From fighting to farming: The rise of the Kivu coffee

By Dede Monfiston

Sifa and her children. Kivu coffee has given her renewed hope that the children can go to school and have a better life.

When I landed in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), the first question that came to my mind was, “How can a country be so rich in natural resources but its people so poor?” Many of those who dared visit or work in the country would likely ask that, too. DRC’s natural beauty is amazing but the endless armed conflict that has gripped the country has taken a toll to its people and resources.

My first trip to DRC was in 2012 when I managed a new development program in northwestern Congo which is close to the Central African Republic (CAR). I felt overwhelmed by both the challenges and the potentials. Are the people even aware of the vast opportunities around them? How can an outsider like me help? Is background and experience in non-profit organizations enough? The answers to questions in my head were not that promising.

When my assignment ended after nearly two years, I went home. My next posting sent me to Iraq but Congo kept haunting me. After a year in Iraq, I decided to find a way back to Congo. I got lucky – another organization hired me and my work focused on agriculture and roads infrastructure in eastern Congo.

During the first three months, my interest in building something that would help the Congolese people for long term deepened. Agribusiness always kept me interested but I did not know how, where and with whom to start. Then one day, a guy came to my office exploring support for former combatants. I found it truly interesting and promising. I started talking about the project with the decision makers in my organization exploring ways to help. It never went anywhere, unfortunately. It was quite a suspense on my part as my contract was also nearing its end.

Fresh hopes. A woman works at the coffee plantation with her child. The project enabled families to look at the future with bright promise for their children.

While at home early in the morning, our security guard handled me a business card from the cooperative guy asking to meet me. Curious, I decided to pay him a visit. He expressed his alarm that I will soon leave. He said, “Dèdè we don’t want you to leave. We need you and we want to offer you an opportunity mutually beneficial for you and for us.” The guy turned out to be Gilbert Makelele, the president of the coffee growers cooperative. It answered my question how to start.

After my contract, I went back home to spend some quality time with my family as I figured out potential business concepts. With my family’s blessings and support, I came back to DRC to support the coffee cooperative.

This time I have a lengthy chance to visit the coffee fields, talk to the cooperative members and learn the basics of the green beans business operations. I got introduced as a partner and business development strategist. It was both exciting and daunting. I have to do my job so I won’t let this people down. I need to get them connected to buyers around the world and enjoy the fruits of their hard work.

The cooperative is composed of more than 5,000 members under Gilbert Makele’s lead as president. More than a third of the members are women, with many of them coming from the Congolese Army and other armed rebel groups who have decided that they have enough of the fighting and want to focus on raising their children well.

Starting anew. Coffee-growing has allowed women combatants to shift to a new journey with their families.

The Groupement d’Intérêt Economique Coopérative des Planteurs et Négociant du Café du Kivu (GIE CPNCK) was created in 2012 by a group of young entrepreneurs with strong social responsibility and eager to help sow peace in the beautiful region of Kivu. Operating in the greater region which includes the Masisi, the south and the north Kivu, the cooperative today has more than 5,000 members composed of farmers, women, widows and former combatants.

One of them was Kitumani, 35, who lived in Idiwi Island. She spent five years in the army and describes the experience as horrible. Her expression said it all. An orphan at 12, Kitumani said she had a very difficult life. She got married at 23 and have five children. Now she is a coffee farmer and a breeder. She told me, “I learned to endure and how to survive life’s tough challenges.”

Sifa’s husband died in the Lake Kivu bringing green beans coffee illegally to Rwanda. The trip through the river is always dangerous and most of the people use rickety boats. To be able to earn for her family, she decided to join the cooperative and work properly to avoid the risks that led to her husband’s death.

Apilline Katambara Pendeza is the president of the Widows Association of the Idjwi Island. Her husband was also among those who braved the risks in the Lake Kivu. Apilline has her own coffee plantation and decided to join the cooperative to market her coffee. She hopes that, “With coffee growing, we can aspire for a better life for our children”.

The community now works together towards achieving quality life for their families.

When his father died and nobody can send him to school, 30-year old Koko joined the Congolese Army. His once-normal life was turned upside down. When an opportunity to leave came, Koko seized it and now works as a driver in the cooperative. Married for 11 years now, Koko is the president of the Ex-Combatants Association.

With the mission of being the catalyst for an innovative change, the cooperative aims to see the coffee growers freely in a fair, prosperous and environmentally friendly rural world. It has set objectives to improve the quality and quantity of the coffee production of its members; search for a niche market for its specialty coffee and improve the living conditions of its member and their communities.

It has always striven to implement its vision of a more just future reflected in the culture of its deep values: transparency and accountability; quality work and autonomy of coffee growers; respect for human dignity and protection of the environment.

Gilbert Makelele is bringing coffee growers and workers together to put Kivu coffee in the world map.

Since 2013, the GIE CPNCK set up the program “Peace Around Coffee and Cocoa in the Kivu” to assist the ex-combatants and their leaders, commonly called “warlords,” and to contribute to the stabilization of the Masisi area through agricultural socio-economic activities, coffee and cocoa combined with vegetable and livestock.

It was decided to start these activities in the red zone. These ex-combatants, determined to change their way of life, struggle to survive from the meager products of their fields and small livestock while waiting for their first harvest of coffee this year. The big challenge is to harvest the cherries, process it and have the coffee green bean ready for export. Some basic equipment is needed. We then need to find a market for the green bean since the local market is very limited.

There are many existing coffee cooperatives in Congo and Gilbert and colleagues are hard at work of creating the confederation of the cooperatives. The cooperative was created on 2012 and restructured in 2014. It dreams for the Kivu coffee to one day be sought by millions of coffee drinkers around the world. You can help make it happen. It will encourage more combatants to lead a life of peace with their families, bring stability in their communities and their beautiful country.

Note: The Democratic Republic of the Congo, also known as DR Congo, DRC, DROC, Congo-Kinshasa or simply the Congo, is a country located in Central Africa. The DRC borders the Central African Republic and South Sudan to the north; Uganda, Rwanda, Burundi and Tanzania to the east; Zambia and Angola to the south; the Republic of the Congo to the west and the Atlantic Ocean to the southwest. It is the second-largest country in Africa by area and eleventh largest in the world. With a population of over 80 million, the Democratic Republic of the Congo is the most populated officially Francophone country, the fourth most-populated nation in Africa and the eighteenth most populated country in the world. – Wikipedia

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About the blogger: Dede is a happy family man who is a seasoned humanitarian experienced in development and emergency work. His quest to make a difference through projects such as health, water sanitation and hygiene, livelihoods and economic development took him to Africa, the Middle East and the Caribbean regions. Besides a degree in Animal Sciences and Agribusiness, he has a Master’s Degree in International Management from Thunderbird School of Global Management. He speaks fluent English, French and Spanish.
Contact email: dedemf@global.t-bird.edu

 

From the Middle East to New Zealand: Traveling mom explores new horizon

By Manel Balbin-Marzan

Manel’s adventurous spirit took her to different countries and new cultures. Not all are beds of roses but she rose up stronger and tougher.

Going out of my comfort zone, leaving behind familiar faces and places has been my life after graduating from college. My first adventure was to build my nursing career in a very conservative country in the Middle East– Saudi Arabia.

I packed away everything including my sheltered life to learn what it is out there in the big world. I conquered the new city with unusual bravery, adjusting with the culture and religion that is totally different from my own.

I dealt with homesickness every single day, my eyes welling in tears until I sleep. Without even a month of hospital experience from the Philippines, I faced the competitive world of nursing abroad. I did not know how to operate the modern hospital beds and machines; did not know how to handle non-English speaking patients and worst, how to handle people with seniority complex.

I was a newbie finding out that the world out there is not at all that lovely. Some people can be cruel. Living through the newness, I managed to get by. I learned the country’s language, worked hard to be a better staff nurse, discovered new friends and lived life as happily as possible.

However, I cannot put aside my sense of adventure. I dreamt of going out of that country, work and explore another. With that in mind, I left my job and moved to Qatar working with Hamad Medical Corporation. I met Borgy, the love of my life, married him twice in a civil and church wedding, got pregnant with my son Red.

She found Borgy in Qatar and they got married twice in civil and church weddings.

Marriage and motherhood is not a walk in the park especially when you need to balance it with work on shifts and studies. At 30, I realized that my life was different: it was faster, harder yet fuller. I was living my dreams of having a family and my dream career was on track.

With my spirit firm, I knew that there are still dreams to pursue, places to see and people to meet. I looked back at the dreams I have listed when I was 23 and realized that my dreams are still alive.

Just when I thought I have settled in Qatar for good, my family and I decided to jump into a void. I took the risk to leave it all. With tears, we left our careers, our comfortable life and our friends who are already family.

Just when she though she has settled well in Qatar, Manel packed up for another adventure.

Almost a year later, I found myself in New Zealand, braving another chapter of my life pursuing further studies at Toi Ohomai Institute of Technology taking Post Graduate in Management (Health).

My dream, in parallel with my husband is to move into a country where our child can grow up with quality education and healthcare. We wanted a simple, laidback life unstained by politics and discrimination.

I do not know yet what is in store. I do not know yet the human strategies to succeed through this new phase. I only know one thing—that I was a girl with big dreams, now a woman with great faith. I will never stop dreaming and believing.

My tips moving to a new workplace and environment:

Read a lot about the place. I always read about my country of destination. Adjustment is easier if you know what to expect. Travel guide books are worth the investment and I make sure I read the essentials about mode of transportation, fares and passes, rules of the road, emergency contact numbers, accommodations, communication, customs and duties, health insurance and safety.  I download maps and train/bus routes and timetable.

Be friendly. Expand your network. I believe in the saying that network is your “net worth.” I talk to anyone who gets in my 30 degrees angle. On my way to NZ, I talked to my seatmate on the plane and found out that he is going to the exact same town where I am going. He became my instant travel buddy for the entire 17 hours journey. He looked out for me and my luggage. I eventually met his wife who turns out to be my classmate and up to this day, they are my friends. You will never know if the people you talk to will be the friends who will become family.

Borgy, Manel and Red. Now she has her boys as travel buddies for life.

Stay positive. Along the way, you’ll meet people who has more experiences to share than you. Listen to them and pick out what best applies to you. At the same time, you will meet people whose life stories are depressing or sad. It will put you down or discourage you to continue your journey. Listen to them but never allow them to dishearten you. Always stay positive.

Pray. Going out of your comfort zone and your own country is not easy. Going to NZ a month before Borgy and Red, I immediately felt the loneliness especially when I am alone. Homesickness is real. But there is courage in crying.  Eventually, I realized I need to experience these moments because my little family needs a mother who is courageous. I will never know my strength and my character have I not experienced these things. And these are the times that you can experience how God works in your life and how His love never runs out.

I knew that there will still be a few more tears along the way. But with everything that I have now and with everything I was put through and managed to survive, I know that it is only by God’s grace. I am excited as I anticipate answers to all my prayers. My dreams and my heart are steady.

Traveling is meeting people, learning new things and skills. Traveling alone, Manel found refuge in people and prayers.

Manel is a Registered Nurse from the Philippines. She is a wife and a mommy. She is currently an international student in New Zealand taking up Post Graduate in Management (Health). Traveling, reading and learning a new language are her interests.

Traveling with a toddler makes an amazing family adventure; it doubles the fun!

By Diane Marie Laguardia-Paquingan

Don’t leave out your baby from the fun! Bring them on your trips; it’s a great family-bonding opportunity.

On our 14th year together, we decided to bring a toddler on our trip to Taiwan. Even before we got married, my husband Sherman and I used to explore destinations we have not been to. It always begins with – I do the research where to go – and he pays. We actually tries to split the bill so the budget will not be too heavy for the hubby. He has to take care of other needs at home.

Top on our every trip plan is where and what to eat. That makes up a huge chunk of excitement in our trips – tasting new food! That meant raiding the night markets for cheap food thrills. If we have extra budget, we look up for Michellin-starred restaurants.

I am super-blessed Sherman is also a wanderlust. He completes the plan, budget, transport and daily itinerary. These all changed when we have Madison or Maddie, our one-year old child, joined us. I was excited and worried. They said it is easier to travel with a baby than with a toddler who is starting to have a mind of her own.

Maddie is at her most curious stage. She loves to explore, run around with kids. She even hugs strangers. She wants to try every food we eat. For the first time, it is just the three of us! We do not have an extra hand.

Maddie is naturally curious of things and people around her. Fortunately, she also adjusts easily on any weather.

We divide the chores – I am in charge of Maddie, Sherman will take care of the rest, luggage and all. Taiwan is just coming out of the tourism picks in Asia andI found less information from the internet. Lessons from our previous trips came in handy. Despite the flutters in my tummy, many what ifs, I am confident when Sherman takes the lead.

Armed with three luggage full of Maddie’s clothes and baby essentials, an ultralight stroller and our ever-reliable baby carrier my mom Cecil bought in Germany when I was still pregnant with Maddie, our adventure began. I knew beforehand that our baby would travel the world!

Here are some mommy tips for you to consider:

It is ok to worry. However, do not let it dampen the fun. Do a checklist. Make a research on the do’s and don’ts. Ask your pediatrician. Observe if your baby is healthy for the trip. Think positive and relax!

Bring extra nappies. When we traveled to Hong Kong, we ran out of diapers and I found out they only sell it in bulk. They were twice the price in the Philippines and if we buy, it would take a lot of space in our luggage going home. We bought, anyway. That’s the price we have to pay for forgetting.

Never forget your baby’s sunblock and moisturizer. Maddie’s skin gets dry at times when we are on the road and the weather is warm. I make sure to hydrate and moisturize her skin at least twice daily.

Take some baby detergent and bottle cleanser. They are hard to find abroad, believe me! I once misread an antiseptic for a bottle cleanser because they were in Japanese. Estimate how much you will need and include in your list of must-haves. It will save you a lot of trouble.

Our ultra-light Aprica stroller is such a perfect buddy!

Use an ultralight stroller. Or else you will break your or your husband’s neck and shoulders. We love our Aprica stroller! It has become Maddie’s reliable partner. Babywear your baby too, especially when raiding a crowded night market. It is easy to shop when your hands are free.

Paracetamols and antihistamines for babies are necessary. Consult your pediatrician and bring the baby’s medicines. Mark them on top of the list. This keeps you prepared for any discomfort or emergency.

Pack some cookies or biscuits. Loads of it! Maddie loves to eat and is a happy-peaceful baby when she is nibbling her favorite cookies. It is also good to have those she is used to eating.

Let the baby’s schedule reign! There is no other way but follow Maddie’s time. You want to go early but she is still fast asleep. When you get home tired, she is still hyperactive and wants to play. We took it as a nice chance to bond. Eyes drooping, we played with her. You can let the baby explore as much as she can, too. Then, she will tired and just go to sleep when the day is over.

Bring comfortable shoes or sneakers. You should not also miss on your own multi-vitamins. Keeping up with the baby’s hyper-activity, running around and carrying her at times, can take a huge slice from your energy.

When the most awaited day came, we were up and ready!

Luckily, I never had a hard time with Maddie on plane rides and long distance travels with a bus or a train. She sleeps through them! If she is awake, she connects with other children and is naturally curious. Our baby is born a jetsetter!

How did we enjoy and explore Taiwan with a toddler in tow? This is up next in our next blog!

“Motherhood is such a wonderful journey. It is an adventure of a lifetime – exactly how I have envisioned it. Traveling makes it even more meaningful. At an early age, we are beginning to see how strong and flexible our child is on life and adventure. I wish every mom to experience this.”

Sherman, Diane and Maddie in Taiwan, their third trip abroad.

Note: If you have some questions, I am happy to answer them in the blog’s message box below. We also want to hear about your experience traveling with your babies – please share.

Diane is a nurse by profession and currently a full-time wife and mom. She is also an online entrepreneur managing Kanami Fashion Shop based in Davao City, Philippines. She will join istoryya.com weekly for tips on motherhood and traveling with Sherman and Maddie.

Stop counting years, let the adventures begin!

The Canopy Walk in Swaziland’s pristine forests was one of the most exciting glides I have done. Doing it with adventurous friends doubled the fun. What is your most daring experience ever?

This March, istoryya.com is excited to share the lives of over 36 women from all over the world. Telling us their life, love and lessons, these women will show us how beautiful life is, and how we can go for the adventures we want – that impossible does not exist.

Limits exist when we impose it on ourselves. You’ve read that so many times. But you must have decided it can happen only to others. Are you crazy? Why not?

My life is a fascinating journey of storytelling. Whether I did it in a silver-chromed chair in a sleek office in Singapore, in a colorful rug under a scorching warm Indian sun, in a freezing tent in a camp in Iraq or a decaying wood in a thatched-roofed African hut, the stories never failed to enchant me.

I was once upon a time, a skinny-weeny girl who wondered how her life could be the same with those who can have dolls that blink and lovely dresses with frills.

Apart from the fact that my life is no fairytale, all I wanted was to afford a truckload of books and write non-stop. These are my definition of luxury those days.

Fast forward, I can now buy books more that I can read them. Do not get too impressed, my favorite hangout was a nearby second hand bookshop.

Honestly, I did not even consider traveling would come with it –too expensive for me even in a dream. It came as a bonus! My succeeding jobs just swept me off to places responding to global emergencies. And yes, my job does a lot of writing, 90 percent of it.

The best part is, I get to listen to stories of people – all colors, all walks of life, all the drama and suspense. Wherever we come from and no matter how boring we think our lives are (we always assume that) – we have a unique life, a story to tell. It can never be the same with anyone.

Nevertheless, there is always that common ground that binds us together. Trust me.

My story as a woman who got married at 18 and have three children before my 30th can be as common as your next-door mom’s life. But mine did not stop there. I took it a bit further – and I did it!

I got to blogging (as most of the bloggers I guess) to inspire more women never to give up on their dreams even when balancing them with motherhood and bills. All because I have proven it is doable.

Ask the person seated next to you. She has a story to share, I bet. Imagine how rich our lives will be if we are able to stop, ask and listen? Have you even listened to your grandma, mother, your sister, your aunt?

I hope this new phase of istoryya.com will give you the courage to pursue the life of adventure you want. Tell us if you have done it. Tell us if you are at it.

One thing for sure, if you can think of it, you can do it. Stop counting years, start logging adventures!

This weekend, our first guest blogger is Alina Shresta from Kathmandu, Nepal.

Alina is a communications manager in an humanitarian organization and a happily married mom of two boys.

Growing up watching Bollywood films, Alina always dreamed of marrying the man she will fall in love with. What if fate intervenes in the form of her parents and saves her the trouble of finding her knight in shining armor?

For all their good intentions, Alina tried to duck and dive from an arranged marriage. Did her parents succeed? What will you do if you are Alina and tradition gets in the way of your plans?

Please join me in welcoming Alina in istoryya.com and her funny but insightful story “Marrying in Nepal: Fall in love or get arranged?” about settling down in Nepal and finding the man of your dreams in a way you least expected.

Then tell us if your courage and your zest to life are as bold as Alina’s!

 

Hold it! Istoryya.com is also coming with a fantastic bonus.

Ready for Taiwan!

Madison the explorer, your tiny adventurer, will soon join us in the Traveling Mom & Toddler page with her mom Diane sharing their travel exploits in Japan, Hong Kong and soon – in Taiwan.

Maddie, as we all fondly call her, will give us tips how to be one-year old and start traveling. Watch them and their fun trips!

 

 

 

Dhaka: Just keep walking

“If you’re doing something you love, it doesn’t matter that it’s challenging. You can keep going for a long time as long as you’re motivated – just make sure you make the right starting point.” – Chris Guillebeau, The Happiness of Pursuit

The people of Bangladesh are among the friendliest I have met. Just don't do a thumbs-up sign. It means good-for-nothing in this part of the world.

The people of Bangladesh are among the friendliest I have met. Just don’t do a thumbs-up sign. It means good-for-nothing in this part of the world.

Traveling to Dhaka felt like a break. Ten months after non-stop typhoon Haiyan (the world’s strongest storm, so far) work, energy is fast ebbing. I am not about to stop – but I know I need a slowdown.

My flight from Cebu City to Singapore got delayed for over an hour. But I was confident that since I am flying Silk Air and via Singapore Airlines to Dhaka, everything will be fine. The plus of same airline connection!

Off the thought of missing my flight! Then, I realized I forgot to change money (my Philippine Peso tucked comfortably in my purse!). My mind fast-forwarded to having time to change to US dollars on my way to the boarding gate. I did.

My luggage got priority-tagged so it got out ahead when I landed in Dhaka. But then, the hotel car was also picking up two Japanese passengers, one got his bags out last. The driver was profuse in his apologies as I smiled my waiting-time away.

Three past trips and one two years back, Dhaka has progressed considerably (at least judging by the no-jam ride to our hotel in Banani. The Japan prime minister was visiting. The streets were cleaner and the debris from road and skyway constructions gone.

Many things unfolded back in the Philippines while I was in Dhaka. From them I found my strength and resolve. I guess you get them as you mature and mellow in age. If they happened 20 years ago, I could have broken down or even panicked. Not quite but likely.

I just accepted them as things to go-by and move on. One reminder from a billboard: Keep walking.

  • Love life and its eccentricities with a positive attitude. Enjoy the challenge.
  • In the end, it is your call for a situation to make you or break you. Really up to you.
  • Dodge tricky tests like a rickshaw in Dhaka. Move and speed-up and never stop.
  • Smile your trials away. I assure you, smiling will take you a long way away from it.
  • If it happens, it happens. You probably cannot stop it. Accept and move on.

The week ended well despite the fireworks of changes and events while I was in Dhaka. Could I have stopped them? Maybe not. As I said – I will just keep walking.

The lovely friends we found in Bangladesh.

The lovely friends we found in Bangladesh.

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Nepal: The story I lived to tell

By Cecil Laguardia

“There are few countries in the world that are as well set up for independent travel as Nepal. Wandering the trekking shops, bakeries and pizzerias of Thamel and Pokhara, it’s easy to feel that you have somehow landed in a kind of backpacker Disneyland.”Lonely Planet Nepal

Tribhuvan International Airport. Chilly but welcoming!Kathmandu, Nepal – Just when I thought we’ve hurdled the 14-hour trip from Biratnagar to Kathmandu, another surprise awaited us.

A “band” blocked the highway. It is a local term for a protest rally to ensure that authorities will act on certain issue affecting an area. A long queue of trucks and cars were on an eerie standstill.

That same day we were 1-hour away from Kathmandu, locals demanded for action on a woman allegedly murdered in the city. It can usually last for 3-15 days and sometimes turns violent if dispersed. My sleepy eyes suddenly opened wide.

My trip to Nepal, my first and the last leg of a series in Asia Pacific for 2012, was certainly the most suspenseful (throw in unforgettable) of all. The contrasts and extremes were incomparable. When I landed with my work buddy Bonie at the Tribhuvan International Airport, I felt I can’t label it as just another trip. We got more and beyond!

We dilly-dallied with indecision. What we harrowingly got that day, in my opinion, was our own making. But I think in the end, it’s how you view an experience that matters – exciting or scary, an opportunity or a frustration. It tests how far you can go as you keep your wits and emerge laughing at the horror of it all.

The flight in Biratnagar airport that never made it.

All flights in Biratnagar Airport got canceled, including ours. We traveled from Katari by car for 4 hours and waited at the airport for another 4 hours.

We boarded the Buddha Airlines flight and waited for seemingly forever. An hour later we were told the flight was canceled because there was no alternate route in case Kathmandu airport is unavailable.

It was dark and with the thought that the airports were having serious visibility issues, I prayed the flight won’t take off unless guaranteed safe. By then it was 7pm and the fog worsened.

At least 8 hours of waiting time and back to original option of going by car. Our flight to Manila via Bangkok were on the following day. If we missed the flights, we will end up staying in Nepal for days – considering the fully booked airline schedules and the unstable weather.

I won’t mind staying for another week in Kathmandu – but it was Christmas! In the Philippines – and with all the holiday preparations set in our hometown in Koronadal City, it’s almost criminal not to go home.

Travel we did – despite some shudders. I salute the Nepal team (Surendra, Sunjuli, Sudeep and Tongko) for bearing with us. They could have stayed but made sure we get the best support ever. I’ve heard them talk about the car needing fog lights, dangerous roads and the freezing weather. My imagination underestimated what we would be faced with.

Hope rising as we neared Kathmandu.

The roads were blanketed by thick fog the driver was driving like a blind man. No visibility. Zero. Fog so thick the wiper, was not working. All we can see was the soft haze of blurred lights when there were incoming vehicles, huge trucks and from time to time – bravest souls on earth – motorcycle riders. What on earth are these riders trying to prove!

I don’t know how he did it – but our driver managed to drive using all his senses and got us through. Yes, we did! He was our hero that night. My mind raced even as I tried to sleep through the trip – if we got into an accident, we can’t certainly be found quite quickly – if a plane can’t fly then rescuers could take ages to get to us.

If we stop, we would be freezing in the middle of nowhere (the road is frequented by robbers, uh-huh) and we won’t make it to our 1:30pm flight. Some days you have very slim choices.

In between tea breaks (it was so cold to step out of the car but often you can sit or stand close to the fire as the tea was being heated) I marveled how precious life is and some decisions we make could adversely impact several lives. My disaster work experience was in maximum drive that night. We all have to be a team (we were!) – making frayed nerves feel lighter with small talks and laughter.

To cut to the chase, we made it to the airport after a 30-minute wash at the hotel. The long security processes before we got to board our Thai Airways flight seemed a breeze after what we went through.

With the Udaypur Katari team. We missed Sudeep here!

Maybe if I did not miss the Somalia trip when I was on an East Africa assignment, I would have a better comparison in terms of suspense. If you’ll ask me if I’d go back – I certainly will! Nepal is worth all the challenge.

 

“Besides Germany, the only country that don’t have speed limits are places like Nepal where road conditions are so bad that a limit would be beside the point. In other words, it’s a little crazy that it’s even a topic of a debate in Germany.” – Sigmar Gabriel