I am running Javra Software in Nepal for almost 9 years now. And we are doing quite well. We have trained a huge number of very talented people and because of Javra Software a lot of people have more future in this unbelievable beautiful country. With around 100 people directly working for us and probably the same number of people indirect I think that we can say we make a difference in Nepal and for the development of the ICT sector in Nepal. And we are proud on that.
Of course it is the result of all the hard work from everybody working in the company, in Nepal, China and the Netherlands.
Luckily we were in the last 9 years always to find a good mix between very talented people and experience people. And those experienced people came a lot of times back from abroad or foreigners who happened to stay in Nepal for whatever reason for a longer period of time. For foreigners Nepal is the perfect country, you have trekking possibilities you will find nowhere else in the world. More friendly and helpful people are hard to find elsewhere. The nature is amazing with the bears, lions, rhinos, elephants and the most species of birds counted in one country. Where you have the Mount Everest in the north (and 6 other mountain out of the top 10 highest mountains in the world), you have the wetlands in the southern part of the country, pretty close to sea level.
Nepal is attracting a lot of tourists per year who come for the mountains but also for all the other things to do, like Rafting, Paragliding and the mentioned visits of the nature parks. Not to forget that Nepal is known for the spiritual background and although the main religion is Hinduism, Buddha was born in Nepal. And of course you see that influence as well. And not to mention that Nepal is in the heart of Asia and you can easily travel for a weekend to Thailand, Tibet, China, Cambodia, Vietnam, Hong Kong, Malaysia, Bhutan and other countries which are difficult to reach from Europe, Australia or the USA. At least not for a weekend or short period.
Because all of these reasons (and more) Nepal is my second home now for 9 years.
So why this touristic promotion while we are building State of the art Software as Javra Software in Nepal? The reason might be more simpler than you might expect. With a lot of young people in a country which is developing, all the experience and expertise in ICT is more than welcome. Only that will make it easier to grow faster, build the ICT sector in Nepal quicker and help the country move forward. With all respect for all the good work they are doing, but no NGO organisation can achieve that the way commercial companies can do that. To build an industrie in the country, in this case the ICT, you need commercial companies who are willing and have the guts to invest in it and really believe in it. And that is what Javra Software is doing.
So we hope to attract foreigners who are interested in the life in Asia, with a good job and in a good environment, want to spend a few years in that wonderful part of the world, explore the area at the same time, get lifetime memories, and do unbelievable important work to share their knowledge and experience with this upcoming market. Together we can make a difference and really create more opportunities in Nepal and create a better future.
If you have the guts, we have have the opportunity! If you are interested, please send me a mail!
In 2004 ben ik voor het eerst echt met de ROPARUN in aanraking gekomen.
Laat ik eerst even in het kort uitleggen wat de Roparun is en waar het voor staat. De Roparun is ‘s werelds langste estafette loop van Parijs / Hamburg naar Rotterdam. Een team van 8 lopers en een groep begeleiders gaat nonstop van zaterdagmiddag vanuit Parijs / Hamburg om op maandagmiddag op de coolsingel in Rotterdam te finishen. Een geweldige prestatie maar belangrijker is het doel.
De Roparun zamelt geld in voor mensen met kanker in de laatste fase van hun leven. De prachtige slogan zegt “Leven toevoegen aan de dagen, waar vaak geen dagen meer kunnen worden toegevoegd aan het leven“. De slogan zegt alles.
In 2004 fotografeerde ik veel sportevenementen en ik wilde de Roparun ook graag fotograferen en dus heb ik me, samen met een vriend, aangemeld als vrijwilliger. Als vrijwilliger ga je dan naar Parijs (of Hamburg) en volgt de route met de teams mee, je maakt foto’s van de teams en we hadden een website waar we de foto’s snel op konden plaatsen en beschikbaar stellen voor de deelnemers van de Roparun. Ik deed het omdat de Roparun een gaaf evenement is, ik het goede doel wilde helpen en ik fotograferen simpelweg enorm leuk is.
Behalve het fotograferen ben ik ook betrokken bij de foto website van de roparun (www.photoos.net/roparun2014) en bij het maken van de apps. Dat wordt gesponsord door het bedrijf waar ik voor werk. Per jaar wordt er wel een paar duizend uur werk in gestopt om zo de organisatie van de Roparun zich nog beter te kunnen profileren. En dus meer geld in te zamelen en daar is het uiteindelijk allemaal om te doen.
Aan de Roparun doen 450 teams mee, gemiddeld met 25 deelnemers, dat betekent dat er meer dan 11.000 mensen op de route zijn, met auto’s met fietsen, met trucks en met bussen. En dan natuurlijk nog een massa auto’s, motoren van de organisatie met ondersteuning. Omdat het langzaamste team als eerste start is de hele stoet van lopers / fietsers / auto’s nog wel verspreid maar aan het eind trekt alles als een harmonica in elkaar en lijkt het soms wel een mega file van mensen. Uiteindelijk finishen 11.000 mensen in een zeer korte tijd in Rotterdam en dat is best druk.
De teams bestaan uit 2 teams van 4 lopers en de rest van de mensen is voor de broodnodige ondersteuning, fysio’s, chauffeurs, fietsers, kok en support. Per keer loopt er 1 team van 4 lopers, in estafette, en is het andere team aan het rusten.
In 2005 wilde ik graag fotograferen maar na 10 jaar is het zo veel meer. De Roparun is meer, de Roparun is groots en de Roparun gaat in je bloed zitten. Hoe komt dat zo? Tja, laat me proberen het uit te leggen. Als (amateur) fotograaf volg je de route vanaf het begin tot aan het eind. Dat is dus van zaterdag middag tot maandagmiddag 6 uur. In totaal dus zo’n 54 uur on the road. Slapen doe je in de auto. In het begin ben je scherp en alert. Na 54 uur ben je moe. En de lopers hebben het nog wat zwaarder en zijn afgebrand aan het einde van die 530 km. In het begin is iedereen vrolijk en fit. Na 54 uur zijn mensen moe en emotioneel. Dat is niet alleen voor de lopers maar ook voor de vrijwilligers, en dus ook voor ons, fotografen.
Wat het evenement zo geweldig maakt is, naast het echt geweldige goede doel, dat het zo persoonlijk is. Bijna iedereen die meeloopt heeft een persoonlijke reden om het te doen. Omdat iemand in zijn/haar omgeving wel iets met die vreselijke ziekte te maken heeft gehad. Zelf heb ik erover gedacht om na 7 jaar fotograferen van de Roparun ermee te stoppen. Maar uitgerekend toen werd ik in mijn omgeving geconfronteerd met iemand die aan deze ziekte overleed. Stoppen was ineens geen optie meer.
De Roparun heeft een aantal gezichten, allemaal even mooi maar zo verschillend. Bij de start is iedereen blij en uitgelaten, 530km en 54 uur verder zijn mensen uitgeput en zeer emotioneel maar super voldaan. In het begin zijn het de blijde en opgewonden gezichten, in de dag erna zijn het de geconcentreerde lopers in prachtige decors van koolzaad velden en dorpjes. En uiteindelijk op de Coolsingel de emotie die me zelfs tijdens het fotograferen soms diep en diep raakt. Onze foto’s vertellen vaak in een beeld het hele verhaal, zelfs als je het verhaal niet kent.
Tijdens en na afloop van de Roparun zijn we de foto’s aan het uitzoeken en selecteren. Dat is altijd mooi en vaak ook leuk werk. Maar soms wordt je door de kracht van de foto van je stoel geblazen. Een fotograaf die al 7 jaar meegaat is Rowin Hofker. En hij heeft een enorm gevoel ontwikkeld voor emotie in de foto. En bij het selecteren en bekijken van de foto’s moet ik zeggen dat deze foto’s, zonder dat ik het verhaal erachter ken, me diep en diep hebben geraakt. Dan zit ik met tranen en een enorm brok in mijn keel achter de computer. En dan denk ik ja, dit is waar we het voor doen. Dit is wat ons als fotograaf de voldoening geeft. Hiervoor zijn ook wij 54 uur achtereen in touw. Ja, het is het allemaal waard alleen al voor deze foto.
En hier nog eentje, ook van Rowin. Bij dit soort foto’s is iedere uitleg te veel.
En ook dit jaar mogen we weer fotograferen tijdens de Roparun. Wij, als fotografen, zijn trots om een bijdrage te kunnen leveren aan de Roparun. En we hopen dat we veel mensen zullen bereiken, via onze apps en onze fotowebsite, om zo de Roparun te helpen zoveel mogelijk geld in te zamelen. Want dat is uiteindelijk waar we het met zijn allen voor doen.
We wensen de lopers heel veel succes en tot onderweg.
Did you know that more than half of the Vultures in the Himalayas has declined in the last decade by over 99%? That from every 100 Vultures there is only 1 left. I didn’t know either. And do you know the reason? It is caused by a medicine called Diclofenac, very useful for humans but very deadly to Vultures. A lot of Animals get this medicine as well and if they die, that Diclofenac is eaten by Vultures and they die from it… No, I did not know either.
But I did know that the himalayas are one of the most valuable places for those magnificent birds. A big Vulture they also call a flying door. The size is the same…. For me it is one of the most impressive birds there is.
During a trip in March 1014 I visited a Vulture Safe Zone or Vulture restaurant in Ghachowk close to Pokhara, Nepal. It is so simple but so effective and amazing what they do there. Bird Conservation Nepal is buying ‘retired’ cows from the people in the villages and they give them a space where they can spend their last days/years. And they make sure that those animals are not using any medicines which are bad for Vultures. There are harmless alternatives for Diclofenac.
When those animals expire, they just leave them as in early days. Vultures knows the spot and they can have their proper and healthy meal in a protected area. The amazing thing is that 8 of the 9 different kind of vultures in Nepal come to this spot.
An example of how a relatively simple project can make a huge difference. I loved the place and for sure I will visit it on a regular base and see if there is a way a can contribute a little bit to this amazing place. There are luckily more projects like this in Nepal, you can find more information about it on Birdlife Nepal
My pictures you can find in my Gallery : Ghachowk, Vulture safe zone in Nepal
January was the first time that I was in Nepal this year. Everything appeared to be normal, working hard, busy as usual, nice weather in Kathmandu and perfect company. But it turned out to be a bit different this time.
I have rented a house because after almost 8 years living from a suitcase half of the year, I was looking for a more ‘home’ feeling. And that worked out quite nice, a nice house, normal food instead of hotel food and pizza’s and a relaxed environment. Everything looked perfect but that is the moment you should start worrying…
In the Kathmandu office I always start my day with checking the headlines of the news in the rest of the World and especially the Netherlands. Big news, Marco Borsato, a very popular singer in the Netherlands, was hit by a TIA. I knew that was not good but I did not know what it really was. He was on his way for giving a concert when it happened and he was hospitalised. I hoped all the best for him and I started my day. A busy day as I have a lot in Nepal, filled with meetings and discussions. When I went to my house, I was feeling good, the first dinner was prepared for me in my own ‘home’ in Nepal. The cook prepared a typically Nepali dinner and I enjoyed the music coming out of the ghetto blaster with my ipod in it. Marco Borsato was also played and I had to think about how he was in the news that day.
In the middle of the night I woke up as I could not sleep. Probably still a jet leg so I went out of bed, took my iPad and decided to check my mails. In Nepal there is not always electricity, in this period of the year the electricity is shutdown for 14 hours per day…. So the only light was from my iPad and for some reason I touched my foot. At least, I thought it was MY foot. I felt the toes with my fingers but I did not feel MY toes, I was mortified because I felt somebody else his toes. It took 5 seconds to realise that it were MY toes but I had no feeling in there. With my fingers I could feel them but I had no feeling in it. When I went up with my fingers over my leg, there was also no feeling in it. I could have put a knife in it or put boiled water over it and I would not have noticed. So what do you do in the middle of the night? I figured out some nerve must have been blocked so I moved my leg with my hands as I was unable to move it otherwise and moved a bit on the chair. I expected that it would go away in minutes. And so it did, after 15 minutes my feeling was back in my leg and my toes. Pff, that was a strange and bizar experience.
The next morning, Friday, I went to the office and it was a usual day in the office, busy and too short. On Saturday I had to be early in the office because we had to do a huge and risky software migration for a customer. That went very well so when I went back in the evening I was very satisfied. I did not think about the strange experience from Thursday night anymore.
And also the Sunday started good, I expected some problems from the Saturday migration but nothing was reported. The morning started with a cup of tea in my new house on the roof top. I placed it on my Facebook page and we went out for lunch.
Back from lunch I was enjoying the Sunday afternoon with the spectacular view on the Himalayas. And that is where things changed.
I was sending some pictures to a friend in the Netherlands but I could not think of a subtitle with the picture. Simply nothing came in my head. From that part on I only remember half. I tried to talk to my partner but for some reason the words which were in my mind did not came out. My mouth was refusing to speak out my words. Two words came out and then it blocked, I realised something was wrong, seriously wrong. But I could not express it anymore, I was completely frustrated. My partner thought I was angry because I did not talk anymore and I could not explain that I COULD not talk. My left side of my face was not working and a terrible headache was coming up. My eyes could not focus anymore and the headache was unbearable so I went to my bed, without able to explain what and why. Since it started, 40 minutes past already….
After 2,5 hours I came out of bed, still with a terrible headache and still unable to talk in English. So I called a friend in the Netherlands to see if I could talk in Dutch. And I was able to talk in Dutch but very broken Dutch. 3 hours were gone since it started. Slowly I was able to communicate in English and asked my partner to rebook the tickets back to the Netherlands asap. After a lot of calls, to all parts of the world, tickets were arranged for the monday. I was also able to read a bit with 1 eye again and Marco Borsato and his TIA were in my mind. Slowly I figured out that my strange experience of the Thursday was a TIA or mini Stroke. If it is not treated immediately you have a serious risk that it is followed by a CVA or Stroke. With a TIA the disturbance is gone within 20 minutes, if it takes longer than permanent brain damage is a real threat. Thursday it took around 20 minutes, this one was somewhere around 2 to 3 hours…
On tuesday I arrived in the Netherlands and went directly to my doctor. I called her from Nepal already to make make sure she had time for me. My family history is that unluckily 2 of my sisters did not survive brain blooding/attack it was arranged that I went to the hospital immediately. In the hospital it went quick, all kind of equipment was attached to me and in no time test were taken and I got medicines to prevent another incident.
The wednesday I will never forget, after a sleepless night that was a day for more test. In the morning they squeezed me to do all the blood tests. But the worst thing was that I realised my situation. I could not talk properly, my mind was at 25% of its normal capacity and I knew it. I knew that i was slow, that my brainpower was minimised. I could not remember my phone number or zipcode, not make jokes or even think quickly. Worst moment was while I was in the hospital on the neurology section and connected to all kind of equipment. I was thinking of my loved ones and 4 persons in white clothes came in. And I could not figure out it were not my children and my love but doctors. That took some time before that became clear to me. They told me that I had to be aware of my situation and that it might not recover. Because the second attack took around 2 hours they were afraid of permanent brain damage. That is were my complete world collapsed. In that condition I could forget my work, not tell my loved ones what my feelings are for them, forget about my photography, my future plans and dreams. A normal conversation was already too difficult. And suddenly you are there, 50 years old, worked my ass off all of my live and at the moment you think that you are doing well you have this. Shit.
I cried and cried, this was so unfair. This could not happen to me after all those years and all my sacrifices. And I could not even express it normally anymore. Being so upset my blood pressure went up sky-high. The planned MRI scan at 2pm was not possible with such a high pressure. I managed to cool down a bit and I was picked up for the scan. Before the scan they ask you all kind of questions like if you have a pacemaker or other metal parts as that will be destroyed during the scan. You have to sign that paper, but I could not write anymore. The coordination between my brain and my hand was disturbed. A kind of cross was the most what I could do.
When I went into the scanner, they connected a special liquid to my drip. A cold liquid went into my blood and I could feel it flood into my body. The MRI scan took around 30 minutes and in that time a kind of miracle happend. When I was out of the scanner I could feel immediately the huge difference in my condition compared to the moment I went into the scanner. I felt like somebody started the 3 other engines in my head again. I have no clue how. But a change it was. Maybe because of the flushing of the liquid through my veins, the adrenaline of going into that scanner or the shaking of my head in the scanner but something was changed. And I was happy with it!
Back at the neurology section I was so different and so unbelievable much better than when I left there 1,5 hour earlier. A friend of mine said that I had my two lost sisters as angels on my shoulder in the scanner and I would like to believe that. I am extremely lucky to get out of this roller-coaster this way. This could have ended in a completely different way.
Now 6 weeks later and 8 kg lighter I am recovered for 99%, back to work and going to Nepal again. More focused and driven than ever but no time to waste anymore. But with a different look at life and keen on making the most out of every day.
And Marco Borsato? Curious how his new album will sound.
A different person but still the same.
Normally I am working between Christmas and New year as it is a quite period where you can really finish up some stuff. This year was no exception but it was completely different.
2013 was quite an interesting year but also very exhausting year, running your own company and an economy in very bad weather. And on the other hand doing completely new and very exiting stuff and a complete focus on the future. So I decided to going to visit a place where I have never been before, but also a historical place and only around 50 years old. Getting some inspiration of hero’s from my past, Montreux in Switzerland was set as destination. During my life I always been fond of music. The reason is simple, music was always there for me, you just switched on you walkman (Sony iPod of my generation). It never rejected you, always some music available for some mood and always there to support you when you need it.
Influenced by my older brother, the first album I ever bought was “A Night at the Opera” from Queen. Yes, that is the one, with Bohemian Rhapsody. A few years later I went to my first concert, also from the same band and it impressed me a lot. And, of course, I bought the next album of the band “A Day at the Races”. And in fact I bought all the albums, first on LP and replaced them all by cd’s. And I visit every concert I could get a ticket for. In those days, late 70’s early 80’s you had to get a ticket early otherwise it was sold out. And getting a ticket early meant standing in line for hours and hours to be sure you were one of the first to enter the store. There was no such thing as buying it via the internet 🙂 And it gave me wonderful memories which, in combination with the music, helped and comfort me in more difficult situations afterwards. I was emotionally attached to music more than to other things. And I still am, after all those years. I can forget my passport when I am traveling but my iPod with almost 6000 songs and Bose headphone I will not.
For me it was their music and their music only, I never was interested in their private life. For me it was a huge shock when Freddie Mercury died in 1991. I did not see that coming and for me Queen stopped there. Probably I was the first one to buy a ticket for the Freddie Mercury Tribute in 1992. Although I bought it, I did not play Queen music for a few years.
Was it only Queen who I liked? No, I have seen a lot of artists/bands from Sarah Brightman to the Stones. It is about the emotion for me. My favorites now? Mika (where are you or should I say where is your music??) , Bryan Adams (seen a perfect performance in Kathmandu), Roger Waters/Pink Floyd, George Michael (stole my heart during the FM tribute), Coldplay but more recent are Bruno Mars and even Beyonce (not everything). I can be deeply touched when I hear George Michael sing “You have been loved” or the Stones with “Fool to cry”.
When I have to work under pressure to finish some stuff, my favorite album is Pulse of Pink Floyd (unfortunately without Roger Waters), especially the long versions of “Run like Hell” and “Comfortably Numb”. I play that album over and over again because I know it so well it comforts me and takes me on a flow. I associate music/songs with events/things/persons. When I go an make pictures of kitesurfing I always play “Long Road Out of Eden” from the Eagles with Don Henly. In other words, music is there always around me.
But when I arrived in Montreux I was only aware that Queen had recorded their last album there and there was a statue of Freddie Mercury in Montreux. The hotel I booked was the Montreux Palace because that looked so beautiful and they offered a (relative) nice deal. But Montreux had some unexpected surprises for me!
The kickoff was not good. As we did not reserve the Christmas menu in front (how stupid can you be) in the luxery Montreux Palace we forced to find a local restaurant which was ok but not as planned for Christmas. We probably spend more time on dressing up than in the actual restaurant.
But the first surprise was also there on the first day, I was surprised to find out that Queen bought the Mountain Studio’s in 1979 and owned it until 1993, when their last album was finished. And that not even three weeks earlier Queen (Roger Taylor and Brian May) had opened the “Queen Studio Experience” in their old studio. But did I know where that studio was? No, of course not. As there was a Christmas market in Montreux, I walked around there and I had to run into the Freddie Mercury Statue. That part I did check in front 🙂 It was nice to see, but it is only a statue. No music, no memories, no emotions. And a lot of people making pictures so I stood there for a minute and decided to come back another day early in the morning to see if I could make a serious pictures.
But my internal curiosity fire was lit, now i was in Montreux, I did want to see the studio as well as I had no plans to ever return to Montreux. Back in the hotel we booked dinner (24th december) but space was only available at 9pm. And as everything is closed and quite on an evening like that, I checked the internet and found out that the Queen Studio Experience was open for the public, every day, 365 days a year, from 10am until 10pm. I knew that it would be quite and as I had to wait anyway I decided to go there. These days there is a casino and it is in fact a small part in the Casino. It was difficult to find as you really have to go inside the Casino, something I did not expect. But I found it. Luckily you don’t have to go into the gambling part of the Casino itself but you are guided there from the reception. When you enter you find lots and lots of information about Queen. The space is not that big and it consists of 3 rooms. A very nice small kind of museum with all kind of special things from Queen. A lot of them from the private collection of the guitarist of the band, Brian May. And for me recognizable suits of the concerts tours they had done in Europe. And the hand written lyrics of songs.
But by far the most impressive part was the control room which was not changed since Queen sold the studio in 1993! In that room the band mixed their albums. And not only the last one as I thought but 7 of their albums (recorded 6 in the studio there). That was another big surprise, this was becoming more and more interesting. And including 2 of my favorites “Kind of Magic” and “Innuendo” with the most emotional song for me “The Show Must Go On”. Listen to that song and imagine that this song is written while the composer knew he was going to die. And he refers to it in that song. How is it possible that you can write something as beautiful as that while you have that knowledge.
I learned in that room, from the video of Brian May, that the last 2 songs written and recorded were “A Winter’s Tale”, a song about Montreux and the view itself, and “Mother Love” which was never finished by Freddie Mercury so the last couplet had to be song by Brian May. And the last vocals where recorded in that room. Too many surprises in one day. The only more or less disappointing thing was that I could not go to the actual studio where all those hits (besides the last recordings) were actually played and recorded. But you cannot have it all.
And because it was the night before Christmas, I was completely alone there, sitting in that room with a superb sound system, playing Mother Love and Made in Heaven and be able to mix it on the mixing table of 2 meters wide. AMAZING. For the first time I had the feeling that is was more than music. Of course I did my donation to the Mercury Phoenix Trust fund on my way out.
I came to Montreux to get some inspiration and this was so unexpected and so much more then I could imagine.
But life goes on and so were my days in Montreux. Both Christmas days past and I found out some other interesting things. The hotel I had booked, the Montreux Palace, was the hotel where Queen stayed for months during their visits to Montreux. And not only Queen but also David Bowie and the Rolling Stones, another surprise. They even have a Freddy Mercury Suite in the hotel named to. Very funny how my path brought me here.
Another disappointment came when I tried to book a table for the New Years eve (31 december) and it was completely booked. So again we had to search for an alternative. The only serious alternative was in the Casino in Montreux, yes that building where the Queen Studio Experience was held. I have to tell that I complained to the Hotel and they arranged a table in the hotel itself, but we already booked in the Casino.
So on New Years eve we went to the Casino and I had in mind to go to the Queen Studio Experience one more time because I expected that it would be empty on 31th December at 9.45pm as well. In the Casino I showed my reservation and we were brought to our seats. It was in a hall one floor higher than the Queen Studio Experience. And there was the biggest surprise Montreux had saved for me. We got a table in the space which actually WAS the famous STUDIO. In that room Queen recorded 6 albums with at least 30 hits, David Bowie recorded “Heroes”, “This is not America”, “Absolute Beginners”, The Rolling Stones their album “Black and Blue” with my favorite “Fool to Cry”, AC/DC, Chris Rea, Yes, Iggy Pop, Brian May Solo, Freddy Mercury and Monserrat Cabelle, Roger Taylor solo, The Cross and even Smokie recorded albums and where Led Zeppelin, Deep Purple, Miles Davis and a million others have been playing and where Queen played together for the very last time. And in that room I had my New Years evening…………… Of course I sneaked out to be the last one to visit the Queen Studio Experience one floor below. Just before 10PM and I was right, again I was alone an probably the last one in that magic room in 2013.
After an unbelievable New Years day Brunch in the Montreux Palace it was time to pack up and go home.
I went to Montreux to get some inspiration but it turned out to be so so much more. This was far beyond my expectation. I just created a playlist on my iPod called “Montreux”. And the music sounds even better now….
Thank you Montreux. Might see you again.