Several months ago I was contacted by the Brazilian publisher Compania Das Letras about the suitcases project being included in a book by Dorrit Harazim. They have been really great to deal with, but I wasn’t entirely clear about the nature of the project. When I got back from Nepal, a copy was waiting for me in my post office box. It seems to be a collection of essays about photographs (it is in Portuguese so I am not sure), and I was amazed to see the other photographers that were included. Several Magnum photographers are involved along with Gordon Parks and Vivian Maier and some other illustrious names. I am thrilled an honored to be a part of it. “O instante certo” translated roughly to “the right moment”. It is available through Amazon, so if you read Portuguese it might be nice to get a copy.
The article on the suitcases translates to “travel without return”. I would be happy if the book was translated into English at some point, but in the meantime, I’ll ask for a pdf and plug it into google translate.
One of the things I like best about this site is the immediacy of being able to share images. It is always a bit difficult for me to put up a post if more than a few days have passed since I took the photographs.
But I have been very busy editing the photos that I took for World Education, and I have had a bit of a hard time getting back into a routine since we returned. Fortunately I made fairly good notes while we were in the Western Hills. / Before we left Kathmandu, I looked up Achham on the internet and came across this Wikipedia entry. I was a bit baffled by the phrase “sporting a non-functional domestic airport”. That is it in the photo above. Apparently it is non-functional because the Maoists blew up the control tower during the recent conflict.
Here is a view of the Seti River. At that point of the trip, the monsoon hadn’t really kicked in so the rivers were still a bit dry.
I spent a lot of time shooting out the front window of the car since we had a lot of ground to cover to get to the first school.
I felt guilty asking the driver to stop, but the scenery was so exotic that I couldn’t resist shooting as we drove.
It had started to rain as we got closer to Achham and the roads became interesting.
There was a lot of water running down the hillsides which made driving a bit hazardous.
At one point we ended up in a line of cars and busses that were stopped by this slide. But a front-end loader was just finishing up clearing up the debris and we didn’t have to wait long.
That’s Nanda Ram, the driver, holding the umbrella with Jagdish on his right and Sukha Ratna on his left. Jagdish is the early grade maths guy and Sukha Ratna works on reading and did an amazing job organizing the trip. Cris and I first met Nanda Ram when we were in Nepal in 1992 just after he had started driving for World Education. He is amazing behind the wheel and such a lovely fellow.
It was really interesting how quickly the rains started. We would be climbing up one side of a hill with blue skies and as we would start our descent into a valley it would be foggy and rainy.
Here is a footbridge over the Budhi Ganga.
We stopped in this town for a bite to eat (I think it might be Doti). More dal bhat if I recall correctly.
Since we had had such a long drive to get to the first school, the students had left for the day, but the World Ed staff met with a large group of teachers and administrators to talk about the Early Grade Reading / Maths project. Every school we visited gave us flowers and put tikas on our foreheads. It is such a nice way to be welcomed.
Here’s Cris with some of the teachers from the Saraswoti Higher Secondary School in Bardadevi V.D.C. (Village Development Committee).
And here’s Mamta Joshi who teaches at the school.
Here’s a group shot of the World Ed staff with teachers and administrators after the meeting. That’s a goat in the background.
Darrell Earnest is UMASS faculty member who is working on the early grade math part of the project. He was a fantastic travel partner and he and Cris really had a ton of fun working together.
Thanks for following along. More soon.
On our way to visit schools in Achham, we flew from Kathmandu to Dhangadhi on Buddha Air. It is only about an hour and fifteen minutes by air. It was quite warm when we landed, and the monsoon hadn’t quite started yet, but was very sticky and humid.
Our first stop was for breakfast at the Hotel Redsun Plaza. Most meals in rural Nepal are dal bhat although this place made us some nice omelets.
After breakfast, we immediately started climbing out of the valley towards our first night’s lodgings in Dadeldhura.
I did a lot of shooting out of the front window. The World Education driver, Nanda Ram, had driven out from Kathmandu and met us at the airport. It took him two days of driving to get there, a distance of about 670 kilometers (415 miles).
The scenery is beyond breathtaking. For us, calling this area “The Western Hills” is a bit of a misnomer as these are the biggest hills I have ever seen. But compared to the Himalayas, they are small.
Again, this was just pre-monsoon, but the rice terraces were a beautiful green.
Goats are everywhere on the roads in Nepal, as are dogs and cows. This is for my friend Tania Werbizky who loves goats.
This is a major crossroads near to our hotel in Dadeldhura. Helen Sherpa mentioned that these plinths used to hold statues of the King, but after the monarchy ended, local politician’s likenesses began to appear.
I like the graphic on this sign that was stuck to the wall of our room at the Raino Hotel (amazing, they have a Facebook page!)
Cris and I usually travel with my grandfather’s cribbage set. I especially like the Michigan Abrasive Company playing cards.
It was a beautiful evening with a full moon. The bazar was hopping.
Tomorrow, off to our first school visit.
The first few days I was in Nepal I had time in the mornings to edit some suitcase photographs. Upload speeds were really slow, so I didn’t get to add them to the site until today. You might want to check willardsuitcases.com to see some new ones. Scroll down to the bottom of the “Cases” page to see the latest additions.
Ida’s suitcase was mostly empty except for a comb, some wrapping paper, and a label. I really like this photograph.
Before heading out to the Achham, we had a day to wander around Kathmandu. It is always exotic to see monkeys in an urban area. This little family hangs out at Pashupatinath.
This fellow was standing at Boudinath the whole time we were there. He never moved from this spot.
These little shrines are everywhere in Kathmandu.
We are back home, but I will continue to post about the trip. Thanks for following.
Last week I went to another temporary housing site in Kathmandu. This one though is very likely to be temporary. It is supported by the Dwarika Foundation and I was told that by autumn the residents should be moving back to their village.
I was again accompanied by Shanti Thapa Magar who works for World Education Nepal. She is amazing and helped me so much on all the visits to the Pourakhi projects that I photographed.
Here is another SEEP class sponsored by Pourakhi. The fellow on the lower left is Kundun Gurung who is the facilitator of the class. He is a great guy who studied for a time in London, and is now back in Nepal teaching.
These pups and their mother kept wandering into the class. The students would shoo them away and they would quickly walk around to the other side of the tent and come back in through a different opening.
I have come to really like the dogs around Kathmandu. You definitely don’t want to approach them, but sometimes they come up to you to say hi. This little guy kept smelling my legs. I’m pretty sure these trousers still had Olive’s scent on them.
Tea is almost always offered in Nepal. It is very sweet and always welcome. I like this little cup.
This is Kundun on the right with Manju Gurung who is Chairperson of Pourakhi and another facilitator, Sanjin on the left (sorry, I can’t seem to find his surname in my notes).
After the classes, Shanti took me around to some of the tents and introduced me to a few of the residents.
Bivi Sherpa is a knitter who is making hats to sell. She gets 100 Rupees per hat and sells them to a dealer who picks them up for resale. I offered to buy one, but she politely declined, as the buyer has a deal with her to get everything she produces.
After photographing various Pourakhi projects, I have been really thinking about a way to raise some funds for the organization. They do phenominal work, and are really unique in the services that they provide. I will speak to the folks at World Education to see if there is any way that they can be a conduit for them, and since I will be coming back here later this year, it is always possible that I can just collect cash, which in many ways is the easiest way to support this type of organization. I will post an update sometime soon with details.
In the taxi on the way back from the camp I was pleased to see that the driver had some of my favorite Hindu gods on the dashboard. Looks like Krishna, Hanuman, and Ganesh (who is my absolute favorite as he is the remover of obstacles).
As we were heading back to the World Ed office, Shanti stopped by her house to introduce me to her son.
Huge thanks to Helen Sherpa at World Ed for connecting me with Shanti, and for making arrangements to get me into the camps.
We are flying back to the US late tonight, and I will begin editing the photographs from our trip to Achham. I hope to get a post up about that trip very soon. Thanks for following.
Since my last post, I have been busy shooting, and just got back from 5 days in Achham District (more on that later). I didn’t have my computer with me out there, and as we just got back late last night, I am only now getting to an update.
I am really grateful to the folks at World Education Nepal who connected me with a wonderful organization called Pouraki who are doing work with Nepali women who have been exploited and abused as workers in foreign countries. I spent some time on Thursday photographing at the shelter for women who have managed to return to Nepal after suffering serious abuse abroad. Most of these women arrive at the Kathmandu airport late at night with nothing more that a small carry-on, and many of them have only temporary travel documents. This woman did manage to still have her passport, but not much else. Pourakhi have people meeting these late flights who screen for women who are in an obvious state of distress. They are then taken to the shelter where they receive attention relating to their physical and mental health.
In addition, once they are settled, the women are given vocational training which helps them get back on their feet and eventually return to their families, if that is possible. Because of the nature of the shelter, and the stigma that is attached to this issue, I can’t publish faces of any of the women, but the shelter is totally amazing and I am so grateful to have been made to feel so welcome.
After the shelter, Shanti Thapa Magar who works for World Ed took me to a temporary housing camp in the Chuchepati area of Kathmandu. It is basically a tent city in the middle of a large open area. Pourakhi is running SEEP classes for the residents. The Self Employment Education Program helps those who have been displaced by the recent earthquake. We dropped in on a math class, and this fellow was really happy to have a bit of an audience.
Here’s the class, who were nice enough to take a break and come out for a group shot.
After we left the SEEP class, Shanti took me around the camp and introduced me to several residents.
I was amazing how open people are in the camp.
People were curious about seeing me walking around with a camera, but were so nice to chat with.
Here is Dhalak Kumari Dotel with her grandchild, standing outside of her family’s tent.
And here they are inside where they live with her son and daughter-in-law.
Here is Shova Khadka sitting outside of her tent working with wool. / A vast number of Nepalis lived in villages that were more or less destroyed in the earthquake, and many of them are now living in these temporary camps in Kathmandu. The day after I shot these photos, I went to another camp in a different part of town. I hope to get a post up about that visit by Friday. Tomorrow, Shanti and I and another World Education staffer are off to Sindhupalchowk to photograph an area where over 95% of the houses were destroyed by the quake.
Yesterday my day started by washing Cristine’s “smalls” as my sister calls them. I especially like the “It’s a beautiful day, don’t fuck it up” socks. Everything looked so nice hanging up in the bathroom.
I have had an amazing couple of days since then, and I will be working on getting a post up soon. Tomorrow we fly to Achham in Western Nepal in order to visit some schools, and I am really eager to photograph out there.
I have been spending my afternoons walking around Kathmandu. Whenever I see bricks (and there are a lot of them here) I think of my friend Richard Pieper. He loves bricks. It is nice to be a photographer as it is impossible to ever be bored. I see bricks, I think of Pieper, I see motor scooters and I am interested because I have a Vespa, I see people giving water to a stray, injured dog and I am touched, I see rivers and I think of Peter Carroll’s brother Alan who worked on water quality here a long time ago, and I see young children reading and I think of all the work Cris does in helping kids become literate. I see these things, but I don’t always photograph them. I am a bit self conscious about poking a camera into the lives of people who are just going about their days. It always takes me a while to be comfortable, and the only way I can do so is to engage with the people I see. It is a bit more difficult in a place where many speak only a bit of English, and I speak no Nepali. But after today, I am beginning to see things that I want to photograph, and I know I will eventually wrap my head about how to go about it. So today I am showing you bricks.
And another representation of Krishna.
Here is the Bishnumati River. I almost didn’t take this picture, and I almost didn’t post it here because it felt exploitative in a way. Coming to a place like Kathmandu and pointing out what we Westerners think of as being messed up largely misses the point. Water quality is a huge issue here. This river is everything from a sewer to a rubbish heap and then some. It is easy for me to say it should be cleaned up. And it is easy for governments and NGOs to put money into doing just that. But it is not easy, and there are a lot of people putting a ton of effort into sorting this problem out. I just wonder what it will take. Somewhere at its source this river came out of the mountains clean and pure. Along the way it became this. I’m not really sure how to end here, but it is important for me to be a little optimistic, which I guess I still am. Maybe someday.
Cris starts work tomorrow, so today was a day to walk around a bit. The earthquake damage is very obvious with piles of brick everywhere and scaffolding around many buildings.
These shots are all from around Durbar Square.
Cris would gasp just about every time we turned a corner in this part of Kathmandu. She came here first in 1979 as a Peace Corps volunteer, has subsequently come back to work in Nepal on a regular basis, and is really familiar with the city. It is really shocking to see the devastation.
As we were walking back to the hotel I started noticing pictures of Hindu gods that were about 3 feet off the ground and which were spread out about every five yards along a huge brick wall. They are evocative in the odd way that things that attract my attention are. I began taking pictures of them when I saw this next guy, who looked much more contemporary than the rest.
These next two are Krishna.
He is almost always depicted with a cow and a flute.
And often a milkmaid.
This sign was higher up on the wall and Cris was looking at it and smiling as I walked past her. It is amazing to come to a place like Nepal with someone who speaks and reads the language. It basically says, don’t piss or shit on the wall. Which is why the images of the gods are placed just about the height at which a man’s stream would fall. It seems a pretty effective deterrent.
The issue of public defecation is something that the current government has begun to work on (for obvious reasons).
We like Ganesh as he is the remover of obstacles and the patron of the arts and sciences. For some reason, we have always associated him with travel, which is something we do quite often. Finally, here is Hanuman, the monkey god.
Thanks for following. We are a bit sketchy on Hindu lore, so please pardon me if I have gotten anything wrong about the gods.