Nepal Earthquake 2015 in Sanepa, Lalitpur

It was a lazy, grey, Saturday morning at our home in Sanepa. Prakash was traveling in some villages in Nepal from Tuesday to Friday, was very tired and wanted to take it easy. We contemplated going out for lunch and watching a movie in the evening, or having a simple lunch at home and going out for dinner. The second option won the family vote… thankfully.

Prakash was half asleep in our living room on the sofa. Janani and Sumi were playing on the floor with legos. Sajjan was cuddling up with Prakash. I was in the kitchen, getting started with lunch prep, but in the process of writing a text message on my phone which was resting on a narrow table we keep our water filter on. The “bati gayo beep” (electricity ON / OFF signal) just went off and immediately, the narrow table started slowly rattling. In my mind, I thought, “why is the bati gayo / electricity making our table shake?” As the seconds passed and the shaking increased, I started walking over to Prakash in the living room. The confusion quickly turned into intense fear. Barely able to walk on the shaking floor, I hobbled to the landing between our dining room and living room. Sumanth and Janani and I crouched down and I covered them as best as I could. In Sajjan’s words, “Baba went flying off the sofa and I went with him”. They crouched down in the living room. I was screaming loudly and was VERY scared. Janani and Sumanth reacted to my fear and were crying uncontrollably. Prakash, having experienced three California earthquakes was calm and was holding quiet little Sajjan tightly. It went on and on… The shaking got worse, then finally subsided. My first thought, “let me call Tika Dai!” I called twice and couldn’t get through. We then walked quickly out of the house into our front yard. Our brick privacy fences had all crumbled – but our house and all neighboring houses were still standing! The landlord and his family (our neighbors) came out into the yard too – we were all shocked, stunned, and at a loss for words. We were huddling at our picnic table trying to calm ourselves and the children and the first aftershock came (minutes from the major quake); the landlord’s house helper asked us to not sit near the trees, but come to the open grass area in the landlord’s yard. We waited for well over an hour with about 1 dozen people in the yard. My phone rang, and I was so gratefully to hear Tika Dai’s voice on the other end. He was with a friend in Kathmandu, but was ok.

The landlord’s family was glued to their portable radio listening to the Nepali radio – my Nepali is pretty good, but I could only understand bits and pieces of it (poor sound quality, fast dialogues, vocabulary that I haven’t learned yet). However, the earth was still. Hunger soon crept into all bellies and we ventured into the house to muster up a very quick lunch. We were eating at the table and Tika Dai’s voice broke the silence, “Hello Madam!” He hugged Prakash and in tears told us, “Kathmandu katham bhayo / Kathmandu is finished”. Our hearts sank… He cycled home through destruction, rubble and crowds of crying people. Devotedly, he came to make sure our family was okay before checking on his own…immeasurable sense of duty. We sent him off to his family’s house about 0.5 kilometers from our home, and thankfully, they too were all okay (later that evening we got a call from Sonu and her family was also okay). He came back inside and asked us to take our lunch outside, it just isn’t safe inside, he insisted. We fearfully followed his advice and went back to the landlord’s yard. The Nepal Government, via radio, urged all people to STAY OUTSIDE. This guidance stretched from 12 to 48 to 72 hours.

Aftershocks kept coming. But sitting still, in a garden or elsewhere, for children is just not possible (who are we kidding, we adults are equally restless). The kids were playing with other neighborhood kids. So much of their conversations had the words “earthquake, aftershock, shaking, scary” in them. We place a half-full water bottle on the ground and were literally staring at it – when an aftershock came, the water would shake. Sometimes we’d feel it first, sometimes we’d see the water shaking first. Many times, we felt like the ground was shaking (vertigo or seasickness feeling) but it really wasn’t. We’d intermittently run into the house – to use the bathroom, get something out of the playroom, get something from the kitchen – but immediately came back outside. Phone connectivity was very poor, all electricity was out, but our internet connectivity was strong (charged by our invertor). We were so grateful.

Our garden has several very tall trees. Prakash adamantly felt we’d be safer sleeping in our home than out of it. We argued for a bit, Janani and I really wanted to listen and do what the masses are doing. Prakash wanted to be smart and do what was best for our family. His arguments were that the main earthquake is over (no matter what the numerous rumors suggested), potentially unstable trees falling on our tent could be worse, and our house walls are over 15 inches thick and it seemed / is much sturdier than the average house in Kathmandu. He won and we slept inside, but the kids and I insisted that we sleep downstairs in the living room (close to the front door and with no second story above our heads) instead of upstairs in our bedrooms.

We opened our doors to others. Tika Dai’s daughter just had a baby about 10 days before the earthquake. I suggested that she and the baby sleep inside our house instead of out in the open air. They initially accepted, but at 9pm discovered no feasible way to transport Rita and her baby to our home (motorcycle, bicycle and walking were all too uncomfortable for a new mom). Prakash also offered our home to the group of scientists he worked with in the villages. They were driving in their trucks a few hours from KTM while the quake hit, but managed to slowly travel into the city and made it back before midnight. Their hotel was initially closed, but opened in time for them to sleep there. In the end, just the five of us slept at home.

Needless to say, that first night was really really really long. We barely slept. During each aftershock (at least 4), I’d wrap my arms around our sleeping children and hold them near to me. Within seconds the shaking would stop and my blood pressure would gradually decline. I knew we were amongst the REALLY LUCKY ones – we had our lives, no injuries, food in our kitchen, water in our storage tanks, all extended family members and friends accounted for, and even internet connection to be in touch with those abroad! There was SO much death, pain, destruction, sorrow less than 1 kilometer from our house. Still, fear kept us awake most of the night.

Besides fear of severe aftershocks and a continuous vivid reel of the first quake playing through my mind, Prakash and I wanted to start mobilizing and trying to help those in need. We had food, shelter, water, family – our needs were satiated. Countless times, we’d be in our living room in the USA, watching CNN and wishing we could “be there to help” when mother nature released excessive amounts of energy elsewhere – and now we are HERE! And fully capable of helping given that our basic needs are satiated. On Sunday, we teamed up with our dear friends, Emily and Caleb Spear, from Portal Bikes, and gave it a go. Prakash and Caleb worked on getting more tarps to those needing shelter (a tarp suspended to create a “ceiling” with no walls provides decent protection from the rain and a bit of warmth from the 50 degrees low temperatures. As we are gradually realizing, connecting those in need with what they need is a slow process. A severe aftershock / second earthquake that afternoon swayed us enough to shift to sleeping in a tent in the yard. Feeling so grateful to still have our lives, no injuries, food in our bellies, and a tent to sleep in, we eventually feel asleep.

On Monday, our whole family ventured off to ICIMOD. We used our car for the first time (our brand new Ford EcoSport was delivered two weeks ago but we hadn’t used it because we haven’t received our license plate). We decided that now, it was worth using anyhow. The roads on this part of town are okay. They’ve all sustained several hairline cracks, but are very passable. Thankfully, the ICIMOD office sustained only a few minor cracks and the building was deemed safe to be in. A few employees and directors were there and met to discuss next steps. The directors offered Prakash the role of organizing efforts to assist a few nearby villages where ICIMOD already has a presence. Awesome! He has a green light to channelize ICIMOD staff and resources for relief efforts. After the meeting, we waited in a one hour long queue to fill gas into our car’s empty tank while the kids napped in the back.

Soon after arriving back home, the bati aayo beep sounded and power was restored! I was so surprised, anticipating a wait of days or maybe even weeks. Power was restored in about 48 hours – unbelievable. Again, we are lucky – many families do not have power yet (over 72 hours). The kids even watched a movie on our TV – I was just perplexed as to how “normal” our life is flowing while others in Kathmandu are dead, injured, homeless, hungry, thirsty, fearful, and desolate. I was enjoying our comforts but feeling like it is all a bit unfair. To add to this bias, we splurged, indulged and treated ourselves to a bucket bath. Feeling grimy, sweaty, smelly, I justified using some of our water reserves to bathe – felt totally guilty, selfing and indulgent, maybe it was even foolish, but it felt so good. All clean and no significant aftershocks, we decided to move back into the living room for the night.

Tuesday, ICIMOD officially opened its doors to employees. Prakash was the only employee on the staff bus this morning, whereas usually it is full! Both long-term and short-term planning meetings took place. Back at home, I was restless and wanted to mobilize. The kids, Tika Dai and I cleared fallen bricks and concrete from two privacy fences that were blocking half the roadway outside our home and our neighbors’ homes. It was a small insignificant task, but felt good to be doing something. Later on, we took the Spear family kiddos to our place so Emily and Caleb could more efficiently work on distribution of drinking water and educating locals on solar-based water purification methods.

Soon we are headed to school – it opens at 10am today (kudos to The British School!!).

This is just a small snapshot at our last few days. I know SO many of you are SO worried about us – sincerely thank you for your warm wishes and prayers. We are really just fine and so thankful and grateful for how mildly this massive earthquake affected our lives, home, neighborhood, school and work. It will forever be etched in our memories… the silver lining behind this dark cloud is bright for us. The next few weeks, months and perhaps longer, we will join the immense efforts to uncover others’ silver linings…

My First Visit to Kathmandu, Nepal… by Viththal Bhave

My dear father-in-law visited us in March.  As the kids were in school and Prakash was at work, we got to spend a lot of time together.  He kept praising our family blog and I encouraged him to be our first GUEST WRITER – I was thrilled when he enthusiastically accepted my offer!  He is a special person… pedestalized by many, generous beyond measure, saintly…  Here is a glimpse of his experiences, thoughts and observations of his first visit to Kathmandu…

Grabbing a snack at the bakery while roaming the streets of Kathmandu.

Grabbing a snack at the bakery while roaming the streets of Kathmandu.

March 19 – My Jet Airways plane flew from Mumbai to Kathmandu. “We are approaching Kathmandu” the message I was waiting for. I looked out and boy, there were mountains after mountains! “Is there any flat land for this plane to land?” was the question in my mind as I saw the great white peaks of the Himalayas welcoming me. So, it was true what my friends in Belgaum were saying, “You are going to Himalayas, not Nepal!” The plane started descending and I was happy to read the name of the airport “Tribhuvan International Airport”. Indeed, all three bhuvans – heaven, earth and hell – are present in Himalayas. Prakash came to the airport and introduced me to their taxi-driver Dhankumar, a friendly person. Everyone here is friendly and acts as an extended family member said Prakash. Dhankumar was the first one I met in Prakash’s extended family. After coming home, I met two other extended family members – Tikaram (called as Tika Dai; Dai means older brother in Nepali) and Sonu Didi. I and Charu had heard about them. Nita was having some stomach problem. Tika Dai was giving her a tablet and a glass of water. The way the offering was done with care and love, it moved me to tears. What wonderful people Prakash’s family is living with! I thanked God for all this in my night prayer!

Kiddos excited to see and TASTE all the treats brought from home.

Kiddos excited to see and TASTE all the treats brought from home.

March 20 – Nita wanted to see the doctor. Her friend, Bahar Kumar, gave her ride to the doctor. I accompanied them. While Nita was with the doctor I and Bahar were waiting in the lounge. Within minutes, we established a wonderful father-and-daughter relationship. We talked about our families. She lost her father a year ago. She felt very good talking to me about her family. She told about her son’s trekking experience at school, although he is not very strong for the exercise. The time passed and I also got close to one more member of their extended family.

March 21 – On Ugadi day (Indian New Year’s Day), I happened to go to Pashupatinath Temple, the most prominent Lord Shiva Temple in Nepal. It was Saturday, so we went early to avoid the rush. Shanthi and her parents, friends that were visiting that weekend, accompanied myself and Prakash. We met a nice priest (God sent), who performed Rudrabhishek with 5 Brahmins. The entire pooja was performed very calmly, and the priests did not rush. One person came to help us for darshan. We saw the God from all 4 doors. The statue has 5 heads as the name of Shiva says “panchanan”.

Early morning special Shiva puja.

Early morning special Shiva puja.

March 22 – One of Nita’s friends told her that we could attend the chanting of Buddhist monks in their monastery, Seto Gumba. This monastery is different from the famous Stupas of Boudha and Swayambhunath. In Seto Gumba, there was a big hall with a huge golden Buddha statue. Around 150 monks in their maroon robes sat and chanted for an hour. I did not understand a single word (Tibetan language); other than occasionally some sound similar to Aum / Om. After the chanting, the monks disappeared in minutes. Nita’s friend walked us near the statue and we got a closer look. This was the first time in my life I attended such a function. It was a unique experience.

Golden Buddha statue in the garden of the monastery.

Golden Buddha statue in the garden of the monastery.

March 23, 2015, Prakash and his 4 colleagues were going around the city in ICIMOD’s van. I accompanied them. The project was to find some emission producing spots where the company can setup their equipment and measure the emissions. We had to select the spots on the roads for vehicle emissions and trash burning around houses. The roadside criteria were funny. One was number of vehicles, another was slope. They had to select both up and down slopes and some flat spots. The background noise meant some other source of emission should not be there. Because of the background a spot in the neighborhood of some car painting shops were rejected. The wind would take away the emission so we had to seek non-windy spots. Most of all the safety for their equipment and operators was a key factor. We went to several spots and using the criteria selected some spots. Then we went to some house holders who would not object measuring the emissions from trash burning. One small industry had a generator which was used in case of power outage. The measurements should be done when the power goes off. All these criteria were fun to consider. A good experience for me and the gang!

Does this street meet all of the criteria?

Does this street meet all of the criteria?

March 24 – Kids and Nita went to school. Prakash was going to work by bus. I accompanied him to the bus stop. On the way back, I tried to remember the roads. While coming home I got lost. I did not know the address of Prakash’s home, nor did I have any mobile number or diary which had phone numbers of Prakash or Nita. Only thing I remembered was ICIMOD and The British School. I asked people the directions for The British School. Everybody was helpful. My Hindi jived with their Nepali and I made it to the school! The security guard at the gate knew English. I told him that my grandkids go to this school and I am lost. He let me in. After hearing that I am lost, the receptionist with a chuckle offered the school desk phone. I said I do not remember the phone number. She found Nita’s phone number and called her. Nita came to rescue me. Thank you Lord that I remembered the School Name and it was not closed!
Later that day, Nita and I went to a see a cycle factory. The owner is Caleb Spear from Colorado, USA. His wife is also from Colorado and their 2 kids are the same age as Sajjan and Janani. After seeing the use of bike by Nepalis, Caleb came with an idea of extending the middle bar and carrier of the bike so that 3 or 4 people can sit on it comfortably. It can carry a lot more load than an ordinary bike. Everything is done in Caleb’s shop of Caleb. He is the inventor of this modified bike. And all of this is from the view of helping poor people in Nepal. He takes nominal profit to keep his family running. All workers in his shop are local Nepali people. Everything from cutting rods, bending pipes and soldering is done here. They extend the chain for the length of the cycle. The bicycle can also be used as a motor to run a washing machine or a corn kernel remover. I was so impressed with their work. While talking about local workers, Caleb mentioned that new employees often get training in the shop itself and after a couple of months they will either go find a job elsewhere or abroad. Some do stay in the same shop. When new employees finish training, their salary increases, they get a provident fund and health coverage! Another great man created by God to take care of His people!!

Caleb and I chatting in this workshop.

Caleb and I chatting in this workshop.

March 25 – Today I went to Prakash’s workplace, ICIMOD. ICIMOD’s emblem says “For people and mountains” – what a wonderful environment to work. There were breathtaking pictures of Himalayan regions taken by various employees in their photography competitions. While leaving the office I told Prakash’s colleagues that “I envy my son”. I was under the impression that ICIMOD is working on emission control and global warming control. When Prakash showed me the pamphlets on over a dozen or so projects I was zapped. One of the projects was as follows: Many Nepali men go to Middle East to earn money. This leaves the woman of the house in charge of cooking, children’s education and the work on the farm. The project is to help this woman on farming by providing better tools to use and growing various different crops to get more yield, for example strawberries. This was started by foreigners and their governments with no intentions of any rewards in return; only to help the people and mountains in Hindu Kush Himalaya (HKH). Again the world is held together because the God has created such caring people!!

After ICIMOD, I went to The British School. There was the first of four performances of a drama called Scheherazade, Tale of the 1001 Arabian Nights. The hall was full of parents and non-participant students. There were over one hundred students participating in the drama including Sajjan and Janani. The idea of making a cave formed by a pyramid of students wearing black clothes was fascinating. When Janani sang her solo song, “Please Tell Me a Story” the entire theatre was stunned! Her beautiful voice kept ringing in our ears even after the song was over. The other girl who sang with her was also great. How much co-ordination efforts the teachers put to make it successful. It went flawlessly! Great!!

Janani and her classmates in the school drama.

Janani and her classmates in the school drama.

March 26 – Today Sumanth became 6 years old. In Belgaum, Charu and I made a special greeting card for him. It took us quite a long time to make it work! First day we spent time up to 11 o clock at night making various corrections and on the second day by noon the card was ready. After seeing the special card, both Janani and Sajjan were curious to make one like that and WALLA!!! Janani made one in just a few hours. In the evening Nita and Prakash went to see Sajjan and Janani’s 4th and last play leaving myself alone with Sumanth. We had a ball! I told him various stories, and he played with the candies he was given.

As you removed the black and white card from its sleeve, color magically appeared!  Tricky illusion using 1 clear sheet and a few plain papers.

As you removed the black and white card from its sleeve, color magically appeared! Tricky illusion using 1 clear sheet and a few plain papers.

My overall impression about Nepal and Nepali people is that it is a very nice country to live in. There is excellent scenery to see as soon as you get up over the country in the plane before even landing. And, the very friendly people join you as if they are family members. Many foreigners who come and work hard to improve the lifestyle of locals is an excellent example to follow.

Prakash and me in Bhaktapur.

Prakash and me in Bhaktapur.

Ek Barsa Bhayo…

My experiences in learning the Nepali language (translation below).


Thake ek barsa agadi, mero pariwar ra ma Nepal ma aaye…

Mero naam Nita ho. Ma North Carolina, United States of America badaa aeko. Mero pariwaar maa, paach janaa chha. Mero srimaan ko naam Prakash ho. Wahaa ICIMOD maa, scientist ko kaam garnu hunchha. Mero chori ko naam Janani ho. U paach class maa padhchha. Mero thulo chora ko naam Sajjan ho. U theen class maa padchha. Mero saano chora ko naam Sumanth ho. U ek class maa padchha. Sab bachhaa British School ma padchha.

Ek mahinaa Nepal aaye pachi, ma Nepali bhasha shikna suru gare. Dui janaa saathi-le, dui janaa shikshak ko laagi salaa dinu bhayo. Mero bichaar maa, ma eutaa class pahilaa shikshak sanga garchhu ra eutaa class dosro shikshak sanga garchhu ra ma-laai kun man parchha, wahaa sanga ma sadaai shikchhu. Tara, dubai shikshak dhere raamro thiyo thyesaile, ma dubai sanga Nepali bhasha shike!

Mero pahilaa shikshak ko naam Raju ho. Wahaa ko puraa kaam, bhasha shikaaune ho ra wahaa ko ghar bhitra, euta classroom chha. Raju ko ghar ra mero ghar dhere najike chha, paach minute hidera lagchha, theti. Asti, wahaa ko srimati, Prabina, pani class maa aaunu bhayo bhasha-shikaaunu shiknu ko laagi. Hamro theen-jaana ko class dhere ramailo thiyo! Raju dhere raamro chha grammar, verb conjugation ra pronunciation maa.

Mero dosro shikshak ko naam Deepa ho. Wahaa ko puraa kaam pani bhasha shikaaunu hunchha. Class ko laagi, Deepa mero ghar maa aaunu bhayo. Hami dui janaa matre padheko. Deepa dhere raamro chha vocabulary ra conversation maa.

Agadi, harek hapta, theen choti ek-ghanta ko class ma gare – eutaa ki diutaa class Raju sanga ra eutaa ki duitaa class Deepa sanga. Tyo bela-maa, ma raamro padhe. Harek class pachi, ma sab pheri padheko ra sab notes pheri lekhe. Bistarai bistarai mero Nepali raamro hudai chha. Hami ghar sare pachi, harek din Nepali bolna suru gare – Tika Dai ra Sonu sanga (mero ghar maa kaam garne didi-dai). Tes pachi, taxi driver sanga, sahuni ra sahuji sanga, ra chimeki sanga, ma bistarai Nepali bolna suru gare.

Nepali bhasha padhnu ko laagi sajilo chha! English banda dhere saadhaaran chha. Arko jaruri chha, mero afnu-bhasha Marathi ho. Marathi ra Nepali dhere pharak chhaina, milna janchha. Eute chithi chha, devanagari, ra dhere shabda eute ho. Thyesaile, mero-laagi, yo bhasha shiknu ko laagi sajilo chha.

Theen chaar mahinaa pachi, mero nasike saathi, Houk, ra ma sangai-class suru gare. Kasto ramailo thiyo! Wahaa Dutch ho tara wahaa ko Nepali dhere raamro chha. Ma banda ek barsa agadi Nepal maa aaunu bhayo ra ek barsa badi class shiknu bhayo. Thorai classes Raju sanga ra thorai classes Deepa sanga haami-sangai padheko. Dubai ramailo thiyo.

Raju ji ra Deepa ji, dhere dhere dhanyabad ra mero namaskar tapaai-haru-laai dinchhu. Ma dhere dhere bhagyamani chhu –Nepal maa basne mouga, nayaa bhasha shikne mouga ra dhere janaa raamro manche sanga padhne mouga paye…


Exactly one year ago, my family and I came to Nepal…

My name is Nita. I am from North Carolina, United States of America. My family has 5 people. My husband’s name is Prakash. He works in ICIMOD as a scientist. My daughter’s name is Janani. She studies in Year 5. My older son’s name is Sajjan. He studies in Year 3. My younger son’s name is Sumanth. He studies in Year 1. All of the children study in The British School.

One month after coming to Nepal, I started learning the Nepali language. Two of my friends recommended two Nepali teachers to me. I thought, I will do one class with the first teacher and one class with the second teacher and whichever teacher I liked, I would continue studying with them. But, both teachers were very good therefore I studied with both of them!

My first teacher’s name is Raju. His full-time job is as a language teacher and within his house, he has a classroom. Raju’s house and my house are very close, only a 5 minute walk away, that is all. Initially, his wife, Prabina, would also come to our class for her to learn how to teach Nepali. Our three-person class was very fun! Raju is very strong in grammar, verb conjugation and pronunciation.

My second teacher’s name is Deepa. Her full-time job is also as a language teacher. For our class, Deepa would come to my house. Just the two of us would study. Deepa is very strong in vocabulary and conversation.

In the beginning, every week, I went to three one-hour classes – one or two classes with Raju and one or two classes with Deepa. At that time, I studied really well. After each class, I would again study and rewrite all of my class notes. Slowly, my Nepali improved. After changing houses, I started speaking Nepali everyday with Tika Dai and Sonu (our house helpers).
Afterwards, I slowly started speaking in Nepali to taxi drivers, shop keepers and neighbors.

The Nepali language is easy to learn! Compared to English, it is simple. Another important thing is that my mother-tongue is Marathi. Marathi and Nepali are not very different. They share the same script, devanagari, and many words are identical. Therefore, for me, learning Nepali has been easy.
After three to four months, my close friend, Houk, and I started taking group classes. How fun it was! She is Dutch but her Nepali is very good. She came to Nepal one year ahead of me and started Nepali one year before me. We studied a few classes with Raju and a few classes with Deepa. Both were enjoyable.

Raju ji and Deepa ji, thank you very very much and I offer my salutations to you. I am very very lucky – I have the chance to live in Nepal, the chance to learn a new language and the change to study with several very nice people…

My Trip to the Kathmandu Zoo by Sajjan Bhave

Today, I went on an investigation to the zoo instead of working in the classroom.

We walked to the zoo from our school instead of taking the bus! On the walk, we walked single-file in our groups. My group leader was Ms. Shrestha, the assistant teacher from my class. There were five groups. There was Ms. Bloor, Ms. Amatiya, Ms. Middleton, Ms. Westlake and Ms. Shrestha. There were 6 kids in my group. Their names were Jack, Kasem, Freida, Suravi, Neenama and me. The two teachers in our group were Ms. Shrestha and Ms. Silwal. At the zoo, we had to finish four activities before we walked back to school. These activities were: a zoo questionnaire in which you had to ask people different questions ; sketch an animal that you liked ; find out information about the animals ; draw a tally chart of how close to extinction the animals are. Right when we got to the zoo, we ate our snack. We played around for a bit after eating our snack and I took a photo of two of my friends, William and Pemba.


Then we went to the deer. One of the swamp deer had horns and the other did not. The swamp deer were HUGE compared to the spotted deer. We found out that the swamp deer’s lifespan was only 19-20 years. I estimated that the swamp deer were only 16 years old. Next we went to the hippo. The hippo only poked its snout out of the water. I got the photo just before the hippo got back in the water.


We were about to go towards the tigers when Jack spotted that we didn’t go to the rhino. The rhino was huge compared to the swamp deer. He was eating grass when we were at his enclosure. The rhino looked very sad because the other rhinos of his type were separated into different enclosures.


Then we went to the water buffalos. The water buffalos were very far away from us. Water buffalos weigh approximately 800 – 900 kilograms. When we were at their big enclosure, they were drinking water from a very dirty pond. There were about 7 water buffalos in their enclosure.


After the water buffalo, we saw the jackals. Their enclosure was very smelly because they use urine to communicate with other jackals!


Then we went to the Asian elephants. They were HUGE compared to the jackal! We found out that the Asian elephant could live more than 70 years long. Later on, we saw someone riding an elephant straight through the zoo. I thought that elephant was an Asian elephant. The man was riding the elephant through the zoo because he was taking the elephant to the area where the people were waiting to pet the elephant. I got to pet the elephant’s ear, it was very soft. The side of the elephant was much rougher compared to the ear.


Next we went to the huge bird section. I spotted a very colorful bird that looked like a tiger! The bird section wasn’t as entertaining as the monkeys, water buffaloes and tigers.

Towards the end we went to the crocodiles. These crocodiles had a very long snout. It looked like a corpse in the sand because it was very sunny and the animals were very still.


After our visit to the zoo, a few days later, we had a debate whether we should have zoos or not. Everybody said we should not have zoos except Gyaljen. Our conclusions were that we should keep animals in national parks instead of zoos because it is cruel to keep animals in cages, but if we let them out into the wild, they might get killed by hunters and they would be extinct. So, we agreed on the conclusion that we should keep animals in protected national parks.
I really enjoyed going to the zoo because of the big variety of animals!

My Adventures in Hattiban! By Sumanth Bhave

Sumanth’s description of his first school overnight trip – outing to Hattiban then back to school for a night in tents!


First we went to school with my big bag. Tika Dai came also because the bag was really really heavy so when we got to British School, we lined up and went inside. Then we met up at Year 1E. Then we went in a line, a big long line, and there are three busses because we are a big big group. Our bus was very very very cool because we are popcorn and our passenger, the guy who is next to the driver, since there are so many uphills he had to get out of the bus and had to put a big stone behind one of the wheels. And then finally we got there and we got into a circle.

There were lots of groups. My group had 4 people – Ariya, Tirel, Akshata, and me. There were 3 boys and 1 girl. Then each group, went to the toilet and sometimes the boys had to go in the girls toilets and sometimes the girls had to go in the boys toilets! And then finally everybody got to go in the toilet. And then, Ms Wiggers read a story to us, it was called “We are Going on a Bear Hunt”. The story was really nice. Then we were going on a bear hunt together! We found a lot of clues and we even found a lot of bear poo! And the bear poo wasn’t even real! It was like a bunch of leaves crumpled up. When the bear hunt was finished, we came back to the hotel and went to the bathroom again. And then we ate lunch. In the middle of lunch we saw some walking bushes! Do you know the walking bushes were actually people carrying leaves to feed their cattle?!?

Then we did some activities after lunch. We started at 5 then went to 6 then to 1 then to 2 then 3 then 4 then we were finished. I think each activity was 5 minutes. All activities took 1 hour. Activity #5 was sketching things you could see around Hattiban. I sketched trees, tree trunks, and sticks and I think that was it. Then, in #6 first we had to clear a big muddy space, then we had to make a picture in the mud using natural things. My natural things were sticks and bark and I used one piece of glass that wasn’t that sharp. The sticks were bridges, the holes were ponds and the piece of purple glass was treasure. You had to find the treasure and make sure you don’t fall into any of the ponds! The sticks were like balance beams and you had to walk over them to get over the ponds.

In the bus ride back, I was feeling a bit sick because the roads were really bumpy. Finally we got back to the British School. There, we went to Year 1E’s classroom. We read a book or played. I played legos. My lego thing was a big ship that had lots of cool things on it. Guess what Ariya put on my thing?!? He put a big lego missile on my ship! A missile is like a bullet. Then it was time for dinner. I went to the table. I had pasta. The pasta was very very good. I didn’t not like the pizza that much. I drank water, but I didn’t actually drink it, I left it on the table.

Then I played some games in the playground. I really liked the games. The people were Ariya, Yuvan, Akshata, Prapti, and Siddham, Tirel, Shauriya. Then it was time to brush our teeth. I brushed my teeth. Then it was time for bed. I went to bed with Ariya in a tent. I had to set up my bed. There were only 4 teachers so they had to walk around. In the middle of the night, Ariya had to go to the toilet. Then it was morning. Me and Ariya woke up. Then we changed our clothes. Then we packed our bags with some help from some teachers. Then we put our bags where they were when we came to the hard court. Then we asked Ms Elphic if we could go brush our teeth. Then it was time for breakfast. I had cereal. First I had chocolate loops. Then I had fruit loops! Then I had choco banana cereal. But they were fatter than bananas! Then it was time for the next school day. We lined up and then we went inside. I got to leave early.

I did not miss my mom and my dad. I also did not miss my brother and my sister.

I got scared one time because of the bear. Ms Hutchins was the bear! She dressed up as a bear. I got so scared because her ROARS were so scary!

My favorite part of the whole adventure was eating candy when the bear was finished. The bear was a very kind bear. He left us lollipops and oranges and even he left us treasure on the way back. My treasure was candies. The candies were really yummy.

Wiped out, but happy as can be, after the best FIRST school overnight experience!

Wiped out, but happy as can be, after the best FIRST school overnight experience!

Embracing and ENJOYING a new lifestyle!!

NOTE: I wrote this post months ago and foolishly delayed on posting.  However, it still paints a true picture…


My daily routine is significantly different since we moved from an apartment into our house – all for the better… Main difference is our two amazing house helpers, Tika Dai and Sonu, who enable this effortless and efficient lifestyle…

Prakash and I wake up early, usually just before 6am. I get ready and then prepare a fresh, healthy, hot breakfast — never before have I managed to successfully and consistently do this! I prepare nutritious “parathas” (similar to a tortilla) supplementing the usual whole wheat flour and water with veggies, lentils, nuts, seeds and flours of other grains. I make 8 each morning – one for each of the five of us, one for Tika Dai, one for Sonu, and one for our dog (he is a street dog that the previous tenant cared for and just kind of came with the house – truly a gentle soul…). I prepare the kids’ snack and water bottles, and sometimes their lunch. Since school is nearby, often their lunch is prepared a bit later and taken over at lunchtime. Simultaneously, Tika Dai is buzzing around the kitchen – drying and putting away dinner dishes, making tea and setting the table. While we are busy in the kitchen, Prakash holds down the fort upstairs ensuring the kids complete their morning routine amongst the nonstop horsing around! They all head down, get their backpacks ready for school and we all sit down to breakfast together — again, this never happened in the US, but we are enjoying and cherishing it. Prakash heads out on his bicycle around 7:45am and we follow a few minutes later on our cycles.

I’ll introduce our house helpers a bit before describing how significantly they impact our life… Tika Dai is 52 years old, married and has 3 sons and 2 daughters. His wife lives in their village (Chitwan, which is a 5 hour bus ride from KTM) and 4 of his 5 children live, work and/or study in KTM. He never attended school, but ensured his children studied. His daughters completed up to 10th grade and his sons completed high school and are pursuing further education. Self-taught, Tika Dai learned to read Nepali (Devanagari script) and can manage to read and write, although at a fairly slow pace. His knowledge of English is limited to perhaps a few dozen words, spoken only. He lives in a small, detached room within our compound. I can write pages about his personality but will summarize – cheerful, optimistic, content, caring, thoughtful and hard working.

Tika Dai with Prakash and the kids on a temple outing!

Tika Dai with Prakash and the kids on a temple outing!

Sonu is 32 years old, married and has 1 son. Her husband lives in Saudi Arabia (an astronomically high number of Nepalis work abroad in Asia and the Middle East as they can financially contribute significantly more to their families) and her 16-year-old son just completed 10th grade and now works at a cycle shop as a manufacturing assistant. She also never attended school but has learned to read and write Nepali. Her vocabulary of English is surprisingly high and she has taught herself the alphabet. She and her son live in an apartment 3 km from our home. Sonu is kind, smart, thoughtful and hard working.

Sonu and the kids on her birthday!

Sonu and the kids on her birthday!

Sonu and Tika Dai take care of most household tasks:

* Laundry and cleaning — Sonu takes care of all the laundry (sorting, machine washing, hand washing, hanging to dry, ironing and folding). I only put clothes away where they belong. She and Tika Dai together take care of all cleaning (dusting, cleaning bathrooms, sweeping, moping, cleaning the kitchen). I only help with tidying up — a nonstop task with 3 kids at home! Their efforts to take care of our house simplify my life tremendously.

* Groceries — As I wrote about before, purchasing groceries is a bit tedious in Nepal. Since we don’t have a car and since fresh fruits, vegetables, milk and bread don’t keep for long, frequent purchases are a must. However, Sonu and Tika Dai, do most of the shopping! She purchases produce in the morning on her way to our house. Tika Dai gets grains, dairy and all pantry items as and when we need them. I’ll make a list, written in English, and read it out to him as he rewrites it in Nepali. At the end of the day, we do the “jisab” and he gives me the receipts from the day and I pay him back. About once in two weeks, I’ll go shopping to get items that require some selection or searching. Again, their efforts in this regard greatly reduce my work load.

* House work — There is quite a bit of work to do to maintain a house in the developing world! We do not have a direct line of water to our house from the City Government. Four large tanks hold our water supply (equivalent to 6000 liters). Tika Dai makes sure the tanks are cleaned (about once a year), pumps the water from tank to tank (when the electricity is on), and calls the tanker truck for deliveries (about once every two weeks). Gardening work is plentiful and Tika Dai singlehandedly completes it (cuts the grass with a non-motorized cutter, trims trees and bushes, cares for the veggie patches, sweeps fallen leaves, waters the plants, etc). The list of items that need maintenance goes on and on – but thankfully Tika Dai seemingly effortlessly manages all.

* Cooking — My cooking work has been cut in half! Sonu prepares lunch (for me, her and Tika Dai) and dinner (for Prakash, the kids and me) Monday through Friday. I only take care of breakfast on weekdays and all meals on weekend. Usually, she prepares a typical Nepali meal (rice, lentils and curried vegetables), but once in a while she mixes it up – pasta, fried rice, noodles, chole-puri (curried garbanzo beans and fried bread) and even homemade pizza! Also, baking has become weekly entertainment for all of us – banana bread, peanut butter cookies, date cake and peanut butter ladoos!

I’m sure you are wondering how much we pay Sonu and Tika Dai… First, I’ll tell you that they are well paid as compared to others holding similar jobs in Kathmandu. They, and all others who do this kind of work, do make ends meet but do not have many luxuries in life. Sonu earns the equivalent of $140 USD per month and Tika Dai earns the equivalent of $190 USD per month. Unfortunately, the cost of labor in Kathmandu and most of the developing world is appallingly low. These drastically low rates leave me with mixed feelings. On the one hand, it is great to have happy employees who are relatively satisfied with their earnings, but on the other hand, it is difficult to digest that we live in the same city and they have to survive on their meager Nepali Rupee salary while we enjoy a salary in US Dollars.

I’m sure you are also wondering what I must be doing with my time. I have no job, very little house work to do, my kids are in school full-time, so what do I do?!? It is a blessing to have so much free time and I’m thoroughly enjoying myself – here is a summary of my activities:

* Exercise — I have never been so fit in my life! In addition to the Tuesday mountain bike rides with other British School parents, weekly, I run twice a week and walk twice a week. These coupled with cycling as our new mode of transportation, I feel super fit, energized, and healthy.

* Nepali Class – attending Nepali language classes is very enjoyable and has enabled me to effectively communicate with Sonu and Tika Dai, in addition to shop keepers, taxi drivers, and other locals I meet. I’ve become the household “translator” – the kids and Prakash use my basic skills to communicate in Nepali!

* CSGN – I am keenly interested in learning about Nepal, Nepali people and culture. The Cultural Studies Group Nepal organizes informational lectures, discussions, walks and studio tours about three times per month. Attending these events has been very enjoyable and educational. From December, I joined as a Board Member and have enjoyed planning and organizing various CSGN events.

* Computer work – I aim to write blog posts, catch up on email, and keep in touch with friends and family while the kids are at school.

* Crochet – A hip and happening group of foreign and local women get together weekly to crochet. Since January I joined the group and two beautiful seeds have bloomed since. Janani’s creativity and skills in crochet has grown and surpassed mine! And several of the ladies are having a go at starting a small business out of our creative spirits – we’ll see what happens!

* Volunteer Project – During our summer holidays in July, I visited an old friend, Ashok Rupner, from Pune, India. He now works with Dr. Arvind Gupta, Creating Toys out of Trash, and he asked if I can help them on a project. They have over 500 videos available for free on YouTube that aim to teach children about science through the creation of simple toys made from basic household items. They have dubbed these videos in numerous languages (Hindi, Marathi, Kanada, Tamil, Bengali, Gujarati, Malayalam, Telugu, Russian, Japanese, Spanish, French, Chinese, Korean, Uzbek, Tajik) aiming to share the knowledge with children all over the world. Ashok Sir asked me to work on dubbing the video scripts in Nepali! Since my Nepali is very rudimentary (and my accent isn’t authentic), I have found native speakers to work on this project with me. I’m looking forward to notifying rural schools in Nepal of this resource when we finish.

After all of these activities, I cycle over and get the kids at 2:30 or 3:30, depending on whether they have an after-school club. In the USA, I would be trying to juggle ~17 balls at once – preparing dinner, cleaning out containers from the kids’ lunch boxes, listening to each one about their day, mediating arguments between the kids, tidying up the constant tornado, helping with homework, reading paperwork sent home by the school, and playing with the kids too. Thankfully, a few of these balls are taken care of so now I’m able to focus more on being with the kids in the afternoons.

Evenings are about the same. Prakash gets home from work, kids eager to chat with him, evening crankiness and hunger set in, bath-time activities, bedtime reluctance – the dance all families do…

Yes, life in Nepal and the USA are hugely different. At this time, we are enjoying the positive aspects to life here (low cost house helpers; biking as a primary mode of transportation; warm, open nature of Nepali people; huge range of foreigners and expats). There are things I do miss occasionally (libraries; parks, green spaces and well-protected natural resources; traffic lights and civil driving habits; clothes dryer; 80-gallon gas water heater; central heating system). There are tradeoffs. I am blessed that we have the opportunity to experience both…