Nepal Earthquake Relief 2016
July 9-10, 2016
Namaste is a common Nepali greeting used to say hello/goodbye. It essentially means “I recognize the divine in you.” We hear that this beautiful greeting is fitting for Nepal, where lives are driven by the spiritual in everything: the mountains, the trees, the water, and the people!
At LAX, we set the Namaste greeting and spirit into motion as we met each other. We sought to learn a little about each unique person. Even though our trip was just beginning, we were already cracking each other up. It’s easy to be inclusive having a small group of 6 participants and our guide Lola–we don’t even have to break the group up to play cards or bananagrams! Though the group dreaded the 16 hour flight on Qatar Airlines, the excitement from meeting one another kept us alive and well!
Qatar Airlines did not disappoint. The meals were packed with spices and were very filling. The airline additionally provided us with eye masks, blankets and a large selection of movies to choose from. After 16 hours, we finally arrived in Qatar! The airport was filled with people from all across the globe and it was an amazing sight to see. Because of our 8 hour layover, our group pondered on what activities to occupy ourselves with. We walked around the airport and ran into a fascinating statue of a yellow teddy bear and obviously had to take a group picture with it. Our stomachs were a bit empty after the flight so we walked over to the food court. We filled ourselves up with pizzas, Chinese food, sandwiches and lots of water.
It was finally time to board but before we got on the flight, Lola wanted to make sure the group knew a couple of basic words in Nepali. We made sure we also knew how to respect the culture and the basic manners that we should be aware of in Nepal. After packing our brains with this beautiful language, we finally got on our 4 hour flight to Nepal, again with Qatar Airlines. We did have one moment of standing outside in Qatar, on the Tarmac, and even though it was 2am, it was hot as blazes! Once we got settled on the plane, no one really knew what time it was anymore, as we were headed to the opposite side of the globe and had crossed so many time zones! We made a point to rest to charge up for our morning arrival! Stay tuned for more news from Nepal! -June K.
July 11, 2016
We finally reached Kathmandu! We knew we had arrived when we saw the monkeys on the roof and Buddhists in traditional robes. It felt amazing to get some fresh air as we got our visas and passed through customs. We met our other guide Sagar, who crowned us with marigold necklaces. We discovered that they drive on the left side of the road in Nepal. Another traffic related change was the public transport and how the buses work in Nepal (very different than anywhere in the U.S.A-they just jump on the moving buses and vans that are brightly painted).
It was wonderful to reach the hotel and drink some tea on solid ground. It was also wonderful to see an incredibly colorful, traditional Hindu wedding happening in the hotel. There was live music (mainly wooden flutes), bright colored dresses, and gorgeous flowers. We were so incredibly tired that all we could do was eat lunch, take a walk to the shopping district in Kathmandu, and fall asleep by 6:00pm!
July 12, 2016
We got some energy to get up and do some things. After a Global Works orientation, we ate breakfast and headed to our first adventure of the day. Our first event was visiting the living goddess, Kumari. She was selected to be Kumari in 2008 when she was 4. Now, she is 12 and only has one or two years left before she is considered impure because of her first menstruation. Her palace is currently being held up by wooden poles because the earthquake made it unstable. We were only allowed to take photos of the palace and not of the Kumari.
After we saw the Kumari we went to the Hanuman-dhoka Dubar Square, which is a UNESCO World Heritage site. We saw a lot of the temples and buildings, like the Gaddi Baithak, that were mostly destroyed and still rubble because of how long it takes to rebuild each building. We loved spending time at the monkey temple, or Swayambunath. This stupa is atop a mountain in the middle of the massive valley that is Kathmandu. At the top, we had 360 degree views of the city and a gorgeous, ancient stupa. Here, we learned about the prayer wheels, prayer bells, some of the many gods, and other ways Buddhists and Hindus worship.
The next place we went to was the temple of Shiva. We were not allowed inside the temple because we are not Hindu but we could look and take photos of the outside. There was an amazing carving/statue of the god Shiva (the destroyer) and a lot of goats and monkeys roaming around. We walked to the backside of this temple, called Pasupatinath, where we watched a traditional Hindu cremation ceremony. These cremations are open to the public and done on platforms on the holy river. Once the body is ash they push all the wood and ashes into the river instead of keeping the ashes. There, we met a young woman who is learning English. We spoke with her to help her improve and also to learn about life in Nepal.
We drove back to the hotel where there was another wedding taking place with even more music. Because of the wedding we decided to eat out and then stop and a grocery store for some fresh mangoes. We walked back to the hotel and settled in for our last night in Kathmandu.
July 13, 2016
Today, we left our beautiful hotel in Kathmandu for a five hour bus ride to Bandipur. Luckily, we didn’t just drive for five hours straight. Along the way we stopped for some adventures. The first was rather short: a bathroom break accompanied by tea and crackers. The next stop was a walk along a rope bridge that was hanging over the huge river. We were going to raft the river but due to all the recent rain, it was running too fast with high waters to be safe for rafting. However, the view from the rope bridge was pretty amazing! The last stop was for lunch. We had to hike a little through a jungle which was nice after sitting in a van for awhile. We reached the resort-like place and were pleasantly greeted by cold towels and lemon water. We then had a filling lunch and a well-needed swim in a pool that looked out into the mountains. We had our first group “weather check”, or debrief, at poolside. We talked about what we observed that was so different from life in the United States. We hiked back to the road and jumped back into the van, blasted some tunes, and enjoyed the view for the rest of the ride till we reached the hotel in Bandipur. We briefly played with some kids (they loved my bumblebee pillow pet, Bumble) and fell in love with the incredible view of the Himalayas from our hotel rooms. We ate some dinner, learned a Nepali card game, then got prepared for our first day of work which is tomorrow! -Paige T.
July 14-16, 2016
Going to sleep with a beautiful view of the Himalayas and waking up in a cloud of mist is not an everyday coincidence. Some of our minds were already in a fog when we woke up so you can imagine that the addition of more fog to this awakening can be an amusing site. After lazily getting out of bed and putting on some clothes (that were bound to get dirty), we ate a meal packed with the necessary energy needed to keep us going throughout our first day of work. A warm welcome by the principal, a long gaze at the school grounds, and a good education about how the school is setup lead us to believe that the kids and teachers would benefit from our help. We made a quick walk to our soon-to-be kindergarten class where we were given beautifully designed white scarves.
One of our first encounters at the Bhanubhakta Higher Secondary School was with a very nice woman named Sanumaya who smiled as we began to clear the work site. This clearing process consisted of cutting into a mountain to form a plateau on which we would work to make the kindergarten class. We then began to dig a trench-like hole in which the border of the foundation would be laid. We made our first walk back to the hotel for lunch and returned later to finish building the border. At 5 we returned with sore bodies and tired minds. We then ate a quick dinner and passed out for a solid 11 hours.
We headed out the next morning, ready to begin our second day of meaningful work. We walked from our hotels location through the hilly and mountainous region of Bandipur that still remained the same as it was during the medieval times. After our work was complete for the day, our co-leader, Sagar, found an awesome spot to get a refreshing ice cream! Every meal here has been spiced up and served over rice with a heaping side of vegetables. Day three was filled with a mixture of different activities at the work site which showed how much progress we had made in such a short time. We began the day by splitting into two groups of three kids each whom had different tasks to complete. One task was to sort through rubble to find solid bricks that were not fully destroyed by the earthquake. The other group began to build the wall that was made by layers of cement and bricks. We then had some time to play with the cute and energetic Nepali children who were patiently waiting to henna our arms. They sang us the English and Nepali ABC’s which they knew by heart.
After completing the tasks at hand and playing with the kids, we came together to mix a huge mound of cement that would be used to form the foundation of the classroom. By walking up flights of stairs with weighted bags of gravel and rocks, we were able to finish laying the foundation that day. However, we wouldn’t have been able to finish that day if it weren’t for the help of the Nepali men and women who were working beside us.
July 17, 2016
Thank the gods that may be for a day off today! Even though we’ve been enjoying the incredibly fulfilling work that we’ve been doing, we were all very excited to have some time to ourselves to explore. We had the opportunity this morning to walk around Bandipur, with a little bit, let me excuse myself, a LOT (for some of us) of retail therapy. The town square reminds me of a medieval Italian piazza, which makes sense as it is just about as old. The best part of this morning though was that we were able to venture out farther into the other parts of the village than we ever have before. Everywhere you look, the colors are vibrant, and when the streets are coated in rain, the flowers seem to sparkle a little more. The boys spent part of this time going with Lola and Sagar to the local clinic, where they had an inside view into the way health care works here in Nepal.
After lunch, we got the chance to do something extra special. All of us walked to the school where we had been working and had the chance to meet and play games with some kids our age from the school. We played charades, hangman, and a few other classic games that were apparently classic to them too. It was fantastic to have an opportunity like this one to get to meet and interact with kids our own age for more than just a brief moment.
July 18, 2016
It’s strange to think that today was our last day in Bandipur, but we are all also very excited for what’s to come. We spent the morning working, mainly passing bricks and helping to add onto the wall, then took a literal hike. There’s a trail behind the school that leads up to the top of the ridge where there is a small temple with an absolutely stunning view. We couldn’t resist taking a couple of stereotypical Titanic-style top of the world pictures. The lush green valley soared below us, with the town nestled somewhere down in the sea of emerald.
We went to our very last lunch at the hotel, then headed back to the work site for one final push. Maybe it was fate, or maybe just luck, but the weather was beautiful. It wasn’t too hot, yet the sun was shining brilliantly. We set a nice pace and pushed through until the end, when the workers and the school’s principal gave us a wonderful goodbye ceremony. We each received a ceremonial scarf to show respect and appreciation, flowers, and a bright red tikka, a mark on the forehead, symbolizing respect and good luck as well. After expressing our final goodbyes, we headed off into town, where we treated ourselves to some momos. It was the perfect time of day, when the sun hits the streets just right and sets the world ablaze, yet gives everything a soft glow.
July 19, 2016
And today, we’re off! We had one last breakfast up in the clouds, then hit the road. The ride wasn’t bad until we hit the “rough zone”, bouncing up in down in our seats as we sang along to “Party in the USA”. The thing about these long car trips in Nepal is that, similar to pizza, even though it’s bad, it’s still pretty good. There are so many beautiful and interesting things to look at that you can’t help but enjoy yourself. The second half of the ride was incredibly peaceful, and it was the perfect time to get some deep and reflective thinking in.
Arriving in Lumbini was an experience. The town is completely different from Bandipur, with poverty a seemingly more widespread issue here. When we pulled up to our hotel though, my mouth dropped open. Inside a gate is the beautiful garden oasis that is our sleeping place for the next few nights. After checking in to our wonderfully air conditioned rooms, we headed out for a walk. Sagar took us to a nearby village, one that is about as different from our own lives as we can get. Most of the houses were made of mud, and we had a couple close encounters with a hostile Water Buffalo and got a chance to see our favorite animals… baby goats! As we headed out into the rice patties with the sun about to start setting, I have to say I was slightly confused, until we headed back towards the village. Children were following us everywhere because someone had to be a good person and offer them crayons. Like the day before, there was a beautiful sunset, one of the kinds that reminds you of all of the pure beauty still left in the world.
July 20-23, 2016
The next day we went to the birth place of Buddha. It was a large area with big green trees, open fields, and lots of very cool temples. How it works is that countries from around the world buy land off it and build their own temples. We first went the Chinese temple. Its was full of color, with bright reds and yellows. Prayer flags lined the walk way and inside there was a giant gold statue of Buddha. We then went to many other temples including the Nepal, Germany, Thailand, Cambodia, and Austria. They were all very beautiful in there own way. After that we went to the actual birthplace of Buddha. There were pieces of building that were discovered that dated back to 200 B.C. The tree that Buddha was born under still stands and there were hundreds off prayer flags all around. After all the temples we went back to the hotel and ate lunch.
After lunch we went to the monk’s temple. They ranged from 8 to 14 years old. We got to meet all of them and then we split into two groups and taught them English. We taught them with fun games and rewarded them when they won the games. Once we were done teaching them we went and played some fun soccer games with them. After about 30 minutes of that we went to go meditate with the monks. It was a very cool experience.
The next day we had to leave Lumbini. So we got back on a plane and flew back to Kathmandu. It was a only like a 30 minute flight. That day we just had a shopping day at Bhaktapur Durbar Square. This UNESCO world heritage site is now a tourist’s shopping dreamland; all the little shops are in building dating back to the 1400‘s. The damage last year’s earthquake caused was evident in all the cracks and bricks on the ground everywhere, as well as noticing the squatter settlement of earthquake victims. We bought all sorts things like statues of Buddha, t-shirts, and prayer flags. After shopping we went to a fancy restaurant for our last dinner in Nepal. At the restaurant there were people that danced up on a stage (dressed in different traditional attires to represent the different peoples of Nepal). It was very cool. When it was over, we hit the stage and did our own performance. After that we went back to the hotel and just hung out for a while.
The next day was our las day in Nepal and some of us went to get henna tattoos and some went to get massages. We then had a closing ceremony reflecting on what we had done over the trip and how it had affected us. We then went to the airport and said sad our goodbyes to our amazing Nepal guide, Sagar. Off to Qatar! See you States-side soon! – Jake