Monthly Archives: January 2013

Graffiti in Ghent

Making the most of my time in Belgium to scope out other places for field trip destinations so headed off to Ghent with my Use It map and camera. Rather then head into the centre on a tram or taxi I decided to walk taking in the suggested highlights on my map made by local young people linked to Use It (more on that in another post). First impressions of Ghent – graffiti churches and coffee bars …. And Monday is not the day to go as many of the cafes and shops are closed. It’s definitely a place I’d come back to though lots of interesting things to see and places to visit so need too come for longer next time.


The main thing i wanted to see was graffiti street – which the volunteer in the use it office in Brussels had told me about – as anyone who knows me knows I love graffiti and I love how it is so different everywhere you go. Graffiti street is an entire alley linking two shopping streets that is just covered in graffiti, colourful vibrant artwork that is constancy replaced building up layers and layers of graffiti over the years. The alley has been designated by the local government as a legal spot for graffiti to try and keep the rest of the city free of spray paint. While there are some splashes of paint in other parts of the city, the best work seems to be concentrated here. Compared to other graffiti I’ve seen this was more colourful than political and leaves me thinking is legal graffiti the same as illegal graffiti and who does which where when and why ! Now that’s food for thought.


Just off Groentenmarkt one alley had such enticing  artwork on the walls that it led me down a small alley that led to a great little bar – with live music at night and no wifi (pronounced wiffy in Belgium!).  Quite refreshing in today’s wifi obsessed society – meaning I couldn’t blog from where I was but had to instead …. actually chat to the local bar man and a very interesting guy who has a keen interested in Liverpool. Didn’t catch the customers name but he was wearing a long doctor who type scarf and knew a lot about music. Stephen, the bar tender,  makes a great coffee and is in a band called Sherman who are quite good as I googled them later when wifi was available ! The bar was called Hot Club de Gand and is well worth checking out – down the alley near the bridge just after the Nepali restaurant (which is closed on a Monday!)


Overall Ghent looks like a much nicer place to be a student and in some ways reminded me of York – very pretty down by the river at night… I’ll definitely be back !

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Use it … Or lose it

Thanks to my ex geography student Lauren for giving me what turned out to be an excellent resource for the field trip in Belgium. As I was dashing round getting read to teach before heading off to Manchester airport I raised I hadn’t even not a map of Brussels and asked Lauren to see what she could find – so much for me still being a Geographer at heart ! Thankfully I had a very well trained one to hand and the 4 pieces of paper she printed off from the Use It web site was just perfect. A map made by local young people’s with top tips on where to go to see the ‘real Brussels’.


On the Saturday I used it to discover the north of the city and ended up at the actually offices where the maps are made and turns out its the head quarters of the European. They even do youth led urban trails on mondays at 2 from their offices.

Chatting to the two voluntary staff in there was really great and got lots more top tips and even started to think about how to run this project with young people in Liverpool as it fits perfectly with some of the things I’ve been working on with photography projects in Nepal and Liverpool and also wants n too reconnect and a suspect some community youth centres right on my own doorstep in Liverpool… So watch this space and check out this link to see if the cities yo Umar be visiting in Europe ate covered !



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Leuven or Sikles !!!

What an amazing day I had in Leuven – started off by meeting lotte who works from UNDP and having a really good chat about development, governance and lots of interesting things especially good to catch up with her and exchange ideas about the aleevee8 concept ( and talk about the importance of business ideas to help development in Nepal.

And then on to the most wonderful Sikles Parche welcoming part for me and my two students who are here with me in Belgium. It was quite emotional in many ways as I have been meaning to come here and visit them for so long but with work, research, family and nepal commitments it has been hard to find the time and funds to do this – so I make the most of my opportunity of being in Belgium and came to see the sikeshi community here in Leuven. As oh my life Leuven is a beautiful place to be – though not as nice as Sikles maybe…


So many familiar faces and people who I had taught all the way back in 1992 now living and working here and all wanting to share ideas and think about how best to support their family and friends who still live in Sikles and surrounding villages. It’s probably worth saying here when I talk about Sikles I am also talking about Parche as well as I said yesterday – Sikles Parche ustei ustei same same not different ! And in many ways it also includes other villages that are the same in so many ways like Khilang, Taprang, Thak, Sonda, Tanting – the thing that makes these places special is the heart of the people that live their and their love of their own homes communities and cultures even when they are living overseas they remain a tight community and celebrate their background and heritage. Lauren and Selina really enjoyed meeting so many wonderful people and appreciated everyone sharing their thoughts and ideas with them – and especially they loved the beautiful children who were so playful and cute they were made to feel very welcome !


I had taken with me some old photos and the book of course – that goes without saying – but I also found a survey I had done in the school with every child from class 6 to 10 on their family structures icon during who was in their family where they lived what they did what they liked and didn’t like at school and even how many animals they had as well as what they wanted to do and where they wanted to live in the future. Sharing this information with the people who had come to the event and hearing all their amazing lives connections and stories made me relative I need to come back and do some properly reach on this and link it to how best to suport the people who live in your birth place !


I was welcomed by everyone, and was happy to meet Yuba Rajs elder brother and sad to not see Yuba who I haven’t seen since 1998 😦 Seeing so many faces made me miss Sikles , remember all the time I have spent there and especially made me miss and say a prayer for grandma and Bir Kumari – I’m sure they were with us in spirit yesterday.


Sharing ideas and being welcomed by so many people was lovely – and I have a new name – Dr Sara Gurung – thank you Om Raj ha ha – hope my husband doesn’t mind too much ! Anyway that’s all I’ve got time for now and a big thank you to the owner of the restaurant for the snacks and drinks and the food was amazing – Dheri Dheri dhanyabad mero Siklesko saathlai – Sikles mero maiti Ho !! And now Leuven can be my third home maybe – pheri betaunla are ramro sangha bonus – Sara didi (nani)

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Brussels and blogging

Well here I am in Brussels with two sociology students on a field trip – which is a new experience for me as many of you will know I don’t know Brussels so much so was a bit worried at how it would all work out! My main reflection so far is to have more faith in myself as despite a lack of contacts I think it’s going really well and we are making the most if the contacts we have! Lauren and Selina are mature responsible students who are a pleasure to be with (and I’m not just saying that because they will read it!) and have fully immersed themselves in the tasks I have set them. On the plane I made too use of a great map Lauren had managed to find when that morning I had declared ‘Oh my life I haven’t evern prepared an urban trail !’ The map she gave me was full of great suggestions .. But more on that later.

The first visit we made was to visit the fair trade advocacy group here in Brussels and hijack the first 20mins of an interviewing that Bob had set up – some really interesting insights into the important role of advocacy and forthcoming events followed by a mega long chat about education, which is the focus of the research being done her by Lauren and Selina. Lots of questions for us to think about such as the role of mayors in today’s society, why is the UK so conservative and in today’s recession is it easier for males to get a place on PGCErt courses and why.


We then did a massive urban walk taking covering most if the south side of the city having a lunch stop along the way as we headed to the British Council then European Parliament. The BC was not so much use given they don’t let anyone in but the European Parliament had an interactive exhibition which was interesting to reflect on. The best bit for me was the maps and globes – reminding me of my geographical routes !

Then coffee an cake in a great little organic fair trade cafe – lots of these about in Brussels.


Met the girls for breakfast and had briefing session on diaries and set them a task for the day ready to meet up later tonight – I had some time to catch up on work and plan my trip to Leuven tomorrow. Being away and travelling makes you realise the value of having on your own time as you really can step back and reflect – my problem now as I am posting my ideas onto Facebook and blogs and generating more and more work for myself – note to self plan in some chill time !

Using the great map mentioned before I planned out a self guided tour on my own to check out others area of the city and set of on tram and a metro to check out the ‘exotic’ international sector in the north – which turned out to be no so exciting and rather dull. The most exciting thing a I saw was lots of tubs of olives – but to the north of the area was in interesting looking Art project on gender what ill have to check out.



However I did come across the offices of use it who are the people, behind the map and ended up with the most brilliant discussion with the two volunteers who were in the office that day on a whole range of top is from how the projects work, how the maps and are made and possibilities of how we can engage young people in Liverpool in the initiative – I’m sitting in the cafe next to the offices now just buzzing with ideas and hope that it leads to something practical in Liverpool but only time will tell … If you are interested in what use it do – engaging and empowering young people to make maps for other young people – then check out Also came away with ideas for where to go tonight so all in all a good days work.


And finally about to head back but having great Moroccan soup and cappuccino in Via Via which is the nearest type of bar cafe I have found to the pass by bar in Beijing – and very similar to cafes in Kathmandu – very laid back and chilled – alternative – off for one more coffee



Filed under Brussels, fair trade, field trip, sociology, Uncategorized