Arrival in Kathmandu & Durbar Square

After the ridiculous amounts of excitement induced by the Smith's arrival in Nepal had subsided enough for proper cognitive function to continue, one of the first places we visited was Durbar Square. Kathmandu Durbar Square is the plaza in front of what was once the royal Palace of the Kathmandu Kingdom which is reflected in the ornate and antiquated architecture that is around to feast your eyes on.

Once inside the square we headed to the Kumari Ghar, or house of the living Goddess. According to tradition, a young unmarried girl who fulfils certain requirements is chosen to live in the Kumari Ghar (there are two more of these residences in Nepal). They must stay at the house where they also receive an education, until they reach puberty when they are no longer deemed pure. You are not allowed to take pictures of the Kumari but many tourists go to try and catch a glimpse at one of her daily appearances as it is considered lucky. Despite being an interesting point of cultural difference, I found sighting the Kumari and visiting the house quite difficult - it was harrowing to see the perfectly made-up, yet emotionless face briefly rest at the court-yard window for the benefit of foreign and native onlookers, before disappearing once more from view.

We also just enjoyed spending some time just moseying around the town - it felt like stepping back in time, the motorbikes and cars almost becoming invisible in comparison to the grandeur of the old buildings and the hectic smaller shops and stalls weaved in between, with crowds of people effortlessly gracing the space between the two.
After a shave at the dodgiest looking barbers for my Dad (one of the more bizarre Smith family travelling traditions), we gratefully took some shade in a roof top cafĂ© before slowly heading back, taking our time to appreciate the friendliness of the locals and the precarious and chaotic telephone wire arrangements.


An Open Letter // Why is my syllabus so white?

An open letter to all lecturers, principals, prime ministers, programme conveners and education ministers...
Why is my syllabus so white? And not only white, but nigh on exclusively male?
I can't comprehend how you have failed to neglect such a large proportion of the global demographic, instead choosing only to teach works from white men with privileged upbringings. Has no woman, Chinese, transgender, working class, African or homosexual person ever written an academic source worthy of teaching? For this is  the sentiment your current syllabus exudes and I implore you to think about the impact this is having on the future generations of our world.
I can't help but feel my heart sink, when I walk past the "Women's representation display" outside my lecture theatre, showing only a row of white faces to look back at me. And, as I look at my module options for next year, note the high percentage of white male lectures - a contradiction as I come to university, taking modules in Geography, Literature and Film, desperately trying to grasp as many perspectives on the world as I can, yet being limited by those in charge to do so. Alas, no wonder that so many students cannot recognise their own white privilege, when we are only shown the world through the same eyes.
Disregarding the importance of diversity breeds naivety and segregation, rather than the understanding and acceptance our world craves. Please help make the concept of a diverse and equal world a more tangible reality.
Yours sincerely,
A very bemused student. 
From my perspective - KCL.


International Women's Day

So yesterday was International Women's Day - an important date in the calendar if ever there was one! The concept - simply to raise awareness for gender inequality and give the diversity of women that inhabit this beautiful planet a chance to celebrate womanhood. Yet I woke up to a sight to dampen my high spirits as social media presented me with messages questioning the relevance and effectiveness of International Women's Day. Some even wrote to question the non-existence of "International Men's Day" (despite the fact this was founded in 1992, and occurs every year on the 19th of November...) whilst others claimed that if we truly want to be equal we should not celebrate days such as these. And although I respect the view point that if we were in a truly equal society, the importance of International Women's day may be undermined, but the fact of the matter is that we don't live in a world where we have achieved total equality and harmony across the gender spectrum. We still live in a world where women earn less than men, where female genital mutilation  happens and gender stereotypes cause women to suffer abuse and oppression on a daily basis. Of course I wish that all of this were untrue, but by not having things like international women's day, we would be denying that the problem of gender inequality exists. Furthermore, International Women's Day is a positive and intersectional campaign that celebrates the lives of so many unheard women. Should we not be using social media to ensure the connectivity of this message in all corners of the world, instead of taking the attention away from an idea fundamental to the progression of society? We should not cleanse our communities of these important campaigns, for they raise awareness that there is inequality in this world that needs to be changed, as well as celebrating so many unrecognised female accomplishments that are overlooked because of the patriarchal structure that effects each and every nation on this planet.
For these reasons, I made a conscious decision to celebrate this Sunday with a wonderful woman friend of mine, by attending an interactive, Virginia Woolf-inspired art installation, at 'The Strong Room', in Shoreditch. The crowd-funded project involved a "Room of One's Own", represented by a see-through cube containing a writing desk and a chair. Participants were asked to add their own messages and illustrations onto the structure, before it would be recycled into a greenhouse to be used by a local charity focused on helping people with mental health issue in recognition of the suffering Woolf experienced throughout her lifetime. Alongside a gin and tonic, it was the most ideal way to take pleasure in a very joyous Sunday.
Mine and Edie's contribution of the original "woah-man" illustration.