Programming and Pokhara

I’m not going to lie, for a young professional/lawyer, I’ve enjoyed a fairly manageable, if not in fact pleasant, work schedule – even as an articling student I can count the number of times I went into the office on a weekend on one hand, and most of those times may have just been to set up pranks or store my coat instead of bringing it to the bar catch up on all my faxing, the world’s must effective form of communication. So working on evenings and weekends is something I’m really not used to (I can feel all my friends in Toronto wanting to slap me), but when I enjoy the work I’m doing, I really don’t mind it at all.

Though it is always nicer to be a sleeping dog

And right now, my work is pretty cool. My boss gave me the opportunity to take on a significant amount of responsibility here with a programming series we’re running, focusing on intersectional forms of discrimination impacting women from different historically marginalized communities in Nepal: Dalit women, Indigenous women, Madhesi women and Muslim women. With [a lot of] help from my CBA YLIP comrade, Adil, our Nepali programming officer, Rita, and a young Nepali law school graduate, Swechhya, I’m running four workshops with women and gender rights advocates from each of the above mentioned groups. The workshops provide an overview of the basics of substantive equality and the gender audit report of the Constitution that I helped draft, which touches on constitutional strengths and gaps. Then, we focus on areas that we believe may be of particular interest to each community, but the majority of the meeting is spent allowing members of the communities to discuss their priorities in terms of the constitutional implementation of women’s rights. From these small meetings, we’re producing summaries of four or five priorities that were highlighted, and analysing our findings to determine areas of common interest among the different communities. We’ll be presenting our findings at a larger workshop at the end of June, with women and gender advocates from each of the communities coming together.

The goal of this series is to determine areas of collaboration between the different groups of women, while acknowledging the diversity in the groups. Ideally, we can identify areas where women from different communities can work together to improve the position of women in Nepal generally, and also, we can provide opportunities for women to offer support to other communities. There is a definite range in the status of women from different communities, and in some communities, the status of women within the community itself, so by sharing experiences and strategies for rights implementation, we’re aiming to create a stronger network of women and minorities in Nepal.

What this means is, I’ve been working weekends and [some] evenings to make sure everything is totally prepared (don’t feel too bad for me though… my current diligence might also have to do with the fact that I’m going to India on Wednesday for a little vacation and want to make sure I leave everything totally organised for my very helpful team).

Just getting all my copper pots in a row, as they say.

…And I figured that if I was going to have to work on the weekend, I might as well do it in a place with cleaner air than Kathmandu, so last weekend, I headed to Pokhara, aka the Banff of Nepal.

I got up at 4.30 for this view. There are supposed to be mountains… unlucky weather.

Sun came out literally as soon as I got off the water. Again, just my luck.

So I don’t get to travel much in Nepal, especially compared to when I lived in South Africa and Holland – it was so easy to get away for a weekend there. Not so much in Nepal. Flights here are crazy expensive, and I don’t have my own car… which means my means of getting to Pokhara was an eight-hour bus ride (on the way there – on the way back, it took nine hours). Which wouldn’t be so bad, if Pokhara weren’t 204 kilometres from Kathmandu. I cannot explain to you how frustrating it is to be driving for two hours and to have only gone 50 kilometres. You know how far you can drive in Canada in eight hours? About 900km, depending on what stretch of highway you’re on. And even if you take your own car here, it’s still about a five-hour drive. FOR TWO HUNDRED AND FOUR KILOMETRES. It would be like driving from Dryden to Ignace and back for five hours. Or from Wilcox to Regina for two hours. I realize I’m using the most random small town references. Regardless, it really made me miss multi-lane highways and driving above 100km/hr.

But at least I had great weather, right?

Thanks, monsoon.

I still so pale.

Regardless of the failure of the weather to ever cooperate with me, being near water (I should clarify, water that is not the Bagmati) was a great feeling. I’m a water baby – I grew up on a lake, I lived on either coast of Canada and on one of the Great Lakes, and then on the ocean in South Africa and Holland, plus I’m a Scorpio, total water sign (I have no idea what that means) – the last time I lived without regular access to water was when I was 17. It’s always comforting to know I have water around, and it’s something I never realize how much I miss until I’m near it again.

Kayaking views

 

Plus it was green – I’ve rambled on and on about how much I miss green spaces before, just a lil bit.

Back on the water

Paddling around Taal Barahi temple on Phewa Lake – not the most impressive temple I’ve seen, but it has a decent legend: The goddess Barahi Bhagwati visited the area as a beggar but was turned away by everyone except one woman. The goddess warned this woman a flood was coming so the woman left with her family (the woman is essentially Noah without an ark). A flood came down from the mountains and destroyed the village and everything in it. When the woman and her family returned, they built the temple on an island in the lake to honour the goddess.

I did also get to do a quick hike (after my 4.30 am wake up for the sunrise that was not to be), which again, would have been a lot better with views of the Himalayas, but I am constantly itching for some green space, so I can’t really complain.

Looking down over Phewa Lake and Pokhara, with the Peace Pagoda up on the hill crest

And even though the sunrise let me down, I got pretty lucky with my sunsets in Pokhara.

So I have one more day of work this week, and then I’m off to India for my next long walk! The opportunity fell into my lap to go somewhere that I literally would have never planned by myself, and I couldn’t pass it by! Plus, some girls say they like long walks, but I really mean it, and don’t want you thinking EBC was a one-off.

Full update of my India trip to come at the end of the month! PS, if anyone is looking for a human rights lawyer who loves working with issues relating to gender, sexuality and sport… I will need a job soon (it’s hard to believe that I only have roughly a month left on my contract). So tell your friends about me, because I really don’t want to end up including ‘writing cover letters’ as a skill on my resume…

…let’s be honest, I’m already there.

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