AMA Recap – What We’ve Learned So Far!

This week is International Development Week (#IDW2016). For the last few days, Rebecca and I have been answering lots of questions about our experiences in Nepal and Bangladesh. I wanted to share a few of the interesting things that we’ve written about so far, and encourage you to ask a question as well. Check out the blog with all the answers at https://iyipexperience.wordpress.com/ or join the community on Facebook.

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For each question, we wrote a blog post that describes our experiences.  Here’s a few things we’ve talked about so far:

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Ask Me Anything! – International Development Week

This week (February 7 to 13) is International Development Week (#IDW2016).  This week is a time for those of us in development to have a conversation about the field we work in, and to share our stories with those in the general public.  This year, my roommate and colleague (Rebecca) and I have decided to do an AMA (which stands for Ask Me Anything – if you’re not a Reddit user).  Basically, we will devote the entire week to answering all of your questions about our work in development.  Since we’re currently on an IYIP (International Youth Internship Program) placement in Nepal (and formerly Bangladesh), we imagine that you’ll have a lot of questions about that.

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You can ask your questions in a number of ways:

The more questions we get the better.  By asking a few questions each, we’ll be able to tell you all about our life here, and our various experiences.  Interested in food?  Great!  Want to know about our work placements?  Awesome!  Confused about the latest fashion trends in Nepal? No problem!

Let us know your burning questions, and we’ll spend all week replying!  All the answers will be posted on the site, so you can go back later and look through the videos, pictures, and responses.  Be sure to check out the responses to some other peoples’ questions too.  You can read more about IYIP, IDW, and who we are on our about page.

Hope to hear from you all! :)

P.S. Feel free to share this with others who you think might be interested!

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Absolute Essentials – Spending a winter in Nepal

As most of you know, I left Canada unaware that I would be spending a winter in Nepal. I was planning to spend it in Bangladesh, where sandals and perhaps a sweater would suffice. In December, I was given about 3 weeks to prepare for the move, and here is what I wished I knew!

Dealing with the Cold

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This is literally what I wear all day at work most days.  We also drink copious amounts of tea, or sometimes just hot water.

If you ask Canadians, they think the temperatures here are no big deal – fall weather. If you ask the Nepalese they will say “Oh you’re from Canada – it’s very cold there.” What neither group considers is the infrastructure. In Canada it may drop down to -30/-40 degrees, but the average person will only spend an hour or two outside in this type of weather, then they will go inside and warm up. In Kathmandu, it’s only about 15 degree during the day and maybe 4 degrees at night. No big deal right? WRONG! Nepal has no central heating. Therefore you are always in a constant state of trying to keep warm. People wear their jackets in the office.  Of course, you should bring your warm clothes from Canada: jeans and sweaters, socks and toques. However, you can buy all those things here*. But here’s what you shouldn’t leave home without!

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“Load Shedding – whats that?” – Electricity in Nepal

I’ve only been here for a week, but every time the power comes back on I have a visceral reaction of excitement and happiness (written in early January).  Each time I know the power is going on/off, I have a mental checklist of the current charging status of all my electronic devices.  I thought maybe it was just because I’m new, but even in my office there’s an audible reaction when the lights come on… printers are used, devices are plugged in, and – most importantly – some electric heaters flicker to life!

But why all this drama?  Nepal gets most of it’s power from hydro, and since the country experiences times of year with high and low water-flow (like the monsoons, and the dry winter), there is a shortage of electricity during different times of year.  Therefore, their solution is to have rolling power across the country.  This means that no area should be without power for a whole day (unless a transformer blows or something), but also no area will have power for an entire day.  We call this load shedding!  Load shedding happens in many countries around the world (you can read about my experience with it in Ghana here).  Every place deals with it differently.  For example, in Ghana the schedule was 12 hours off and 24 hours on.  Even though we had light more of the time, it was still worse because no computer will last 12 hours (even with a back-up), but my laptop can last 7 hours at work with my back-up power charger and not watching videos or using the internet.  Thankfully Nepal has divided each city into “groups”, and as long as you have the schedule and know your group you can figure out the electricity situation for that day.  I have a handy app on my phone that I couldn’t function without!  In fact, one of the first questions you might ask when you enter an office or house might be to ask which “group” they’re in… before asking for the WiFi code! :P

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This amazing app allows you to see the complete schedule, countdown to the next load-shedding period, and also give you notifications before the switch is about to happen.

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Attempting a peek at Everest’s peak – A weekend in Nagarkot

Since I’m only in Nepal for a few months, I want to make the most of my time here, and explore as much as possible!  Early last week, our coworker mentioned that Friday was going to be a holiday.  It’s a bit confusing here, because every office celebrates different holidays, making it a bit difficult to coordinate.  Some holidays are national, others are religious, and others are cultural.  January 15th and January 30th are apparently both holidays but you can only take one of them per year.  Since the 30th is a Saturday (weekend for everyone), we took off the 15th, which is known as Maghe Pharbha or Maghe Sankranti, which celebrates the end of winter.  According to the ladies at work, they eat a special snack on this day, which is some sort of ball covered in sesame seeds.

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Right: Almost sunrise on my hike up the mountain to reach the lookout tower in time.  Left: Prayer flags at the lookout tower in Nagarkot. 

Originally, we were planning to just stay home and get some shopping done, but we got a text from Paige (another Canadian volunteer who arrived the same day as us), asking if we wanted to join her and her housemates on a weekend trip.  Um, yes – we’re in!  Two girls decided to stay home, so there was 7 of us in total who went.  On Friday morning Cheryl, Rebecca, and I left the house around 8:15.  We took a tempo (a small vehicle, used like a bus for public transportation in the city, holds about 8-10 people) into the center of town to find the bus station, where we would meet Sharna (who is living in a small village outside of Kathmandu).  We couldn’t find her, and spent quite awhile on the phone and asking directions before realizing we were at two different bus stations.  After meeting up we quickly found our bus and got on.

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Getting some perspective – TedTalk (Tim Harford: How messy problems can inspire creativity)

 

I’m a big fan of TedTalks.  When I tire of trash TV and don’t have a new drama series lined up yet on Netflix, I flip to www.ted.com for a bit of inspiration.  I’m always able to find something interesting, whether it’s from their home page of new talks, or from my archive of saved talks that I didn’t have time for in the past.  Sometimes when I’m cleaning my room or doing some other mindless task, I throw on a playlist in the background.  Often I’m looking for interesting technology, but I also love funny stories, inspiring creativity, wonderful speakers, or even just a bit of humanity on display.

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Last week, I happened upon this talk (Tim Harford: How messy problems can inspire creativity).  The title had the word “creativity”, which spoke to my designer side.  When I first turned it on, I was like “meh”… but about 5 minutes in I heard this quote and it really spoke to me.

“We need to gain a bit more appreciation for the unexpected advantages of having to cope with a little mess.”

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Fair Trade, Handicrafts, Design – “What are you working on in Nepal?”

I love Nepal.  I’m really having a great time here.  It’s so nice to come out of the prison that was life in Dhaka, and have some freedom – I feel like a bird released from my cage!  With a new country also comes new challenges, like lack of electricity, overcrowded transportation, and the constant cold!  I’m also starting a new job here, which is always a little bit stressful.  But thankfully everyone seems really nice so far!

People ask me all the time about where I’m working, or who I’m working for, in Nepal.  For most people, that’s a really simple question with an obvious answer.  For me, well… it’s a bit more complicated!  I’ve created a chart (below), that might help you understand my work better.

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Who I work for at my job in Nepal.  The boxes in blue are the organizations that I report to in a variety of different ways (described below).  Click on the title of the organization to find out more about their work.

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