2012-01 Power cuts and the perfect place to study

It’s Friday night and I’m sitting once again in my hotel room.

The brothelFirst of all I have some good news. I went shopping yesterday and bought a 35 W bulb. This may not seem like much for those of you who used to burning your 60 Ws back in London but in here it makes a huge difference. My room is now clinically bright – and the pleasant news – is not as dirty as I’d feared it would be when suffering this illumination. I did buy a bottle of “Colin” cleaning solution (this seems to be the only one you can buy in Janakpur) a mysterious blue substance which professes to give a winning shine to any surface. I half suspect that the chronic dust from the streets here in Janakpur precludes any real use in committing to thorough cleaning. For the minute however I am satisfied that I have a certain degree of autonomy over this space for the next five weeks and as such will try keep it as the French say “propre”. Take home message: Starting to feel at home.

The Palace of Light
After installing a 35W bulb

Things are progressing nicely along at work. It’s been quite a busy week getting to grips with planning the project ahead but we have made real progress and seem to have established a plan of action for getting the study done. If, and this is a big if, things go to plan directly we could even have the project finished within two days. Experience, both my own, and that of Delans, Suzanne’s and pretty much anyone else have spoken to tells me however that things are less likely than more to go to plan – but even if we manage to get 50% of the project done through this scheme then we are well on our way to early completion.

The basic plan is to invite a large number of children who are present in the wider follow-up study to the centre to conduct the test on one of two coordinated days in which we will have most of the staff members from the office at our disposal. In addition my old supervisor Prof Jonathan Wells, one of the world experts in paediatric body composition (handy to have on the study no?!), is flying in to visit the site and to help us on these two days. With such a narrow window of time for him to be arriving it is just our luck that the days in which he is around our three national holidays one of which “God of students” day, means that none of our participants are likely to be outcome to the centre. Factoring in possible delays due to problems with taking off from Kathmandu (domestic flights are very frequently delayed or cancelled because of difficult takeoff and landing conditions), there exists even the possibility that he won’t make it down to the site having come all the way to Nepal. I sincerely hope this doesn’t happen as I’m very much looking forward to having him join us here and to experience this incredibly interesting part of the world.

Life here in Janakpur is remarkably regular. I am in for work at 10am, leave at 5/6pm, join Delan and Suzanne for dinner in the hotel (apparently the best restaurant in town) at precisely 7:30pm (although I am always late of course!) and then retire back to work from 9:30pm till 2am before getting some shut eye.

I once dreamt a few years back but being allowed to be left alone to study and work. It may seem strange but this is one of the closest environments to which I’ve been able to achieve this. In London my life is fettered by numerous tasks, administrative or otherwise which are a constant distraction and impediment to progression. A Spider network of social connections, I find myself as I flip between tasks being something of a social butterfly, and a manic family makes life awfully complicated at times. The upshot is that my desired output in photography, film, design, websites, research and of course my ability to study for my medical degree is reduced as compared to some potential imagined maximum. Don’t get me wrong, I still am able to get to grips with most things but often be juggling so many balls and being so snowed under that I can barely see for looking as to the way ahead. Somehow Janakpur for seems simpler. There is a defined job for me to do here – all of my worldly needs and comforts are addressed by living in a hotel – Things are cheap so I don’t have to worry about money – people are friendly and I am left in peace to get on with my work. The only mild discomfort is the frequent “load-shedding” (central electricity power cuts) as I type we’ve just flipped over into “load-shedding” so I have flipped on my recargeable LED side light. For a guy who travels with 2 multisocket adaptors – I have had to become something of an expert at managing the power consumption of my laptop juggling battery recharging versus the schedule of power cuts.

Film Training team
Filming training team: Delan, Chaube, Sonali and Sushil

If the current rate of progression continues I should come back to Kathmandu in five weeks time with lots of lines scored through on my to-do list which believe you me is many miles long. We will see as we go on this topic but suffice to say that this week I’ve been able to finish one film, click the study rolling and organise a complicated photography shoot (as well as training) and have tackled two websites to the content building stage (the structure, the wireframe is in place, we are on a testing server and we are ready to start throwing content onto the pages. This is actually one of the simpler things in website building it seems – design something I’ve taken up the last six months in earnest and has been studying really could extensively but have only now reached the stage where I feel confident in building robust websites. Adding to my work list in the coming weeks will be my own website which is currently a flash creation which is no use to anyone with an iPhone, and iPad or anyone on anything slower than superfast broadband (takes me about 10 min to load my homepage here from Nepal).

Lots to do, lots to do.

So – tomorrow is a video shoot. We’re shooting the “explanatory” film for the calibration project. I had the pleasure of training three of the MIRA staff members, Sonali, Sushil (also tomorrows star actor) and Chaube today in the rudiments of filmmaking and photography. We went over the principles of aperture and shutter speed, focusing and basic sound recording (Delan’s going to be my dedicated sound man tomorrow). It was great to see their interests and desire to get involved. I’m incredibly keen on the idea of providing training in developing skills the names of staff here at the centre so that they can increase their portfolio of skills and hopefully in future (with the right equipement) using this to promote the work that is done down here. I’ve also had several radical ideas about website development of local institutions here. Specifically I think the local hospital could use good website. I was wondering if they might use it to advertise their services and also to link with other institutions, both within Nepal and internationally, perhaps to gain donations to help investment in hospital medical technology and general service provision. If this idea materialises, and if I have time in my spare 5 min, I will write something on it (and hopefully show the finished product when it’s done!).

For now of a few more changes to make to Kanti Children’s Hospitals new website. And then planning to curl up with the intriguing Stephen D Levitt “Freakonomics“. More on easy reading with the iPad in future I’m sure but for now adios.

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