French Ambassador’s Wine Party: The Dutch Guy With Helvetas

Continued from previous blog: Beaujolais Day in Nepal: Wine Talk With a French Teacher

How about this bearded man? I am not sure about his nationality but that’s fine. He must be a European. Yes, he is: a Dutch, married to a Swiss and working for a Swiss agency in Kathmandu. “How old are you?” I ask him. By his facial expression, I conclude that that wasn’t the question he wanted to hear this evening though he had happily agreed to participate in the interview for the Nepali edition of the Kathmandu Post. “You guess,” he files the usual reply. I certainly do not want to disappoint him. He is a nice guy, I like his beard. They are white like of some Hindu rishi. He has spent 25 years in Africa before coming here in Nepal to work at Helvetas. I calculate and come up with this modest number: 45? “No, I am sixty,” Jon Roukema says, and smiles. “Not that old,” I assure him. He lives in Chovar, “a very beautiful place with friendly neighborhood”.

“We enjoy this,” Jon Roukema says about wine. “A glass of wine with food.” He is talking about general European habit. How is this wine, I want to know. Some say, Beaujolais nouveau isn’t a very good wine, I remember Ines Zouaghi and a couple of web sites about Beaujolais nouveau that I had seen before going to the gathering. “People tend to become very snobbish about wine,” Jon says. “It’s fresh wine.”

Suddenly the topic of “We Corner People” pops up. “I gave him the job and he did well,” Jon says about the director of the documentary. I remember that day (don’t know when I found the link of my blog written that day. The talk about film comes on the fourth last paragraph) when Girish Giri, my fellow reporter at Kantipur, had brought a DVD of “We Corner People” and told me about the film. We had gone at a corner in our office and seen the film in my laptop. I liked the film. Even though the film was made for publicity purpose of the Helvetas efforts in Nepal, the documentary directed by Kesang Tseten was a nice effort to tell the story from human perspective. It was screened in the recently concluded South Asian Film Festival. Deepak Adhikari and I were waiting for the screening of the film outside Kumari Cinema and we saw a couple sitting in a corner of the theater. “Iniharu kuna ka manchhe hun kya ho?” Deepak asked. [Are these the people from corner?] Yes, they were, we discovered, but from different corner of Nepal. They were the lead actors in another documentary that was being screened on the same day in the festival: A Life With Slate by Dipesh Kharel. Then we went to see A Life With Slate.

Okay, so there is something between this man and me that we both know about. That’s a nice feeling. “I shoed that film in Chad and Ethiopia recently,” Jon says. “And the response was ‘people are that poor there? We aren’t that poor!” What can I say? I quietly agree with him that we are really poor. Something needs to be done to improve this situation. I appreciate Jon for what Helvetas was doing in Nepal. The interview is over.

Next blog: What’s the language of communication between French Ambassador and his wife? And a little story of their love affair: direct from Shen Miao. Meet the Chinese Wife of the French Ambassador

Related blog
1. The Talk of Wine & GF [2005.11.21]