Research and adventures in Nepal (part 2)

This is part 2 of a blog post telling about my participation in the course Sustainable Global Technologies (SGT) Studio at Aalto University. To read the first part, scroll down.

The time in Dhungetar was valuable for all of us. It felt like we spent several weeks there and we became familiar with some of the locals. In the evenings after all the official tasks were done, we had long conversations on cultural differences and life with our fellow students from AITM and during the days we all tried to find some own time to reflect on the experiences we were having.

On Saturday we left Dhungetar and we spent a day travelling through Nuwakot, visiting the famous Nuwakot palace of the king Prithvi Narayan Shah who united Nepal some 250 years ago. We also visited a chaotic marketplace and festival in a town close by and had lunch on the way. In the evening we arrived to Kathmandu and on Sunday we had a day of rest and touristing around in Thamel where our apartment was situated.

On Tuesday the following week we officially closed our collaboration with AITM and held a presentation at the university for the professors and head of department and school. All of us students had one topic we had chosen to discuss and through a nice slideshow with photos from Dhungetar we presented our learnings so far. We expressed our gratitude to the university of giving us the opportunity to collaborate with their students and I genuinely hope that this collaboration can continue as we found it very fruitful and significant not only for us, but also for the students of AITM that got a wider perspective on the challenges in their country.

The second week we focused on meeting external experts from different organisations and associations to get some insights into other projects and locations in Kathmandu valley. We had a week fully scheduled and our team of five with mentor divided into two so that we had time to meet with all the contacts we had made before the trip. It was incredible to see how open and helpful all the experts were that we met, and how they appreciated our interest in the topic of reconstruction in Nepal.

We had the pleasure to meet experts from well-known organisations such as Plan International, UN Women and the Nepalese Red Cross Society (NRCS) as well as influential local operators like the Centre for Resilient Development (CoRD) and the Association of Community Radio Broadcasters Nepal (ACORAB). NRCS also took us to one of their sites in Bungamati where we had the opportunity to interview some locals and get to know more about NRCS’s communication methods.

In addition, we had a meeting with an urban planner who had worked together with UN-Habitat in urban development in Kathmandu valley. She was able to put us in contact with a local businessman who through his foundation had taken initiative to build up his own community in Kathmandu. We also met a local architect who showed us around in Bungamati and talked about the importance of buildings that are not only earthquake-resistant but are built according to the traditional techniques to create opportunities for tourism and restore the cultural heritage of the Newari communities.

All our meetings and visits to case sites were highly valuable and everyday we learned something new. Now we have collected a massive amount of data that needs to be processed in the following month to get an overall understanding of the situation especially in Dhungetar and Bungamati that are the two case sites we were able to visit.

As a last evening all together on Friday 16th March we organised a dinner with the AITM students to celebrate our learnings and shared adventures. We had spent two intense weeks together first as a group of nine and then as a group of six (with our mentor) and I felt sad to have to say goodbye to our new friends from AITM but also happy that all the work was over for now. Like we said, this is not a goodbye but a see you soon.

The following week I spent in Pokhara with two others from our team pushing my fear limits by hiking up to 3600 meters. It was another great adventure and a good way to explore the beauty of Nepal in many ways. After a total of three weeks travelling on non-existing roads, listening to loud Nepalese popular music, having conversations on life, death and beliefs, eating the most delicious things, inhaling dust and stepping out of my comfort zone a thousand times it felt good to board the plane to Finland. Now we have 6 weeks to go for this project and I am keen on starting to go through all our learnings and present it in the end of May.

For more information on our project, visit
www.nepali.fi

By Martina

All photographs © Martina Dahm and Laura Puikkonen