Friday, January 31, 2014

Tiny tribulations in Kathmandu and…more back story

Getting serious for just a minute…ok….maybe a minute and a half
Shambu in Kathmandu, Nepal (photo: JLewis)
I have landed in Nepal. Now to locate my student. Shambu is the first student I started to interact with here in Nepal. He contacted me about two years ago. He was looking for funding…which the organization I run had none to give. Instead I offered to provide advice…and this is how we started to interact.

I have two students I work with in Nepal (Shambu and Gopal) who are both trying to conserve the Ganges river dolphin. They were the starting point of the inspiration for this film. Both grew up with little money on farms in different areas of this country. Across their lives, they noticed changes occurring to the natural areas in their country, including a decline in the number of river dolphins. This inspired them to continue their education so they could work to preserve this species and its habitat.

Gopal (my Nepalese student) (photo: JLewis)
Both work tirelessly to do all they can, pretty much single handedly here in Nepal where there may be no more than 10 of these dolphins left (there are maybe 1000 total throughout the entire range which extends from Nepal to Bangladesh).

The Ganges river dolphin, while a dolphin….and therefore considered what many biologists like to call “charismatic megafauna” or in lay terms, people want to hug that animal….is well……not too cute to look at.  Focusing a film entirely on it, might not get as much positive reaction. To me…..the story that would be interesting and compelling…..was that of the people who work to conserve it. People like Shambu and Gopal. Who against very high odds, and with almost nothing in the way of resources….say….SO WHAT! I am gonna do all I can to try and prevent this species from going extinct. That to me is a story worth telling. And a story that has, I believe, more of a chance to inspire people to care about saving this species and others on the brink of extinction. So….there you have it! Back story.

Ok….so where were we?   Oh yeah…airport in Kathmandu….need to locate student….Well of course…His cell number won’t connect. All circuits busy. Hmm. But…He finds me! Probably not too hard. :)
 Well…on second thought….with all these other white people de-loading….maybe not so easy either.

We get a cab to go to a restaurant. Immediate impressions of Kathmandu.
Taxi in Kathmandu, Nepal (photo: JLewis)
Heavy air pollution. Throat is actually sore by the time I leave this place later in the day. I can tell you…this alone has to vastly shorten the life span of the people here. Lots of people wear face masks. I even have footage of kids playing football (soccer) with them. I found this….sad.

Ok….I can’t just give that alone as a description bc ….well….its too bleak. On the flip side….Kathmandu was also full of activity and life! I have to say that being on the roads in Asia was really hands down one of my favorite carnival rides ever! For almost nothing (pennies sometimes)…. if you take a cab or rickshaw….you can not only go anywhere!….But anywhere with fast and crazy mad capped adventure action! Sort of like being inside a video game….a video game with no rules! Really wish we had motorized rickshaws in the states (rickshaw built around a motorcycle).  I would be the first to get one! Which…puts a very wrong thought in Jennifer's mind….ask to drive one next trip over…YES!!!!

Anyway my meeting with Shambu is quick. Our reason for meeting between my flights (I am not staying here today) is basically so I can off load the Cpods I brought for his research (underwater audio recorders). We get some tea….I should say this now…hands down…Asia tea….BEST ON PLANET!!! Drank it first here and every single day afterwards….usually many times a day. And I am back off to the airport to head to Napalgunj where I will start to film. Will be back later this week to film with Shambu.

Will I ever be able to pee again?
Back at airport and um…a  little unhappy.  
Source: Wikihow. I know!!!!! They actually had step by step 
instructions! Seems to me pretty self explanatory. 
I mean…..hole in ground….do something…..there. 
I am the only white person now…Why? Because now I am at the domestic airport…going to places other than Kathmandu. Silly Americans. I am also the only person who is constantly falling asleep sitting up. And the only person who CANNOT pee. This is my first “Asian” bathroom experience. I CAN’T DO IT! My mind says just push it out, my muscles say no. They are really getting on my nerves. I must have tried five times. I think everyone thinks I am sick. There goes that white woman with her three large bags again, who can’t stay awake.

How did I solve? Ummmm. I cheated. They have a bucket with water and a scoop in the stalls. Probably to flush toilet. It suddenly dawned on me….Hey! You pee in cups at doctor’s offices! Maybe I can pee in this ….um…..cup? It worked! I know!!!!! All cheating and totally wrong…But I had to go. And I picked up the cup with a chlorox wipe. So ….no harm done right?

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