Thursday, March 03, 2005


A few months ago, Ewan, Nini, and I went to see the Royal Botanical Gardens at Godavri. It was a nice day out. It had been quite a while since we'd left Kathmandu, and the air and calm up there was nice. The ride home wasn't so hot. It was in a minivan with twenty people in it, mostly loud teenage girls. The hell van was driven by a 15 year old, completely out of control. Sometimes he veered off the asphalt onto the dirt shoulder. But all in all, it was a good time, and I think the driver succeeded in impressing the girls. Some memorable pictures really captured the extent of beauty available at the gardens.

This Tuesday, we headed back to Godavri. But this time, we didn't visit the government-run botanical gardens, we went to ICIMOD - the International Centre for Integrated Mountain Development. It's an INGO, with the stated goal of developing technology for the rural poor in mountainous terrain. We're told the money comes from the Germans, so that's probably why things are done right. The place was beautiful. It blew the government botanical gardens out of the water.

There were plots of nitrogen-fixing plantings, breeds of enormous goats that make 3 liters of milk per day, bunnies whose angora fur (the shaving kind, not the killing kind) can support a family, slope-farming techniques, and much more. They had plots of fruits they're breeding for Nepali village economies - like citrus, kiwi, and passion fruit. The citrus stuff is only applicable for below 2000 meters, we were told. They had demonstrations of water pumping concepts, and efficient charcoal briquetting. All in all, a wild place. The office is in the middle of a forest in the hills, so between that and its stated goals, it made me think of the Rocky Mountain Institute for the developing world.

EcoSystem's human-powered generator is coming along. We went up to KC's today with the Chinese-made gearhead motor that we had delivered to our bosses' hotel in Bangkok. It's a complete circus getting stuff shipped to Kathmandu. Shipping DHL from Quingdao to Bangkok, then hand-couriering to Kathmandu ended up saving everyone a lot of hassle and money. The motor has the name 'Linix' die-cast into it. Incidently, there are cough drops named Unix in Nepal - it's as if people name things after cool English words. Maybe Linix and Unix mean something in Mandarin and Nepali, respectively, and I'm just projecting. Probably not.

That funny naming thing reminds me of when a friend of mine worked in Russia, and his company wanted to rename themselves to sound less Russian and more international. Their current name was perfectly descriptive of their line of work, but it was just too Russian. The buddy of mine was the only native-English-speaker at the company, and they wanted to know what he thought about the name they'd arrived at: Flextera. He recounted this story to me that evening. I was sitting there, kind of leaning over the table listening. He paused and looked at me after he said the name they'd worked so hard to arrive at, Flextera. I said, 'sounds like a company that makes cheap modems'. He said, 'exactly'. The point is, these English-ish names foreign companies come up with - more often than not - make no sense.

KC really liked the DC motor and the way it was supposed to fit in with the human-powered generator. He also really liked the bike chain ring and western-standard chainring bolts we'd brought to put on the motor. He got a little concerned about the pitch on the bolts though - they were those hex-wrench kind of bolts that go with a sleeve to make up a sex bolt on nice bikes' chain sets. He said he couldn't get a tap for it in Nepal - so he'll make one. They machine carbon steel all the time at his place, and they make enough gears on their horizontal mill to know how to make a helical groove. Making taps - you gotta love that kind of initiative.


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