Friday, November 24, 2006

How to Liven Up a Tuesday Night

Its dark. There are armed police. A restless crowd. TV cameras. Newspaper journalists. Government officials. Drunks hurling insults and fists. Frightened children looking on.
Am I describing a riot? No. I am giving you an idea of the bungled "rescue" attempt by another organisation for the children at the orphanage where I am. The organisation that I am with have been trying to get the kids moved for some time now. It all came to a head on Tuesday night.

I arrived to find a houseful of adult Nepali men and women surrounding and talking to the kids- those who had come home from school anyway. Once in the house I was bombarded with questions from people who didn't bother to tell me who they were. Bluntness is something I am familiar with so I demanded to know the name and occupation of anyone who wanted to talk to me or the kids. Turns out the only ones really interested in talking to me were the journos. The government didn't appear too phased that the kids were distressed, or in giving me any information at all.
The younger ones were the ones who bore the brunt of the confusion. Nobody seeing fit to inform them what was going on til quite late in the play. The older ones arriving home from school in dribs and drabs asked questions and were able to help the younger ones out a bit.

I was told to "counsel" the kids and get them to move out. OK. Fine. Any bloody ideas how I'm gonna do that when I don't speak their language, they are frightened and angry, they've been living with the same people for up to eight years, trust them more (although the manager is a drunk), and have been indoctrinated with his perversion of the truth? No problem. I'll have them ready in ten minutes! Seriously. Not all government officials can be that blase to the plight of minors.
Needless to say none of the kids moved. There were a few contributing factors though:

(1) some of the older boys bully the younger kids into doing what the manager wants as they are his favourites
(2) they were told that at the new organisation's home they would get beaten
(3) they would be split up
(4) their families would not know where they were.

As far as I am aware (and the other organisation has yet to inform us what the deal is) their families will know where they are and they will not get beaten. This of course the kids didn't believe.

So all this kafuffle happened on Tuesday. We were told they'd be back on Wednesday to get the kids. Wednesday was a national holiday 'cos the Maoists and the government signed some papers. So we were told Thursday. They didn't show. Friday comes and the manager announces to the kids that he's ringing Umbrella (the organisation "rescuing" the kids) and telling them to come pick the kids up. Its the longest I've ever seen him sober since I started here. It's Friday avo now and still they haven't shown. We were told by our NGO that Umbrella will come tomorrow. Saturday. Slight problem. Saturday is a holy day in Nepal and no-one works. So we're guessing maybe Sunday. What has all this mucking around done to the kids? Well they live in a constant state of limbo. Do we pack? Do we go to school? Do we wait to be taken? Yeah this constant state of the unkown is doing them a whole lot of good. Although the manager is a drunk, they don't get enough nutrients, they are not well provided for, under him the kids knew where they stood. Now their anger is growing toward Umbrella and especially the younger ones are vehemently refusing to move. Sigh.

Yay! Come to Nepal and experience the joy of... Nepali culture and bureaucracy. Seemingly different but somehow so, "same same".

Friday, November 10, 2006

It's a Dog's Life

Kathmandu is the City of Stray Dogs. They are everywhere. And in varying states of imminent death on legs. Some of them seem quite happy with their lot in life (perhaps they're young and know no better, yet) playing tag with the cars and escaping unhurt. Others are like the young fellow whose story follows...

A rather bedraggled looking black bitzer shuffles across the road. Looking half heartedly in either direction for cars. There are blasts of the horn, yells and whistles, (he's trying to cross the road that happens to be one of the major drop off points for buses coming into town. I know its a "he" 'coz he's missing the requesite drooping teats that all the females have) but on he goes heedless of any danger. Turns out "the end" is what he's after. When he's made it across the busy part of the street, he looks first one way and then the other, then as if to say "I give up", he crumples to the ground- with dignity of course- and awaits the enevitable.
Trouble is, in Nepal they don't make a habit of running over animals on purpose. So he lies there, patiently, and waits. When there's a blast of the horn, he lifts his head, has a look, defies the driver to do something about him and drops it back down. The driver yelling and probably swearing goes round the dog and for good measure blasts his horn some more deafening anyone in the vicinity.
This is Ratna Park.

Dunno what happened to him. But it was a funny poignant moment that is not only a dog's fate. I've seen a calf do the same on a main highway, and the ensuing traffic jam 'coz trucks couldn't get past. This is some feat I might add as in Nepal there are no lanes or any kind of road rules, if you can pass someone you do, if you can't, you pass anyway honking your horn so the on coming traffic will get out of your way. Quite something when you're on what amounts to a single lane road and you're trying to be three abreast.
No need to splash out on roller coasters here, just jump into any vehicle for your white-knuckled ride. Good fun!