Jon Crispin's Notebook

Symbols

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  Whenever I am here in Nepal I always keep an eye out for bricks, as seeing them makes me think of my good friend Richard Pieper.  Most buildings are adorned with them, and the walls surrounding the Royal Palace are all brick.  On our daily walk to the World Education office we pass by a large section of the Palace wall which is undergoing a post earthquake renovation.  I saw this pile and noticed the markings and didn’t think much of it at the time, but the next day I stopped and took this picture.  It is not at all uncommon to see the swastika used as a symbol in various ways around Nepal.  It got me thinking about how we in the West are so conditioned to see the obvious negative aspects of it.  I went to the wiki page and learned a lot of interesting facts about its history and usage.  I would encourage anyone interested to check it out.  What got to me especially was that under the section of the wiki that showed the varieties of swastikas, the Hakenkreuz (second row, bottom left) gave me a visceral reaction.

We head back to the US on Sunday.  I have managed to pick up a bothersome cold and have been a bit less active than I would like, but Cris’ work ends today and we will have some time to goof around tomorrow and Sunday morning.  Thanks for following.

Boudhanath / Full Moon

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Last night was the full moon and Cris thought it might be a nice idea to go to Boudhanath Stupa and have a stroll around.  We have come here quite often, but always during the day.

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It was a beautiful evening, the temperature was perfect, and the feeling was very peaceful and relaxing.

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This giant prayer wheel spins constantly and is just inside the doors of the little temple on the site.

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The area is really interesting.  One enters the main gate at 6 on a clock face and everyone strolls quietly around in a clockwise direction.  The stupa is on the inside of the clock and  is surrounded on the outside by restaurants, guesthouses, and smaller business enterprises.  Dogs and pigeons are everywhere.

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Nepal is so interesting in terms of religion.  The culture here blends Hinduism and Buddhism in what seems to me a beautiful way.  I have talked to Nepali friends about this and it seems quite natural to them.  If you think about religion in the West, there isn’t so much crossover.  The closest I can think of to this is Unitarianism, which is how I was raised, and seems to encourage people to take the best of all religions and build a personal philosophy around what you find useful.  One year my Sunday School was called “The Church Across the Street” and we spent the entire time visiting just about every church and denomination in Meadville.  I loved the Holy Rollers.

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Because one walks in a circle around the stupa it is easy to just keep going without realizing where you entered, which I eventually figured out is one reason for the visit.  I just had the feeling that it would be possible to walk all evening and not feel the time passing.  It was a lovely experience.

 

Nepal 2018

Posted in airlines, airports, Art, Transportation, Travel, Uncategorized by joncrispin on 22/09/2018

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We tried something different this year on our trip to Kathmandu.  Instead of going through Dubai we opted to fly Qatar Airways through Doha.  It was a nice long flight and the Doha airport is wild.  Here is the giant teddy bear with a lamp on its head.  Quite bizarre.

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The flight to Kathmandu from Doha was 4 1/2 hours and I was getting a bit tired and bored.

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It is always great to get off the plane and be in Nepal.  You can deplane from the front and back just like in Long Beach!

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They have renovated our usual room at the Hotel Tibet.  Brilliant sunset last night from our window. / We have today to goof around before Cris starts her World Education work tomorrow.  Cheers and thanks for following.

Back in Nepal / Eye

Posted in Institutions, Jon Crispin, Medicine, Travel, Uncategorized by joncrispin on 31/05/2017

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Cris and I are back in Nepal where she continues her work on the UNICEF funded early grade reading project through World Education.

It has been an interesting trip.  I developed a problem with my right eye when I landed in Dubai, and by the time I got to Kathmandu last Tuesday evening it was clear that something was really wrong.  Cris took me directly to CIWEC travel medicine clinic where they set me up with an ophthalmologist early the next morning (Wednesday).  Dr.  Meenu is a cornea expert, but she wanted me to see the retina guy at the Triphuvan Teaching Hospital. She immediately put me in her car and drove me there.  Dr Pratap examined me and saw two spots on my retina that were torn and bleeding.  He immediately took me into the laser room and repaired as much of the damage as he could.  I saw him this past Monday for a follow-up and he was really happy with the results.  Since this whole thing started I have had huge black floaters in the middle of my right (shooting) eye, but they should begin to resolve in the next few months.  It was all a bit unsettling, and I am so grateful to Dr. Pratap for caring for me.

Nepal / B.P. Koirala Lions Centre for Ophthalmic Studies / Teching Hospital

Here he is on the left with some of his students.

Nepal / B.P. Koirala Lions Centre for Ophthalmic Studies / Teching Hospital

And with a patient.

Nepal / B.P. Koirala Lions Centre for Ophthalmic Studies / Teching Hospital

I learned pretty quickly that Nepal has a great reputation for eye treatment in the developing world.

Nepal / B.P. Koirala Lions Centre for Ophthalmic Studies / Teching Hospital

Dr. Pratap’s notes.

Nepal / B.P. Koirala Lions Centre for Ophthalmic Studies / Teching Hospital

Here’s the clinic.  Officially the B.P. Koirala Lions Centre for Ophthalmic Studies.  Note the  word “Lions” in the name.  The Lions Club is famous for it’s support around eye issues, but I had no idea their reach extended as far as Nepal.

I debated with myself a long time about posting this.  Blogs like this are by definition self serving and ego based, but I have always tried to steer away from having it be about me, per se.  But weird things can happen when one travels, and I wanted to share my good fortune in getting such prompt and excellent treatment, and to give thanks to all the people here who have helped me.  Cris has been a brick through this whole thing and so patient with my worries.  I also really want to thank Peggy Ross for getting on the phone and setting up an appointment with my ophthalmologist in Springfield soon after I get back to the States.  Her skills at getting through bureaucratic systems are unmatched.

Sanphebagar Schools / Nepal

Posted in public transport, Transportation, Travel, Uncategorized by joncrispin on 02/08/2016

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I have been all over the place this summer and posting here has been irregular.  Nepal was a while ago and I still have photos to share, but it is difficult for me to play “catch-up”.  I like being able to post immediately and when I put it off, I often lose interest.  But I do want to share some of this.

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Our second full day in the Western Hills started in Sanphebagar.  We visited two different schools and it was amazing.

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There are two types of education in Nepal; public and private.  Kids who go to the public schools wear blue uniforms.

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This  young fellow is at the Khaparmandu Primary School (Sanphe municipality-2, Goyal Pani, Achham).

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I often had to quietly enter the classrooms because the kids were very interested in my presence.  I didn’t want to disrupt the lessons, but there was always at least one kid who wanted to see what I was up to.

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They eventually got used to me though.  This little girl was especially connected to what was going on in the classroom.  She was really paying attention to the teacher and seemed to have an answer to any question that was posed.

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Males in Nepal often have a comfortable physical association with each other.  It is really nice to see this kind of connection.

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I like this photo of the bus.  It doesn’t really fit into the narrative, but here it is anyway.

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The second school we visited was the Saraswoti Lower Secondary School (Sanphe Municipality-2 Loli, Achham).

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The classrooms are only illuminated by window and door light, and it is amazing what digital cameras can record in such low light.  This is a pretty typical room with fabric covering a dirt floor.

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Everyone leaves their shoes outside.

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The classes featured a bit of participation by the kids.  Often, one child would come up to the front of the room and be asked to recite a lesson.

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The kids were so sweet.  As I noted earlier, they were very interested in us, and quite open. It is likely that they haven’t seen any Westerners at their school before.  Sanphebagar isn’t particularly on any trekking route, and especially during the recent Maoist uprising there wasn’t much contact with outsiders.

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The monsoon began in earnest as we were heading back to Dhangadhi.  Driving is always interesting in Nepal, and in these conditions was quite thrilling.

There will be one last post on the trip, which I hope to get up soon.  I spent a day in Sindhupalchowk, which was devastated in last year’s earthquake.  There are some very interesting projects there that World Education Nepal is supporting and I am eager to share them here.

Thanks for following.

Dadelhura to Sanphebagar

Posted in Travel, Uncategorized by joncrispin on 09/07/2016

Nepal / Visit to Bardadevi V.D.C. School

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.

Nepal / Visit to Bardadevi V.D.C. School

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.

Nepal / Visit to Bardadevi V.D.C. School

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.

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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.

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I felt guilty asking the driver to stop, but the scenery was so exotic that I couldn’t resist shooting as we drove.

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It had started to rain as we got closer to Achham and the roads became interesting.

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There was a lot of water running down the hillsides which made driving a bit hazardous.

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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.

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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.

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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.20160619,1791

Here is a footbridge over the Budhi Ganga.

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We stopped in this town for a bite to eat (I think it might be Doti).  More dal bhat if I recall correctly.

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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.

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Here’s Cris with some of the teachers from the Saraswoti Higher Secondary School in Bardadevi V.D.C. (Village Development Committee).

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And here’s Mamta Joshi who teaches at the school.

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Here’s a group shot of the World Ed staff with teachers and administrators after the meeting.  That’s a goat in the background.

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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.

Kathmandu / Dhangadhi /Dadeldhura

Posted in Animals, driving, Transportation, Travel, Uncategorized by joncrispin on 30/06/2016

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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.

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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.

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After breakfast, we immediately started climbing out of the valley towards our first night’s lodgings in Dadeldhura.

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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).

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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.

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Again, this was just pre-monsoon, but the rice terraces were a beautiful green.

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Goats are everywhere on the roads in Nepal, as are dogs and cows.  This is for my friend Tania Werbizky who loves goats.

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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.

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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!)

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Cris and I usually travel with my grandfather’s cribbage set.  I especially like the Michigan Abrasive Company playing cards.

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It was a beautiful evening with a full moon.  The bazar was hopping.

Tomorrow, off to our first school visit.

Camp Hope / Kathmandu

Posted in Travel, Uncategorized by joncrispin on 25/06/2016

Nepal / SEEP classes at Camp Hope

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.

Nepal / SEEP classes at Camp Hope

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.

Nepal / SEEP classes at Camp Hope

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.

Nepal / SEEP classes at Camp Hope

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.

Nepal / SEEP classes at Camp Hope

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.

Nepal / SEEP classes at Camp Hope

Tea is almost always offered in Nepal.  It is very sweet and always welcome.  I like this little cup.

Nepal / SEEP classes at Camp Hope

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).

Nepal / SEEP classes at Camp Hope

After the classes, Shanti took me around to some of the tents and introduced me to a few of the residents.

Nepal / SEEP classes at Camp Hope

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.

Nepal / SEEP classes at Camp Hope

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).

Nepal / SEEP classes at Camp Hope

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.

Pourakhi Nepal

Posted in Community, Health, Travel, Uncategorized by joncrispin on 22/06/2016

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.

Nepal / Various Pourakhi projects

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.

Nepal / Various Pourakhi projects

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.

Nepal / Various Pourakhi projects, Temporary Housing camp at Chuchepati

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.

Nepal / Various Pourakhi projects, Temporary Housing camp at Chuchepati

Here’s the class, who were nice enough to take a break and come out for a group shot.

Nepal / Various Pourakhi projects, Temporary Housing camp at Chuchepati

After we left the SEEP class, Shanti took me around the camp and introduced me to several  residents.

Nepal / Various Pourakhi projects, Temporary Housing camp at Chuchepati

I was amazing how open people are in the camp.

Nepal / Various Pourakhi projects, Temporary Housing camp at Chuchepati

People were curious about seeing me walking around with a camera, but were so nice to chat with.

Nepal / Various Pourakhi projects, Temporary Housing camp at Chuchepati

Here is Dhalak Kumari Dotel with her grandchild, standing outside of her family’s tent.

Nepal / Various Pourakhi projects, Temporary Housing camp at Chuchepati

And here they are inside where they live with her son and daughter-in-law.

Nepal / Various Pourakhi projects, Temporary Housing camp at Chuchepati

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.

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