Traveling to Nepal? Uncle Sam says think again.

More depressing news….


Empty Street in Thamel
From the US Government:
Message for U.S. Citizens: Travel and Fuel
October 8, 2015
We recommend that travelers evaluate any upcoming travel plans in Nepal.  Due to the nationwide fuel shortage, due to blockages at the border with India, many of the safety measures that would normally be relied on in an emergency situation may become unavailable.  These measures include air medevacs and local hospitals.  As of today these services are still operational, but service providers are facing dwindling supplies.  If you are planning multi-day travel the situation could change drastically during your trip.  Please consider that if you are trekking in a remote area and become injured, there will be limited options for you to be rescued until the fuel situation returns to normal.  Tourist facilities continue to operate in the Kathmandu valley, but levels of service may be lower than normal.  It is estimated that the fuel situation will not return to normal until 2-3 weeks after the border supply lines are fully restored.

When the Grinch Stole Dashain

Dashain, a time of sacrifice and festival in Nepal is a huge holiday. It is a time families from throughout Nepal and abroad come together. In Kathmandu, more than half of the population goes “home” to the family village. It is even more important this year, after the double earthquakes of the spring. But this could be a sad Dashain.

The new generous gift of this year’s Dashain, 250ml of petrol

There is a continuing blockade on fuel and other goods into the country. But the Nepalis continue to be a generous people in a time of hardship.

Young Nepalis are tired of their energy dependency on India and want solutions. Social media sites for ride sharing have popped up. There is a shortage of bicycles in the shops, so maybe a new mindset will prevail after this crisis.

The fuel shortage has and will continue to restrict movement.

Few vehicles = crowded rides

I hope they are watching for low hanging wires!

An Electric Bus, over flowing with people.
One of many lines of empty vehicles waiting for diesel fuel.

The vehicles that should be taking people to their homes for Dashain, sit idle.

After the second world war, my father started a taxi company in Ontario, Canada. It failed. When I see these vehicles on the side of road, I think of men and woman, like my father, who took a chance and invested in either a truck, a van, a taxi, or bus. A down payment, and a loan to provide a better life for their families. But first mother nature and now a nation, is strangling that dream. For them it must seem like some twisted version of “It’s a Wonderful Life” and the “Grinch.” However, few in the world seem to care.

I don’t see a happy ending, but wish for one.

ChromeWorld – Day 1

This is the second episode of a series:

This isn’t easy.

I’m not sure I can do this for a week, let alone a whole month. I want to learn how to do it, but stay productive at the same time… I have a job to do and slack time is not included.

Challenge 1: Make my Mac a ChromeBook.

I opened the Chrome browser on my Mac and maximized the screen. I did this for my three profiles I have in Chrome (one personal and two work related). The latest version of MacOS, El Capitan, has a nice swipe-up feature that allows me to easily switch personalities in full screen.

It is not exactly a ChromeBook, but if I stay in this environment, I can simulate Chrome Desktop.

Challenge 2: Quick – Take a screenshot and mark it up with directions.

I do this all the time to show staff how-to work on a computer, sometimes that includes ScreenCasting, but not today. All I had to do was take a screenshot, add 5 labels and arrows to the picture with directions.

On the Mac, I use the screen capture key combination of “command-shift-4” to draw a box around the the part of screen I want saved as a picture. Because I customized this using a trick from OS X Daily (see here), all of my screen captures are saved in a single folder.

ChromeBooks have a similar option. but I found it a real effort to draw on the picture.

I use Preview on the Mac to add text and arrows to the picture for directions, and then email picture to the staff. I thought I could just upload the photo to Google Drawing, but it wasn’t opening the .png file in Drawing. I could add the file to Google Drive, but the suggest apps for opening it, did not include Drawing. Fortunately I had just added the free app SketchPad 3.5 to my Chrome desktop yesterday. It is very easy to use and included some nice drawing tools. Sorry Preview, but I may have found a new way of doing things when this experiment is over.

Challenge 3: Organize Photos for a presentation

Google Photos. Hands down one of the easiest tools I have used. Unlimited storages space for your photos if they are under 16mb in size. For this experiment I had copied hundreds of earthquake related photos out of my usual repository.

Today I uploaded and organized the photos using this program.

The app also has a nice editor. The editor is not a replacement for Adobe Photoshop, but has the tools I use 90% of the time, and all I need for making my presentation.

Everything else I did today was directly related to using the same Chrome apps I used the day before. Many of the tools we all use are in the browser now, so maybe this will not be such a big challenge after all.

ChromeWorld… An Experiment

My Reflection in Chrome

Questions:

  • Is it possible to use only Google Chrome on my MacBook Air at school for a month? 
  • Will I be able to survive the month using only Chrome Apps and nothing else? 
  • Will I find the equivalent apps on Chrome that I use daily on my Mac?
  • Will I find happiness in my Chrome reflections?

I think it is possible for this MacCentric individual to adapt to a Chrome world, but I want to find the stumbling blocks along the way. I am responsible for our school’s BYOD program. It is important for me to discover if parents can save hundreds of dollars each year. For example, the cost difference between a MacBook Air and a good Chromebook can be about $600. I’ll set the life-span for a laptop to 3 years, so that would be a savings of $200/yr, or a total savings of $20k for our community with around 100 students in the secondary.

There will be challenges. I use MS Office a lot and I really like using Excel. I do a lot of web development and use Text Wrangler to clean up my scripts. In two weeks, I am part of a three person team giving a presentation in Abu Dhabi. I promised to create at least two video segments and a couple of slide shows. Will this work without iMovie? I use Adobe Photoshop and Illustrator at least once a day at work. How will I mark up screen captures without Preview?

More than ever, I would appreciate your comments, guidance, and feedback. I will try to keep a diary of my weekday exploits in a ChromeWorld.

Day 1 will be October 7.

No Diesel, No Petrol, No Relief – Dependencies Part III

No Diesel / No Petrol

We went downtown today. We passed a long line of taxis, abandoned in front of a petrol station.

Each day we check the papers for some sign of relief for the Nepalis, but headlines offer none.

No End in Sight – An Article in today’s Kathmandu Post

A few fuel trucks have crossed the border, but it is literally a drop in the bucket compared to the need. If it is bad in the Kathmandu Valley, it must be worse in the countryside. I can imagine that some of the hill towns are wondering about the supply of propane for cooking, or fuel for their tractors. I have also read stories about a shortage of fertilizer for crops.

All of this scarcity is happening at a time that is the equivalent to Thanksgiving and Christmas in the west. The weeks leading up to Dashain are usually busy with shopping and preparations (see our post here: http://willises.org/2013/11/01/a-rainy-visit-to-bhaktapur/). It will be a different, and more difficult, holiday for Nepal this year.

Dependencies Part II

I keep checking the local news outlets looking for the “Everything is Resolved” message, but all I see is more of the spiral of pain for this landlocked country. Even with this going on, Nepalis continue to be generous as the tale below explains.

••••••••••
••••••••••
Imagine you were in one of those lines you see above, or facing one of those lines when the tank nears empty. Yet here is a tale from our most recent visitor, Ben. 
Ben walked down to Thamel. On the walk back in the dark, he lost his way and asked a shopkeeper for help. The shopkeeper said sure, I’ll take you. Soon Ben found himself on the back of a motorcycle and delivered safe and sound at our gate. Think about that, the next time someone needs help. What is your excuse, when a total stranger can help a lost American without a second thought using his very precious fuel in the process.
Meanwhile it is time to fix up the bikes….