop. Horn apologetically once. Avoid eye-contact.
See tourist or bideshi: Horn once
See female tourist or bideshi: Horn at regular intervals as long as they are within eyesight.
See blonde female tourist or bideshi: Lucky day! Horn at regular intervals as long as they are within eyesight, but slow down to maximise the amount of horns you get in. Brag about it to friends later that day.
See person on un motorised vehicle: Has to be a poor person since they can’t afford motorised transport. Horn angrily at him taking up your precious road space. He doesn’t need to be anywhere anyway, probably! Get overtaken by road rage. Hold down your horn and drive past him as close as you can to scare him off. That should teach him!
See your exit on the right hand side, but there is a vehicle in front of you: Quickly overtake the vehicle in front of you, especially if they are driving faster than you are. You will need to cut off the vehicle in front of you to make your exit. Horn when you do so. This sudden increase in speed followed by a quick break to make the turn will use more fuel than simply continuing on behind the other vehicle would have, but it will get you home 0.0001 seconds quicker (maybe). If the manoeuvre is successful the other vehicle will horn. The manoeuvre is obligatory for male motorcyclists with a female passenger.

Remember! The road is a social place. It’s where you meet your friends, make your phonecalls and check on relatives. As such there are a lot of social rules for the road as well.

See someone on the street you know vaguely: Slam the breaks, horn at them, roll down window and strike up conversation. Ignore any and all horns from the vehicles behind you.
See someone on the street you know well: Slam the breaks, horn at them, get out of your car and strike up conversation next to your car. Ignore any and all horns from the vehicles behind you.
See a friend’s car coming toward you or driving in front of you: horn until you are sure they have noticed you too. Stop your car next to his, you should effectively be blocking both sides of the road now. Strike up conversation and ignore all horns. Within a few minutes there should be vehicles behind and in front both of you, so you can’t go anywhere anyway. Conversation can last as long as you like. Popular topics are the bad traffic, the government knocking houses down for road widening and traffic jams.
Vehicle in front of you has stopped to talk to someone: Hold down your horn until they start moving again. Pray to whatever deity you worship to curse this person and wonder how on earth anybody could be so stupid.
Vehicle in front of you has stopped to talk to someone you also know: Horn. Get out of car and join conversation.
Get phone call: Slam breaks. Pick up phone. Hold conversation. Ignore horns.
Get phone call on motorcycle: On a motorcycle the phone call rules are a little different. Getting at least 3 phone calls while traveling on your motorcycle is obligatory, no matter how short the trip. If you get near your destination before the obligatory 3 phone calls have happened, stop and make the phone calls yourself. The reasoning behind this is that none of your friends and relatives should forget that you own a motorcycle. All phone calls made from your motorcycle start with ‘I’m on my motorcycle’ followed by a 5 to 10 minute account of the exact location where you are standing. This makes sure the person on the other side of the line can hear the cars honking at you, thus proving you are actually on your motorcycle.

I’ve also heard people say that there are no traffic signs in Kathmandu. This is not true. There is one. It tells you not to horn.

Cycling for Birthing Facilities in Rukum

On July 21st, I will be mountainbiking the 50km KORA CYCLING CHALLENGE route around Kathmandu to raise money for supplying necessary equipment to birthing facilities in Nepal. You can pledge 1 euro or 100 rupees for each km I ride. 100% of your donation goes directly to the charity. Who would like to support me and the cause and pledge some money? Even when its just a little its welcome! Thanks everybody! Also check: 

zaterdag 30 juni 2012

Lazimpat Road Widening...

Today me and Koen walked onto Lazimpat road and were shocked by what we saw... There was gravel and bricks and felled trees and big chucks of stone everywhere!! It looked like a war zone... an earthquake or... We looked around and realized: it finally happened...: The Lazimpat road widening. 

This was something that our area had been talking about for the last year. In 1976 the government decided that it was forbidden to build anywhere within 7 meters from a road, on both sides. This rule was never enforced and when Kathmandu grew bigger and bigger people started building and building... also within the 7 meter range. 

Nowadays the roadside of Lazimpat road is lined with little fruit stalls, tea shops, clothes shops, tasty little restaurants and small supermarkets. On Lazimpat road I would visit the fruit stall lady, buy vegetables, eat samosa’s and get my bicycle fixed. And let’s not forget the evenings of hanging out with friends at the Jazz upstairs or the Separate Choice. 

Now I was walking along ´my´ Lazimpat road and it did not look familiar at all... The walls of the Shangri La hotel were pulled down, the kitchen of the Tandoori Fastfood place was demolished, the Tushita Restaurant was pulled down at front. And worst of all... the little fruit stall with the amazing old lady was gone... nothing left but a pile of bricks and rubble and the occasional orange or mango. Where did they go? How will they now make a living? I remember very well that only months ago this old happy lady showed me a new button in her shop which allowed her to switch on the blender without walking to the back of the store. This minor improvisation turned out to be useless for on the long run...

I feel for the roadside store community, nobody will get compensation for what happened and they have to start a new livelihood all over again. How can the government let people live and then suddenly bulldozer over their shops and houses? And then they won’t even clean up the piles of bricks and rubble. Lazimpat road will look like a war zone for the next couple of months. For now many houses have not been pulled down yet but will in the nearby future... I hope I won’t be there to see it.


 On the left side the remains of my favourite fruit shop where I bought fresh juice three times a week.
 Picking up the pieces...
 How long untill Jazz Upstairs will go down...?
 Tushita: amazing how people get to work and start fixing things straight away...
 Police maintaining the peace...
 Job's favourite Tandoori place! We had food there just some days before...
 Seperate Choice, me and John's favourite hang out place...
 Shang ri La Hotel... ah well they will build a new wall and its fine again...
Saigon Pho Vietnamese Restaurant's wall is down!