I arrived on May 31 and will stay through August 5. When I return, I will translate the solutions and insights that I find in Nepal for the context of Detroit. This will complete the “reverse innovation” piece. The term refers to the adaptation of innovations from low- and middle-income countries to high-income ones.
Although I haven’t been here long, this country already enchants me. At a staff meeting on June 1, each member of the team offered his or her sincere welcome to me in front of the group — after welcoming me the day before, too. And they had the great courtesy to speak English so that I could participate. As someone who has been on that more difficult side of the language barrier, I was so thankful.
On Saturday, June 2, Ganesh, a program coordinator at G.T.A., eagerly took me to Kathmandu Durbar Square. It is a famous site in the city. We rode a motorcycle through winding streets of chaotic traffic and freely roaming cows, between which the World Heritage Site emerged. It is home to centuries-old palaces and temples. The wood facades are hand-carved with stunning intricacy. Its statues of Hindu gods are beautifully painted. It is the sum of centuries of handiwork.
In 2015, however, a 7.8 magnitude earthquake killed thousands of Nepalis and destroyed many of the buildings in the Square. One fell upon a blood drive — the cruelty of misfortune. In addition to the immeasurable loss of human life and history, the physical damage across Nepal ranged in the billions of dollars.
But this is a country of resilience. A restoration of Durbar Square is currently underway (largely funded by Nepal’s neighbor, China — such is its ambitious reach), as for other buildings across the city. And, yet, the country looks forward. Many buildings stand upon fallen ones with new styles. The government and companies push economic development, the disaster notwithstanding.
And as for human life, the Nepalis look forward on that front as well. When I visited, a curious event was happening on the steps of one building in Durbar Square: a blood drive. A regular occurrence in the aftermath of the earthquake, Ganesh told me, it commemorates the lives that were lost. By saving the living.
Such is the Nepali spirit.
I will continue to update this blog on my adventure, discussing the people, curiosities, and more that I meet. Stay tuned. And namaste.