The king refused to extent the armistice which the rebels had announced three months ago. His refusal came although they declared to be ready to surrender their arms to the UN, in case a democratically elected parliament would be formed. Thus the country is threatened again by another wave of bloody and senseless chaos that will bring ever more misery and horror to the unfortunate people. The latest major action of the royal government was aimed at all foreign-funded aid organisations. Like other small or big organisations from now onwards we have to ask the government for permission for each and every small step we wish to take for the sake of the poor people of Nepal. The file with our "requests" will of course lie for months in the dull offices of Ministry for Social Affairs waiting for permission to be granted. This is clearly against human rights and therefore the Nepalese relief organisations federation along with all major international aid organisations immediately reacted vehemently. All together demonstrate now daily in the streets. Most of us are denounced as political agitators by the despot and he intends to silence us. Already many organisations are pondering whether to abandon their activity in Nepal which would be an immense disaster for the people. At present the Nepalese owe their mere survival to international aid. Kofi Annan, the European Union and even George W. Bush have condemned this dictatorship and called for a return to democracy. However this does not change the fact that the USA still exert the biggest influence on the country. Not a day passes without the American ambassador dictating on page one of the national newspapers, how politics in Nepal should be carried out. He is absolutely against the alliance of the political parties with the Maoist rebels whom he constantly titles as "terrorists" and he is seen quite often in the newspapers, bowing before the king and welcoming him at the airport, when he returns from an official journey abroad.
While monitoring the political events from close-by we have to manage at the same time our everyday life - this is especially hard for the poor. Our project in the slums goes on well and now there is a profound relationship with those mothers, who are open for change and closely work together with us. Sija runs the project with much commitment. For the future we plan to hold monthly meetings in order to promote the living conditions of the community. Our aims are improvement of the water quality and the hygienic conditions and courses for children's and women's health care. Most people in the slums are uneducated. The mother of 10 year old deaf Meena died of tuberculosis four weeks ago, at the age of 36, without having seen a doctor even once. As we could not leave this little girl on her own, we put her up at our Children's World. In the beginning she behaved like a little wild animal and used her own sign language. Now she attends a school, where other deaf children are learning and in no time she changed to a little lady. On Saturdays the brother of Meena's teacher Uday teaches our big family at Children's World the official sign language and everybody comprehends incredibly fast and they all are very interested, for although Uday is deaf himself, he is of such a humorous and cheerful disposition. Three French opticians have checked the eyesight of the kids, our employees as well as of the children and old people of the slums, and all those with bad eyesight received a pair of spectacles. It was quite a surprise to see how urgently some children needed glasses but were not at all aware of it. Bad eyesight frequently is the cause for bad performance at school. We are very grateful to the three young women, who voluntarily and without any payment did this tedious job which requires much precision.
We have got grave problems with the children's house and therefore have to move to another place. The water supply is insufficient and the water we buy is of such poor quality that many illnesses occur. Many came down with typhoid and hepatitis. We were deeply stricken when we learned that our 13 year old Pramod is affected by lymphatic and bone marrow cancer. He is very brave although he has to undergo chemotherapy every ten days. To ease his life a little bit, we asked his very poor and worn out mother, who lives in southern Nepal, to come and stay here at Children's World with her son. This made him very happy. But she could not put up with life in Kathmandu and was steadily crying for her other child and her mother, whom she had left on her own in the mud hut back home. So we agreed to her leaving, but made her promise that she would make the long bus journey to Kathmandu twice a month to see her sick son. This morning, on the very day when we wrote this letter, the phone rang and we learned that the poor woman had died. She had gone to the forest to collect some dry wood for cooking, when a heavy branch fell on her head. She died immediately. What a great misfortune for Pramod and what a shock for all of us that was! During the three months since of the disease became apparent he grew more than 15 cm and changed from a sullen teenager into an immensely loveable and sensitive boy. We all stand by his side und help him as much as we can. This afternoon with a friend from Children's World he took the plane "home", so that he can see his mother a last time before she will be cremated.
Of course we lack water, but the worst scare for us Westerners working in Kathmandu is the big earthquake that has been announced by scientists for the near future. Our children, young people and employees accept each day as it is and think that something like that will ever happen to them. Yet the pictures from Pakistan severely upset some of them and therefore we started negotiating a tenancy agreement for a downright rarity - a smaller but absolutely earthquake-proof house built by a young architect. Although it is situated slightly outside of the city it is built to withstand even an earthquake rated 8 on the Richter scale. 98% of Kathmandu's buildings will collapse immediately on that day and so will 80% of the hospitals. The airport cannot be used anymore; the streets will be destroyed and covered by debris. Only helicopters will be able reach the two million inhabitants of the valley - one may wonder, whether the international military helicopter armada, which at that time still might be stationed in Afghanistan and so close to Pakistan and Nepal will remain idle for the second time... We shall buy our water from a nearby spring and get it transported to cisterns for storage. 13 of the elder children would prefer to stay downtown and rent two flats, where they want to lead an independent life.
Sharmila has undergone her second surgery and trains walking. Her feet are now firmly on the ground when she walks. The boys who want to go for work to the Arabian Emirates are still waiting for the moment they can start and are doing odd jobs in the meantime. As much as the Nepali may be affected by the political situation they never miss their religious festivities. Like always at "Bhai-Tikka" brothers in the entire country are being honoured by their real and adopted sisters who bless them in an elaborate ritual and present them with gifts.
Life in Nepal continues to be difficult, but all people, who are being helped even slightly in their everyday life by our project, appreciate this deeply. Children, women, elderly people from the slums as well as the extended family of Children's World wish to thank you und we all wish you a merry Christmas and a happy New Year 2006!