Kate Kuo (Nepal)

Katherine Kuo (Collective Campaign for Peace, Nepal): Kate served as a Peace Corps volunteer in the Central Asian republic of Kyrgyzstan, where she worked with a local NGO to support a children’s hospital. She trained the NGO in project design and management, helped to start a small income-generating business, secured three donated computers and provided computer training. At the time of her fellowship, Kate was in her first year of studying for a Master’s degree at the School of Foreign Service, Georgetown University. After her fellowship, Kate wrote: “The summer was extremely productive and I felt that I contributed to COCAP even if some projects were incomplete. By using my initiative and being assertive and self-motivated I designed and conducted 3 trainings for COCAP members. This was by far the most fulfilling thing I got out of the summer. The trainings required innovation, resourcefulness, and perseverance. They also took a bit of courage, trekking out to remote areas alone, where I knew no one and nothing about the town, and standing in front of people as a ‘trainer.’

Detention Centers and Stupas

19 Jun

Things are going very well. For a week I felt like I wasn’t achieving as much as I would have liked, so my counterpart and I drew up a schedule and now it looks like I’ll be working 120 hours a week! Next week, I head down to one of our member organizations in Jhapa, on the border of India, where you walk down the street and literally see dogs keel over and die of heat. 140+ degrees. Supposed to do capacity building for them — 2 days of training on organizational assessment and proposal writing, and then produce an English brochure for them. Then I head to another district beside it (Udaypur) and do the same thing for another NGO. This means at least 12 days total in the scorching, painful heat. Can I do it? More importantly, can I even do a training? I’ve attended trainings myself, but now suddenly I’m a trainer! We’ll see how it goes.

I’ve discovered an amazing part of Kathmandu, the oldest part of town. Got completely lost in the tiny streets, came back on a rickshaw and had the best “aerial view” photos taken. Every shop is colorful and congested and products are hanging all over the place, unpaved streets, so old school. I’ve started to be aggressive and ask people straight out if I can take their photos, and most of the time, they are confused, surprised, then happy and nervous and start fixing up their hair frantically for the photo. Stumbled upon an amazing palace square on my way to a custody center. The NGO I’ve been working with here in K-du is a lawyers association that deals with human rights abuses — killings, torture, disappearances, illegal detention, etc., which are rampant in country, so I visited a detention center here to get a better idea. I had heard all these atrocious stories, but it wasn’t quite as hellish as I imagined. I interviewed a Burmese man picked up for supposed heroin sale. He claims it was false and I believe him. The police and military here are among the least publicly accountable in the world. I really came to appreciate the good things about America (and Taiwan) — strong governance and rule of law, and thus minimal abuse relative to other countries. Never truly put two and two together: Government –> Law –> People’s well-being. My coworkers keep saying that corruption is epidemic here, in every sector — from government to education to NGOs to even foreign aid. In fact, foreign aid and development funds have gone into so many pockets that people have lost faith in development projects. NGOs have lost a lot of credibility. Where do you even begin correcting these problems? Someone should send a “Law and Enforcement Corps” here and start with that.

Last Friday was the one-month full moon after Buddha’s birthday. I visited Bauddha, a Buddhist town outside of Kathmandu, famous for its Tibetan population and extremely popular among tourists, scholars, and foreigners seeking spirituality. The town radiates out from the stupa in the center. On Saturday, there were still thousands of people circumambulating the stupa the 108 times (which takes between 10 to 15 hours), prostrating themselves and praying. Colorful prayer flags surrounded the whole place, set against the white body of the stupa and its gold top. Butter candles were lit all around the 3 layers of the stupa. Locals made mandalas all over out of candles, and even a big “Welcome” out of them, which was so sweet and typical of the friendly Nepalese. Everyone was welcome to help light the candles. Thousands of Tibetan monks in their maroon and yellow robes, playing Tibetan horns, chanting, hundreds of tiny monks running around, holding hands, and people smiling at you as if they knew you. Old Tibetan men in traditional clothing had turquoise earrings on. Old couples would pray together with smiles, but there were people of all ages, and almost everyone wore traditional clothing. On street level, the most exotic and downtrodden group of beggars I have ever seen surrounded the stupa. So much beauty and squalor in the same place.

Yesterday, I finished up email and was speaking to the guy while I paid my bill. A giant beetle flew right onto my cheek and decided to stay there. I knew it wasn’t a fly because it was rather heavy, but I couldn’t get rid of it, so there I stood talking to him for minutes with a giant black blob stuck on my face. Sexy. Poor Kate, a friend here, who has all these great experiences with bugs, woke up one night with a caterpillar with 1000 legs stuck under her eye. She finally ripped it off but was terrified she would give birth to millions of tiny caterpillars from under her eye the whole next day. I started Nepali language classes this week and am cracking my office up with my few sentences. As soon as I get back from the south, I’ll start yoga classes. In 2 hours, I’ll be heading to Patan, a famous city outside Kathmandu to witness thousands of people pull a giant sacred chariot, with holy items and monks inside, to another town! Should be a great picture event.

Posted By Kate Kuo (Nepal)

Posted Jun 19th, 2003

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