I apologize for not posting earlier, but here it goes!
I’ve become quite settled here in Hetauda over the past two months and all I can say is that it’s been an amazing experience. Hetauda is roughly 4 hours southwest of Kathmandu, accessible by sumo (jeep) through the Hills region. But in reality – Hetauda is only 30 aerial kilometers from Kathmandu! Which gives you an idea of how challenging the natural landscapes can be to everyday life.
I live in an apartment with another Uniterra volunteer who is a Veterinarian, in what we would call a triplex. My landlord couple live on the first floor and two guys, one who works at a bank and another at a government ministry, live together on the top floor. We all get along swimmingly! My favourite days are when my landlord couple invite me over for tea. She makes the absolute best tea ever! Their English is limited so I have the chance to practice my Nepali.
When I first came to Nepal, everything was so new and I didn’t have the faintest idea of how things were going to work out. I’ve established a life here, my friends and my family are here now too. It will definitely be hard to leave in a few days!
I was very lucky that my mandate with my partner organization (Makawanpur District Milk Producer’s Cooperative Union – or MDMPCU for short!) was extremely clear. I produced a set number of tools all of which were accepted nicely by my counterpart! My first task when I got here was to create a comprehensive questionnaire for primary cooperatives. This included collecting basic contact information, livestock and milk production statistics, and information on shareholders, employment, service delivery, information management and gender equality and social inclusion (GESI). This was my favourite assignment – not only did I put my fieldwork course into use when creating the survey, I was able to interview 12 cooperatives with it and gain some interesting insight! Plus, going out to the field was just amazing. Although Hetauda isn’t big, it is by no means rural, so to see and briefly rural life was definitely a learning experience. Rural poverty is widespread but it is so amazing to see how resilient the people are. We met a few farmers and they graciously invited me for tea.
I was also fortunate enough to participate in the great Nepali tradition that is, a Nepali wedding! Netra, one of the counter clerks at the milk collection centre at MDMPCU, was arranged married to a beautiful girl named Sarita. The ceremony was up in the hills at Sarita’s grandparent’s farmhouse. There were so many people and all the women were dressed in amazingly vibrant red saris! It was a great opportunity for me to learn and gain a deeper understanding of Nepali culture, especially traditional customs and the role of women in society.
I was able to build on this knowledge when I got to attend a GESI workshop put on by another fantastic volunteer, as well as International Women’s Day festivities! During the workshop we learned a lot about the way women are treated in Nepal, including some very interesting customs such as Chhaupedi (the isolation of women during menstruation and childbirth) and Deuki (the giving away of a young girl to a temple to perform services, often because the family wants to increase their religious prestige). It was great to come together and talk about these issues that are very taboo to talk about back in Hetauda!
It hasn’t been all work here in Nepal – luckily I’ve gotten the chance to go to some beautiful places! My favourite so far has been Pokhara – with a beautiful lake, Annapurna range views, and my first time paragliding. Another weekend, myself and some other interns went to the Last Resort, a Dutch-owned resort near the Tibetan border. It was an adventure weekend, with white water rafting, a music festival, then bungee jumping! Which I will definitely never do again. Too scary!
But alas, it is now near the end. I just finished the final touches to my final assignment of drafting a project proposal to obtain funding for a milk processing plant in Makawanpur. It would be for a small capacity plant, but it actually has so many implications for the dairy value chain itself (i.e. an incentive system for cooperatives and farmers to improve milk quality!) so this is really exciting! But bittersweet. It means that my time here in Nepal is nearly done. I do miss my family and friends (and food that won’t make my apparently very sensitive stomach hurt!) but like I said, my home for the past 3 months has been here.
So farewell soon Nepal, I will update everyone on my “re-intergration” into Canada!