We’ve been enjoying sitting in our back garden and admiring some of the most beautiful scenery in the world. It all looks so peaceful – like there should be no worries, cares or problems. However, we are once again in the midst of a political struggle and we’re not sure how it will all end.
We first became aware of difficulties last Wednesday when all the staff were talking about a strike starting at 1 pm. Of course we wanted to know why, and found out it is due to the possible new state lines being drawn in a constitutional amendment proposed to change the originally approved state lines in the new constitution. Our district would be affected (most people believe in adverse ways) if the new states were implemented. So – people out here decided to call an indefinite strike.
For us, the first hurdle to overcome was the fact that Les had plane tickets to fly to KTM on Thursday afternoon for a meeting on Friday. Now, the planes do fly during strikes, but first you have to get to the airport! And it wasn’t going to be possible by car – which causes a bit of a problem when the airport is approximately 60 kilometers from where we live.
Never fear! Les hopped on his trusty bicycle (still in working condition even after various accidents in the past) and started down the hill towards Butwal. The best thing is that it is almost all downhill (literally) from here to Butwal. As Les was nearing the last hill into Butwal, his chain broke! So, he coasted in to town and slowly went along until he found a bicycle repair shop that was closed – but the owner was inside working. (During the strikes, stores are forced to close, but some people open doors or shutters part way and watch for possible customers.) He agreed to repair Les’s bike – and they only had to close the door once when a group of protesters came by. (He also turned off the radio, and turned down the lights until it was “all clear”.)
After getting a new chain, Les continued on down the road to the airport in Bhairawa. He was able to lock up his bike in the nearby shed of a friendly guard and had a couple hours to spare before getting his flight. He brought a change of clothes and his computer in the backpack, as well as water, snacks, pajamas, toothbrush, and money. (Good thing he didn’t have to carry a suit.)
Les enjoyed an evening meal with Hannah, and spent some time with her the next morning, as well. He attended his meeting – which was mostly to show the people there that Tansen Hospital is very serious about continuing to train anesthesia assistants. (One of the training programs we run here) After the meeting, Les had another nice meal and visit with Hannah. (Kathmandu wasn’t under the strike restrictions. No one there is quite so upset about the proposed state line amendment.)
Saturday morning, the strike in our area was continuing on. Les got to the airport in KTM about 7:30, and saw the notice that the airport in Bhairawa was closed due to bad weather. (Mist and fog) The flight was scheduled for 9 – at 10:30 it was delayed to 11:30, then to 1. They finally boarded the plane around 1:15, and sat on the runway for another hour! So, Les arrived in Bhairawa airport just before 3, where he collected his bicycle and began riding – this time UP the hill!
The first part of the ride was rather uneventful. No cars out, and most shops closed. Major intersections had people sitting across the road in chairs, making sure no motorcycles or cars were going through, but bicycles and rickshaws seemed to be exempt, and there were plenty of them out. (The other exemptions are milk trucks, ambulances, and wedding parties!) But coming into Butwal, there was a huge crowd of protesters blocking the road, facing off with riot police, so Les found a side street and went around to avoid the crowd and the stone throwing which was also happening.
Because it gets dark here soon after 5 pm, we had arranged for a taxi from here to go down to meet him partway. (During strikes, the roads are usually only closed between 6 am and 5 pm). Les and the taxi actually passed each other without noticing, but they did find each other and he was able to throw the bicycle on the top of the taxi and get up to Tansen before 8 pm.
This is now Tuesday afternoon, and the strike goes on. The shops all open at 5 pm and are absolutely jammed with people getting food and necessities. It is getting difficult for shop owners to replenish supplies as it all has to be done at night.
Tomorrow, Les and I have planned to go into KTM to be with Hannah as she has several performances coming up this next week. The current arrangement is to go on the hospital bus – leaving at 5 am, and going the long way around via Pokhara. Because our district of Palpa is the one on strike, and the district of Syangja (Pokhara) is not, we hope to get out of Palpa before 6 am when the strike begins again. Should be possible – but we have learned that nothing is a certain and sure thing here!
We are thankful that we can be sure of Jesus and His love for us. As we are celebrating advent here at church and with our missionary team, we are glad to again remember the amazing sacrifice God made in leaving Heaven to come here to earth as a baby. Merry Christmas!