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Kathmandu: The how’s and the why’s

Sunday, April 29th, 2007

So, how did we end up in Kathmandu volunteering at an orphanage? It’s a fair question, and one Bec and I were asked numerous times during the six weeks we were home in Australia in March/April of this year.

Towards the end of last year we came up with the idea of volunteering somewhere for three months after our UK visas ran out. Tanzania, on the East African coast, was the number one option back then. But that all changed after a guy by the name of Conor Grennan, travel blog writer extraordinaire and super-hero to orphans across Nepal, announced he was opening his own orphanage in Kathmandu. I’ve recommended his blog here before, and he’s just transferred it all to a new site – go and check it out

We contacted Conor about coming over to Nepal to help him out, and now, six months later, here we are! Family and friends were frequently asking us who we were volunteering with, and simply answering “Conor” never seemed to satisfy them, damn info-hungry folks.

“Yeah, Conor’s a friend of ours.”
“Oh ok. So, how do you know him?”
“Er, yeah, um, through the *cough* internet *cough*.”

Upon meeting Conor here in Kathmandu, he said he had the same problem when telling the other folks at the orphanages of our impending arrival:

“So my Australian friends arrive in a few days…”
“Cool, so where did you meet them?”
“Yeah, well, haven’t really done that whole ‘meeting’ thing yet.”
“You’ve never met them?”
“Er, no.”

The orphanage Conor set up is located amongst the seven or eight orphanages I mentioned in the previous post, run by the Umbrella organisation. These guys seriously helped Conor out when setting everything up, and whilst his orphanage (called Dhauligiri, after one of the nearby Himalayan peaks. Yeah, it’s just the eighth-highest mountain in the world or something) is independant, it is also sort of part of the Umbrella system. It’s like one giant family, all these orphanages within a few minutes walk of each other. It’s just that this family has around two hundered and fifty kids running around in the yard. Each of the orphanages/houses is named after a Himalayan peak: Sagamartha (that’s the Nepali name for Everest), Machapucchre, Gaurishanka, Annapurna, Amadablan etc. So if these weird names pop up in this here wee blog over the next few months, don’t go freakin’ out or anything.

Hopefully that gives you enough basic background to ensure the words I put up here make some sort of sense.

And again, check out
for photos…….

Nepal: Balance

Thursday, April 26th, 2007

We stepped from the airport; a red-brick, two-story building set in a dusty field. A group of locals sitting at a card table under the verandah ushered us over. The sign at the table said something like “official taxis”. That was good enough for us. A a quick discussion about where we were headed, a young lad grabbed our bags and beckoned us to follow, and we were led to the taxi. It was an old, beat-up red minivan.

Our bags were thrown in the back, and we squeezed onto the dusty old bench seat. The sliding door was caught on its rollers, and took four attempts to close. I reached for a seat belt out of habit. Nup, no seatbelts.

The driver took off down the bumpy road. The drive into town was crazy in that “oh-my-god-I’m-going-to-die-but-hey-this-is-kinda-cool-and-look-there’s-a-cow-in-the-middle-of-the-road” kinda way. The road was barely wide enough to fit two cars, let alone the cars, vans, motorbikes, tuk-tuks and cows that seemed to be heading in every direction.

Bec and I were (well, we still are, actually) in Kathmandu. Capital of Nepal.

Damn, it felt good to be on the road again.

[read on]