Monday, October 12, 2015

Clean-up Campaign in Changunarayan

Written by: Maartje Geverinck, volunteer from the Netherlands 

Kay Garnay for Nepal, an NGO registered in Nepal, is the brain child of Amanda Summers, a retired expat living in the Kathmandu Valley. It is a humanitarian, nonprofit agency with the goal of supporting the artists, craftsmen and other residents of Changunarayan, an ancient village in Nepal, as well as those in neighboring communities.

Clean-up Campaign in Changunarayan

People talk about how Nepali are litterbugs and don't care about the environment. There are actually some good reasons for this to appear to be true.
First, there are very few sanitary landfills in the entire country. Additionally even municipalities will use the river as dumpsites.

We, at Kay Garnay for Nepal, NGO, wanted to clean Changunarayan before the coming festival, Dashain. Our chairperson, Sajana, purchased gloves and other clean-up gear and about 50 people participated in the morning activities. This was our first of such community activities, so we learned a lot.

10 October 2015 - 7 o' clock in the morning

People in Changu gather to start picking up trash.
Gloves, mouth masks and some homemade litter spears were provided.
All in all about 50 people, young to old, were eager to start cleaning up their village. There was only one tourist among the volunteers.

Sajana and I went together as we picked up litter.
Rather than using plastic bags, we used bamboo baskets and wheelbarrows to collect the debris.

Bio-degradable organic materials were supposed to be put in one pit and another one dug for the plastics.
However, that didn’t happen as planned.
Afterwards, according to our plan, a truck would come from Kathmandu to collect everything and take it to the recycling center - not to the river or burned.

The locals weren't informed properly to make this first clean-up campaign successful. There was just no awareness that if, for example, you sprinkle insecticide along the road most of the insects will just move to a nearby garden or farm.
Yes, posters were made beforehand and distributed to places frequently visited by locals, but there was a lack of knowledge on how to start cleaning and how to get rid of the trash. We need to keep in mind as Westerners that it was we who introduced such poisons into this environment only 60 years ago.

While seeing how everyone was working and doing all the best they could, I saw boys cutting greenery from the walls with bamboo sticks and girls using the Nepali brooms to push the cut greenery from one side of the road down the hill. Not all plastics were removed first and the greens and sand were just put on top. So I was witnessing a worst case scenario. But yeah: “Kay Garnay” (meaning: “What to do?”)

The problem is that you cannot blame the Nepali people. They do not get the required education to obtain the right knowledge on how to keep the Earth clean and safe to live on.

In my head, several new ways of how to tackle this situation have arisen meanwhile. We could find some handy pocket-size reusable bags and distribute these among the locals so that they can do their grocery shopping etc. by using these bags.

Also, we could make a presentation showing kids in school, ages 14-15, the 'Circle of Life' – and meanwhile hoping they will spread the message and be a living example of it.

Furthermore, a great effort must be done to reach the outside world by spreading messages about the actual situation and hopefully we will attract more eco-minded people to volunteer and help not only this city, but the entire Nepal with their ideas.

Sunday, October 11, 2015

What to Do in Nepal If You Only Have a Week?

What to do if you can only be in Nepal for a week? You aren't going to have much time so you need to pick an area to explore. If coming by land you could see Lumbini and Chitwan area. Here in my village I say it's like a step back in time, but in Chitwan time just stops. You will hear yourself say 3 times, "Is it still Tuesday?" It's quite hot there throughout most of the year, but it's great in January.

Tip: Bring binoculars. Bird watching is amazing.

As I write this, in October 2015, there is a bit of a political problem in that area because Nepal didn't make the new constitution the way India wanted them to make it. So, be sure to check the news regularly. It's probably not a good idea to come until the blockade India has made is gone. The conditions are becoming quite dire.

Be careful about just camping out in that area; a rino wandered through our guest house property when I was there.

If you come by air you'll want to stay around the Kathmandu Valley. You can do several permit-free trekking routes, the Valley Rim Route will take you through many lovely little villages and to some incredible views of the Himalayas. You'll walk through a forest and can catch views of Mt. Everest along the way. You can see Bhaktapur ($15 admission) Changunarayan ($3 admission) Nagarkot (free), Panauti (?) Dhulikel (free) and Nama Buddha (?). You can do this in 2-4 days. You'll experience the 'real' Nepal and see exceptional views.

Stay in Thamel the first and last two nights and you will have a great time.  There are guest houses on every corner, but if you'd like a recommendation for nice, clean, budget guest house call Gupal at Hotel Bright Star. I've been recommending him for a few years and everyone really likes him and his wife. The price will be in the $10 range. +977 014423944 Hotel Bright Star weathered the earthquakes well enough, but the guest house next door didn't do so well.The street is cleaned up and Gupal has made the repairs and they are back in business. 

Monday, October 5, 2015

One Day In A Rice Fields

And such an amazing day
The following post was written by Laura, from Lille in Northern France. Laura is one of our Volunteers from our NGO, Kay Garnay for Nepal. She's only been here at the guest house for a little over a week, but got into the spirit right away and has been a wonderful helper ( As one of her volunteer tasks, she wrote the following article:

We had an amazing experience in the rice fields in Changu Narayan. Almost all the team went to the Krishna and Bagvati’s fields and enjoyed a lot. For sure,  It’s Harvest time.

 On the road to the Fields
We went down to the valley through many houses, some half destroyed by the earthquakes. We did not cross paths with many locals along the road and the views is just peaceful. 

After 30 minutes, we were surounded by rice lands and finally arrived at our field destination. All the villagers were there. We finally understood why houses looked so empty.

Rice fields

Rice plant

And So On …
It’s time to work. After a warm welcome and some rice beer we are ready to start.
Armed with a sickle, we watched our co-workers who showed us Nepali techniques. 
 Really physical work! We tried to be as efficient as  the locals, but we still need more  practice. 


Time to pedal
The rice was cut but work  wasn’t ending yet.  Now comes the shell times. And nothing is better than human forces so we pedaled the closest thing to modern equipment the day had to offer. 

After a  break for eating lunch we finished carrying loads and removing grains of rice of plants. 
We had a typical Nepali meal. So good and so spicy :)
Crispy rice and Dal

Well done

It’s almost 4 p.m when we moved to the river nearby..
Everybody relaxed and admired the quiet place near the river. Some took advantage of the situation and did their laundry.

Lets carry some loads
On the way back we met our friends from the rice fields. Theys asked us if we wanted to carry a rice bag to the Changunarayan Village at the top of the hill. Some tried but it was really heavy, around 22 kilograms/50 pounds. K√©vin, our canadian volunteer, was the exception and carried the bag up to the top. Villagers and volunteers encouraged him!! Ah ! Canadian strength !
Well ! end of the history, end of the article but not the end of the adventure.
Everybody went home with many souvenirs in their head. Tomorrow is a new day with many other activities to do.. 

Friday, September 4, 2015

More on Medical Issues in Nepal

We've seen many tourists in various stages of stomach upset at the Star View Guest House throughout the past year. And yes, we've even had two incidents of cross contamination from our own kitchen. Apologies can never be enough for someone who's suffered from a bacteria invasion. Assurances can only be met with skepticism because the causes are usually impossible to predict or avoid entirely.

The saddest part of the stomach bug issue is that a person can never actually prove where they got it unless others who ate the same foods also becomes ill. Some of the bacteria can take weeks to become symptomatic while others show themselves before you finish eating. I've noticed a bit of pepper taste from the foods that have made me ill in the past, but I've never actually heard of that being a symptom.

For our most recent guests who came down with the bacteria, I found something to share. However, although we fed over 10 people, only two developed symptoms. Of the two, one was fine within a few hours, but the other one has suffered throughout her stay and even after she returned home. It was our cook's first night cooking for us, but he certainly learned the necessity of washing his hands and cleaning the counter with disinfectant. 

Our last cook was not a good learner. One night I saw him come out of the toilet without washing his hands. How do I know? I have the towel hanging outside of the toilet so I can see them dry their hands. I'm not adverse to smelling for soap, either. So, I reminded him to wash. His reaction, "I only did short toilet." "So how did you manage that without touching yourself?" He didn't last long. 

We had a couple of incidents with guests having fried rice or bitten rice from local restaurants, particularly for breakfast. Rice is a natural breeding grounds for bacteria, especially since soap is at a premium in Nepal and everyone uses their hands for everything. I strongly suggest avoiding bitten rice and being very careful about fried rice by making sure it isn't made from left-over rice from the night before. Most local restaurants leave things like left-over rice on the counter over-night. 

Here's the article I read. I hope this probiotic is readily available in the West at health food stores. If so, I'd suggest taking it before and throughout the time you are traveling. Keep in mind that these bacteria can live for a time on the door knobs; I open the bathroom door slightly before I wash my hands.

"Efficacy and safety of the probiotic Saccharomyces boulardii for the prevention and therapy of gastrointestinal disorders"
One product containing this probiotic can be found here: 

I recently fell while stepping down from the kitchen and tore the ligament in my ankle. I mention it here because this is the way homes are made in Nepal and I've almost fallen while stepping down there many times before. The pipes are laid above the floor making it necessary to step up into the toilet or kitchen. This step is usually a bit higher than the stairwell steps, which makes it awkward. By the way, 'Bathrooms' or 'restrooms' are referred to as 'toilets' in Nepal.

The good news here is that it only cost around $40 to have it checked out at the local hospital, including X-rays, exam and cast. The bad news was there was only a squat toilet at the hospital; it was not fun doing the one legged squat. I plan to bring a couple of handicap toilets to the hospital as a donation. I'm finally helping to form a nonprofit agency which will include random acts of kindness in the goals and guidelines.

I have guidelines for finding excellent medical care in Nepal in my eBook, Nepal: A Tourist's Manual. It is finally available again via the link on this blog and $15 of the $19.95 goes to our NGO projects to rebuild our village (through December 2015). It is 300 pages of searchable topics that will make your time in Nepal easier in a variety of ways because it covers everything from ordering food to suggestions for interesting things to see and do that are not written about elsewhere. 

Always use the 'shower shoes' your guest house provided for the bathroom. Bathrooms almost always have tile on the floor, which can be quite slippery. Athlete's foot fungus is unheard of in this part of the world because people take off their shoes so much. However, there is a similar fungus that many young people have on their faces. Make sure you always sleep on a clean pillow case to avoid this. 

I hope you have a fun, adventure filled time in Nepal without such inconveniences or health issues. 


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
8.     Purchase Nepali handicrafts for your loved ones this Holiday season. We have lovely paintings and masks on our website, , but you may also find many Nepali handicrafts made in the cottage industry rather than sweat shops at other websites like 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
Guest Writer Goto Mah

It all started as a call through C$. 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