Kathmandu and CAM: the first week

I’m sitting here, on a computer in the dark, listening to the sounds of the city, feeling more grateful to a standard wall fan than I have felt towards any object in my entire life. Why? You might ask. Is it unbearably hot there? Does the heat melt the soles of your shoes, or leave you lying in a pool of your own sweat? No, it does not. It is hot, but in the muggy summer sort of way that is unending but not unbearable. The reason this fan brings me so much joy as it blows the dusty air towards me is not so much what it does but what it means. The fan only works when there’s power and there is not always power, in fact there is not often power. The power pulses in and out of different parts of the city, not enough for all, so everyone gets some, in their turn. Of all the conveniences of my privileged life the two that I least considered were the constant flow of water and electricity at my fingertips.

This past week, I marveled at ancient temples still in modern use, climbed hillsides that I would never have considered hills, and ate foods that are still a mystery to me today. I did this, and more in preparation for my coming work at CAM, so that I might begin to understand this place with its many facets and take that knowledge with me into my work here and beyond. How can you plan a water colour class when you don’t have running water? How do you keep a classroom of kids motivated when there are no fans running in your rooftop workspace? You plan ahead. You open the windows and make sure they drink plenty of water from the water-cooler. And what about that school? The one with the big red sign that says not safe for entry due to earthquake damage? Well, you do art in the tents, and the yard, and classrooms that seem to be farthest from the damage.

There are plenty of obstacles here in Kathmandu, from minor inconveniences of dust and traffic to major of time, money, and politics, but they are solved one at a time through creativity and effort. The solutions aren’t always quick and they certainly aren’t complete, but they work. In my short time here I haven’t seen it all, but what I have seen has impressed upon me the importance of fostering creativity through organisations like CAM, because here in Nepal and around the world creativity is forging a path to a better shared future. I don’t know right now what will happen in these next two months, but I do know what larger impact this work might have, and I’m excited to be a part of it.

Emiline Jacobs ’18
Kathmandu, Nepal