We flew from Chiang Mai very early in the morning to catch the morning flight from Bangkok to Katmandu. So we did, and took off in direction Katmandu. However, between the high mountains of the Katmandu Valley a turbulent weather condition started to build up, so mid air our flight was redirected to land in Calcutta, India, to wait for better weather. We were not allowed to leave the plane, so it became a long waiting time before we finally could take off from Calcutta and head for the last leg towards Katmandu.
Our welcome was warm from our friends who had waited long hours at the airport in Katmandu. Mukti and some of his board members were welcoming us with shawls, flowers and a big banner, in the most typical Nepalese manner.
After a good nights rest, which I really felt I needed, we woke up to a beautiful day among high mountains in the Katmandu Valley, and we were already on an altitude of more than 2000 metres. New facilities at the YMCA headquarters were to be inaugurated, and all the kids at the Nepal YMCA Child Care Centre were assembled to welcome us with singing and dancing.
Their behaviour is the same everywhere, they are first very serious and shy, then they perform with great energy, then the speeches start and the kids have no more patience and they start having fun with one another. I was invited to give a speech, and as always in such situations I took more consideration to the kids than to the more mature audience, and gave a very, very short speech.
Basically I said what I meant – that this is among my favourite YMCAs – grassroots work in a local community with real kids from neighbouring families. This combined with teenagers and young adults in different programmes from choirs and Student-Ys to volunteering in different form and shape.
I was really impressed with the young people singing for us – no Ten Sing could have done it better and with more dedication and energy!
Gifts from the children were handed to us, and here you see Mukti to the right and the chair of the YMCA advisory council to the left and the young Master of Ceremony in the middle.
Michal was given the same gifts from the children of the Nepal YMCA.
Ingunn and I were placed in chairs looking more like thrones than ordinary chairs under a big banner indicating the plans of the day.
These plans included official opening of the new guest rooms on the third floor of the YMCA centre, which was appropriately done with the help of a scissor.
Here the leaders of Nepal YMCA together with us before we were taken to the floor terrace to see the view from up there.
The new water tank which replaced the old one which was destroyed after the earthquake in April last year. Solar cell panels are heating the water and saving energy.
Something which is not to be taken for granted – we saw the contours of the Himalayas in the distance – mountains over 8000 metres high. An enormous view from the roof terrace of the YMCA!
Katmandu really is a wounded city, beautiful and impressive, but wounded. The earthquake moved the whole Katmandu Valley ten feet to the south and destroyed buildings and infrastructure over vast areas of land. Around 9000 people died and thousands and thousands more were wounded for life.
Even so a lot was done in less than one year, and Michal who came here in June last year, saw significant differences from his last visit. The Nepalese have been very good at cleaning up and restoring what they could.
Children are again playing and singing and smiling and life is going on as before. But on and around the Durbar Square in the Old Town of Katmandu there are still so many scars and ruins and rubble and dust and the ancient monuments of the Nepalese history are almost tumbling down.
Still this is so much a land of the smiling people. Friendly and full of hospitality they help us in any way they can, and I enjoy my first day in Katmandu. The city is full of flavours and colours and young people and kids.
Nepal is a predominantly Hindu country and that can be seen in all the temples and statues and monuments all over the country. Still Nepal changed from Monarchy to Republic in 2006, and this year the country has passed a new secular constitution stating that all religions are to be treated equally. This provoked the neighbouring Hindu India so much that they have started an embargo on petrol, leading to kilometre long queues in Katmandu waiting for sharing the little petrol there is left.
This morning I could read in The Himalayan that a new understanding was reached between Prime Minister Modi of India and Prime Minister Oli of Nepal. There is again hope for more petrol to enter the country.
Tomorrow we are going in a jeep into the country of Nepal and visit other parts of the earthquake hit country and visit places where the YMCA of Nepal has organised assistance to local communities and schools after the disaster.