Saturday, May 7, 2011

Load Shedding

Note: I’ve put up the links to all my Everest Base Camp (EBC) trek photos… take a look and enjoy! I will post another album for the rest of my Nepal time as pictures get taken and uploaded.

  • Tuesday, 3 May: Easy day, did a little shopping and wandering in Thamel, the part of Kathmandu we’re currently staying in.
  • Wednesday, 4 May: Wandered to a different part of Thamel, bought some spices and watched the craziness of Kathmandu in the streets; went to Durbar Square with Jan and her friends Rucee and Rubee, daughters of her first guide back in 1995; had a nice afternoon chatting with them and seeing the temples in Durbar Square; out for dinner at Rum Doodle’s; Skyped with the folks.
  • Thursday, 5 May: Moved to Shanker Hotel, huge fancy place in former palace; spoke with Rimu and Pradip a bit; explored new area of town; found internet cafe nearby (hotel wi-fi ridiculously expensive).
  • Friday, 6 May: Met Anisse, Nepali Colonel’s daughter, who took me and Jan to a nearby orphanage; also picked up her sister; children were in school, so we spoke to headmistress for awhile and saw the bedrooms; returned to hotel and looked in on a Nepali wedding happening out front; walked around the main street, bought some gifts and materials for the orphans.
  • Saturday, 7 May: Went to Jorpati via taxi to visit with Rimu on my own; he showed me his room and introduced me to his roommate; they made me lunch (curry and rice) and we chatted for awhile; then Rimu took me on a walk through the neighborhood and up to a nearby forest, where we sat and talked; took taxi back to hotel to meet Jan and Anisse to go to the orphanage again; played with orphans for a few hours; Anisse brought us to her home to meet her mother and grandmother; we had Nepali snacks and wonderful conversation there; they rode in their car with us back to the hotel and we made plans for another day.

In Kathmandu, there is a severe limitation on electricity for the number of people who want and need to use it. The government has instituted a policy, therefore, of load sheddding. Kathmandu is divided up into districts and each district is given a schedule for when their power will be shut off, usually four hours at a time, one or two times a day. This goes for all establishments: hotels, residences, restaurants, stores, etc. Wealthier places have generators that they run during their power outage times. At the first hotel I stayed at in Kathmandu, the generator only powered two lights in each guestroom: one in the main room and one in the bathroom. Otherwise, outlets and lights were unpowered. Now, at Shanker Hotel, which is a fancy, upscale kind of place, the generator powers everything, so that the only hint that something has changed is a brief blackout or power flicker.

I’ve been out to dinner or window shopping when the power changes happen and it’s obvious that the people are all well used to it: candles are automatically lit, or doors opened to let daylight filter in, or the loud hum of a generator kicks in and the lights go back on. Nobody is particularly pleased about it but it has become a way of life.

From what I understand, hydroelectricity is big in Nepal but it is sold to India and China for profit by the corporations and is not supplied to the Nepali people first.

Today, after showering and eating a big breakfast, I took at taxi to a part of Kathmandu called Jorpati to visit with Rimu, our guide from the trek. He lives there in a shared room with an old school friend of his. On the way, the driver let me use his mobile to call Rimu to let him know I was on my way. Rimu had told me I could do this, which I thought was unusual but turns out is completely accepted.

IMG_5788Rimu showed me where he lived and he and his roommate Pasang shared their lunch of rice and curry with me, along with a Mountain Dew and some bottled water. Then Rimu took me for a two hour walk around the neighborhood and out of the city to a nearby pine forest on a hill, from which we could see Kathmandu Valley. We talked a lot about customs and social differences between the US and Nepal. It was very laid back and comfortable, a nice break from being a tourist.

Later, I met Jan back at the hotel. We were picked up by a Nepali Colonel’s daughter, who we’d met the day before, and all three of us went to an orphanage nearby to play with the IMG_5794kids. We brought them notebooks (they call them copies), pens, pencils, erasers and sharpeners. The kids – about fifteen of them, ranged in age from seven to sixteen - were typically shy at first, then warmed up and started chatting with us, drawing us pictures and   playing games with us. Jan noticed the oldest boy, who seemed very unhappy and struggling with something, and tried to talk with him a bit. I mostly played with the girls at first, drawing them out into hand-slap games IMG_5795and drawing flowers. I taught them thumb wrestling, which the boys immediately picked up on. By the end of our two hours at the orphanage, the kids were gleefully handing us sheet after sheet of paper with drawings and words and names on them, challenging me to thumb wrestling matches, and fighting to take turns using my camera to take pictures. It struck me how well cared for they seemed and how pleased the kids were to be individually noticed and spoken to. It’s a reminder that although it may feel inadequate to spend just one day, and just a few hours at that, with them, to the kids it made a pleasant distraction and maybe brightened their day a bit.

I find myself feeling this way fairly often: that maybe it’s not worth spending so little time, that to make a real difference or impact, I should dedicate energy and money and a long period of time. But that’s ridiculous, isn’t it? It’s really just that I feel inadequate with a short amount of time or a one-time gift. While maybe I don’t change a life with it, though, that small bit can make a difference in the day of someone who needs it. And to really give, it’s more important to consider that side of things, I think. What is that famous quote? We can’t help everyone, but everyone can help someone.

And it’s not hard. Load shedding means that everyone loses out some of the time so that no one goes without all of the time. Perhaps that can loosely be used as an analogy for how one can approach the act of giving to others: even a little bit can make a huge difference. To everyone.


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