05.14.2012 42 °C
Today marks the third day of strikes in Nepal. After much investigation of the political situation via broken and confusing interpretation from locals, I have finally come to a vague understanding of how Nepalese politics works, and its effect on its people.
Deciphering the situtation has proven to be extremelly challenging, despite the fact that many speak english (or at least enough to get by).
For the first time in Nepal's democratic history, its constitution is being rewritten. Unfortunately for us, the constitution must be written at the end of the month, immediately after we depart. Over the course of the month, as each party begins to become more desperate, tensions are surely to rise.
To make matters worse, there are over 32 political parties involved and the leading party, Unified Communist Party of Nepal (Maoist), has less than 30% of the voting party.
This has forced almost every party to join one coalition or another, in order to achieve their goals in parliament. Each party is using the strikes to gain power and enforce their opinion into the constitution.
So, who is forcing these strikes?
It seems to me that when one party (or coalition) calls a strike, the entire country strikes.
I'm unsure which party called the strike, but it seems that if one party calls a strike, the entire nation is willing to comply (I am just as confused as you are)., thus causing a full scale halt.
This is a very good indicator of the disorder and political strife that the people of Nepal must endure.
On Wednesday, the first strike commenced. During this time, every shop, car, taxi, and most importantly, school was shut down nationwide. At one point, even the rickshaws were not allowed to operate.
When a strike is called, there is no set end time, and no specific time at which announcements occur. One must simply wait. It seems that we too are now forever just waiting for something to happen. How ironic.
On Saturday afternoon, we received a stroke of luck and the strike was called off. Not willing to let this opportunity slip, we planned an ambitious and lengthy trip out to a northern town nested in Nepals Hilly region called Tansen. In the blistering heat, we quickly packed our bags and hopped into Lumbini Eye Institutes personal van and set off. The van, a rickety old vehicle lacking of seatbelts and any other essential safety devices, began its journey, dodging and swerving through scattered traffic until we reached a nearby town of Bhutwal. Bhutwal is considered a large town that acts as a transition between the hilly and plain regionsn of nepal. We stop in Bhutwal to pick up supplies for the blind school we are visiting up north, near a small town called Tansen. There, we buy 5 canes, and order 20 more. We also purchase all the braille books they have to offer, as well as all of their notebooks. It is on very rare occasions that anyone comes and clears out their entire stock. The man running the store is so excited, he decides to join us for the rest of the journey!
As soon as we leave Bhutwal, we see the hills emerge... and by emerge I mean explode out of thin air. Between the mist, there is no soft transition between hills and plains. Their "hills" (which look very much like mountains i'll have you know) simply just begin. And no sooner than a split second we are waist deep in treacherous mountain roads.
The roads are both winding and narrow, with little room to work with, quickly transitioning between poorly paved, rocky and dirt terrain.
Buses are packed as local travellers eagerly seize the opportunity to get to their destinations before the next strike.
The mountain air is cooling, and the scenery paints itself beautifully across the horizon.
We finally arrive at Shree Damkada Higher Secondary School for the blind, to be warmly greeted by their principle and founder.
The school is both a regular school for all local children, as well as a center for blind children. To encourage positive growth in the blind children, all those disabled are closely integrated with the regular school while learning. However, there is a seperate complex for which the blind children live.
The blind school is host to 25 blind, or very poorly sighted children. The school receives no funding from the government and has no external financial support. There have been several times in the past year in which the school was close to being shut down.
As we bring the supplies in, the principle verbally describes to the children what we look like. It is clear that opportunities like these are once in a lifetime, and will bring positive change to their school.
After a quick tour of the complex, we leave the school with enough money to build a 1000 L water tank.
The travel is exhausting and it will take 2 hours to return to our hotel, so we leave with a short goodbye and set off down the mountain trails.
After a long day, we return to the hotel, hopeful that we will be granted another strike free day.