Sunday, August 30, 2015

Want to Help Nepal but Have No Money? No Problem!





People have such big hearts. I’m amazed at the love I see expressed by both the tourists we have now in Nepal and the Nepali. I commented that I’ve been amazed by the support from New Zealand since the earthquakes, but we have an American, French, 2 Spanish and an Italian who have each been outstanding in their own ways. 

But not everyone can do a corporate fundraiser or come to Nepal. Additionally, everyone does not have an extra $5 to spare for people on the other side of the planet. I’d written a similar blog post some time ago, but there is a new need for help here and a renewed desire to give. Here are more ways you can support the people of Nepal even if you have no money. 

1.     Watch the commercials on our youtube videos and share our movies on your social media sites.
2.     Befriend/Follow us and share our posts on your social media outlets and encourage others to donate
3.     Put a donation box at your place of employment or favorite local shop for others to donate spare change. 
      If you have a website copy the code for button for our link.
4.      Sponsor a donation breakfast. You can ask your company about any matching funds programs they may have in place.
5.     Organize a rummage sale/garage sale with your church, school or community service group and donate the proceeds to us or another community service group in Nepal. There are many listed in any of the crowd funding sites.
6.     If you work for a company with a lot of employees, or a high customer base, you can make up some raffle tickets for $5. Collect from 20 people and draw a name. We have been doing crowd funding with really lovely Nepali handicrafts for $100 donation. You could have a gift box sent to the winner (mailed to your company) with the following: a handcrafted, 100% yak wool throw ($30 Value), expandable backpack from small bag ($30 Value), 100% pashmina scarf ($20-30 Value), prayer flags ($5 Value), and  Micro-fiber lined 100% wool hat, mittens and stockings set ($40 Value). All, not just some of these gifts will be mailed to you. If a person gets more money they could raffle off a custom painted thangka painting from http://TraditionalArtofNepal.cominstead. A gift will be included for the person who organizes it of  a handcrafted hat, socks and gloves. 
7.     Have your church or community service group sponsor a Thangka painting exhibit or Nepali handcrafts bazaar as a Christmas/Holiday fundraiser. Please send an inquiry to FrugalTravelsNepal@gmail.com
8.     Purchase Nepali handicrafts for your loved ones this Holiday season. We have lovely paintings and masks on our website, http://TraditionalArtofNepal.com , but you may also find many Nepali handicrafts made in the cottage industry rather than sweat shops at other websites like Etsy.com. In my opinion, it is even better to support the cottage industry than to just make a donation. That’s why we give such lovely gifts to our donors. 

I hope this list will inspire you to find a way to help Nepal during this time of rebuilding. My neighbors are dealing as best as they can, but this winter will likely see many more casualties from the earthquakes even if the earth remains calm. Check on our current fundraiser here.

Tuesday, August 25, 2015

A Volunteer’s Take on Our Projects



Goto Mah on one of the streets of Bhaktapur. Note the boards holding the buildings up.


A Volunteer’s Take on our Projects

It all started as a call through Couch Surfing. I was in Pokhara taking a break from volunteering and using some time for myself to sort out my own life while making friends. I was enjoying a sense of community that's hard to achieve when you live on the move.

So that said, I was starting to feel like I should move my ass again and help Nepal with the relief effort after the earthquake.

That same day I got a call from a friend who told me we were going to do a cleaning/demo action in Kathmandu, so I took an overnight bus that day and I was ready at the Fireflies to finish the banners in Kathmandu.

Got the guy's faces painted and off we went to the streets of Thamel to let'em hear us. Then we marched to the temple nearby carrying brooms and shovels. Once we arrived we cleaned what were layers of plastic that had been dropped there for years. Nepal has little infrastructure so plastic is a major problem in Nepal.

Then I was going to move on to Bhaktapur to help Shelters 4 Nepal, the Couch Surfing call, but started feeling a bit sick due to travelling conditions and tiredness. I checked into the Star View guest house and I woke up next morning ready to join the group building shelters. Next morning I was feeling better, but I woke up to a banda (strike) so the mission was postponed 2 days. It was nice to have a private room for a night or two with a private bath and a bit of rest, at least until the next volunteer came.  

Although these protests can disrupt things, I am happy to say democracy is alive and well in Nepal.
When I finally arrived to the workshop where the rest of the people were I found that we were going to work with metal structures, something completely new to me. That day we cut many metal bars into bits that would be the building blocks for structures that we'll assemble and cover with corrugated tin. So there we were, making bundles for the different parts of the shelters. Sparks everywhere.

We ended up with enough for almost 5 shelters. But we were lacking materials so called it a day. Went to have some coffee and meet the local link for Jagadati, the neighborhood in Bhaktapur where the shelters were being built.
Many buildings in Bhaktapur are held up with wood like this.

The guys left for the hospital to check on a friend, a tangka artist, and I came to Changu to meet Ama. On the way from the bus stop this young girl that came in the same bus was waiting for me on the path and told me that we were going to the same place. And there we arrived, to the Star View Guest House.
Ama was sitting in her living room crouched in front of a laptop and welcomed me with a broad smile. I told her my story and that I was broke due to all my previous volunteering help and the lack of donations and she offered me to stay free of charge in exchange for some help with her own projects.
Ama has this amazing concept on how to rebuild what once was an amazing village with the oldest Hindu temple in the Kathmandu valley. She also writes a blog and wrote a book about Nepal with tips on how to find your way around.

She showed me around the house and explained how to work my way around it. I got a small room with a bunk bed and there I was, set to volunteer around Changu Narayan.

The house is full of kids, about 5 of them that sleep in the room in front of me, plus two more mature guys that sleep on the ground floor and have their own garden space. This is due to the earthquakes because many people have lost their homes here. 

By night we had a party as it was Ama’s 62nd birthday. We sang and ate cake and drank local spirits. The neighbors were there, and also all the kids and teenagers, even the street dogs came to celebrate.
And right now I'm sitting next to her and some other lovely local girl helping towards Amanda's goals of making Changu a beautiful, authentic, ancient village, even better than before.

We're sorting out the problems with her book, creating a website for the new NGO that's going to take off soon, discussing the matters about project planning. I'm even going to show the guys downstairs interested in computing how to reinstall their operating system and have a dual boot so they could get a taste and feel on Linux/GNU.

Keep tuned for more info to come on improving Changu and its surroundings or you have the time and energy you can just come by and help out.

Life is everywhere


Friday, August 7, 2015

Good-bye to Our New Friends

Half of our volunteers left, but I still have three and I've changed my views on volunteering on a couple different levels. So, yes, volunteers can come and do something to help without causing too much damage. They actually made a big difference for many people, not just the ones who got a shelter. They actually created a system of making and delivering these shelters to people in need and keep the price below $400 each.

You can see several other articles from Kerensa at here blog here: Kerensa's blog posts


Thank you for allowing me to be a small part of your project by hosting you all. It was a pleasure.

Saturday, August 1, 2015

Nepal-Still a Great Place to Live



I just read a blog post on Internations.org about cheap places to live. Well, I wrote a comment that should have been a blog post so I'm editing it here as a post. For my regular readers, you'll probably find it a bit redundant.

I've been blogging about Nepal as an expat home for over 4 years. Just as it seemed like people were starting to listen and consider Kathmandu Valley for a long term destination the earthquakes came. But because there isn't so much development it looks a lot like it did before, kinda rough.


Here's the blog post. I was impressed with Kashmir in India, but many of these places seemed culturally restrictive for me, so much to think about. It's such a great big beautiful world.The 10 Least Expensive Expat Cities: Mercer Cost of Living Survey 2015

I've found my paradise for my retirement here in the Kathmandu Valley outside of the loud, busy, polluted capitol city.

The problem with these articles that just say 'here's a list of cheap cities' isn't always all that helpful. I'd rather they put a few more graphs, crime rate, employment possibilities, schools, visa requirements and weather because living is more than just being in a place that's cheap.

Yes, some areas got horribly damaged from our recent earthquakes, but the buildings held up better than I expected with only 2 hotels falling. Very few newer homes fell and mine only has minimal damage.

Nepal should continue to be on these lists because it is really cheap to live here. But beyond that I'd say it's a great place to live for the following additional reasons: The people are friendly and not violent, the weather is mild, the police are kind to tourists, organic food is cheap, vegetables are freshly picked, you can wear whatever you want, interesting festivals and things to see, lots of tourists come through, many people speak English and there's plenty to do here to keep you busy.

Yes, there is still no place I'd rather be than in this lovely country.I woke up to this sunrise yesterday. Today Ganesh Himal peeked out for a short moment. It's a great way to start the day.


Friday, July 24, 2015

Our Lovely Volunteer Guests


Tourism is at an all time low here in Nepal, so it's a good time to go with the flow and do some planning for the future. I've decided to continue to use the guest house to host volunteers at no charge. Right now I have 5 who are helping in various ways to provide something for the people that they could not provide for themselves. Such dedication and open hearts are so wonderful there don't seem to be words to express my gratitude, shared by all of our neighbors here and in Saku.

Not only have these New Zealanders come with skill and kind hearts, but they have even raised money and will be helping some of the most needy of families in Changunarayan and Saku.


Here is Kerensa's blog post about their arrival in Nepal. The Wellness {R} Evelution

We also have a talented young man, Chris, who has put together a few videos for youtube. Here's the link to the latest movie: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kBObGazMihM

Additionally, we are fortunate to have Livio, our web developer come to Nepal to work on our thangka painting and wooden masks sites. He has it on Google's first page for several key words. 25% of retail price goes to support our projects. We can custom paint or carve your piece of art at no additional charge. The site is full of valuable information on this ancient art form. It is also an easy shopping experience where your satisfaction is guaranteed. Please visit Our community shopping site

Sunday, June 7, 2015

6 Facts You Need To Know When You Travel in Nepal.




Photo credit : Noé - turtletramp.com

Nepal is so much fun : each day is a surprise, a new adventure, a learning. You will have to make your own mistakes to get to know the culture, but here are some little tips that might help you during your first days on this sacred land :



1- Your black coffee will be filled with sugar.

You crave for a black coffee. A big, tasty, strong black coffee. No milk, no sugar; you like it 100% black.
Here you are at a local restaurant, ordering your holy Grail. It arrives, in its beautiful dark robe, and all your senses are arising. You take the warm cup between your hands, smell this delicious aroma, and prepare your lips to kiss the exquisite beverage. All the sudden, the divine moment collapses : the taste of your succulent coffee is masked by the sweetness of a ounce of white sugar. Urgh. You go to ask for another coffee without sugar, and you end up with a black-coloured water slightly tasting like coffee.
You do the mistake once, and twice, and trice. Then you remember : coffee isn't great in small local places, and if you decide to order it anyway, beg the waiter to forget the sugar.



Photo credit : Noé - turtletramp.com


2- You'll never get the fair price.

If you are accustomed to travel in Asia, you probably know that negotiate a price is a must-to-do. It might be easy in South East Asia, but Nepali are especially sharp in business.
The way you look like is important. The more touristy you are, the more likely a seller is to confound you with a huge dollars bill. Dress local, avoid western brands, huge money belt and socks with sandals, then you might be ready for the negotiation part.
Don't be afraid to ask 50%, even 60% of the price. They usually won't go that low, but keep trying. Fix a price in your head and stick to it. It is easier to do so before shops are closing : if the day wasn't good, they will be more likely to sell for a cheaper price. If you are still not satisfy and have the opportunity to come back to the shop, try again the day after. And remember : keep smiling and kidding, negotiation has to be fun.


4- If you need clean toilets, go to a bank.

Where the money is kept, the cleanest are the toilets. As bizarre as it might sound, toilets in banks are relatively clean and, the most important, furnished with toilet paper ! Banks are pretty much everywhere; it shouldn't be hard for you to find one on your way, before it becomes to urgent. Otherwise, always carry some tissues or toilet paper with you.



Photo credit : Noé - turtletramp.com


5- The three people rule.

People in Nepal are nice and willing to help you. However, if you are lost in one of those narrow and messy street in Kathmandu, looking for your guesthouse, you better ask three time your way. Indeed; instead of disappointing you by saying they have no idea of where is the place you want to go, Nepali people would rather show you the wrong direction.
The more times you ask, the more likely you are to find your way. And don't be afraid : locals speak perfectly English.


6- Maybe means no.

As mentioned previously, Nepali people are polite and won't make you feel uncomfortable. They will always find other ways to say no. Take a "maybe" as a no, and if one day you crave for tofu and the restaurant you go tells you they'll only have tofu tomorrow, don't bother to come back : they won't have tofu before a long, long time.



Photo credit : Noé - turtletramp.com


Did you experience funny or unusual facts about Nepal ? Tell us more about it !

Saturday, May 23, 2015

One Month Later in Nepal


Tomorrow will mark one month since the first earthquake struck; I woke up to another aftershock this morning. There has not been a lot of relief for the people, rice, a blanket, some plastic tarps, a few sheets of aluminum and little more. Outside the village, I can see that several helicopters have been delivering goods to the people in more rural areas. They fly so low it can feel like an earthquake, thus traumatizing us anew several times a day. No one seems to understand why they have to fly so low. The food supply has not been seriously effected, yet. I do not know if I should be concerned in the long term, but have purchased a big bag of rice and a couple Kg. of organic coffee. It's important to prioritize.

Yesterday afternoon a wind storm came up and blew the tents away at our hilltop. Then it started raining. People had to scatter to make sure things didn't get blown away in the high winds. The wind was so strong a person could hardly stand up and both of my young men volunteers promptly went out to help. Although some of the tents stayed and the wind died down after about an hour or so, it was quite sad for the people who had nowhere to sleep.

When I woke up this morning I could see that my housekeeper's family had to stay elsewhere, which could have included my dining room or a bedroom. Many of my neighbors have been so traumatized they are too frightened to stay inside. It's so difficult for them. If it were me I'm sure I would have driven everyone crazy by now.

Many people are using sheets of aluminum to make little shelters. These shelters will help them survive the monsoon. There is a moratorium on building at this time. The government seems to be attempting some sort of building code.
This is the new aluminum shelter the childless couple and Birbhadur made together by sharing the aluminum we managed to get. One of the villagers connected to an NGO told me they had provided one piece of aluminum per person to 17 families in the village, but knowing I was helping 3 families he let me know they didn't get any aluminum. Of course I was happy to provide it for them. I got enough to help another family, too. That's when I bought the other two wheel barrows, with the help of a young man, Doug, from Sweden. 

Here's our fund raiser site: http://travelstarter.com/projects/nepal_earthquake_restoration_changunarayan_village__project/260 

We are also going to be doing a sweepstakes extravaganza and will give $10,000 trip to Nepal for next year, after the village is looking nice. It will be an all expense paid trip for 2 to Nepal, custom designed to the person's needs, but it will be basically 6 weeks of being treated like an honored guest and they will be able to do whatever they want to do here. If all goes well we will be able to have this village looking lovely by next April with the money this will bring. This contest will also provide Nepali, handcrafted gifts for participants to get the economy going and make it better for everyone. It's actually our first, annual sweepstakes. Next year I hope to help Shaku, another nearby village.