Kate Bollinger

Kate Bollinger (Women’s Reproductive Rights Program – WRRP): Kate’s interest in Nepal began when she studied for a semester in Nepal as an undergraduate. She then went on to study for a Master’s degree in Social and Cultural Anthropology at the University of Oxford. While at Oxford, Kate pursued field research and language study in Sikkim, India and Kathmandu, Nepal. Her research in this area continued as an intern and consultant in the Anthropology Department at the American Museum of Natural History in NYC. Kate has also interned at the Association for Women in Science in Washington DC and the Consortium for Gender, Security, and Human Rights in Boston. At the time of her fellowship, Kate was a graduate student at the Monterey Institute of International Studies (MIIS) studying International Policy Studies with focus on international development and South Asia. After her fellowship, Kate wrote: “I don’t think I’ve seen the level of poverty that I saw in the field. It made me feel extremely privileged. It was great to get experience working in a local organization abroad – something I’d never done before. Also, the skills I gained in the process (interviews, editing, web site development, etc) will be great to carry into future work. I will cook daal bhat more often!"

Journey to Lahan

09 Jul

Having spent a brief 1 ½ days in the Kathmandu office, my co-worker at WRRP, Sunita, and I have headed off to the villages to see the WRRP programs in action. WRRP currently runs programs in 4 of Nepal’s 75 districts and each district program works in approximately 25 surrounding villages.

On this trip ,we will go visit the programs in the Lahan area. Lahan lies in southeastern Nepal in what’s known as the Terai area and, from what I can tell, is well known for its extreme heat and delicious mangoes.

Sunita and I will take a night bus from Kathmandu to Lahan. We arrive at the Kathmandu bus stop after an umbrella-less walk through some welcome monsoon rains (Kathmandu is in the midst of a serious water crisis). The roads of Kathmandu we walk along are particularly jammed on this day although they are always a chaotic frenzy of buses, cars, taxis, motorcycles, bicycles, and pedestrians, swerving, passing, stopping, and going. With the traffic situation as such, it is not a surprise when we get to the bus stop and learn that our bus will be one or two hours late.

After an hour, the bus arrives and the journey to Lahan begins. The first stretch out of Kathmandu is a beautiful part of the trip as one leaves the city behind and enters hillsides winding along terraced rice paddies and small villages. While the scenery is beautiful, the road itself is a little unnerving. The road is wide enough for about 1 ½ cars. So it is somewhat worrying as our bus flies downhill, breaks screeching on the turns, to see a bus approaching in the opposite direction. But these drivers are experienced and, invariably, one bus pulls slightly aside to let the other pass and a series of friendly honks are exchanged. About an hour into the journey, one of the driver’s companions pulls down a surprisingly large TV screen from overhead and for the next two hours a Hindi film, on full volume, entertains the crowded bus. Around 10:30 pm, it’s time for a rest stop and dinner. The beauty of local nepali restaurants is that there is no need to order. You just sit down and the daalbhat of the day is brought to you. A typical daalbhat consists of a healthy serving of white rice, a vegetable dish, a lentil soup, a picked vegetable, and a slice of a fresh vegetable (usually cucumber or onion). Clean hands are essential for daalbhat because it is eaten with ones hands – a talent whose dexterity takes time to develop.

After filling up on daalbhat, most of us on the bus develop bhat laagyo. Bhat means “rice” and laagyo is expression which relates a feeling. In essence, we are feeling our rice and are soon asleep. I awaken maybe an hour later to realize that the bus is at a dead stop. We are in a mysterious midnight traffic jam of busses on an otherwise quiet nepali road. The driver turns the bus off and most of us fall back asleep. Two hours later, I awaken in a daze to the bus engine starting and murmurs of relief. Onward ho. I fall back asleep again and maybe an hour later am awakened on a particularly bumpy stretch of road. I look out the window and realize that our rather large bus is not only driving down a small dirt road, but is completely lost. People seem to be yelling out directions to the driver, who plows on. Eventually, the bus comes to a stop and a few people step outside to go read the street signs hidden in the dark. Everyone on the bus – all nepali except for me – is giggling and cracking jokes I don’t understand about our predicament. After about ten minutes, another bus comes by, stops, and gives us directions.

Again on the right path, we continue on as the sun rises and a flat and green landscape rolls by. Twelve sleepy hours after boarding the bus in Kathmandu, Sunita shakes me awake. We’re here!

Our Bus

A Market in Lahan
Sunita and Kate with henna in Lahan

Posted By Kate Bollinger

Posted Jul 9th, 2010


  • Tehani

    July 9, 2010


    What a great story! I have so many bus/train stories myself. How long did it end up taking you to get there?
    The food sounds amazing! There is so much meat in the food here in Vietnam, and it makes me weary because I see it sitting out most of the day. Needless to say, I usually opt for the vegetarian options.
    Eating with your clean hands must be great! My hands are always feeling disgusting here. We always use chopsticks, which we wipe with napkins before using. I try not to think about the fact that all the utensils and bowls are just rinsed in a few buckets of water on the street side stands before being passed on to the next customer.

    Thanks for sharing your adventures!

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