A change of focus has brought some new perspectives. I had a week in the mountains. (To donors, please know that this was personal time and therefore personal money. Your donations are kept for midwifery work only) Awe-inspiring panoramas, infinite steps and some ambivalence. Trekking in Nepal is nothing like long distance walking in Europe or hiking in the wilderness in the United Stated. The endless steps connect the mountain villages to which there is no vehicular access at all. Everything is brought in on the backs of ponies or people (wearing flip-flops, which is an improvement over when my sister Sara went trekking 30 years ago and they were barefoot). Tourists are herded into “teahouses” which are village guestshouses of a basic sort. Despite the beauty of the mountain views, a certain sadness pervaded the trek. The early morning is the time of clear air and great views. Within a few hours the cloud/mist enshrouds everything and the mountains disappear. The moisture makes the melancholy mood, the damp is pervasive, and the poverty and tourists make a disturbing mix. The largest national group seen on the treks is the Chinese. They seem to surpass the Americans in loudness and enormous cameras.
I met several Tibetan Nepalis and received a bit of an education on thier lack of rights. They are denied refugee status due to pressure from China and even those who have been here 60 years or were born here have no rights in Nepal: no official right to work or vote, no passport or travel documents. They exist by working around the system which in this country is kind of what everybody is doing anyway, but…. no way to live. Poor Nepal squeezed between India and China seems totally stuck. And talking politics, there is an election for the Constitutional Assembly here on the 19th. Some of the Maoists, who fought and won a civil war are against the election (they might lose) and are planning strikes. It seems that the strikes are not a popular idea so they may not come off. I hope they don’t… Had it a bit with holidays! However there is concern that if they lose the election they may not relinquish power and, well, it could get complicated. The recent political history here is dramatic in the extreme. For the bizarre story of the massacre of almost the entire royal family in 2001 by one of the princes, follow this link.
And this is about the election from the New York times….yes a fascinating mess: 120 parties, ballots to be collected from high up in the Himalayas, fun will be had
Today I met with Kersten at United Nations Population Fund(UNFPA). She is a Swedish midwife, whose mission is to strengthen the midwifery profession in order to improve maternal child health outcomes. I was looking for her help in promoting the use of the anti-shock garment. About that she was encouraging and gave me more contacts, but about midwifery in Nepal she is a bit pessimistic. The bureaucratic and political barriers are great. Karma and caste maintain the status quo.
Here are a few pics. Yes, beautiful.