Premiering my short film about Volunteer Society Nepal.
September 2019, I traveled to Kathmandu Nepal to undertake an internship in video making as part of my internship unit for my post graduate studies in communications.
I come from a background as a videographer and video editor, so the challenge of working in the 3rd world country telling stories of people who have overcome a lot in their lives greatly appealed to me.
This 12 minute film tells the story of Volunteer society Nepal from 3 perspectives. The founder of the organisation , 2 people the organisation helped, now they themselves work in the foundation and lastly some of the international’s volunteers who gave there time money and passion to give to Nepal whilst gaining invaluable life experience themselves.
Special thanks to
Virginia Melodia , Sonya Boyd , Floor Venhuis, beesal shrestha , Volunteer Society Nepal , Leonie van Noort , Tej Shresta, Ishwor Shrestha , Sonam Choki Sherpa , Rajendra Dulal , Shakti Lamaa for there help in getting this made.
Big shout out to Samuel Christofan Auditama for his amazing work on the animated section of the film.
Here in the first Video for the Volunteer society I interview Virginia Melodia a 19year old who bravely came to Nepal by herself to teach child monks. Here you will see and learn about her experiences. She also reflects on volunteering in general and offers up advice for those thinking of following her lead.
Everyday here is yet another intense episode in emotional ups and downs. So now for the story. When I came to Nepal it was of the upmost importance that I practiced meditation whilst here and go on my own journey.
So here I am I go up to a small Buddhist enclave for a drop in session no one was there. But to my amazement I met 4 lovely German’s who were after the same thing as me. They invited me along we found the place.
At first my brain was saying this is silly this is ridiculous . There was chanting breathing exercise whilst seated cross legged. I cant say that did it for me particular. When we went to a lie down position everything changed. I felt my heart rate slow my breathing deepen. But alas after about 30 minutes it bought a few painful things to the surface I wasn’t thinking or particularly wanting to face. At first I was deterred but not now. There is relaxation at 4pm so I will continue to give it a go.
Pokhara is just a stunning place. Its very tranquil and peaceful . I like it, I just enjoy roaming down the streets going into shops seeing all the lovely handmade crafts. I feel at peice here.
I can see why its so popular , it has clubs great places to eat and im at the foot of the hymalaya . Next up is Tuesday , if the torrential downpour stops I will be going in a baloon. A silly dream I know , I have wanted to go up for a long time but alas the weather isnt looking promising. We shall see…
Tonight I went to another festival at Durbar Square in Kathmandu.
The heaving mass of people smell and spirit was palpable . The colors the spirit . Every minute a new sensation. There was singing of hypnotic tunes whilst woman dressed in their fineries danced to the hypnotic beats and chants of the accumulated crowds.
It was such a big event even the president of the country was there, so with that so was his guards dressed in beautiful suits carry very large guns.
Afterwards I was taken for a bit of a walk through a local neighbourhood. I was able to witness some of the best stores carrying the best stuff in Nepal. To all out there. DO NOT buy anything in the tourist precinct of Thamel I have been told by countless persons the quality is awlful and your just going to end up scammed.
On the way back to Bhaktapur , I felt a little sadness. Life here is tough. I have not seen in my life a more adaptable people though on this earth. The way they make the best of a difficult situation is amazing. If the roads flooded they drive through it. If something breaks they patch it up. We in the west throw everything out. We have it wrong on so many levels. The more I travel the more I am convinced this is so. We cant fix anything, creativity is being lost we are becoming slaves to what big business and politicians feed us. Being here in Nepal has shed light on a people who havn’t been brainwashed think and do what ever is best in their minds for the family unit. For me that’s refreshing and inspiring.
Yesterday I found out another fact if you , you being a foreigner go and buy a coffee you with pay around 200 rupee for the locals its 50. I dont know how I feel about such systems. To me it feels a bit discrimintry .
The people I have met here have restored my faith in a humanity I believed no longer existed. Baring a few who have attempted to scam me. I feel I have made new friends, and created new oportunities (hopefully) The film I will edit when I get home I hope will educate and inspire as well as hopefully showing a side of people that we rarily see. Now I head on the road to Pokhara where you will hear from me next…
What a lot of people don’t know about me is I love color and design. So upon coming to Nepal I was struck by the beauty of the handicrafts and the intricate designs.
So being my mums birthday and all, the fact she thinks I have great taste . I went out to shop to give her a birthday she wouldn’t forget.
First I found pashminas in her favorite colours greens and blues, then I found some pieces that matched with deep rich translucent greens and blues. What you have to realise these pieces if you bargain hard are so cheap compared to the west and have such character.
But it didn’t stop there, I kept find more pieces that I fell in love with and more came.
Note the intricate silver work and the richness of the stones. Every time I go away I buy mum pieces from around the world. I have bought things in Venice, Prague , Taiwan and now Nepal. I really enjoy looking, bargaining and matching her tastes to what I am seeing.
All I can say is if I ever get married my wife will be well looked after in that department. So for myself as mentioned in the previous post I bought a medicine bowl.
I think its absolutly beautiful . To think one man slaved away making that for hundreds of hours is incredible the sound it makes is incredibly hypnotic. I intend to use it for meditation. Focussing on the sound really clears the mind and relaxes your body. They actually gave me a demonstration. I have to say I felt really chilled. Getting back to my point, I love pieces with a story. I prefer things that have character and are a bit beaten up.
I also picked up a Buddhist art work (not pictured) which is incredibly intricate and beautufull . Again it has a whole back story and took an artist 200hrs of work, using fine brush work. It has a lot of shapes that form a powerful symbol when you stand back from it.
Yesterday was a monumental day. I finished the shoot for my project. Initially I was meant to interview the head monk but alas things conspired against that happening, so I got to interview a child monk and photograph the absolutely wonderful child monks.
Whilst there I had the privilege to witness one of the volunteers Virginia. At one 19 with no actual professional teaching experience she had complete command of her class. She teaches with humour creativity and a real love for the children and the material she presents .
I really believe that the challenge of Nepal brings out the best in people when I saw her teaching I was very impressed. It was like I was seeing someone much older.
Then to finish the shoot we went to film in the Junior school project, where all the little ones start there educational journey in pepsi cola just near the airport. The spirit of the children really shines they are so photogenic and love being in front of the camera .
Yesterday I went to a buddhist medicine bowl shop here in Bhaktapur . It was quite an amazing experience. They basically wack this bowl around your body which sends out a reasonence that is meant to open everything up get blood flow moving and the like. Whilst I dont know if it was actually doing anything , the sensation and the sound was very relaxing. I bought one of the bowls which is stunning. Mostly made out of copper with beautiful inlays. The bowl is completely made by hand . Its a thing of beauty. Its other use is to put on a table and wack it with the supplied mallot then meditate to its deep rich harmonic sound.
So the shoot is over and I am now officially on holiday. After a really dreadful year, where my health failed me on multiple occasions , my confidence was shot. I feel this project has been a exercise in healing. How so you might ask? The challenge of this project and overcoming its multiple issues along the way has given me a huge confidence boost to take home to Australia. I don’t feel broken anymore. I now truly feel that is behind me . I can go home edit the film and take some real momentum into my life.
The first week here was very stressful I had a nasty stomach bug but I worked my way through it and just treated it as another challenge. Tomorrow, Saturday I am off to Pokhara the lake side city. I am being driven one way and flying the other. There I am going up in a hot ait balloon hopefully doing some meditation just chilling after a frantic last 2 weeks .
From what I hear the drive to Pohkara is unbelievable beautiful , if not a tad hairy. The road is very narrow . I am lucky I have a local to take me. I can stop take pictures and really customise it to my liking.. more to come
Now in my second week doing my volunteering/internship my body is struggling quite a bit with the taxing heat. I just cant eat very much or the dreaded travelers belly attacks occur. I think of this experience like a physically demanding marathon. I am powering through managing everything but will be glad to move onto Pokhara on the weekend.
The trip itself so far has been quite organic. It has now been shortened somewhat because of the issues I have had. But I have still gained a lot from it. Yesterday I went upto the monkey temple to film and photograph the volunteers on a sight seeing trip.
The monkey temple is a stunning Buddhist monument perched way above the city of Kathmandu. In the heat climbing the stairs was a bit of fun, note the sarcasm , but when you get up there the views were amazing.
Photographing the volunteers was also fun and very dramatic in such an amazing location here are some examples.
Yesterday the traffic as usual was manic it just took forever to get to the temple. On the way back we would stop for 10 minutes at a time not moving anywhere. Then this happened.
Yes she was waving at me evidently calling out if I had any chocolate . She was in her school uniform and extremely cheeky to boot.
The last few days here in Kathmandu will be interesting. I am interviewing a Monk and have permission to film at the Monastery . I am also talking to the director of the NGO and just have some bits of pieces to film before I go to Pokhara .
I am being driven to Pokhara which should be interesting then flying back to Kathmandu at the end of next week. Although Pokhara isn’t more than a few hundred km’s away its takes 6-8hrs because of needing to wind around the mountains. That’s why I decided to fly one way and drive the other.. more to come….
YES I made it, well I made it to the end of the first week of the internship.
Why is it that hard might you say? Well, I have a new appreciation for what an immigrant goes through landing in another country, not being able to speak the language know the systems or communicate.
It is tough being an outsider here or anywhere where you can’t speak the language. Sometimes it feels they are making joes about me behind my back. But hey it’s probably my neurosis. Anyway the good stuff.
The experience whilst hard is incredibly exciting challenging and ever-changing. If you ever want to do something like this leave your expectations at home and be ready for anything. not only am I shooting stories for VSN but I am training local staff. One day in a woman’s centre who teaches English to adults who have never had the chance.
To being invited for dinner by one of my interviewees who is a homestay host. Eating and enjoying the company of her and VSN’s volunteers.
Every day is so diverse I went out for a walk around Bhaktapur this morning and found myself in a precession of Hindus chanting an unbelievable eye-opening experience.
Next week I meet the director of VSN for whom I found out is the brother of the founder and the uncle of the current coordinator. I shot a piece today with the coordinator who spoke with such passion about the future of the Nepalese people and the role VSN can play. I will also be interviewing a fully robed monk in a monastery here in Kathmandu.
After a tough first few days I really feel like I am hitting my stride getting used to everything from the pace of life to the food and knowing the limitations of my equipment. My camera has overheated a few times. When it overheats I have to stop and cool it down. The heat drains the batteries which isn’t good. On Sunday I am being taken up on a cable car to a mountain top shrine right up the cliff face of the Kathmandu Valley. It should be quite something. Till next time by for now….
Before I arrived I promised myself to post every day which is hard because of the sheer overabundance of stimulation one has when working in such a country but here goes.
Upon arriving in this far away place, you are confronted by the face your in a 3rd world country. The smells the cracked roads the disheveled buildings. But what becomes apparent is this place has a deep soul like no other I have visited.
Sitting here at my desk in the ancient city of Bhaktapur.I peer out the window to the sounds of tooting bikes and laughing children. Off in the distance, there are temples a thousand years old and behind that the base of the Himalayas.
Before moving to Buktapur I was staying in the tourist center of Thamel. The streets are lined with sellers selling everything from sex to drugs to fine carpets and everything in between. The pace of life is rapid faster than anything I have seen in the western world. The streets are manic, with what seems like millions of bikes and cars spewing out smoke. There aren’t any road rules oh and did I mention there are cows asleep in the middle of the roads.
But for all this manic speed and oozing of the hoards of its human population. I am just taken aback by how the people have bent over backward to make my travels easier more enjoyable and safe. Their warmth just radiates through there smiles and personalities. Even in the bleakness of the forlorned grey cracking buildings the colors of the woman’s silks permeate and pop out from the sterility of the crumbling city.
The population care about one another and have a deep respect for foreigners, everybody seems interested in this tall white Australian, I feel welcomed and almost like I am part of a bigger family.
This unit has raised a lot of questions and has answered many as well. Before this unit, I had never interviewed anyone now I have. I learned a lot about listening and feeding of your interview subjects. I found that really it comes down to a few fundamentals. Good research, good listening and good people skills. The trick is to make a person who you have never met before feel like they have known you for ages and open up to you. I also realised you’re a facilitator of the stories being told not a participant, so listening interacting rather than telling is paramount.
There are two major other elements of my reading that stand out is the implementation of technology related to Mojo journalism and its ethical implications.
The technology has major benefits, anyone can be at the scene of a happening news story. There can be events in countries where freedoms are limited that can be covered and dispatched via online methods. It has opened up the world, secrets are much harder to keep secret. This is all down to the invention of the smartphone and then the citizen journalist, it isn’t all good though.
Because of the technological innovations, it is also now easier to submit news and with ease comes abuses of that new found power. I read about a situation at a football club where the PR person for the club said absolutely no interviews for the football player in question. After the press conference had finished, the said journalist walked with the said player and just started chatting. Little did the player know he was speaking on the record and being filmed at the same time by an inconspicuous phone. The technology has also enabled people to shoot incredibly violent macabre events and post them unfettered online. The question arose for me so how do we find the middle ground, where all the benefits of this movement in news can be encompassed yet areas such as taste, ethics and decency can be practised. It’s a hard question to answer as all news agencies now are so competitive. The pressures on journalists high and budgets are plummeting. The temptation is to throw your ethics out the window to get the most dramatic story possible, to trump your competitors. I know this for a fact having been a news editor myself. I look at it this way to use an analogy. Before politicians go into parliament they have principles and ethics, but when they join they enter parliament they have to throw their beliefs out for the party. That is the state of Journalism as I see it and from what I picked up completing my blogs.