Category Archives: Travel

Dreams of the old house

102-0265_IMGAbout 20 years ago, I was chatting with my wonderful Newari family in their newly constructed home in Patan that they shared with my family. They were remembering the old house they used to live in, and how they slept so well and had so many good dreams when they lived there.

Some say its just unlucky if you get caught in an earthquake, and they dont discriminate but the reality is they hit the poor and the old buildings most of all, and as another major earthquake hits Nepal today, I want to share these words that never quite turned into a song, but which seem to be written for these difficult times – apologies to my Nepali friends for the probably terrible Nepali !

THESE ARE OUR DREAMS OF THE OLD HOUSE

These are our dreams of the old house
These are our dreams of the old house
When all our schemes seemed so
Sure to come true
When all our love was living in you

We lived on the chowk
And made games out of mud
With our friends and our foes
We were one flesh and blood
Looking out from carved windows
At the gods made of gold
We laughed at the old men
What stories they told !

          kasto ramailo samaya thiyo
          kina haamro ghar puraano bhayo ?
          aajako sapaana timro sadhai
          kina jiwanmaa milne saaThi chhoDhai ?
          timi gaetaa pani masanga baseko
          bhatkinekole manlaai bigreko
          mero nayau: mayaa khojne bichaar
          timi justai painchha ? ma pataaudina

These are our dreams of the old house
These are our dreams of the old house
A hand cupped with rice for our evening meal
Caressed by the lamplight
How at home we would feel !

I used to hide behind mother
In the folds of her clothes
While my sisters buried treasure
In the cracks on the road
The morning sun would sparkle
And dance down the street
We’d chatter to strangers
And run rings round their feet

          kasto ramailo samaya thiyo
          kina haamro ghar puraano bhayo ?
          aajako sapaana timro sadhai
          kina jiwanmaa milne saaThi chhoDhai ?
          timi gaetaa pani masanga baseko
          bhatkinekole manlaai bigreko
          mero nayau: mayaa khojne bichaar
          timi justai painchha ? ma pataaudina

These are our dreams of the old house
These are our dreams of the old house
Some nights I wake to find you in my old room
But my eyes are playing tricks
I fall asleep again too soon

These are our dreams of the old house
We always dream of the old house !
These are our dreams of the old house
We only dream of the old house !

Communicating with Nepal in a time of crisis

As I started to work on updating this site  news began to come through yesterday of the tragic earthquake in Nepal which has affected so many in Kathmandu, across the whole country and in neighbouring countries. Kathmandu was my home for 8 years, and I have many friends there, who treat me as part of their family.

Naturally as the full scale of the devastation became evident I felt truly shocked and concerned to get news of my friends.  As I sat at home in UK in many ways I felt powerless to do anything, but nevertheless through the power of new communications technologies I found myself engaged, and surprisingly in touch with the situation on the ground in Kathmandu.

Within a few minutes of having posted a concerned message on Facebook, I got messages back from Nepali friends in Kathmandu who told me they were alright, but on the streets and scared as they endured so many aftershocks.  It was such a relief to hear from them, and interestingly it was the sons and daughters of the Nepali’s I knew best who were doing the communicating, and I was reflecting how teenagers and young people in most places these days are so at home with mobile technology, and how great it was that there were means of communication for those most affected by the crisis.  Despite the broken roads, landslides and buildings reduced to rubble, the mobile phone network somehow in many places was still up and running and helping people trying to respond to the situation.

A further example of this came when I realised that the son of a close friend in UK was volunteering at a Nepali school in Lamjung, right at the epicentre of the quake.  When I called the family to check all was okay they had not heard the news, and were naturally in a state of distress when I told them. They had the name of the village but no contact number for their son.  With the help of the internet, I found out the school name and contact information but when they called the phone was completely dead which further increased their anxiety.  Amazingly I got through to friends in Kathmandu by international phone and explained the situation.  They were able to receive an email from me with details and within an hour replied with the good news that they had spoken by mobile with a lady at the school and the young volunteer was okay, and people at the school were safe. A few hours later his parents received a text message from him which confirmed his wellbeing.

The coming days and months will no doubt be very tough ones for all those living and working in Nepal, but as we consider the role of digital technology and its uses for development, I thought it was worth sharing these reflections on what happened yesterday.  I cannot get the images of devastation out of my mind, but I am more convinced than ever that ICTs can play a big and positive role (locally and internationally) in both the response to disaster and in longer term development efforts needed globally to address poverty and suffering.

Old Bagan – From Sunrise to Sunset

Photos from a visit to Old Bagan in Myanmar, in February 2015