Sorry this one comes a bit late but you know how it goes!! No time at all when you get back!
My last blog left you in the magical city of Udaipur, Rajasthan. India's Venice of the east, I am very fortunate that i go there each year.
My last day was spent rushing around, tieing up loose ends, giving the guys at the workshop their bonus, which are always appreciated, then a last dinner at my favourite resturant in Udaipur before calling it a night, ready to get to the airport for a 6.30am flight.
Yawn, Yawn, I've never been good at these early flights! I got a lift to the airport from a bleary eyed Govind and sat around waiting for the flight to be called. One look out the window and i'm a bit nervous, its a prop jet, and a small one at that. To say i'm scared of flying wouldn't be true, apprehensive, yes, sweaty hands yes, aware of all the noises in the plane, yes, can i stop it? no! It's not as if i don't fly very much!
The flight goes well, lovely and smooth, even an inflight sandwich, what it was i'm not too sure but it involved sweetcorn! I transit in Delhi then jump onboard a 737 (Proper plane) for my 4 days in kathmandu.
It's always a joy to go to Nepal, the people are so friendly and smiley and everyone says hello. It's amazing really, considering the problems that Nepali people face, with poverty and an unstable policitical situation amongst the many.
I thought I was being clever by printing off a visa form and pre filling it in, straight to the front of the queue i was thinking, smug, maybe a little. I arrive in Kathmandu just after a Thai Air 777 (a big one) back of the queue, 2 hours! It's never been that busy!!!
We did actually see Sting at the airport a few years ago, he did offer to sing a song for us, unfortunately our taxi was waiting! "An Englishman in Nepal" would have been the obvious choice. (It is a true story!)
Back to work! Where is everyone???? I learn that Kathmandu is in the middle of a 3 days strike, nothing open and nothing on the roads - at least my airport taxi ride only took 15 min instead of an hour!
I check into a new hotel this time, the Ambassadors Garden, (Not an ambassadors house, nor does it have a big garden) a bit more central for me to get around and 24 hour electricity and wireless, not that common in Kathmandu!
Next day i'm off to see ACP, the Association of Craft Producers, unfortunately only a quick meeting to see their new products and discuss our sales from last year. These guys are brilliant, such dedicated people.
My afternoon meeting was with Milan at Get Paper Ind, these guys are amazing, please have a look at their website, they do so much for the community. They have 3 schools for underprivilidged children, run a felt business for women who have escaped from the sex trade, Aids awareness, plant trees etc etc. They work closely with the Body Shop who even helped build one of their schools - The Anita Milan Academy. We sponsor 4 children at that school and they are always looking for other people to help. After a good look around, meeting the workers again we discuss new products.
We have a fantastic new Leather Journal and photo album range coming out in a few months and Get paper have made beautiful rustic cotton bags and boxes for them!
The next day is spent chosing our popular Animal hats, a few more new designs to add to the 26 designs we already sell. I also chose new gloves, socks, shawls, scarves and a few different hats. They will all be online in a few months when they come in.
That evening i bump into a couple of friends from home so the next few evenings are spent in the local bars, one night (early next morning as well!) we even had to leave a restuarant as it was closing, a bar (as it was closing) and the local cheesy nightclub (as it was closing). I havent done that for years!
Needless to say then next morning was a bit hazy but a full Nepali breakfast of fried potatoes, eggs, juice, tea, toast and a copy of the Himalayan Times seemed to do the trick.
My last days was spent with our felt suppliers, Merino Felt. We've been supplying Oxfam for a number of years with our felt but this year we had to go down the product testing route as the EU had brought out new legislation. I had to collect loads of papers about where the wool originates, the dyes, metal clips etc. Would have been a little easier if it wasn't in Nepali!!
That concludes my trip...... or does it?? Still a little time for things to go wrong!!! - I thought it had all gone a bit too smoothly!
Early morning flight to Delhi and i'm looking forward to my Delhi to London flight in business class, that's a bit extravagent i hear you say!!!! Don't worry, its an airmiles upgrade. (it was lovely by the way!)
Whats gone wrong then? Well, I left my phone on the plane on the way to Delhi and no one found it (well someone did but they didn't give it back!) I spent the 4 hours in transit waiting for airline officials to check, me online trying to find my phone using icloud then having to make the horrible decision to wipe the phone remotely.
Landing in London i was met by Claire and our little girl Amber who was holding a big "DADDY" sign, yep, ok, a little bit emotional, i hadn't seen them for 16 days!
So, the 2 week trip went very well, loads of new products on their way, fantastic to see all of our producers again and happy to be home.
Oh, by the way, icloud for the iphone, excellent, i managed to get everything back on my phone!
Over the next few months we are going to be posting information on each of our producers and finding out what they stamd for, how they work, what they do and how they do it.
Please remember, Fair Trade really does change people's lives!