Monday, August 29, 2011

Kathmandu Crossroads: Visitors We Have Known

I like the expatriate community in Kathmandu. I often describe it as having the perfect size, comparing it to a well-sized college: it is just small enough to allow for a quick grasp on the dynamics and the discovery of a niche. I feel as though I am frequently bumping into people I know or discovering new interconnections between friends I previously thought had no relation other than through me (surprise, I am not the center of the universe). Yet, it is large enough (and has such high turnover) that I am always meeting new people, and it seems impossible that I could ever reach the point where I literally know everyone. To this ideal size, add some smart, caring, crazy, inspirational, and creative people and you have the Kathmandu expatriate community. Like a college, it has its cliques and dysfunctions, but generally I am happy with it.

That's not to say that I don't appreciate it when outsiders come through town (hint to potential visitors).

Yes, Kathmandu is on the other side of the world from our previous home base, but so far it has proven to be quite an international crossroads. Here is a snapshot of some of our visitors to Kathmandu, friends new and old.

-- Early in our Kathmandu tenure, a friend of a friend contacted us to meet and discuss Claudine's work with Kiva. Bob Harris is a "super lender" for Kiva, and his lending team, Friends of Bob Harris, has loaned to date almost $1 million to entrepreneurs worldwide. He recently traveled around the globe meeting with borrowers he personally funded, converting a name and photo on a computer screen into a personal connection. Bob is so much more than a Kiva lender, though. A former stand-up comedian, luxury hotel reviewer, and Jeopardy champion (the friend who connected us is a former College Jeopardy Tournament champ herself -- hi, Pam!), Bob is like a Renaissance man with a teddy bear personality and heart of gold. We cannot wait to read his upcoming book about his Kiva travels, The 1st International Bank of Bob.

-- Bob connected us to a member of his lending team who traveled to Nepal this summer in order to deliver donated laptops to students at the Blinknow Foundation's rural Kopila Valley children's home and school. We have heard so many great things about this school and its founder, Maggie Doyne, since they were featured in Nick Kristof's New York Times article about Do-It-Yourself foreign aid. We met with this lender and his teenage son as they passed through Kathmandu and marveled at their experience in Nepal that went so far beyond the typical tourist's.

-- Readers visiting Kathmandu have reached out to us and we are glad they did. After sharing some life perspective and words of wisdom, one such reader and his son led us to a woman from the States who founded a charity to help a community in rural Nepal. After trekking and connecting to this country and its people, this woman -- "just a stay-at-home-mom," in her words -- saw a chance to do good and seized it by starting and running her own organization.

-- One of Claudine's high school classmates recently blew through town on a 36-hour weekend trip from his summer internship in Dubai. We helped him get a flavor of South Asia before returning to business school in Barcelona. Jet set, indeed.

-- A recent meal brought us in touch with a fellow former firm lawyer. After quitting her job in Los Angeles, she subleased her apartment and headed to Asia. Before arriving here to work with an anti-human trafficking organization, she taught yoga in Cambodia. What's next? Anyone's guess, but we are certain that getting there will involve some adventure along the way. (And thanks to her former coworker who introduced her to our blog!)

-- The brother of a close college friend was recently in Kathmandu as part of his work with the US Army. While in Nepal, he and his colleagues worked to increase the capacity of Nepali military officials, especially those responsible for disaster management. No small contribution to an earthquake-prone country.

-- We have met a number of people as they visited Nepal as part of development work, either through Kiva or other large projects funded by international governmental organizations. Meeting them and hearing about their work has been an education in development work around the world and the projects here in Nepal, large and small.

-- Could you be next?

When I moved to Nepal, I did not expect to be entertaining so many visitors, but as you can see it has been a joy to be exposed to such an interesting and inspiring mix of people. Each time we encounter a new visitor to Nepal we are reminded that we live in a small, beautiful world.

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