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Lisa's Blog0004: I will let photos tell their stories

Lisa Pier March 5, 2016; Saturday 22:40 NST (Nepal Standard Time)

As an attempt to keep you up to date on a way as interesting as possible, I decided to try a new format for this fourth entry: I will let photos tell their stories, underlined with captions which hopefully don't bore your mind as much as loooong text passages would do - one of my best friends from home was joking at me by saying that 'normal' people do it that way and don't publish a whole 'novel' within one entry... So, maybe I will try to be 'normal' this time... Let's see what remains from this idea in the end... This entry will mainly tell you what happened meanwhile, since in my last blog entry I only talked about work, more or less.

To give you a rough overview: In December and beginning of January my usual little Nepali life went on with a few nice little extras which I will talk about below, and then I went off to India for about three weeks to meet my best friend and live the good old traveller life before I came back to Kathmandu in mid February. And now I am already in my last month in Nepal! Man, time flies! Apart from that I do not live with Rashmi's family in Sanepa anymore but moved to Krishna's parents' home right next to the office because they offered me to stay here for free and even though I sometimes miss the vibrant family life at the KC's home, Sulo (Krishna's mum) is also a very entertaining company. :)

And before some of you will get bored and do not read until the end of this post I want to show you something pretty cool: Some of you might already know it but Krishna aka Prakrity produces a weekly radio show with electronic music which works as fundraiser for Hoste Hainse. After a while he obviously thought it would be a good idea to have me as a guest in his show so we sat down for a couple of hours in his little studio at home and recorded the whole thing: Check it out!!

[ more info @ ]

But now, let's come to my promised photo-based-stories:

So, I already I attended two Nepali weddings!!! Rashmi's family, the guys with who I lived for my first three months in Kathmandu before Krishna offered me to stay at his parents' house for free, brought me to both of these weddings. The first time we attended the wedding ceremony itself, the second time I was only with them for the so called reception party.

Okay, I have to be honest: This was probably one out of three photos where the future wife & husband look kind of happy... I still cannot really and entirely understand the system of arranged marriage... But well, as long as it is really, really okay for both sides it should be all right... what I just cannot imagine to be the case... But maybe so called love marriages are a matter of luxury? Anyway, this topic racks my brain. Is it good when it is normal that brides cry terribly during their marriage because they get married to a stranger, leave their parent's house and have no idea what expects them? Luckily this was not the case during the marriages I attended, even though they were arranged. Anyway, I had lots of fun during the celebrations! I had the feeling it was all more about meeting relatives, dancing, chatting, eating good food (rice and curries, what else?) and just enjoying to be together for this special occasion than about the wedding procedures itself. And of course, once again, everybody was just super friendly and made me eat, dance, chat and everything else. Even if I was very interested in the marriage ceremony. In Nepal, these can take hours. Maybe a good way to tie a strong bond...

Apart from getting familiar with all the wedding procedures which take a few hours (I can imagine that this really creates a stronger boud between wife and husband than short, maybe even superficial ceremonies which I know from the western culture) - I got to wear a Saree. :) :) :) One of the aunts spontaneously sewed a blouse for me out of materials Rashmi and I had bought the night before in amazingly busy Patan, Aayusha lent me one of her old Sarees and there we go! The only thing is that it is true what what might come to your might seeing this kind of clothing: it IS difficult to move or even dance wearing it. But its definitely fun!

And the 2nd time I was already much more familiar with it. That time Krishna's mum Sulo (who is by the way Hoste Hainse's founder) lent me her best Saree, what an honour to wear that one!

I am grateful that my host family took me. :) Another thing I like about Nepali weddings is mehendi hihi... I like it! Thank you Deepika:

On our way home from the first wedding I had my first ride on a scooter in a saree... and was nearly frightened to death - how should I arrive home safely while sitting in these clothes on a scooter driving through the hectic main streets of Kathmandu - aaah! But it worked surprisingly well and I had a good talk with the guy who was so kind to give me a lift back home. I am still convinced that it only worked because I hugged that guy so closely, what is usually only appropriate for couples, but in that very moment I did not care about anything. I hope he did not mind. On the way home from the 2nd wedding we squeezed with 6 people in one of Nepal's tiny taxi's. Once again I was happy when we finally reached home and we could get out!

A few days later Rashmi, who studies BBS at St. Xavier's College in Kathmandu, told me about a social work camp planned by her College - in Chitlang. Going out of Kathmandu valley? Please let join you, Rashmi! And so I could! On a Friday we walked in the freaking early morning to Rashmi's college (in these early morning hours Kathmandu has a special atmosphere though...), I got to know the place where she usually despairs on business questions, some "sirs", her great and friendly principal and, of course, Rashmi's friends who integrated me directly in their group and we enjoyed the bus drive right into the middle of nowhere.

There was only one thing which I had to clarify right in the beginning: Never joke with a German about Hitler by saying 'he is my idol, a great man' - not the best idea on how to get in touch with me haha. But apart from that the group we were travelling with was great: A bunch of BBS - and Management students who welcomed me so, so warmly, without any prejudices or bewildered glances towards me what would have been the case in Germany. I slept in a little cottage made out of mud and bamboo with Rashmi and her two friends Sunita and Ritika who really gave me great company. We slept late because we laughed so much and I learned to appreciate sleeping in one bed with four people: it keeps you warm!

When the project coordinator Shailendra told me in the beginning we would work excessively for the two days I did not really take him for serious - but after the first day I did. What we did? In Chitlang, Shailendra found a family who lost their house through the April 25, 2015 earthquake and they did not have enough money to destruct their badly damaged house or even rebuild it... So we helped them to destruct it: stone by stone and beam by beam, in long queues that what remained of the house became smaller and smaller...

Everybody helped actively but for me it was heartbreaking to see the house's owner working on the forefront to break his former home into pieces... But life must go on, right?

The other project we worked on was the foundation for a new 'bottle house' for the Chitlang Organic Resort, in which we stayed. Bottle house only means a house which is, instead of bricks, built out of concrete and old bottles, kind of a recycling project. But since I did not really see the social impact of this project I rather worked on destructing the house. And because I, once again, did not really feel well one of Shailendra's friends, Parvej who joined the camp as a volunteer such as I did, gifted me two carrots he found in someone's garden - these local vegetables are really unbeatably tasty!

On our last day we made a short hike through wonderfully shaped forests, meadows and calm villages. This country is just lovely. I am happy to be here - and always even happier when I can explore more and more one by one outside of Kathmandu. :) The lake we reached is one of Nepal's major source of electricity from hydro energy. And besides that: A wonderful place to hang out, have lunch and do some boating.

I enjoyed the privilege to go for this short boat trip with Shailendra and his friends Parvej and Kripa, who are able to enjoy silent moments like I do and unlike the other people on this tour start screaming and taking photos wherever they have the opportunity to... So we rowed through this calm surrounding and extended our trip, reached a little island which Parvej and I climbed. Even though I found all of the people on that camp very nice I was happy to enjoy their company and even more happy when Shailendra invited me to celebrate his birthday with his friends and family that very night - why not taking the opportunity of getting to know new cool people a bit closer?

So it happened that after this exciting and exhausting trip I ended up in Shailendra's house, chatting, talking about each and everything and even topics like politics or philosophy, celebrating Shailendra's birthday and just having a lot of fun - I think I can learn a lot of these positively minded people who just accepted me right as I am. Happy I met them and kind of made my first 'own' friends over here. I hope this will last. :)

Apart from that I met two friends, Josina and Max, from Germany who currently travel all through Southeast Asia and stopped by in Nepal. Of course we met first in Thamel before I took them to the other side of town which is more like my home base: around Jhamsikhel and Patan, what I personally like much better than the very touristy, crowded and dirty area around Kathmandu Durbar Square and Thamel - and obviously they liked it as well.

After these crazy guys made it back from their Everest Base Camp Trek (in the middle of the winter, some mornings they had around -30°C we started doing something together almost every day. I loved it. It was just awesome to see them, hear them talking about their travels, tell them a few things about my whole experience Nepal and yeah... just hanging around together was really good for me. And finally I got to see Bhaktapur, a city within the Kathmandu valley which is famous for its beautiful architecture, various temples and handicraft scene such as pottery. Entering Bhaktapur's city center costs every tourist $15 which we really did not find too cheap. But no arguing helped, and no, we could not sneak in anywhere... A very ambitious guard took his job very seriously and stopped us in ways which could be copied into new bollywood movies one to one. But well.. it was worth $15 :)

I showed Max and Josina Swayambunath, we had lunch at my host family's place and lots of coffees at the Himalayan Java Cafe. I don't really know how Josina and Max survived without this place after they left Nepal. I think Himalayan Java could also feel that they left the country when they looked at their number of sold beverages, cakes, sandwiches... But whenever I now visit this cafe I can just pick and choose from one Josna & Max's recommendations. I hope to see you again soon, safe travels!!! Because I really like the way they travel and their view on things I would like to point you out to their Instagram account: #venturethevoage!!

Christmas! Already so long ago!

(I should have written about this in my last blog entry). Even though I am not Christian, Christmas is a big thing back home and more like a cultural event which matters for me. Once again, my host family just made me absolutely happy with the way we celebrated Christmas. Of course it was completely different from celebrations at home and maybe the first day when I had the feeling I really missed my family at home but we had a fantastic time and definitely one of the best Christmas times I ever had. On Dec 24 we went out for a big Christmas dinner with ALL family members (apart from grandmother with whom I get along so well these days!) and I was lucky enough to receive awesome gifts! I really did not expect that! Two wonderful scarves, a wooden box and: lots of love. On Dec 25, after I came back from work, I was welcomed with a funky Nepali Santa Claus, Christmas songs... What else do you need for nice Christmas?

I can only express how thankful I was and still am that they hosted me so kindly.

New Years Eve turned out to be a very funny evening where Bharat made me try all sorts of local alcoholic drinks, we played games and laughed a lot. All the girls did gather around at Aayusha and co's place, even though the Nepali New Year does only start in the middle of April (after the western calendar). And Aayushas mum, Chunu, who I am convinced, is definitely the best cook in Nepal, tried to copy a curry which we had in that restaurant on Christmas Eve and which was my favorite dish that evening.

And then.. I spent 19 days in India where I met up with my best friend! She is half Indian, came to Delhi in the beginning of January to visit her family and we spontaneously decided to travel around in India for a bit less than three weeks. I won't be able to tell every single story and place we visited but we just had an awesome time, to say the least. Started our little journey in north Goa where we celebrated Ananya's birthday, travelled more and more down south until we ended up staying four nights in Palolem where we actually did not want to leave.

But since we already went through all the complicated procedures of getting a confirmed (!) train ticket in India, we took the 14 hrs train to Kerala, namely Allepey. We had the hilarious idea not to drink at all during these fourteen hours to minimize the number of times we'd use the bathroom. This was a decision with cruel consequences: No hangover, nothing has ever been as tiring and just horrible as the dehydration we experienced after that journey! Oh my god... It took us about two days to get back into our at least semi productive selves. In Allepey we of course did the obligatory backwater tour which helped us to rehabilitate a bit. :)

After this journey led us to Munnar which is beautifully located within lots of tea plantations which we explored with a little hike:

This is Kamala. She does hard work in Munnar's tea plantations all day and earns INR 300 per day what is about $4.5.

From Munnar we made our way through the very curvy mountain roads to Kerala's capital Kochi where it was just incredibly hot - but so we made lots of inspiring friends at the hostel which was also cool.

You can imagine that leaving all this and getting back to Kathmandu was a bit hard but once I arrived, saw the smiling face of our dear driver Pancha Narayan who picked me up, and saw Kathmandu from the perspective of a returnee had its benefits as well. Now I realize how much this city is already 'mine' and that makes me happy. And I was welcomed with clear mountain views:

So, I am back to work!!! The following weeks were extremely busy because not only on the Hoste Hainse front a lot of things go on such as writing a proposal for a new Income Generation Program in Sarlahi, the 'usual' issues like answering requests from our donors' side, the clothes drive or whatever else, but also the UN Global Compact Nepal experienced a little revival. Global Compact Nepal is mainly a network for business people to get their companies work in responsible and sustainable ways, either in the social or environmental way. The network has been founded quite a few years ago and after a very active phase in the beginning, activity slowed down. And now time has come to make it more vivid again. This is why I am now more and more involved in the Global Compact Nepal's Board activities such as meetings with ICIMOD or the UN Country Director Renaud Meyer.

All these parties would like to involve the private business sector more in their development programs but need a party which helps to communicate between NGOs and the private sector. And this is where Global Compact Nepal comes in. Also on this front is a lot to do... And I am already in my last month in Nepal!

The first weekend was of course dedicated to visit Rashmi's family and say HI after my long time in India! So I was invited for a sleepover and it felt like coming back home. I insist that Chunu cooks the best Dal bhat all over Nepal. In the next early, early morning Deepika and I went off for a hike in the small mountains which surround the Kathmandu valley. The view was not too great but we had fun anyway.

Since Nagarkot is one of THE places to go in Nepal, and more importantly, close to Kathmandu it was a shame that I had never been there over the last four months which was Krishna and his wife Pratistha spontaneously organized an overnight stay, yay! Seems like Krishna feels kind of bad because I saw more of all the work which has to be done for Hoste Hainse than of all the nice places in Nepal outside the Kathmandu valley. ;)

As a little bit of history: Nagarkot is a place which is famous for its amazing views on the Himalayan mountain range. You can imagine that of course when we were there everything was cloudy and we could not see anything at all. :D So we did some smaller hikes with Krishna, Pratistha, their daughter Avishi, and Rashmi who joined us as well. I had a wonderful weekend, thank you all. :)

Yap, all the background is supposed to be filled with stunning mountain views...

The very last days were a bit stressful though: Hoste Hainse is about to launch a new Income Generation program (fish farming) in Sarlahi and aside the usual work a proposal needs to be written. But apart from that also for me time has come to think about what I might study once I am back in Europe and appropriate preparation is needed. Since my preferred Bachelor program is offered by the University of Amsterdam I had to do the TOEFL test to prove my English language proficiency. Lots of Nepalis obtain this test every month to join universities for example in the US, so finding a test center was not a problem. But preparing and working and all that at the same time was pretty tough and I was super happy once the test was over, especially because the test center was very... let's just say... Nepali. And 4 hours can be a long time! Anyway, it is done and after it I have a nice road trip to Sarlahi ahead of me which I will talk about in my next entry. :)

Now everything is mainly about planning my remaining time in Nepal because there are still so many things I want to do, people I want to meet and places I want to see. I don't really want to leave Nepal. But well, at least we are already figuring ways out how I can get back soon!

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