- The national utility, Vietnam Electricity, estimates that in 1975, electrification among poor households in the country was no more than 2.5%. Yet in a little over 3 decades, Viet Nam was able to connect millions to the national grid. By 2009 the country had electrified 96% of its households, bringing modern power to the Vietnamese people in both urban and rural areas.
Image credit: Some rights reserved by henrikj
Some apps that I use a lot or have recently discovered:
- Every time I am about to go “into the wild” I download the latest posts from my favourite blogs to Mobile RSS. It is great for random 10-20 minute stops where you don’t really know what is going to happen next and can’t pull out a book to read.
- I use Intl Meeting Planner to plan hookups between different timezones.
- I open World Map at least every other day to check out where exactly certain countries are in the world. This ties into a hobby of mine – studying country statistics to try and understand how each country fits into the world. Both The Economist World in Numbers and The World Factbook are great for this.
- What’s app allows you to message other people over the internet from your phone. It is suprising how many people are already connected.
- Nike Training Club provides great facilitated workouts – a great way to train if you are on the go and can’t regularly attend a training club or gym.
- I use The Economist and BBC World to get an overview of what is happening in the world
- And finally emoji is quite silly, but there’s something about being able to send someone an emoticon of a ghost that always makes me smile.
The deadline for the Nepali constitution recently passed – it prompted my move from the east of Nepal to the capital, and then finally out of the country to Cambodia. Given the political vacuum the country finds itself in now, there has been a media storm this week over whether Nepal should be considered a “failed, or flailing” state.
- First there was this piece in the New York Times - “If the culture of impunity is not uprooted, neither the elections nor a new constitution can deliver Nepal from slipping further into civil chaos, poverty and lawlessness.”
- This was counted by a letter to the editor from Nepal’s permanent mission to the United Nations: “We categorically reject the notion that Nepal is on the brink of collapse. We are on the verge of restructuring and institutionalizing the state within a democratic, republican and federal structure.”
- And finally , then finally the hitback from the Kathmandu Post: “Nepal looks like a failing state from outside because this country has not been successfully coping with the challenges of the modern times. My own feeling is that Nepal is not heading towards being a failing state. The problem is we have short historical memories. What is happening so far is debate, peaceful albeit heated discussions about the structure and modus operandi of the political process, elections, reviving the CA or holding fresh elections. This is a very democratic process. The “ferocious” guerrillas have worked hard with the ‘parliamentary’ parties and disarmed themselves; together they have solved many complex problems. People from different origins and geographical setting are not fighting with each other. They are putting fresh ideas about equality and harmonious state restructuring. A democratically minded President is making calls to parties to work together and find a way out of this impasse. Equally, the other subject of great importance is that Nepal’s big neighbours India and China want these political parties to find their own solutions. They are not putting trade embargos or supporting any groups with money or arms. They are encouraging a return to normalcy. “
From my own limited experience it was very interesting to see how a country operates from one day to the next, with and without a constitution. On the surface everything still worked. The sky did not fall in. The roads were full. Electricity and water supply limped along as normal, business opened their doors for yet another day. I hear of cracks below the surface – the inability to push much needed reform through, a friend who can’t get a work permit despite having worked in the country for 8 years, an NGO who has had more days closed than open for business this year. And yet, Nepal seems like a country that is continuing to limp along, finding a way through the political turmoil, the same way their ancestors found a way through the rugged Himalayas in the past.
Shenzen – charter city
- Here’s an idea. Let’s say your country is poor and unstable. You know the only way out is to try something new. But how? How about going the way of Philadelphia, Singapore and Shenzen and running a city wide experiment ? The New York Times recently explored this question in their aptly titled Who Wants to Buy Honduras? “In 2009, Romer developed the idea of charter cities — economic zones founded on the land of poor countries but governed with the legal and political system of, often, rich ones. Romer, who is expected to be chairman, is hoping to build a city that can accommodate 10 million people, which is 2 million more than the current population of Honduras. His charter city will have extremely open immigration policies to attract foreign workers from all over. It will also tactically dissuade some from coming.”
- Again from the New York Times, a piece on microinsurance and how AllLife, a South Africa insurance product, covers people with HIV/AIDs. “AllLife requires the people it insures to make regular medical visits, get the necessary periodic tests and follow treatment protocols. AllLife’s managing director, says that clients average a 15 percent improvement in their CD4 count — an immune system marker — six months after buying insurance. That improvement may partly be the psychology of seeing their disease in a different way: “If you think you have a terminal disease, you don’t care how you eat and exercise,” said Beerman. “Now I have an insurance company monitoring me. They are very active in keeping me alive.”
- Check out this creative street art, Nepali style, from right near my hotel. I leave this week to start Good Return’s Sustainable Energy Program in Cambodia.
Image credit: Lettersfrommitia
Of all the things I love about Nepal, the food (and the tea) have got to be right near the top.
The food is always delicious, it is vegetarian based with meat options (rather than the other way round) and the combination of rice, beans and vegetables seems agree with my body much more than other cuisines. Which means I am often bounding off the walls with energy here.
This post is a collection of a few photos I’ve picked up along the way.
Nepali Spice Rack
Freshly ground fennel seed seems to make it’s way into most dishes.
Gundruk or dried spinach – considered the Nepali national food
“Mountain soup”, made with Gundruk
Veg Thali – a combination of daal (lentil soup), curry, vegetables, pickle and a mountain of rice. We eat this every day, twice a day, and always it contains different vegetables, curries and pickles. If I ate Veg Thali every day for the rest of my life I would be happy.
Cooking gas producer, hard at work (Yes, I am working with biogas here in Nepal)
- I watched “The Iron Lady” – a film about Margaret Thatcher’s life. What an amazing woman. Upon finishing I decided that I also think “One’s life must matter. More than the kitchen and the children”. I also liked her version of The Secret:
“Watch your thoughts, for they become words.
Watch your words, for they become actions.
Watch your actions, for they become habits.
Watch your habits, for they become character.
Watch your character, for it becomes your destiny.”
- I’ve spoken here before about the difficulties surrounding micro-energy and carbon credits. It was interesting this week to read about Citi Microfinance – who have “agreed to purchase 1.17 million metric tonnes of carbon credits over the next seven years from Seattle-based social enterprise MicroEnergy Credits. This deal also combines microloans in Mongolia with the sale of carbon credits on the European Union Emissions Trading Scheme (EU ETS).”
- Finally, my most recent article in a series on the UN’s Sustainable Energy for All is here. I wrote about some innovative financing models which I’ve learnt about since moving into the small scale renenwable energy space. One of my favourite is Fabio Rosa in Brazil. They’ve moved on from a loan for products – instead charging for services rendered. Rosa’s company operates on a pay-for-service model for solar home systems. He doesn’t believe people should pay up front, or even own their energy systems. “Who buys food for the next 25 years? You buy food for the next week or month. It should be the same with electricity,” Rosa says.
Image: Some rights reserved by daveograve@
- Last week I met a man who made 64 business trips in 1 year. He told me he didn’t like sightseeing anymore. When he had a day off he just wanted to stay home. I am in Nepal today on my day off and rather than see the town I am in, all I want to do is stay in my room and not talk to anyone. So of course this blog from Penelope Trunk on Business Travel struck home. “If you travel once a year, sightseeing is exciting. If you travel enough to wonder if your home is really your home, then you need to keep a semblance of routine so you feel like you do have some sort of life outside of work.” I am grateful to my running shoes and to chocolate and coca cola for making it to all corners of the world
- From some poignant writing from a man working on a water filter project in Haiti. He describes the “aid bi**hslap”, the moment when you “cross from idealism to realism”: “I came to Haiti very much guilty of believing good intentions were enough, and I certainly had the rose-colored glasses. I knew a bit about the idea of the white savior industrial complex, but didn’t know enough to realize I was playing right into it. I believed people inherently do want to improve their lot, and will work hard to see that happen. I also believed myself to be a fairly altruistic person. I’m not so sure about that any more. And while I never came here thinking I could “save Haiti” (an incredibly egotistical idea to begin with), I also didn’t realize the importance of allowing yourself to truly appreciate the small things before the big things break you down.” via Shotgun Shack.
- And finally a shout out to my brilliant friend/new dad Richard who has a blog called “The Pointy End: A discussion on sustainable design in Africa’s cities”. This week he writes an answer to the question - ”Why are so few people fulfilled by what they do for a living?”. My answer would be that most people tend to overestimate how difficult it would be to change, and the benefits they would receive from doing so, and therefore don’t.
Image: Some rights reserved by bayat