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Alan and Megan Barker

May 2024

Negotiating Officialdom

Hello from a warm and sunny Kathmandu. Over the last few weeks, from time to time, Kathmandu has had the dubious honour of reaching number one in the top ten rankings for the world's worst city for air pollution. The dry weather, dusty roads, traffic-choked streets and wildfires in forests across the nation has meant that the air quality has been very bad. We always wear a mask when walking outside or riding our scooter. As the monsoon season approaches, the rain brings some relief by clearing the air, which is very welcome.

We thought this newsletter we would share with you some of the situations we face on a regular basis with various officials, to give you an idea of how life here often involves having exactly the correct paperwork to hand all the time.

We have mentioned many times about the ongoing issues we have with our visas. Since moving to Kathmandu and joining our current BMS partner, HDCS, some of those issues have reduced as we have got our annual visa renewal stamp in good time for the last three years. However, in the last few weeks Alan was summoned for a 'Labour Interview'. The labour interview is part of the visa renewal process where whoever is wanting a new visa has to attend an interview with officials from the Labour Ministry. There was an additional form to fill in asking questions about what he is doing in Nepal, how long he's been here, how long he intends to stay, why a Nepali couldn't do the job he's doing, among others. He met with two officials and duly handed his passport and the form over. After a couple of questions, in the first place, about how long he intended to stay and what did he like about living in Nepal the conversation switched to favourite Nepal foods. After about two minutes the interview was over and that was that, with one official stating that Alan seemed a very good fit for the job and for Nepal!

One of Megan's dreams is to see a school of Occupational Therapy established in Nepal. One small step along the way was a recent meeting with the Vice Chancellor of Kathmandu University, to explore the possibility of establishing a course there. Megan was part of a small team that went along to explain to the Vice Chancellor what OT is all about. Megan's other team members were the President and the Secretary of the Association of Nepal's OTs and a Professor and Senior Lecturer in OT from the University of Limerick, Eire. The three-hour meeting saw the Vice Chancellor change from initial reservation to being enthusiastic about the possibilities. Watch this space!

Riding our scooter is another occasion for negotiating officialdom. As we ride around the city, we often encounter police checks, especially in the evening. The police check that people have driving licences and up-to-date ownership documents. If you don't have the papers on you, your vehicle can be immediately impounded or you get a fine. The police checks are usually quite friendly affairs, especially once the policemen discover we are 'bideshi' (from overseas) and speak Nepali. “How long have you lived in Nepal? You must like it here,” are the most common comments. But we try to ensure that we always have our licences and ownership papers with us!

On the 6th June for about 10 days, Megan is heading off to the west of Nepal to an area called Rukum. We have mentioned Rukum in previous letters as it is where the earthquake struck in November last year and where HDCS has a hospital. Megan is going there to take part in this year's 'Wheels for the World' wheelchair camp – something we have also mentioned in previous emails and during our talks when we were visiting churches earlier in the year. The wheelchairs are being shipped in from China and the lady organising the camp has had several trips to visit officials to ensure the smooth transit from China, through India and to Nepal. At one stage the Indian authorities wouldn't allow the wheelchairs in because they had 'made in China' on the boxes! All 100 chairs were transferred to new boxes at the border where they travelled smoothly forward 😊

And one more incident that has caused concern recently, is that the newly appointed 'Home Minister' (responsible for homeland security) issued an edict that all local authorities had to carefully monitor the activities of 'Christian foreigners', stating that they shouldn't be involved in any 'religious activities'. You can see the article as it appeared in a local newspaper So far we haven't heard of any problems resulting from this, but we keep an eye out for more information.

If you pray with us, please join us in giving thanks for:

A great holiday in Vietnam with our son and daughter-in-law, Rhys and Tete, and our 2 grandsons. We hadn't seen them for two years, so it was lovely to catch up!

The safe arrival of the wheelchairs for the wheelchair camp.

Please pray for:

Megan as she travels to Rukum for the wheelchair camp and for a successful camp where many with disabilities are helped.

Safety in travel as we negotiate the streets of Kathmandu on our scooter.

Wisdom and patience in dealing with officials.

As always, we thank you for your friendship and support and look forward to hearing your news

with our love and prayers

Alan and Megan