As you know, the AVP World Gathering took place in Kathmandu, Nepal, from 5th – 10th November 2017. It was based in the luxurious Park Village Hotel, and Ireland was represented by the three lucky delegates, John, James and Chris.
The Gathering was attended by 146 delegates (as well as several visitors) from 40 countries, with at least 14 different languages being spoken, yet despite this, the precisely planned programme ran without any (apparent) difficulties, which is a testament to the organisers!
Each ‘working’ day began at 8.30, after breakfast with ‘brainstorming’ on a set topic, conducted in smallish groups. (Examples: Workshop Resources; Presenting Transforming Power in AVP Workshops; Sustaining your AVP Group.) Topic Sessions followed, These were presentations delivered by groups of attendees themselves, usually two or three people from different countries who didn’t previously know each other, who had collaborated beforehand to consolidate their piece. For me, these sessions were the most valuable part of the conference. They were professionally delivered, highly informative and innovative in their content. Our own “Jammy John” spearheaded one entitled Understanding Conflict – Dynamics and Transformation. I felt like a proud parent as I sat in the ‘audience’ of this one! My only regret was that there were five such sessions to choose from each day, all running simultaneously, so like Burridan’s ass, I almost perished at the outset trying to make a decision.
Each exhausting day was carefully structured in this way, with various other things happening, and usually culminating with something less academic (Light and Livelies from around the World; Nepalese Culture Night; Peace Vigil) to take us up to bedtime at 10.00 p.m. All delicious meals were presented buffet style, which meant everyone served themselves, then found someone new to sit with. A clever strategic move! So many bonds were forged at meal times!
Kathmandu is a beautiful city with an ‘inner city’ population of 1.25 million, rising to 5 million including the urban reaches of the Kathmandu Valley. That’s one million more than the whole of Ireland! Hinduism and Buddhism are the two primary religions in the city. Nepali is the most commonly spoken language, as well as Nepal Bhasa and English. The currency is the Nepalese rupee, but American dollars will get you by! It appears to be a very poor city, seething with traffic driving on mostly unmade roads amid clouds of dust. The only ‘rule of the road’ seems to be ‘try and stay on the left, but if not, every man for himself.’ There are no traffic lights. Most people seem to travel by moped, and it is common to see a family of four crammed onto a machine, with father driving, mum at the rear and two small children – even tiny babies - wedged between them. Legally, only the driver must wear a helmet, but most passengers wear face masks, as do many pedestrians.
Here is a picture of the electricity supply system. This incredible tangle of wires is the ‘norm.’ Oddly, it reminded me of the conference – an inextricable web of live wires, all converging in the one spot, collectively working to ensure that everyone sees the light...