Sunday, January 18, 2009

The New Year News from Kathmandu

The new year has whisked by so effortlessly that I never sent e-cards to our loved ones & dear friends... Alas, this blogette will have to serve as that essential thread which maintains our humanity this year.

Although I should find a way to post some photos, as well, since I'd love to share some of those, as well - especially as the kids have grown (and grown and grown...).

For the latest new year news: Ezi went snowboarding for the first time last w/end after a tough first week back at school (with pre-calc and ap biology, it should be demanding...). He's seems to love his daytime escape from campus life and the freedom on the wintry Berkshires on Wednesdays & Saturdays -- although he says it's a bit embarrassing when seven year olds leap over you on the slopes asking if you're ok after you've fallen down...

While Josh, after spending all of six days in the States a week ago, got on a jet again last Sunday to fly back to Asia, Hong Kong this time, to lead his school for a model United Nations. Oy, such a jet-setter! He just called computer to computer on Skype and seems to have had a great time for the first time exploring a global city on his own sans his parents. The experience sounds like it's just deepened his current interest in an international business career.

Then, Ms. Leah had her second art class today w/ her friends, Arya and Choyang, with Neera, a lovely Nepali woman artist and gallery owner. She'll take a class a week for 2.5 hours for ten weeks. When I told her it was for ten weeks, she said, 'only ten??' with this long look like she hadn't gotten enough porridge. After all, this is a girl who has said that she wants to be an 'artist' since she was five years old!

Me, I'm enjoying my latest UN work supporting work on the new Nepali constitution as the Sr. Consultant/Advisor on the civil society outreach for submissions to the Constituent Assembly. UNDP extended my contract through March, but they may need me longer, given the scale and complexity of the work...; we'll see...

A week ago, we had 240 folks attend briefing sessions on UNDP's new small grant program for the historically marginalized communities (Dalit, Madhesi and Indigenous, mostly). However, we were only expecting 40-50 NGOs to attend, so we had to do the powerpoint and Q&A presentation three times in a row to a SRO room! The Project isn't offering huge money for these local NGO federations or associations -- but it's quite valuable for a specific and time-bound purpose, i.e. creating recommendations and submissions for the drafting of the new constitution.

Just as we were leaving the office on Friday, couriers were carting in over 150 proposals that had come in from around the country for these grants. It'll be hard to select among them, but, even after all these years, it was a thrill to see the response that we had to his opportunity to more actively participate in the future of Nepal by so many local communities from around the country.

En challah, if all goes well, the donors will provide even more civil society outreach resources in the coming months, so we can reach disadvantaged communities around the country for them to provide submissions to the MPs and Constituent Assembly now starting to draft a new constitution.

Fun schtuff, although one always wonders how much impact one's work will have -- but it feels good to give these often sidelined and disadvantaged communities a 'voice' in the expanding Nepali political life of the oft-promised 'New Nepal'.

While Shaku is touring Nepal for the first time as a political activist trying to wake up her compatriots who have been sleeping for a hundred years of solitude... She's totally enjoying her time among the Tharu and other groups in Nepal with whom she is aligning and spreading the good news of a civl rights movement for the people of this challenged land. It's really exciting to see how much she is growing and stimulated by this new vocation.

Oh, yes, we also now only have eight hours a day of electricity b/c the political elite and government snoozed through the 20th century and, oops!, forgot that if you don't build new hydro projects, then the growth in demand will some day catch up and overpass your supply. Such is the state of modern Nepal. So, alas, we'll rest in darkness even longer in the years to come.

Ahh, the romance in the developing world... ;-)

Although, personally, I've been rather overwhelmed by getting out Joshua's financial aid forms this month. The first were due by January 15th with the others swarming in by February 1st. Without our 2008 tax returns complete, it means going through the serious tax math to estimate responses. As a guy who had depended on the kindness of my father (and his accountant...) for decades, this is a seriously mature and demanding avocation.

Fortunately, I spent 3 days in November at M&D's doing the CSS format already (based on 2007 returns), but I still needed to do the FAFSA with our 2008 information, plus redo the CSS with the 2008 figures. That has been this weekend's major occupation which I finished, to my delight, this morning and sent off both Joshua's CSS and FAFSA forms to his colleges.

Now, like the rest of you with college-bound kids, we wait patiently to see the results come March/April... God bless the child, as Billie Holiday sang...

Now, at least on the weekend mornings, I can go back and meander in the garden dreaming of new delights while waiting for three dozen types of bamboo grow again in the spring, imaging what our botanical backyard will look like in another 2-3 years...

Ahh, nature, the solace of our human world...

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