Go Eat Give hosts Destination Nepal in Atlanta

As a part of its focus on raising cultural awareness, Go Eat Give hosted its monthly Destination Dinner on Saturday, June 14 at Himalayan Spice Restaurant and Bar in Atlanta, GA, showcasing the country of Nepal.

The first hour or so of the event found the 60 or so participants either mingling or watching the World Cup at the cash bar. From there they moved into the dining room where they sat at two long, family style tables. The food was served from a buffet that sat just outside of the dining room.

go eat give nepal

Appetizer included aloo jeera (potatoes with cumin seed), chicken choila (grilled chicken marinated with Nepalese spices and garnished with onions, ginger, garlic, and cilantro), and plain bara, which is a bread-like patty made with ground black lentil beans. The main dishes consisted of chicken korma (curry made with yogurt, cream, and coconut milk), dal tadka (a curry like dish made with red lentils and tempered with aromatic spices), and chau chau (Nepalese style stir fried noodles). Accompaniments included Basmati rice, Indian-style naan, and mo mos (steamed dumplings stuffed with with either vegetables or chicken). For dessert, a traditional Indian gulab jamun (fried, round doughnuts soaked in sugar syrup) was served.

nepali food chau chau

In addition to a delicious array of Nepalese food, the event also included several speakers and two dance performances. Two of the speakers, Sanjeeb Sapkota and Shailendra Bajracharya, were from the Nepalese Association in Southeast America, or NASeA. NASeA is an organization that aims to promote Nepalese culture and values in the Southeast, both for those who are from Nepal and others. The speakers informed guests about the warm, happy disposition of Nepali people despite the immense poverty that plagues the country. They also spoke of the fact that 8 of the top 10 highest peaks in the world are located in Nepal, as well as it being birthplace of Lord Buddha. While there are many fascinating facts about Nepal, the stories of its people interested me the most.

sugam pokhrel speaks at Go Eat Give Destination Nepal

Keynote speaker Sugam Pokharel, Nepali native and producer at CNN International and soon to be CNN’s New Delhi Bureau Producer discussed the issue of kidney trafficking in Nepal. He stated that due to their poverty and lack of education, many Nepalese are duped into giving away their kidneys either by bribery or by being lied to. They have no bargaining power, and often times do not know that they are having an operation to remove their kidney until after the fact. He showed a trailer for a documentary he produced on the subject, which will be released by CNN International on June 27. Pokharel also spoke about CNN’s Freedom Project, a campaign to end modern day slavery.

Rashmi Kharel one legged dancer

Entertainment for the evening included two performances of traditional Nepalese folk dancing. First was Rashmi Kharel, an inspiring woman visiting from Nepal. Kahrel lost one of her legs at the age of 9 after she was hit by a bus while she was playing outside her house. After years of being told she would amount to nothing due to her disability, she was able to realize her dream of becoming a dancer and today travels all over the world to perform. Wearing a traditional Nepalese outfit, she awed the crowd with her performance. I was struck by how easily she gyrated her hips to traditional folk music. Even if she had both of her legs, I don’t think I would have been able to tell the difference. She really is an inspiring example of what it means to persevere and follow your dreams.

nepali dancers Atlanta

Second performance was by a group of three Nepali teenage girls. Also adorned in traditional Nepalese outfits, they moved their hands and feet to a slightly slower traditional Nepalese folk dance. Although their dance was not flawless, their nervous smiles and the sidelong glances they exchanged throughout made the entire performance extremely adorable to watch.

Overall, the event was a great exposure to Nepali culture. The food was delicious and made me want to come back and try everything on the menu. The speakers and the performances gave me insight into the people and current issues they face. If I had to pick one thing I touched me most, it would be that despite suffering from immense poverty and exploitation, the people of Nepal are a kind, joyous group that I think anyone would love to experience firsthand. While I may not be able to visit Nepal in the near future, Go Eat Give’s Destination Nepal event successfully transported me into the small country nestled in the Himalayas, even if for an evening.

To see more pictures from the event, visit Go Eat Give’s Facebook page.

~ By Allie Williams, intern at Go Eat Give.

Asian Heritage Month at The Coca Cola Company

Celebrating Asian Heritage Month at The Coca Cola Company with our first major event – with Sucheta Rawal
founder of nonprofit organization Go Eat Give
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Recipes from today:

Gado Gado – Gado-Gado is famous green beans dish from the island of Bali, Indonesia.

Copyright Go Eat Give

Aloo Papri Chat – Potatoes and Dough Chips mixed with Tamarind and Yogurt sauce. Popular snack food in India and Nepal.

papdi-chaat

Nepali Chicken Chhoila – Grilled Meat Marinated with Nepalese Spices and Garnished with Onions, Ginger, Garlic, Cilantro. Popular Snack with Beer/Wine

chicken choiliya

Some of the food was sponsored by Himalayan Spice Restaurant

Observing religious rituals as tourists

I encourage you to travel, to learn about different cultures, their real customs and traditions. But I also want you to be polite, sensitive and respectful. While doing my research for an upcoming visit to Indonesia, I came across the Frommer’s “Favorite Experience in Indonesia” below. Continue reading “Observing religious rituals as tourists”

Turning the Wheels

Kids grow up quick in Nepal. They have to support their parents, raise younger siblings, and help out in the fields before and after school. When in school there’s often a lack of teachers and many of the children sit in the class unsupervised. Poverty and hardship breed creativity and resourcefulness, whether it’s a kite made from rubbish for play or packets of noodles as shoes, or using an old bicycle wheel for playing.

In November 2011, I visited Kathmandu, a few villages around it and Okhaldhunga which is a remote and rural area in the Eastern part of Nepal, staying with and observing the daily life of local people. I was taking pictures for an upcoming exhibition that will showcase life in Nepal and raise funds for the non profit, Volunteer Initiative Nepal (VIN).

Nepal is a poor country which is reflected in it’s infrastructure. Water and electricity are hard to get. Traveling the short distance of 230 km between two cities can take locals one and a half days by bus. My interest was looking at how people live day to day life in difficult conditions. How they work, eat, play and laugh together. My intention is not to paper over the cracks of the hardships of their lives but to show how they maintain self-respect and a level of normality in constantly challenging circumstances.

During my visit, communication wasn’t easy. The younger generation helped a lot thanks to some education in English, but where that failed, smiles and gestures and the natural openness of the people was the language of the day. At the end of the trip I was left reflecting on the contrast between, the modernized world with the imminent stress of the credit crisis, the over-consumerism and the self-centeredness; and on the other hand the reality of living with hardly any material goods but with a sense of love and belonging.

This project was done with the cooperation of VIN and Friends of VIN and I thank them for their support.

 ~ By guest blogger and professional photographer, Elisabete Maisao Dos Santos. Elizabete lives in Holland & recently visited Nepal to photograph for a fundraiser and exhibition benefiting VIN which will be held in Spring 2012

Honeymooning at the top of the world (part 1)

First I would like to kindly thank Sucheta for letting me write a guest entry on her blog! I recently met Sucheta in Nepal where I was re-visiting VIN (Volunteers Initiative Nepal) whom I worked for last year. This year I set up a partner foundation called Friends of VIN (visit our newly launched website Friends of VIN) and I was in Nepal to catch up with VIN’s founder Bhupendra Ghimire and to check out our new project location in a remote area and rural area of Nepal; Okhaldunga.

But let’s briefly rewind to 2008 – it was a leap year…and the reason I remember so clearly is that this was the year where, on February 29, I proposed to my then boyfriend. Only 2 weeks prior had I heard about this old tradition of women being “allowed” to propose on this day. It’s believed to originate from Ireland in the 5th century when St. Bridget complained to St. Patrick about women having to wait so long for a man to propose. Tradition has it that in case the woman’s proposal was rejected, she would receive 12 pairs of gloves – so I thought: what the heck – I have nothing to lose!

Two and a half years later – July 2010 – we got married on a boat in Amsterdam– and it was a fantastic day!

We discussed a couple of options for our honeymoon – We wanted something out of the ordinary – not the Maldives or any other luxury beach holiday. So we came up with the South Pole on an old Russian expedition ship or trekking in Nepal…and since my husband knows how much Nepal means to me and since our very first conversation included Nepal, he wanted to experience it with me. And there was an extra bonus for me – my lifelong dream of working in Nepal as a volunteer would also come true.

We were greeted at the airport by Raju Shrestha – co-owner of the travel agency Himalayan Rejoice with whom we had booked our trip. The first days involved sightseeing of many of the famous sights in Kathmandu; the Swayambhunath Temple (also called the Monkey Temple – guess why…), the Boudhanath Stupa, the Kumari’s (Nepal’s living Goddess) Palace, and Durbar Square.

We rose early to go to the airport as we were on the first flight to Lukla. The airport terminal for domestic flights was quite chaotic compared to European standards…a lot of shouting and waving of tickets in the air – there was no check-in line; it was sort of just a lot of trekking tourists with sleepy looks in their eyes huddled in pairs or groups while their trekking guides were trying to get all the luggage checked in.

Finally we were on the plane – but ended up waiting outside on the tarmac as we couldn’t take off due to the mist in the valley. This is quite a common phenomenon in Nepal – and it means that many flights are delayed or cancelled. So if you are planning on going trekking in the Everest region and want to fly in to Lukla, you should give yourself a couple of days at each end of the trek to allow for changes to your flight schedule. Or maybe you don’t want to fly into the world’s most dangerous airport, but will opt for a 7-10 hour bus ride to Jiri and then start walking…In the beginning of November this year, around 3,000 trekkers were stranded in Lukla because no planes could leave or arrive for the matter due to bad weather.

Seemingly randomly, our guide found a porter that he already knew – among hundreds of men. It’s amazing how that worked. Our porter works independently meaning not through a travel agency and doesn’t own a mobile phone, so I guess we were lucky that he wasn’t on another job…

Hundreds of porters waiting for a job at our arrival at Lukla airport.

And then…After a hearty breakfast of potatoes and chili we take the first steps of the first meters of many thousands. It is like we have landed somewhere in the 1700s; cows, chicken, yaks and dogs are running among the many children who are chasing the animals with wooden sticks or playing in the shade. Men are carrying heavy loads of everything ranging from firewood to dirt to bags of rice on their backs. Women are busy tending to their farms and household chores, washing the dishes at the public water pipe or taking a shower – also at the public water pipe. A stark contrast to our urban lives back home in Amsterdam.

The route takes us through beautiful greenery and sounds of people and animals. Every now and again we come face to face with a yak train – which of course has the right of way. You can always hear them coming by the sound of the bells dangling from their necks and it’s important to go towards the mountain so that you don’t get pushed off the cliff accidentally…the yaks are carrying goods to the villages higher up as well as trekkers’ backpacks.

We pass many shrines and stupas which you must always walk around clockwise. We also pass many Buddhist prayer wheels and you are encouraged to spin them as you pass. In this way, the prayers are spun out to the universe and will save you from chanting them. In the distance we see lush forest rising high up until they eventually meet the raw grey and brown mountains with their snow-capped peaks which will dot our horizon over the next couple of weeks.

Hills, mountains and rivers make up the landscape on our way to Everest Base Camp

As you would expect we meet our first ascent of many and for about an hour our legs (and lungs) are given a good work-out – far better than any gym can offer. And the views are just stunning, the fresh air sweet and soothing, so much better than the Kathmandu smog and dust.

More coming…

~ By guest blogger, Ann Wilson. Ann is founder and CEO of Friends of VIN. She lives in Netherlands with her husband and travels to Nepal every chance she gets. To support Friends of VIN, visit www.friendsofvin.nl

Same same but different

India and Nepal are two neighboring countries that have a lot of similarities and a few differences. Often times you would hear the phrase “same same but different” in reference to contrasting the two. My own personal experience aligns quite well with this.

Like India, women in Nepal wear salwaar kameez and saris, adorned with glass bangles and bindis. Married women wear red. Shawls and sweaters have similar fabric (wool and pashmina) and patterns. Married men wear an angular Nepali cap, which is different.

Majority Nepalis are Hindus so the culture and traditions are quite similar to those in India. Joint family system, arranged marriages, respect for elders are some common values.

Nepali is the main language in Nepal, but most people also speak English or Hindi. I found Nepali to have a lot of common words with several Indian languages (there are 13 officially in India) which made it relatively easy for me to understand. I could initiate a conversation in Hindi with almost everyone and they would understand.

The food is quite similar as well. A typical Nepali meal is daal (lentils), bhaat (steamed rice) and sabzi (curried vegetables). This is common in Indian households too. Northern India tends to add more meat and wheat (bread) dishes to their meals but the three staples are eaten across the country. There are mithai (sweet) shops in Nepal that are identical to those in India, selling snacks, street food and sweets. One needs to watch where they eat from for fear of diseases. Un-bottled water is strictly a no-no.

Bollywood is a major source of entertainment in both India and Nepal. Everyone seemed to be caught up with the latest movies and hit songs. My TV set in the hotel room had multiple Indian channels (perhaps more than Nepali) that broadcasted soaps, movies and music 24×7.

Haggling when shopping is also a common experience. Nepali shopkeepers will offer you a price for an item and will quickly come down to as much as 33% of the original price, if you are a good negotiator. Like India, there are different entry fees to monuments, museums, etc. for residents and foreigners, sometimes the difference is as much as 15 times.

The infrastructure is quite poor in Nepal, as it used to be in India before. There are mandatory power cuts for upto 18 hours a day to balance load shifting. Public places have dirty bathrooms and low hygiene conditions. Roads are bad and traffic congestion makes traveling small distances very time consuming. Like India, roads are meant for everyone from foot traffic, cows to motorcycles and buses. The pollution in Nepal is also worse than India. Overall, I felt like Nepal is now what India used to be 25 years ago.

Volunteering in Nepal

Volunteers Initiative Nepal or VIN is a Nepal based not-for-profit organization that was founded in 2005 by Bhupendra Ghimire (Bhupi). Bhupi grew up in a remote village in Nepal where he had to walk three hours a day to school. He was one of the few sBhupi, VIN staff & volunteerstudents from his village to complete graduation and later on went on to get his masters degree and become the youngest principal in a school in Kathmandu. After a successful career in education, Bhupi realized he wanted to improve the lives of the Nepali people, especially the poor, women and children. He joined forces with a diverse group of development workers, educationalists, social activists and other professionals to form VIN.

Teaching in secondary schoolVIN’s mission is to empower marginalized communities, with a focus on women and children, through enhanced educational programs and community training to promote equality, economic well-being and basic human rights. Currently, VIN serves the village of Jitpurphedi which is as a rural community 11km from the capital on the outskirts of the Kathmandu Valley. The community is home to a thousand households, with a total population of around 6,000 people. There are 9 schools, 9 early childhood development centers and very limited resources.

Early childhood education centerThe volunteer abroad opportunities at VIN are unique as they involve staying with a host family and getting a real experience of the Nepali culture. Each volunteer is placed with a family where they are given room, board and food. The families adopt the volunteer for the duration of the stay and are given a small stipend to cover the costs. The households are typically farmers with large families and are eager to interact with people from around the world who have come to enrich their lives. The life in village is not easy but offers pristine quiet scenery, friendly people and a strong bond with the community.

VIN offers a number of meaningful, affordable, fun and safe volunteering as well as internships opportunities in and around Kathmandu. Minimum commitment is one week, although most volunteers tend to stay for months and include hiking and sightseeing trips between their programs. A three day induction introduces the newcomers to Nepali language and culture. Volunteers also get to meet each other and the staff, forming long term friendships. Perhaps one of the most attractive features of VIN is that its programs are affordable and most of the money goes back into the community. A four week stay costs around EUR430.

Some of the volunteer projects include:

Help run microcredit cooperative
Train women in new income generation ideas
Organize literacy and life skills training
Work with 3-5yr olds as an ECD teacher’s assistant
Teach English in schools
Run teacher training to encourage use of creative teaching methods
Help out at an orphanage
Work as a qualified doctor or nurse at the Health Post
Organize health and hygiene awareness training for the community
Help with toilet construction and school renovation
Develop a waste management system
Work as a volunteer coordinator
Help with fundraising and grant writing
Work for environment and agroforestry
Teach English in a monastery or nunnery
Intern as a journalist at a Nepali magazine or other publication
Teach at a school for the deaf

To learn more visit www.volunteeringnepal.org

Food of Nepal

I wasn’t quite sure what to expect when it came to Nepali cuisine. All I could infer is that Nepal’s neighbors India, Tibet and China would have some role to play in it. That truly turned out to be the case.

Dal Bhat (Lentil, rice and vegetables)Food in Nepal can be categorized into three main categories – Nepali, Tibetan and Indian. Most menus will carry a few dishes from all three regions. The traditional Nepali meal is called Dal-bhat meaning lentil curry and rice. In some households, it is steamed white rice, in others it is served with the husk which calls for a special technique to eat it. The meal may be served with a vegetable dish such as saag (spinach), gobi (cauliflower), potatoes or pumpkins and a side of pickle. The dishes are cooked similarly to those in India. Meat is rare in Nepali households, but some have adopted chicken and buffalo into their diet. Cow (beef) is considered a sacred animal in Hindus and never killed for meat. You do find fish in the market but it’s not part of a mainstream Nepali diet. Bread and desserts are rarely served with the meal. In the villages, people eat two large meals a day – breakfast and dinner – both are typically the same.

Thukpa (spicy noodle soup)There are exclusive sweet shops that sell Indian style desserts such as jalebi, maal pura and mithai.  Poplar Indian snacks- samosa (pastry filled with potatoes) and pakoras (vegetable fritters) are also quite common. Cakes and pastries from India have seemed to have made their way here, including the famous bakery chain Hot Breads that has a few locations spread out through Kathmandu.

 

Mo-mo's (stuffed dumplings)

Mo-mo can be proclaimed as the national food of Nepal. There is hardly a restaurant that will not serve it, be it a fast food or fine dining. Fresh steamed, pan fried or deep fried mo-mo’s can be ordered stuffed with vegetables, chicken or buffalo. It is served with a spicy sauce. Thupka or noodle soup is also a popular dish which can be enjoyed on a cold winter evening. Chowmein (noodles sautéed with veggies) and other Chinese dishes can be found at Tibetan restaurants. Indian spices are commonly used to season all of the dishes served in Nepal and the food can be quite spicy to a foreign palate.

You will find Nepali’s drinking black tea with milk and sugar throughout the day. It is slightly different from Indian chai, lacking the ginger-cardamom spiciness and a lot milkier. In Kathmandu, international restaurants are quite popular due to the heavy influx of tourists from around the world. It is not uncommon to find mo-mo’s, pizza, butter chicken and Thai curry on the same menu. Price of food is quite cheap in Nepal. One can enjoy a good meal for $3 + drinks and dessert. Alcohol is heavily taxed and can double that check. I found cappuccinos to blow my budget too, priced at $3 a cup at most coffee shops.

Global youth making an impact in rural Nepal

Host family, volunteer & staff at one of the homes in JitpurI am totally in awe after meeting some volunteers here in Kathmandu. There are boys and girls in their 20’s who have come from Canada, USA, Switzerland, UK and Australia – all with common goals to give back to this world and experience life in a different culture.

They have abandoned their comfortable lifestyles and families, and are living with Nepali farmers’ acting as host families in the rural area of Jitpur. The village houses are spread around the hills so a hike through a dirt path usually leads you into the homes. Sometimes the climb can be quite steep. The volunteers are provided a bed (either single or shared rooms) and two meals a day of daal-bhat (the staple food of Nepal). The kitchen is an open fire pit fueled with stick of wood. The facilities are rather limited. There is one toilet shared by the household which is located outside the main house. Cold shower and self clean toilets are the norm. There is a mandatory power cut for up to 16 hours a day. Room heating is out of question. There is nothing to do after dark besides read, talk and contemplate. Pleasantly, none of the volunteers I met complained about the inconveniences. Instead, they all confirmed their host family was the best part of their experience in Nepal. They felt welcomed and invited. A few of them shed tears when leaving their home away from home.

The volunteers I met are here for 6 weeks-5 months. Some are students between semesters, earning credits for masters programs, others have quit their jobs and are fulfilling their desire to travel. After deeper conversations, I felt some of the youth were running away from personal life situations and looking to find themselves. A minimum commitment of 2 weeks is required in order to volunteer through Volunteer Initiative Nepal (VIN).

The work involved while living in the village differs based on interest. Some of the guys wanted to work in construction, building a public toilet facility for the villagers. Others are involved in teaching at schools and women’s center. The volunteers work for 2-8 hours a day depending on where they are placed and what activities need to be organized. They are expected to be on site 6 days a week and only get Saturdays off. Most of them visit Thamel (tourist area in Kathmandu located 30 minutes away) for hot showers, internet access, shopping for basics and getting a taste of coffee and international food.

Volunteers can take time off to go on excursions whenever they want. Almost everyone I met had been on some hike or the other, climbing Everest base camp or Annapurna trail. They went bungee jumping at The Last Resort, took a 7 hour bus ride to Chaitwan national forest and explored the peaceful lakes of Pokhra. It seemed easy to make friends with like minded individuals sharing close quarters and end up travelling together.

I believe it takes a different kind of individual to get out of his/her comfort zone, travel half way around the world, volunteer in a totally different community, stay in less than optimal living conditions, learn a new language and cover the expenses-that too for months at a time! It takes a lot of courage to climb the world’s highest mountains and jump off the highest cliff. I’m sure these people would have a life altering experience and would never be the same after their volunteer trip in Nepal.