... is a point in the ocean somewhere off the southwest corner of Australia. But Nepal is almost as far away as that, and Nepal is where Garth will be spending a large part of this coming winter. It's almost exactly 180 degrees longitude around the planet from here, so it will be easy to remember what time it is there: just reverse a.m. and p.m. and you pretty much have it. If you want to be exact, you have to allow for the fact that Nepal sets its clocks 15 minutes off those of adjacent India, just to be different. You might have heard that Mount Everest is in Nepal, so you might be thinking that winter will be chilly there, but Garth won't be climbing Everest. Actually, Nepal is about 20 degrees latitude closer to the equator than Arcola, so the truth is, Garth may be in for quite a shock when he gets home in early February. That's assuming that all goes according to plan. From what we've heard, he will have to be flexible. Nepal is among the poorest 25% of countries in the world. It is also in turmoil, with its parliament suspended by the king since February, and Maoist rebels controlling large areas of countryside and carrying on a prolonged conflict which has claimed over 12,000 lives since 1996. I found an English-language online newspaper from Nepal, and its headlines are full of demonstrations and clashes. In each of the last three years, there were more journalists arrested in Nepal than in any other country in the world. So why would Garth go there?
He is going as a volunteer with the Canadian Co-operative Association, to help Nepal's credit union system with database programming and management. There is some worry, for sure, but Garth is excited too, to be facing some challenges, using his skills, and hopefully strengthening some organizations that can really help the people of Nepal to help themselves. One comforting thought is that both sides in the conflict view credit unions as a good thing.
I get to stay here with the kids and watch from a safe distance. A very long distance. I hope he sends lots of stories and pictures.