Good Morning from Kathmandu!

Early morning view from my window at the Kathmandu Guest House in Nepal.(March 2015)

This post is a response to the Weekly Photo Challenge: Early Bird.  See more photos here.

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Weekly Photo Challenge: Scale

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The stupa at Swayambhunath (also known as the Monkey Temple) in Kathmandu, Nepal.

In response to The Daily Post’s weekly photo challenge: “Scale.”

The Festival Lights of Indra Jatra

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Photos from Indra Jatraa festival in Nepal that fell this year on September 18.   During Indra Jatra, thousands of people in Kathmandu pay homage to the Kumari Devi (Living Goddess).

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Offerings of thanks. (The swastika is an ancient Hindu symbol used to signify good fortune. The name comes the Sanskrit word svasti (sv = well; asti = is), meaning good fortune, luck and well-being.)

Some say that Indra Jatra is the day to give thanks to the lord Indra for the rain.  Or, depending on who you ask, it is a day to give thanks to the lord Indra for the end of the rainy season.

Ceremonial rice wine dispenser. Can you see the full moon in the background?

According to others, the festival is celebrated in the honor of Bahirab, who is Shiva‘s manifestation and is believed to destroy evil.

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No matter how you interpret the meaning of the festival, it is a beautiful celebration of traditional Nepali dance, music, and food.  The festival lights of Indra Jatra lit up the dark Kathmandu night!

This post is a response to the Weekly Photo Challenge: Let There Be Light!

End Child Labor: An Estimated 215 Million Children Still Need Alternatives

September:  Interviewing students at the Sankhu-Palubari Community School in Nepal
September: Interviewing students at the Sankhu-Palubari Community School in Nepal

What do you say to a child who has experienced child labor? I found myself in this position in Nepal recently. I was interviewing a teenager, who I will call Shree.  He described how as a little boy he had worked with his parents in the brick factories of Bhaktapur, rising at 1 a.m. to carry mud and mix bricks. Luckily, when he was 7, a school opened in in his community to provide Shree and other children at risk of child labor a free education, as well as the chance for a childhood and a promising future.

The Sankhu-Palubari Community School (SPCS) was launched in 1999 by The Advocates for Human Rights, a nonprofit organization based in the Twin Cities, to provide an alternative to child labor. Now, 14 years later, about 350 students are enrolled in grades pre-K through 10 at the school, which is located about an hour from the capital city of Kathmandu. Many of the students are from families that are low-caste, indigenous, or other marginalized groups.

The International Labour Organization (ILO) estimates that 215 million girls and boys around the world are swept up into child labor, some into human trafficking. Children, like Shree, are engaged in work that not only deprives them of their rights and an adequate education, but also is hazardous to their health and commits them to a life of poverty.

The ILO launched the first World Day Against Child Labour in 2002 to highlight the plight of these children. Observed on June 12, the day works as a catalyst for the growing worldwide movement against child labor.

When in his final year at Sankhu-Palubari, Shree, one of the best students in the area, passed his 10th grade School Leaving Certificate exam with distinction. When I met him recently, he was in his his last year of high school.  He likes to write poetry and listen to music. In the afternoons, he volunteers at SPCS, the school that changed the course of his life and where his two younger brothers now study instead of working in the brick factories. He helps the teachers in the classroom and encourages the students to study hard. When they get discouraged, he tells them, “Choose the road that makes your future very bright.”

The bright future Shree envisions for himself is to continue his education after high school and become a math and science teacher to work in rural Nepal with children who, without a school and teachers, would most likely work instead of learn.

So, what do you say to the young girl beading blouses with tiny fingers in a suffocating textile sweatshop in India? What do you say to the little boy in Gambia working in an auto-repair garage or selling items on the street? What do you say to the young girl who is working as a petite bonne (domestic servant) in Morocco?  To the child  sold into human trafficking?

Through his deeds and goals, Shree is telling these children that he is working to break this cycle of abuse.

For you and me, I say that we speak with a loud, unified voice today and proclaim, “We are committed to protecting you, the world’s children, by ending child labor.”

Then, we put our words into action.

Originally published in MinnPost on June 12, 2013.

Weekly Photo Challenge: The Sign Says

The WordPress Weekly Photo Challenge: The Sign Says this week hit right smack dab on one of my favorite hobbies.  Wherever I go in the world, I take pictures of interesting signs that I see. Here is a sampling of my collection:

Some are hilarious signs I have spotted in bathrooms.  (And it’s worth noting that I have been accidentally locked in a bathroom on every continent but Australia and Antarctica.)

Question:  To flush or not to flush?

To flush or not to flush?  That is the question.
To flush or not to flush? That is the question.
Kathmandu, Nepal

Answer:  DO NOT FLUSH!  DO NOT FLUSH! PANTHERS IN THE BATHROOM!

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Kathmandu, Nepal

USE THE TRASH CAN FOR ALL PANTHERS! I REPEAT:

Taj Mahal, India (the less glamorous part of the Taj Mahal, that is)
Taj Mahal, India (the less glamorous part of the Taj Mahal, that is)

At times, signs can be very clear and direct.

Dar es Salaam, Tanzania
You do want your clothes to be CLEAN, right?
Dar es Salaam, Tanzania

No Grown Ups! Accra, Ghana

CAUTION!  GROWN UPS!

Accra, Ghana

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Relax.

Minneapolis, MN USA

 Other times?  Well, everyone could use a good editor.

What does this even mean? Zanzibar, Tanzania
What does that even mean?
Zanzibar, Tanzania
Monrovia, Liberia
Monrovia, Liberia
Indira Ghandi Airport Delhi, India
Indira Ghandi Airport
Delhi, India

But my favorite signs are those that inspire me.

Kathmandu, Nepal
In the library of a women’s empowerment organization
Kathmandu, Nepal

 

In the pre-kindergarten classroom of a schoolYaounde, Cameroon
In the pre-kindergarten classroom of a school
Yaounde, Cameroon
Raj Ghat Ghandi Memorial New Delhi, India
Raj Ghat Gandhi Memorial
New Delhi, India
Minneapolis, MN USA
Minneapolis, MN USA

Weekly Photo Challenge: Color In The Kathmandu Valley

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Offerings at Pashupatinath Temple, one of the most significant Hindu temples of Lord Shiva

Deciding on a photo for this week’s Photo Challenge theme COLOR was a real challenge.  Nepal is one place where, in my experience, color continually surprises.  Nepalis often clothe themselves in bright colors, which continually provides the eye with pops of unexpected color. Color in the Kathmandu Valley particularly surprises because of the tremendous contrast between the duns and browns of polluted, urban Kathmandu and the bright, rich colors of the surrounding countryside.  Sometimes you see things better – appreciate things more – through contrast.  Today I’m sharing a gallery of photos, taken in Kathmandu and the Kathmandu Valley, that show the contrast of color.  Enjoy!