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Nepal Newsletter

August 15, 2007
Mark and Deirdre Zimmerman
NSI, EPC 1813,
PO Box 8975,
Kathmandu, Nepal

“I have learned the secret of being content , in any and every situation” Phil4.12

15 August, 2007

Dear Friends,

Being at home with 2 small boys, daily and weekly routines are essential for survival!  For more than a year, Zachary (now 5) has attended pre-school on Monday, Wednesday and Friday mornings.  Those are the same days that Anita, who has worked for me for 10 years now, comes to tackle our laundry, our floors, our dirty dishes and our general mess…all by hand, and by boiling a kettle when she needs hot water.  With her hard work, and love for the boys, she is literally a ‘God send’.  As soon as she arrives, I lift Zachary into his seat on the back of my bike and we cycle the 10 minutes to ‘Joybells’ school where in April (the start of the academic year in Nepal) he graduated from being a ‘Puffer Train’ to a ‘Duckling’!  My route home takes me via the bakery, a couple of supermarkets (which are more equivalent to large corner groceries), a small vegetable market and the corner store where we get our milk (sold in pints in sealed plastic bags).  By the time I reach the lane to our flat, the bicycle is usually teetering with bags and packages to meet the nutritional demands of two growing boys (both at the top of the curve for height) and the 2 adults chasing after them.

While Zachary spends his morning practicing his letters and racing around the playground with his Nepali school friends, Benjamin (3) and I keep up our morning routine:  Mondays to a Mum’s and toddlers group, Thursdays to a music programme for toddlers, Fridays to a prayer group for missionary Mums and their small children.  We collect Zachary for lunch and then there is a brief reprieve as the boys take their afternoon naps.  Later, before dinner, we go for a walk, visiting nearby friends, doing a few errands or perhaps calling into Kathmandu Central Zoo just 15 minutes away.  Apart from the exotic animals, this is an oasis of freedom for the boys in a city lacking public playgrounds or maintained parks and where the roads are most often without footpaths.  Now that it is summer, we have added swimming at a nearby hotel to our list of activities.

On the weekends we enjoy having Mark home both days;  many Nepali offices only observe one day holiday on Saturdays.  That is the day the Nepali church has its services, so our Saturdays are spent at a 2 hour service in the morning (with Zachary and Benjamin going out to Nepali ‘Sunday’ school in the middle) and a long family nap in the afternoon.  On Sunday mornings we observe a ritual American breakfast of pancakes, French toast and sausage (all cooked by Mark) with a tropical fruit salad of mangoes or papaya and yoghurt (brought from the dairy in a clay pot).

Of course, life is not always so predictable in Nepal .  This year, with a steady increase in demand from the burgeoning population in Kathmandu , and a lack of rain to drive the hydropower stations, we have had electricity cuts that at times reached 5 hours a day.  Candles and rechargeable lamps are a standard part of home décor, and a dinner for guests that involves our electric oven always has to have a back-up plan.  The lack of rain also affects the water supply, particularly in Kathmandu , so that we catch rainwater to wash our clothes and use our shower water to flush the toilet.  Meanwhile, with huge national debts owed to Indian suppliers, fuel shortage has become a chronic problem in the city.  We are glad that bicycles and taxis are our modes of transport, so that we don’t have to spend 4-5 hours in queues for petrol!

But the greatest disruption to any routine comes from the continued political instability.  Transport strikes, general shut-downs and impromptu protests which snarl the city in massive traffic jams remain a regular occurrence.  The security advisories we receive inform us of multiple road closures throughout the country on a daily basis, each one often lasting several days, and any plan for a field-trip is likely to be affected by such upsets.  Since the start of the year, under UN supervision and guidance, Maoist soldiers were meant to be confined to camps for registration of their numbers and weapons.  A corresponding number of army soldiers and weapons are also confined to barracks, and fighting between the two sides has come to a complete halt.  However it is common knowledge that the Maoist camps are filled with junior officers and last-minute under-age recruits lured by the promise of allowances and even jobs in the ‘new’ Nepal .  The count of Maoist weapons proved to be laughably small, with stories from the countryside of plastic water tanks being sequestered by Maoists (weren’t they supposed to be in camps?) to store and bury…weapons.  Meanwhile a new Maoist ‘youth movement’, the Young Communist League, has come into existence.  It exhibits the same strong-arm tactics of its predecessor, not surprising when it includes many of the senior Maoists missing from the UN camps.

The country is currently being governed by a coalition of eight parties (including the Communist Party-Maoist), who have chosen November 22nd (as it happens, American Thanksgiving Day) as the date for elections for a constituent assembly.  This assembly will be a large body that will have 2 years to develop a new constitution.  In the run-up to this, multiple interest groups (frequently based on ethnic identity) have formed, each threatening further disruption until their demands for recognition and equitable representation are met.  The largest and most violent of these groups are based in the Terai, along the border with India , where political murders occur on a daily basis.  So much prayer is required over the coming months for security to improve sufficiently for truly free elections, and for the country to move forward in a just and equitable way rather than the current free-for-all.

Over the coming months, we will experience our own changes in routine and continued opportunity to work towards Paul’s achievement of being content in any and every circumstance!  One welcome disruption is some renovations to our flat, including the installation of a solar-powered water heater (to counter those power cuts) and a system of pipes to feed rainwater directly into our main water tank.  As I write, Zachary is starting full-time kindergarten at an international mission school just 10 minutes from where we live.  Benjamin is growing out of baby and toddler groups, so we are looking for individual friends for him to meet regularly with in preparation to starting pre-school next spring.  Over the last year, I have taken up some part-time work again as advisor to the nutrition office where I previously worked (NPCS), and to Serve Nepal, an organization for the rehabilitation of sex workers.  My work is mainly from home via the computer, with occasional meetings or trips to the office.  Meanwhile Mark’s work with NSI is moving out of the planning phase into ‘real work’! with the establishment of several specialist training courses for rural health workers and the formalising of NSI’s support for several rural government hospitals in the coming months.

Before I finish, I would like to thank all of you who have asked about and prayed for our church.  The split that occurred last autumn proved to be irreparable, but there is a fresh sense of hopefulness about the church as it continues to move forward from that hurt.  We are encouraged to see new believers coming into the church and in the last few weeks a set of elders and deacons have been appointed.  In the midst of all the change and unpredictability of life here, we are grateful for God’s steadfastness and faithfulness.  Please continue to pray for the church, its leadership and its witness to surrounding communities.

With thanks,
Deirdre, Mark, Zachary and Benjamin

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