Sunday, 25 October 2015

A house in Nepal - the story so far.

It's been quite a week. Last week I posted this idea with some trepidation - it seemed a slightly bonkers. But, I reasoned, the worst that could happen was nothing.

For anyone who missed the blog last week, I'm funding a house-build in Nepal. Not a city, not a village - but just one house. We need only £1500. (You can read the whole post here.)

When it's finished, it will probably look something like this, but with a tin roof.:

You can find the appeal site here.

I have been humbled by all your support. I do understand that we all have our own favourite charities. Many of us are scrabbling around trying to make ends meet. And, of course, Christmas is coming. Which makes all contributions so very precious.

On top of that - there is the publicity. I've lost count of the people who have shared this on social media. I hope I've managed to thank you all - but if I've missed anyone out, then I'm sorry. I am deeply grateful for everything you have done.

Anne suggested at 'blog blitz' - a week when as many people as possible mention this appeal on their blogs. She has agreed to post something next Monday, and I've a couple of other people with drafts in the pipeline. I'm not in a position to manage organising a blog post every day, but if anyone can drop in a word or two, next week, that would be utterly wonderful. Do give me a nudge, and I'll make sure any posts are tweeted and facebooked.

Ros has also offered a blog post when the ebook comes out, which is equally wonderful - I can't give you a timescale, Ros, but I'm getting on with this as quickly as I can.

The other prong to this appeal is the ebook. I asked for help with copy editing; I've had a number of wonderful offers. Juliet Ashwell - you can see her website here - was the first out of the blocks to offer to help. She is reducing her fee, and has been both kind and completely professional. What a star!

So there we are - and now I must rush off, I have an ebook to write. And more people to thank.

Sunday, 18 October 2015

So, Nepal - what comes next?

I've been home a couple of weeks - surely I've had time to think?

There's never an end to thinking (that's part of the fun of it) but a few ideas are beginning to take clearer shapes.

The first - I'm going to fund rebuilding one house in Nepal. I've seen the devastation and it would be easy to throw up ones hands in helplessness in the face of such need. How can one person make a difference in the middle of all that? I can't rebuild a town - I can't even rebuild a village.

But I can - and will - raise enough money to rebuild one house.

I happen to know which house this is - but I'm not going to tell you anything about the family who live there, nor post a picture of their temporary home, nor go on about the struggle to keep going in one room under a tin roof. I'll not exploit individual misery like that. You'll simply have to believe that the hope we can give to this family will ripple out to others.

How? For starters, I've set up a GoFundMe page - for anyone who is able to spare a pound or two. You can the link here.

But - I hear you spluttering - I'm only aiming for £1500.00!! Because that is all it will cost. The man can rebuild his home himself, so what is really needed is materials. Again, you will have to believe that I've checked this with those in the know.

As well as GoFundMe I'm writing a little ebook about my visit, and all proceeds will go towards the house-build (I know one person who will be pleased, as she has been nagging me - in a kindly way - to write this).

And here I have a very big ask: because this will be a small ebook I cannot sell it for more than about 99p which gives me about 34p. In the past I've always paid full price for a copy editor - but this can easily swallow over £300 - and I'll leave you to work out how many books I need to sell before I make a penny. And so if anyone knows a copy editor who can reduce his or her fees, and work fairly quickly (I'm well into a first draft and want this out as soon as possible), I'd be deeply grateful. I am, of course, aware that copy editors - like the rest of us - have to earn a living, and so will understand if they are all, to a man and woman, struggling to make their own ends meet as Christmas approaches.

So - that's where things stand at the moment. I'll be indebted to anyone can share/tweet/generally publicise the GoFundMe page, or who feels able to support this in any other way. If I could I'd send everyone cake.

Sunday, 11 October 2015

Nepal - you asked for photos!

And photos you shall have. (The post I'd planned, with ideas for those who are more adventurous than I, can wait till next week.)

But there will be no photos of the earthquake. No photos of fallen-down temples nor fallen down houses nor the temporary shelters that have contained families during the monsoon. I've seen them, and yes, I have photos. But I refuse to join in the catastrophising of Nepal and insist on celebrating all things wonderful.

To prove that most of Kathmandu is still standing: here is a view from the rooftop of the hotel I stayed in during my first couple of days in the city:

I went to markets. I love markets, the noise and the smell and the general mayhem of them. Buying a packet of beans in our sterile supermarkets can't compare with scooping them out of sacks like these:

Away from the pandemonium of Kathmandu, I spent some time in Bandipur. It's a quiet hill station, beautifully restored. The intrepid can go paragliding from here (jumping off a mountains strapped to a parachute). Those who have a fit of the heeby-jeebies at the mere thought of it can sit in one of the lovely cafes here and watch the world go by.

Back in Pokhara, I did a lot of sitting by the lake and watching the world go by. These boats, of course, should have been full of tourists. I did my bit - not that I rowed. I let someone else to the rowing, and simply relished the quiet of the water and looming green of the hills.

I know I gave you Annapurna South in my last post - and here is it again. This picture was taken soon after six in the morning. I sat on my balcony, watching the mountains wake up, with the snow sparkling and the birds singing. (I know there are many who see the dawn every day. For me, it is an event.)

In contrast, a sunset, over the river in Chitwan.

Rhinos - again at Chitwan. And yes, they are roaming free, and I was on an elephant. (They have been known to rampage through the village - or so I was told. But maybe that's just a tale to excite the tourists. I've certainly had one-too-many close encounters with animals in the wild to risk a jungle walk.)

And finally - prayer flags, flying high over rooftops in Kathmandu. Nepal needs her gods to look kindly on her now.

Sunday, 4 October 2015

Just one story from Nepal, to show why tourism matters so much.

I was wandering along Lakeside, in Pokhara, birds a-twitter in the holy trees and Om Mani Padme Hum drifting from one of the small stores that line the street.

A man called out, 'Hello, where are you from?' It is a familiar cry. I turned to wave, saw he was wearing the baggy green of the Australian cricket team and than was enough to lure me into a conversation.

He rents bikes to tourists. His bikes - sturdy mountain bikes with polished metalwork and healthy tyres - were lined up by the side of the road. He hoped I'd hire a bike.

'I don't think so,' I tell him.

'Then maybe I can take you around on my motorbike?' His voice is higher now, and I can hear his desperation. I explain that I am meeting Tika in half an hour.

His face falls. 'I used to have a proper shop,' he explains. 'But with no tourists, I cannot afford the rent. So now I am at the side of the road.'

He has no shelter from the rain, nor scorching sun. And can only try to grab the attention of the few tourists who pass his way and hope that one of them - one would be a start - will hire one of his bikes. Then he can take just a little money home to his family.

It's a story repeated over and over and over. It's why the devastation of tourism has been at least as traumatic as as the earthquake.

And here is a picture, of Annapurna South, taken at about seven in the morning. This is the sort of view you can wake up to.