Sunday, June 28, 2009

Just how unpredictable are strikes & protests (bandhas) in Nepal??

Bandh = everything closes, no public transport available (very few individuals own a vehicle), with tire-burning road blocks that threaten to enforce retribution on those that violate the bandh; can be called at any time by practically anyone, but most commonly by protesting people & political groups making demands that are not being otherwise met…in other words, kids get a lot of days off from school, tourists may find themselves walking from the airport to the nearest hotel and the availability of supplies coming into the valley to support millions is more often under threat than not.


Soothsayers fail to put their finger on the date

Kantipur Report

KATHMANDU, June 2 - How could the meticulous calculations go wrong? Or is it that the genius soothsayers simply miscalculated. However, in Kaliyug anything can happen, some say, at least to find some solace. On Monday afternoon, renowned astrologers from around the world gathered in Kathmandu for an international conference on astrology. They were heard whispering whether their science malfunctioned. The event was scheduled for June 1 terming it the best day after rigorous calculations, but it seems none of them could put their fingers on the right tab. A general strike called by the ethnic group Newa Mukti Morcha brought the capital city to a standstill, leaving the astrologers red-faced.  While scores of national and international participants were stranded at Thankot, the entry point to the valley, several others in the Capital could not make it to the venue due to the strike. And those who managed to had another problem: how will they go back? The august gathering that was to see at least 700 astrologers of international repute was to discuss ways to make this ancient science more accurate.  Ironically, the banda threw cold water on the programme. Though not raised by any participant, a question that must have been hovering in everyone's mind was: How could the astrologers fail to fix a hassle-free date for an international event? Organisers agree that a mathematical error might have led to the wrong astrological calculation. "We had earlier chosen May 30 for the event, but had to reschedule the event to June 1 owing to some problems," said Lok Raj Poudel, chair of the Astro-Council of Nepal and one of the organisers.

"We are no gods," said Dr. K. Divakaran, another veteran astrologer from India. "Astrologers cannot be accurate all the time." However, Kim J. Baaden, a participant, said this question had popped up in his head. He quipped that astrologers might have organised the event on the very day of banda, thinking people would have ample time to participate in the conference in a big way.  However, some have different excuses. "June 1 is the perfect date by all means, including lunar position, but predictions generally go wrong in Kaliyug," said Dubindra Serma, an acclaimed head guru and astrologer in the Kiranti community. Astrologers prophecise things as per the message of God but  God is also facing problems these days, says Divakaran.

The two-day conference aims to promote astrology as a science, initiate collaboration between Eastern and Western astrologers and modernise the traditional science. Interestingly, the conference also aims to sort out problems of inaccuracy in astrology. "Our astrology still predicts that one will have 12-15 children. Nobody believes such predictions however accurate the calculations astrologers claim to be," said Poudel.


Saturday, June 27, 2009

Toenails and fellowship

A couple of months ago, we had a women’s retreat. The entire thing, except for some activities, was in Nepali. Have I mentioned that I speak about toddler level? I know very much what it feels like for a child to sit in a long meeting as people use unrecognizable words for hours. Really, though, it was very good. We did play some nice games later involving hula-hoops, makeup in a bag and blindfolds. J J  We also had a toenail painting session. In the photo, L-R: Elisa, Laxmi and Chanda.   

Thursday, June 25, 2009

Two stories

God moves so much in the everyday. Glimpses and gleams. Yesterday, we had the regular weekly outreach leprosy at Patan hospital in Kathmandu. Because we are recruiting for a very big study, the research group has been working in a special separate room from the other hospital staff. During the morning, we were very busy – every station had patients and staff working on different bits of the study. I remembered that Dr. Indra, our senior surgeon who does not come for satellite clinic every week, had not yet seen us in action yet for this particular project’s recruitment. So, I went and told him to maybe come and see when possible. He was busy and said he could maybe get time in the afternoon to come see. We continued to work right through lunch. We were expecting 22 people to come for follow-up that day, and not everyone in the study is a leprosy patient. By the end of the morning, one of the lab staff counted the files and saw only 19 had come. So, the lab staff began making reminder phone calls. One was a young woman. Later in the afternoon, Dr. Indra walked in. I began touring him around the different stations set up for the study. The young woman walked in – at which point, one of the lab staff recognized her from the morning and began to apologize. We’d made a mistake! She had already come earlier that day, and so we did not need to see her again. She sat down at one of the desks with the staff to talk a bit. But Dr. Indra was standing nearby. The woman has a very badly disfigured right hand from a burn injury – no fingers and angled sharply to the side. She manages her scarf carefully to cover it some. Dr. Indra is an orthopedic surgeon; and because many leprosy patients require hand surgery, we do a lot of that Anandaban. Someone spoke to Dr. Indra. He turned to look at her hand. They set a date for her surgery this fall when a UK plastic surgeon and hand specialist will come to perform a week of hand surgeries. J So was it a mistake that one of the staff known for details, mistakenly recalled the young woman to come back? And that she happened to come in the room when an orthopedic surgeon experienced in hand surgery would stand only a few feet from her? J

This evening, we had fellowship at the hospital. Several patients came. There has been a sweet little (and I mean little, maybe 60-70lbs) old lady staying at the hospital for some weeks now. She barely comes to my shoulder. She is blind in one eye. She has no fingers and her feet are not so good either. But she hobbles about at her 80 years, gentle and uncomplaining. Tonight, when we asked for prayer requests, she told us that she is scheduled to be discharged tomorrow to go home. Home is in the Okhaldunga area– which by any standards is remote. There is a flight to that area maybe twice a week – but often cancelled due to low priority and weather. Once she gets there, she will have to walk two days into steep hills to get home. She had tears flowing. She spoke of known bear attacks in the jungle hill paths. Often here, younger men in families will carry the elderly or people can be hired to carry others in baskets on their backs. These hills are steep. I had a very hard time trying to catch if she has any family to meet her along the way, but it sounded like maybe not. No one is coming here to get her. Someone is meeting her in KTM tomorrow, but they aren’t flying with her. It’s highly unusual for a woman to travel alone. There are women in the hospital who can’t go home until someone comes – because they have never been outside their village much before, aren’t educated (most women can’t even sign their name) and do not know how to get home by themselves. So, for this 80 year old to be going by herself…maybe there is no family. Maybe there is no way to get word to them. Maybe because it is now rice planting season, no one can be spared to meet her. How would she get word back to us to tell us she got home safely? I do not know how she will walk two days on her disabled feet. And how without fingers can she manage money to safely pay for things along the way when she is by herself? There are so many stories like this. And it still hurts. Please pray for her. Maybe that someone will be there going to her village to travel alongside her and help her to get home. That there will be no bears and she will not be afraid. Two other elderly women patients walked beside her after the meeting to help her back to the female ward for the night. What to do? Do you know that according to national standards, she does not even qualify as disabled…because it was caused by leprosy.

Monday, June 22, 2009

Leprosy Research out the back of a truck

One of the studies we’re currently performing compares the skin reactions of people with leprosy to those who do not have it. Hopefully, this will someday aid in making an easy test to detect early leprosy in people who do not yet have major signs of disease. Therefore we could potentially treat them before major nerve damage and disability occur. But for right now, we are pretty busy trying out the prototypes. In this picture, we are spending Saturday morning in the parking lot of Patan Hospital in Kathmandu. Dr. Min Thapa is checking the temperature etc of a couple enrolled in the study. His younger son and wife, Sagar, watch beside him. Sagar is a CMA serving as a nurse in Anandaban.  

Friday, June 19, 2009

Christians in Nepal defy extremists' demand to leave country

Kathmandu, Nepal, Jun 10, 2009 / 03:44 am (CNA).- Hindu extremists in Nepal have demanded that the country’s one million Christians leave the country, prompting churches to reject threats of violence. They emphasized that their mission in the country will not change.

Last week militants bombed the Catholic cathedral in the Nepalese capital of Kathmandu, killing several people.
The extremist Hindu Nepal Defense Army (NDA) took responsibility for the attack in a statement distributed during May 31 public demonstrations organized by the Church, CISA reports.

“We want all the one million Christians out of the country,” their statement said.

Members of local churches make up about 2.4 percent of the Nepalese population. There are about 7,000 Catholics in Nepal.

The Catholic Church in Nepal is involved in social services with the poor, the sick and the marginalized and is generally well-received by the people.

In response to the threats the Christian community, with the support of local authorities, has alerted its members. Christians have taken security measures, with guards being organized to protect their churches.

The NDA since its inception has been fighting for the return of the Hindu monarchy which ruled Nepal for centuries, CISA says. They are protesting the democratic secular system and the rise to power of former Maoist groups.

The extremist group has already carried out several attacks on Muslims and Christians. Last year, Salesian priest Fr. Johnson Moyalan was killed in an attack.


Monday, June 15, 2009

This is a link to an article about a social studies teacher that is coming to visit Nepal on a Fullbright scholarship.

The line I like best is: “She said the group has been cautioned that electricity is intermittent, and to stay away from certain foods, like milk and cheese, and water.

“It will be an adventure,” she said.”

No lie. J

A "bandh" means "closure", usually of roads, businesses, schools...pretty common stuff

Nepal's Maoists shut down Kathmandu with strike

Mon Jun 15, 2009 5:09pm IST

KATHMANDU (Reuters) - Nepal's Maoists brought Kathmandu to a standstill on Monday, forcing vehicles off the road and shops to shut in response to a general strike to protest the death of a local Maoist leader, police said.

Carrying bamboo sticks, activists from the Young Communist League (YCL), the Maoists' youth wing, burned tyres and torched vehicles of drivers who defied the shutdown. The strike also forced schools and factories to close.

The former rebels demand the government find the killer of YCL leader Rajendra Phuyal, who died last week.

The strike is the latest in a series of protests and strikes the Maoists sponsored since they quit government in May amid a row over the sacking of the country's army chief. The Maoists ended their decade-long civil war under a 2006 peace deal.

Moderate communist Madhav Kumar Nepal was elected new prime minister but he is yet to name a full cabinet due to wranglings among allies for positions, leaving the country in limbo.


Friday, June 5, 2009

Asna will be one year old in July. She is the firstborn of one of the staff (Abidan and Muna) and lives on the compound! We were in the hospital bus on the way into town. The regular bumpy road to Anandaban is closed for widening (not paving).  Therefore, we are using a bumpier, steeper, alternate road around the other side of the hill. I very much appreciate the drivers here! She eventually fell asleep. J

Wednesday, June 3, 2009

Nepal 'church bomber' arrested

2 Jun 2009, 1924 hrs IST, Sudeshna Sarkar, TNN


KATHMANDU: As relatives grieved and the body of the third victim of the Nepal church bombing was consigned to flames, police said they had arrested the Nepali woman who had planted the bomb that killed three people at prayer and injured more than a dozen.

“We arrested Sita Shrestha nee Thapa, a 27-year-old woman, who confessed she had taken the bomb to the Assumption Church in her handbag and hidden it in the prayer hall,” deputy inspector-general of police and spokesman of the force Vinod Singh told TNN.

Shrestha, a resident of Gyaneshwor in Kathmandu, was arrested from a different place — Baneshwor — at 3am Tuesday after investigation. Soon after the blast on May 23, the new government of Prime Minister Madhav Kumar Nepal had formed a three-member team to probe the attack.

Calling a press conference in the capital Tuesday to disclose the arrest, police said Shrestha would be kept in custody till investigations are complete. She would be produced in court in due course, police said.

While the arrested woman reportedly confessed she belonged to a group called the Hindu Rashtra Bachao Samiti that aims to have Hindusim back in Nepal as the state religion, it was not known immediately if she was a member of the shadowy underground group Nepal Defence Army (NDA), which claimed responsibility for the bombing. “She said she was motivated by the NDA,” Singh said.

Shrestha is alleged to have carried a pressure cooker converted into a bomb in a bulky handbag. She went to the prayer hall of the church, pushed her bag under a floor cushion and then went out, saying she was going to the toilet. She never came back.

Around 9am, the bomb went off, killing 15-year-old Celeste Joseph, whose father Balan Joseph is from Kerala, and 19-year-old Deepa Patrick, who had come from Patna with her husband Vikash four days ago for their honeymoon. On Monday, after fighting for life for a week, Celeste’s mother Buddha Laxmi Joseph died of haemorrhage, throwing the family into fresh paroxysms of grief. The 45-year-old mother of three was cremated in Teku Tuesday after her last rites in the same church where she died.

The NDA, headed by Ram Prasad Mainali, has in the past bombed two mosques in the Terai, killing two people during prayer, and a church in Biratnagar in eastern Nepal. They also took responsibility for a blast at a meeting of the major political parties last month and one more near the International Convention Centre last May where the newly elected constituent assembly held its historic first meeting to abolish monarchy in Nepal.

Doubts however would remain about the police claim. In the past, police claimed a wellknown journalist was involved with an armed group from the Terai and arrested him on the basis of “confessions” by two other journalists. However, there are reports that journalist Rishi Dhamala was framed for activities that embarrassed the earlier Maoist government.