Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Can You Find Nepalgunj on a Map?

My first trip outside Kathmandu was to accompany the DCM to a combating trafficking in persons program in Nepalgunj, along the Indian border. Transportation in Nepal is sketchy. Bus accidents happen every day and recently a small plane crashed near Kathmandu, killing 13 people, including 4 Americans. So I admit I was a bit nervous about the one hour flight. But we were flying on Buddha Air - what could go wrong?

The flight was fine and the program was about what you'd expect from a day of talking heads. Here's some insight into how things work in a third world country.

* Everyone has to give opening remarks. No less than 11 government and local organization officials delivered remarks before the DCM, an hour later, delivered her spontaneously shortened speech.

* The power will go out several times.

* Even when it's hot and muggy, hot tea will be served and you will be expected to drink it.

* There are more bicycles, rickshaws and cows on the road than there are cars. So you will never go more than 25 mph.

The highlight of the trip was to watch a street drama. This is a popular way to inform people, in an entertaining way, about important topics like trafficking in people. A Nepali theater troupe, indirectly funded by USAID, prepared an hour-long series of skits showing how people get scammed into forced labor, prostitution, etc. and how the law protects them. It sounds like a gloomy subject, but the troupe was very good, using humor and really engaging the crowd.

The next morning I had breakfast with a few local journalists and learned a lot about the press. I left with a renewed determination to reach out to more rural journalists and provide training opportunities.

The flight home was bumpy. I guess Buddha was in a bad mood because we hit the worst turbulence I've every felt. If anyone had been standing in the aisle when it hit, they would almost certainly have been tossed around a bit. It's all part of the adventure.

1 comment:

Mom said...

Maybe once you train the local journalists, they can come to the US and explain to ours the difference between what belongs in the news section and what belongs in the editorial pages.