As if to emphasise the fact that things appear to change with incredible speed here, no sooner had I posted yesterday’s blog than we were visited by staff from VSO Nepal to provide us with a security update. The army has been put on standby in Kathmandu as the number of Maoist cadres reaching the city from around the country continues to increase. The threat of a general strike continues to loom large, along with possible curfews and bandas for the next three weeks or so, allied to a concern that an impasse may lead to increased confrontation and violence. VSO understandably has to assess the situation and although nothing is certain, we are presented with two options to consider on the basis of the currently available information.
What is clear is that the present language and cultural training cannot continue at least for next week. The planned stay in the village is cancelled on the basis that the logistics of returning us all to Budol would be incredibly problematic if this weekend’s activities culminated in a curfew of any description. Our tutors all live in Katmandu, and their priorities right now are clearly and understandably to their families. The training programme has therefore been suspended for the next week with us being asked to consider two options:
- A return to Kathmandu, and to the guest house that we stayed at when we first arrived in Nepal. The advantages of this are clearly greater access to an infrastructure and medical services, and possibly an increased sense of security if VSO does indeed need to recall its volunteers to Kathmandu from around the country. (Not something that is deemed necessary at the moment). The downside is a possible curfew in Kathmandu with potential food shortages if all roads to the city are blocked. (A shortage that would clearly be exacerbated if even a small proportion of those engaged in the demonstrations remain in the city). It is also difficult to predict the likely extent of civil unrest within Kathmandu.
- Remain in Budol, and review the situation after events of the weekend. Clearly this places us at some distance from Kathmandu should there be a need to bring everyone back, and would be somewhat problematic if all roads are blocked and movement in and out of Kathmandu is curtailed. The advantages are less immediate restrictions on food supply as this is an agricultural area, with the harvest in full swing; potentially less restrictions on movement; and in truth less likelihood of being in the eye of any impending storm…
It goes without saying that if VSO deem it necessary they will instruct us where to go, and what action we must take. In the meantime they are happy for us to take either decision, based upon our own evaluation of the information available. And so this morning we said farewell to those wishing to return to Kathmandu, whilst six of us remain here in Budol.
And my rationale? Budol is in the area that I will ultimately be working, and so to a great extent I need to understand the impact of these actions on what will ultimately be ‘my‘ community for the next two years. In truth too, if there is any restriction on movement, I’d far rather be in the countryside than confined within the four walls of a guest house!! And in any event, there may be further developments on the horizon!!
….to be continued……