Thursday, March 17, 2011


There are beautiful flowers blooming in Hiroshima.  Nagasaki is a healthy thriving community.  Tokyo stands proud and tall! 

Many of you know that I lived in Japan for three years and have many friends between Hyogo and Osaka.  You might not know that less than two years after I left Japan, in 1995, there was the Great Hanshin earthquake that killed 6,434 people in the very region where I lived and worked.  Many people that I knew lost loved ones and and property.  In 1997 when I returned to visit, I was amazed to see how vibrant and restored the city was.  Yes, there were still many people living in temporary houses, but the city was functioning well and everyone was again looking optimistically to the future.

To my loved ones in Japan, have courage and confidence.  The world sends its love and prayers and great admiration to you for all that you are able to accomplish in the most difficult times.

Man never made any material as resilient as the human spirit. - Bern Williams

Friday, March 4, 2011

Monsoons in Nepal

Summer in Nepal is a hot, wet blanket of humidity.  It rains almost everyday with terrifying thunderstorms in the evening that reverberate loud and close throughout the bowl shaped valley of Kathmandu.  One afternoon I found myself standing knee deep in filthy water in the center of Thamel, Kathmandu.  There was no way of knowing what manner of detritus might be swirling around my invisible flip-flop clad feet.  For the first time, I understood with clarity why all of the buildings are set up from the road on cement slabs.  I did not go to Nepal again in the summer months.  On that trip I learned that paper products and fabrics do not fare well during monsoon season.  Even some of my jewelry arrived damp inside its packages.

A well prepared tourist would carry rain gear, mosquito repellent, something for the inevitable diarrhea, and salt or chewing tobacco to smear on their bodies as a defense against leeches during the monsoon.  I have never bothered to try to hike in Nepal's Monsoon season, but I have heard some harrowing tales.  Up in the Rasuwa district, my friends told me that the path to their village would be slippery with leeches.  I wasn't sure if those were separate thoughts.  Slippery paths I have seen.  A sudden downpour can turn a former path into a river.  However, I have heard tales of  hundreds of leeches popping up from the ground, blindly waving back and forth as they sniff the air for their next bloody meal, or dropping from the leaves of the trees onto passersby. It is not too hard to imagine slipping on the leeches themselves.

Landslides and floods are frequent during the monsoons in the mountainous areas of Nepal.  Last year I traveled a road that is closed for months every year because of the regular monsoon landslides.   This problem grows worse year after year as deforestation leads to more erosion.  Landslides can be deadly, killing several people every year, but even more deaths during the monsoon season occur because of the poor water quality and lack of sanitation.

The water is absolutely necessary to bring out the lush greenery and the fantastic orchids.  It is what clears the winter dust from the air and makes the rice grow.  But it is also an extremely difficult time to accomplish anything in Nepal.  Before my friends in Nepal can begin to build their library I have to raise another $1,200.  The hope is that I will be able to send them this amount by the end of April so that they have a chance of finishing the building before the rains come.  I will continue to raise money for the books and the laptops after that.  This Sunday, I have another opportunity to raise money for the project at Plymouth UCC.  Wish me luck!

This spigot which is completely dry in the Winter will be gushing water during the summer months.  The creature with what appears to be an elephant's trunk is actually an opened mouthed crocodile.
*To all of you who have donated so generously, you will be happy to know that the first $900 has already arrived at the Joy Foundation in Nepal.  THANK YOU!