Leadership and Coaching in Nepal – Deborah Koehler (part 4)

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What is Usual

I learn that each day is significant to the many cultural groups that live together in Kathmandu. One day there is a Newari ceremony for a girl who comes of age; the next, a Hindu ceremony for women to gather to celebrate their husbands’ health. If a factory or business is multi-cultural, it they has to decide which holidays and customs to celebrate collectively and which are personal days – so HR policies must be written with respect to different cultural norms. The result is an extremely rich cultural tapestry with a texture filled with a wide variety of daily joys.

To support these celebrations, many of which require elaborate preparation, there are large party houses – with catering, live music, and brightly colored saris dancing the night away under artificial lights amid a sea of tropical flowering plants. One night of these celebrations supports at least 1000 people in employment from transport to food preparation. As the country becomes more organized, these celebrations become ever more elaborate. At the Hospitality College where I teach, the students are invited to serve at embassies and large weddings – a great practice for them before they take their internships in Malaysia or the Middle East. They learn what wearing the wrong shoes for the night means the next morning and how it is to rush and care for difficult customers. These celebrations prepare them to be the most in-demand Hotel Staff in the world.

This has meant that these students go out in the world and learn about 5 star service, hygiene, teamwork, set up, and overall quality standards. They then bring this back to Kathmandu and, more slowly, to the villages. More important, they come back with a heightened appreciation of the great gifts of their own culture. They see when they work outside of Nepal what they have in their families, in their rich and deep cultural heritage. Slowly the old buildings are being repaired and traditional foods are being mixed with the sophistication of European cuisine. But the old glue still holds. More Nepalese are supporting orphans and the disadvantaged, negating the need for gifting from outsiders. They love their own country and culture – and want to help sustain and build them.

I am writing about the bright side of hope for the future, yet I read about the riot of the many foreign workers (Nepali’s included) in Malaysia where their passports are held and they must work off the big debt they paid to the corrupt Nepali company that deceived them in obtaining their foreign work permits. Too many do slave labor in the large Malaysian electronic assembly plants; too many live in large, crowded spaces in order to pay back this debt. They do it with the hope that their children will not have to.

In summary, the reason I do training in Nepal, is my hope that I can help develop the skills of managers to develop their staff so that younger Nepalis can stay in Nepal and have a career. I want to increase awareness of the many businesses that can be created with the rich natural recourses and traditional crafts that are so readily available. I want to help reduce the dependence on outside donations that have so corrupted the country. My belief, my hope, is that developing such skills among younger Nepalis will make slave labor, prostitution, and corruption a thing of the past and are no longer a means to an end. This is a dream we share.

Part 5