Tag Archives: Nepal 2017

Final Day in Nepal

There was great rejoicing yesterday when the group arrived in Pokara at the campsite so we are all together again.  We said an emotional farewell to the porters and cooks who cared for us so well.  Today we also said goodbye to our wonderful Sherpas. They have been at our sides through service, ball games and trekking.

We flew from Pokara to Kathmandu, checked in at the hotel, returned camping gear, took hot showers and then went off to Thamel for some shopping.  We had a delicious dinner, continuing our ritual of sharing highlights of the day.  Such a mix of regret to leave this beautiful country with eager anticipation to be reunited with family and friends.  We head home tomorrow night.

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Nepal Images


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I am starting to forget what I have already shared and what I put in my own journal.

A dog adopted us at Australian camp as we trekked to Dhampus. She did not turn back (with encouragement from the kids) but stuck with us all week until we trekked out, when she headed back that direction.  The kids named her Teshi and snuck food to her. After first worrying about her health, I came to respect how well groomed she was and how she did not seem to have a negative impact on the village. She lay by the side of each student when they were feeling ill, which I learned as a signal.  She watched over the camp each night, and would give a little greeting if you got up in the night or really bark at an intruder (dog, goat, or fox).  She pulled a few kids out of the river when they slipped. I think she was a good antidote for homesickness.

I am sure you want to hear about trekking.  The group will have lots more to share.  There are paths laid down hundreds of years ago.  In places they are grassy or dirt, but more often, stones have been laid down like uneven flagstone with big gaps between. Or they have bee stuck in the ground because so it is like walking a cobbled street in Rome but the stones are wildly irregular.  Now put that on a 30-45 degree slope.  The trek to Landruk included hundreds of steps, unevenly spaced.  Scott said they went up all afternoon yesterday.

They reached the farthest point last night and are working their way back today and tomorrow.

I went up to the World Peace Pagoda today while T rested her ankle.  It sits way atop a hill overlooking Phewa Tal lake and Pokhara.  The view from there is notable, but today was hazy.  The return trip included hiking down the mountain and being rowed across the lake.  Lots of para sailors out.

It was a big adjustment to come back to the city from the quiet of the country.  Pokhara is the trekking start point, so as in every other country, streets are filled with people of many nations, some just shopping, others prepping or resting.  Shops full of souvenirs and trekking gear. Vendors eager to lure you in.  Cows lying on the sidewalk.  Cars and cycles and people going every which way.  First, it is English left side driving. There are no stop signs or lights.  At major intersections there is a small column in the middle, creating a roundabout.  Merging is the name of the game.  Priority goes by size of vehicle.  If you think you can pass a slower vehicle, you honk and do it, trusting that the guy coming at you will yield. You honk at all blind corners ( a lot of that on the jeep track yesterday) and if you want a pedestrian or driver to be aware of you.

I enjoy watching the school children gathering to walk to school in their tidy uniforms. Public schools walk, private bus.  Must get 20 kids in a 10 seat bus. Have seen several Montessori schools.  More high school age kids in town.  Private schools teach all but 1 class in English, public v/v.

Hope you are enjoying these notes.

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I got my Kindle charged up again.

I spoke to Scott this morning and he says that the group got WiFi access last night so parents heard from them. They are doing well with arduous climbing.  Thanks to Steven for posting photos.  The kids are relieved to have seen grades and heard from colleges and job contacts. The senior nerves have run high as they think about how close they are to the next stage.

Health and food:

We have had a lot of respiratory stuff. I think now that it was from the dirt and dust in Kat and Pokhara. They have all the streets torn up with laying water mains and other construction which takes forever. Many people wear face masks.  We encountered it as soon as we got back to civilization yesterday. Wish we’d known that at the outset.  We worked to get everyone strong again for trekking. I think only 1 person may have had genuine travelers bug, but that was a wake up to really wash hands before eating, after work and toilet, and after playing with kids or dog.

The cooks are feeding us well.  The day starts with tea. Breakfast always includes a porridge, bread, egg, tea.  Lunch started with juice then a protein (tuna, beans, chicken spam),a bread like Nan, two veggies, salad, fruit.  Return to camp for tea or hot chocolate before dinner. Dinner included a carb, a protein, soup, salad and 2 veggies with tea and pudding or other dessert. Heavy on the carbs and deep fried but that was fine when we were burning the calories.  Lots of Nepalese flavors. A fave is the chick peas.  And buffalo. Heavily vegetarian which was fine. Kids talked about how much better this was for them than junk food, but the list of what they crave when they get back is growing. The cooks avoided chicken due to bird flu outbreaks in some local areas.

I think it will take multiple showers and laundries  to get Nepal out of your kids and their clothes.  Few had ever worn the same clothes for a week, at least since camp.  But why get everything filthy?

The work day ran 9-12 and 1:30-4.  Except when it rained. After tea til dinner was free time for journals, cards, or games with crew and children. Or naps.  Lots of cards played.  Lots of chatter about school, college, summer, grades…

Most days were clear in the morning and cloudy after noon. It feels like we had rain every day by dinner.  One all-day rain that trapped us together in the dining tent with a single kerosene lamp. Fortunately the sleeping tents stayed dry.  The views in the am are magnificent.

Mornings and afternoons we got a basin of warm washing water.  One the sunniest day several washed out a few clothes as well.  About 11:30 I heard yelling from the work-site (I was in camp) and the kids were lined up on the hill: “Susi, bring in the clothes” which I did in time.

Nothing like washing up facing a gorgeous mountain.

The second day we did yoga at sunrise. This was on my list.  After that it was hard to get up and the crew needed to reclaim the tarp we used in the pasture for a rain fly.  Some took a wander before breakfast and saw beautiful birds.  A cuckoo called all night. Only other wildlife sighting? One deer.

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Nepal Images

airplaneboudhanath sightseeing 1boudhanath sightseeing 2boudhanath sightseeing 3boudhanath sightseeingbreakfastdoor paintinggroup photoInteraction with the students of Jan Priya Primary SchoolInteractionKHANI GOAN, Dhampus Views and Campsitenew school block 1new school blockOld School Block 1Old School BlockOld SchoolOld School1paintingpashupatinath sightseeing 1pashupatinath sightseeing 2pashupatinath sightseeingpokhara airportPROJECT WORK 1PROJECT WORK 2project workretention wall 1retention wall 2retention wallSchool After PaintingSchool After Retention WallsSchool Before PaintingSchool Before Retention WallsTOILET

View from the Old Schoolwelcome dinner 1welcome dinnerwelcome program

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Nepal: The Work

The work:  The Dhampus community decided to build a new primary school after the quake (although the old one is serviceable).  Our funds built a retaining wall and the foundation, and a group from Malaysia paid for the rest of the building and furnishings. The retaining wall had already collapsed after 3 months, close to the back wall of the school. We had to take apart the rubble, stack the rocks to the side, then the workers brought in rock cages which should be sturdier, but had to be filled. So up and down a steep hillside of steppes. The math wizards estimated 1700 rocks varying from a half to 50 pounds. Hours of assembly line passing.This project allowed for some creative time-filling with song, chatting, watching the family plow and plant the steppes below, watching the weather change over the mountains as we passed rocks.  Another group painted so the building went from grey concrete to white, Brown enamel and turquoise in the week we were there.

Another fun part was working alongside the local workers who spoke varying levels of English, mostly none. We learned to count in Nepali as well as a few other words. Tezin was a great asset with her fluent Hindi.

The other part of our work was with the children. We went up to their school twice (there were 2 national holidays and 2 strike days last week, as well as exam day).  The kids had great fun playing, teaching English words and demonstrating their Napali. It was fun to see the hats and shirts we gave on various people all week. Several of them would race down to our camp after school to try to get into a soccer or volleyball game with the students and staff.  Many students found a child or two they connected with. One moment for me was trying to encourage a little girl to join in the “pictionary” activity with the enthusiastic boys, but she refused until Kiani put a pen in her hand. The second trip she was tending her little brother who desperately wanted Mom to return from her blossom-collecting trip up the hillside with her class. This 8-year-old carried that 2 year old around for 30+ minutes.  The kids seemed to flow between rooms freely, often to connect with siblings who both tend them and push them aside.

It was wonderful to have 8 days in this village. It gave a chance to feel we made a difference, long enough to make wilderness camp feel like home, and to deepen the group.

Even by Nepali standards this village is poor. Many families consist of children and grandparents and Maybe even mom.  Dads are in the cities or abroad earning money.  People are small and health/dental care is distant. The dirt road did go to the new school, so access by jeep and motorcycle is possible.  Most families had chickens, goats and a pair of oxen/buffalo.  Growing dry rice, corn, veggies–still too early to tell what else. Most tools are wooden. For example the family plowing involved a pair of oxen pulling a single blade plow that dad stood on to dig deeper. After a few passes, he switched to a furrowing tool and wife followed behind with a sack of seed corn on her back.  The two girls hacked at edges the plow had missed with a hand hoe and the son played with the baby, dragging him around on the unused tools.

One man invited us to see his home, so we took time out on our rain day.  A single room downstairs with a large bed, open fire (smoke preserves beams from termites but makes it very dark), a few handcrafted cupboards and shelves. There is a separate tiny marital bedroom off the pitch, and a toilet room.  Upstairs is storage.  Other family use a bedroom.  Much goes on on the porch, from threshing rice to other tasks. The women haul great loads of greens to their animals from the woods.  Washing is done at cement platforms where the water hose comes out, run down the hill from a spring.  The children in this school were pretty grimy, at least by Friday.  Each village has a community organization that collectively makes decisions, and clearly community is critical.  None of our students had known people who appeared so content with so little.  Will smart phones change all this?  Will any young people return to village life after going away to school?

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Hello friends.

Talia and I have returned to Pokhara today to protect her ankle.  It is a big adjustment back to noisy Dusty city where we are back in Wi-Fi land. I know some were able to connect from the camp last night but as a parent who sent two sons on service trips before smart phones, I know you hunger for news. I will write from the adult perspective and Talia from student. Please forgive my kindle spelling.

It has been wonderful to be off the grid. Students have bonded as a group, finding new dimensions in each other beyond those preconceived notions. They have had to be fully-present and not primarily connected to friends and family back home. This in itself has been novel. They also discovered that flashlights and cameras work better with batteries than cell phones that require frequent charging! But true to this group, they always worked out who had priority on the giving strip (when we had power).  They have been amazing.  Everyone has stretched a personal limit, from the weight of a rock, to using a squat privy, to trekking for 7 hours.

Please understand that the students have worked very hard.  They tumble into their tents between 8:00 and 9:00 p.m. and camp is silent by 9:30 p.m.  They cannot believe it, nor that they get up for sunrise! The day starts with hot tea, then washing up basins.  They have discovered how to get clean in less than a quart of water, to wear the same work clothes for a week, and to tolerate dirt.  Which doesn’t negate that the shower felt great today!  Anyway, there is no space in this trip for schoolwork.  I am sure they will all sleep through the return flight.

I wish I could send photos but I haven’t taken any with the kindle.  You will see many soon!

I will try to describe a few.

We arrived in Dhampus late in the day. The villagers met us at the New School and greeted us with leis of red rhododendron and leaves, which hung on our tent poles all week.  It was cloudy when we settled in to camp, which was 15 orange, 2 person tents (fortunately water tight), a blue dining tent, blue kitchen tent, and 2 privy tents.  In a steppe field on 4 levels.  When we awoke in the morning, we were greeted with the most amazing view of Machupuchari and Annapurna.

Today we has the same experience of a majestic view of Annapurna South (not sure I have the Annapurna’s right).  The look on one student’s face when she looked up after going to the bathroom early was priceless, and one of those not-taken snapshots.

We have to go out now. More later.

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Nepal Day 2

March 5

by Yasmina Cobrinik

Pashupati Temple – I woke up today at 7:30 a.m. and was very surprised to notice I wasn’t jet lagged, despite the substantial time difference.  After breakfast at the Hotel Manaslu, where we stayed the night, I was told we would see a cremation and our guide, Meet, wanted to know if anyone was offended by that.  We all shook our heads “no,” as I imagined many golden urns lined up on shelves at a religious site.  But after we got off the bus at Pashupati Temple and walked past several wild dogs, cows, and monkeys on the same street where people walked, I realized my expectation was extremely misguided.  There, across a stream polluted with ashes and some garbage, was a burning body surrounded by orange flowers, men from the family, and the cows, dogs, and local people passing by.  The bodies were not cremated, they were BEING cremated.  Out in the open.  With children washing their feet in the stream where the ashes would fall, Nepalese women trying to sell us necklaces, and a whole population of unrelated people and animals living their lives as they passed by. That stream, gray with ashes, was the most unusual, unexpected, and most beautiful graveyard I had ever seen.

Later we left the Hindu temple and took the bus to Bodhnath Stupa, where people were walking clockwise around the massive white structure in the middle of a circle of shops and small restaurants.  The structure had several stones adorned with prayer flags and bells.  At the very top, two eyes with a  bindi in between them looked out at the city from four directions.  We were told that people were there to pray for world peace.  From the top of the white structure, I could see the whole city and the surrounding mountains.  The colors that filled my sight of the city will never be forgotten.

Before lunch we entered an art school, which was two rooms adorned with paintings.  We learned that these paintings took so much effort and care to make, starting from stretching the cloth to glazing it with 24k gold.  We had an opportunity to appreciate and buy the paintings, and I was able to get one painted by the master of the art school of a mandala-shaped representation of lives after death.

After lunch we had the afternoon to ourselves in Kathmandu, so we split up in groups to explore the city (Thamal). I don’t know how to express how awed I was by everything.  I generally spend very little money on things I don’t need, but I was completely cleared out in two or three hours.  The best part, though, was not acquiring or gambling (bargaining) for my souvenirs and gifts for home.  It wasn’t even the beauty I encountered along the way.  It was the people.  Already I feel so blessed to have had the opportunity to speak and share with the genuinely kind-hearted, incredibly pleasant people of Nepal and to have bonded with all the genuinely, incredibly pleasant George School people on our trip.  Though I’m reluctant to leave Kathmandu tomorrow, I can’t wait to see what happens next.

(Tomorrow we fly out very early to Pokhara, then drive for an hour to a trail head where we’ll start trekking to the small village of Dhampus, where our service work project will take place.  We’ll be off the grid for awhile.)

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Nepal Day One

March 3-March 4

by Royalti Richardson

When my parents finally left and I joined the rest of the group in the check-in line at the airport, I could tell that everyone in the group was feeling nervous, tired & excited most of all.  We made our way through the Philadelphia International Airport and on to our gate and then boarded our plane.  I was a little worried about being stuck between Kiany and Sundar for 12 hours but I soon discovered that I would have a plethora of movies and TV shows to occupy myself.  Before takeoff, it became apparent that this was going to be a flight that Kiany was going to enjoy.  I had the pleasure of sitting right next to Kiany as he told me and anyone else around him who would listen, and even calling his mom and his aunt in tears about all of the great movies on this flight & his gratefulness to God, the pilot, the stewardesses & Qatar Airlines for having his back.  Sundar also provided entertainment throughout the flight by contorting his body into awkward & seemingly uncomfortable positions as he slept.  I can now say that I’d want to be smushed between Kiany & Sundar for 12 hours on a plane anytime.  Our layover in Doha was short.  Yasmina and Polly discussed the differences in drinking water tastes.  Four hours later we were about to land in Kathmandu, Nepal & the sun was out again.  The only thing I could think of as we were getting closer and closer to the ground was “Wow, is it just me, because those mountain tops look really pointy and really close to our plane.”

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