Nepal Earthquake Relief 2017
July 10-12, 2017
Namaste! Greetings from Kathmandu, Nepal!
It’s been a long journey filled with countless movies, plane meals, security checks and even a butterfly garden in Singapore! Our group has arrived and couldn’t be more excited to start our journey together. While we are definitely exhausted, there is also a great energy exuding from the group as we being to take in the new culture around us. Everyone is eager to learn a bit of Nepali and asking questions to Sagar, our third leader.
When we met Sagar (and Peter!) upon arrival in Kathmandu, we were gifted beautiful flower necklaces made of marigolds and roses. After a relatively short bus ride, we arrived at Hotel Manaslu. We paired up with roommates for the next two nights and some headed off to rest while others enjoyed the beautiful pool! After dinner, we played a few ice breakers and name games before heading to bed. It’s been a long journey and is only just the beginning. Time to rest up!
July 13, 2017
Finally, our first full day in Nepal! For the most part everyone has recovered from the travelling, and we got to explore Kathmandu. The first thing we did today was take the bus to Durbar Square where we got to see the Kumari’s temple. The Kumari is a young girl revered as a living goddess in Hinduism. Continuing our exploration of Durbar Square, our local guide, Sagar, pointed out buildings and temples that were made between the thirteenth and seventeenth centuries. We saw photos of what the buildings looked like before the earthquake of 2015, and the destruction was truly devastating. From there we went to Sywambhuanth (Monkey) Temple where we had a beautiful view of Kathmandu Valley and monkeys. We then went to the Pasupatinath Hindu temple where we saw preparations for cremation. We then returned to the hotel, hungry and tired from our day of sightseeing.
-Declan & Molly
July 14, 2017
Today we woke up bright and early for a quick breakfast at 7:30. After filling up on toast, hard boiled eggs, and lots of water we left for our 5 hour bus ride to Kurintar, where we would do the majority of our service work. During the bus ride we entertained ourselves by singing, telling stories, listening to music, and reading. We got an amazing view of mountains, small farms, and children playing. After the bus ride we hiked across a bridge, up a mountain, and through a town to get to the Summit River Lodge. We had a well deserved lunch at the lodge’s restaurant and had a little free time to shower, swim in the lodge’s pool, or just sleep. We hiked a little longer to reach the school where we are working, to learn what we would be doing there. When we returned back to the lodge we spent an hour playing games together like mafia, where the west wind blows, evolution, and bop the weasel. We finished the day by excitedly planning activities for the children tomorrow.
July 15, 2017
We woke up, had breakfast, and got ready to begin the construction at the school. At 9 o’clock, we began our hike up a daunting “hill” (most people would call it a mountain). We sweat so much we could have ended the California drought. Once we reached the school, we were greeted by the children with gifts of Tikas (red dots on our foreheads), Katas (white scarves), and flowers (traditional welcome gifts). Our group split, half of us began digging holes for the foundation of the bathrooms, and the other half spent a long 45 minutes entertaining the children with crafts and games (they were super cute, so we didn’t mind). We returned to the hotel for lunch and again hiked up to the school to continue the construction. We shoveled dirt and moved rocks in the smoldering heat, but we were satisfied with the results of a hard day’s work. As soon as we made our way back to the hotel, everyone jumped in the pool to cool off. To end our day, we had a very good dinner prepared for us by the hotel staff and discussed our day and our plans for tomorrow.
– Ava & Ariel
July 16, 2017
We continued on our project at the primary school today. The weather was still hot and humid, but the good thing is that we began to get used to the hiking up and down. There were not as many kids as yesterday, while they were very excited to see us, which also made us forget the exhaustion of hiking up the hill. After the first day, we were very happy to see that the kids who were a little bit shy yesterday were more willing to engage in our activities. I worked in the group that focused on teaching the children some art skills, and thanks to our leader Sagar’s supply of printing paper, we were able to continue our teaching on drawing and painting. We taught them how to draw the animals, such as elephants and monkeys, and they felt really interested and excited to learn. They also enjoyed playing with the paper airplanes we made, it made us feel really happy to see them running around with smiles. The other groups held a lot of amazing activities as well. We let the kids sit on our shoulders, running around, and we are sure that they were really happy about that. In the afternoon, we continued on our construction of the bathrooms, and we made a lot of progress throughout the day. We had two groups today; one of them focused on mixing the concrete, and the other one continued digging the hole for the septic tank of the bathrooms. As we finished the work of the day, we have put the concrete in the foundation of the bathrooms and dug the hole for about 4 feet (of the 6 feet we need). We are proud of our progress, and we really enjoyed the time spent with those cute kids!
July 17, 2017
The service project is coming along. Today we finished digging the six foot hole, we even had to work extra hours to finish it. We had to use small bowls to bring the dirt out of the hole and toss it off the side of the hill. While some people were doing that, the others carried more rocks for the foundation. The rocks were coated with clay so everyone got their fair share of dirt. The days are getting less humid but it seems like the sun getting hotter. Although the sun makes our skin feel boiling, we wouldn’t trade it for the world. We also did the grueling task of mixing cement, which was a tedious system of shoveling the mixture into one pile and then immediately after shoveling it back into the previous spot. After the cement was mixed, we passed it back to the experts so they could finish the foundation. While the construction was going down, some of us played with the kids. The kids just play and play and play nonstop and when they are done with that, they play a little bit more. It’s amazing how they have so little but they are so happy with what they have. This evening after dinner, we sat and gave each other shoutouts, which essentially complimented everyone’s work. Everyone enjoyed singing each others’ praise. No matter how hard everyone works all day, we all still have enough energy to hang out, swim, and have fun. Hopefully making lifelong connections.
-Sophie & Brian
July 18, 2017
We woke on our next to last morning in Kurintar to the usual sound of monkeys running across our roof. Breakfast was earlier than normal so that we could beat the boiling heat of the sun in our last day of service. We were excited to trek up the hill for the next to last time, and our new strength was apparent in our accelerated speed. We went immediately up to the location of the soon-to-be restrooms that we were constructing, and started passing cinder blocks, mixing cement, and carrying gigantic jugs of water. We would go down to the school one group of about four people at a time, and there were more kids than ever before. Organized games had become difficult to maintain, so free play with the frisbee and little rubber balls was popular. At about 12:15 in the early afternoon, the school hosted a small goodbye ceremony for us. They sang what we guessed was the Nepali national anthem, and gave us the same gifts of flowers and scarves as before. Leaving the kids as we went down to lunch was sad, but we knew that the construction project that we were working on would hopefully assist them for a lifetime. We traveled down for lunch, and then back up for the final time. The sun was the hottest that it had been in our entire time here, but we pushed through the final three hours of service. We put in the doors of the bathroom and built up a wall of cement and cinder blocks. Once the hours had passed and we reflected on our service that we had completed, we were incredibly proud of the six foot deep hole and all of the cement that we had mixed. We came back down and relaxed or swam until our final dinner at this resort. Afterward, we played a group game where we recognized each other for the bonds we had made and the work that we had completed. It was an incredible and enriching experience in Kurintar, but we were excited to move on and see more of Nepal. It had been a satisfying day.
July 19th, 2017
We had to wake up earlier than usual as it was our last night in our little paradise. Whether it was the amazing views, infinity pool, or adorable children it would all be missed. The previous five days were a whirlwind of work and fun. We all said our goodbyes and trekked to where the bus was supposed to pick us up. We had to hike back across this huge suspension bridge. Being afraid of heights was not an option as we were probably eighty feet above the raging river below. Due to ground runoff, the water was brown which simply added to the harrowing atmosphere of being way too far off the ground. The bus ride was the usual four hour bumpy ride where motion sickness and bad singing could both be found.
When we finally arrived at the Island Jungle Resort we were greeted with cold water and damp face towels, both of which made us feel comfortable and welcome. After settling in and eating some lunch it was time to bathe the elephants. We saw the elephants when we first arrived but seeing them up close was much different. The elephants were lead into the river and one by one we took turns sitting on their backs as they collected water in there trunks and flung it towards us. The current was strong but the elephants were too strong to have to fight it. Feeling their skin you would think you were touching a rock. Later we rode a bus into the surrounding village and we got a little glimpse of the culture in this region of Nepal.
– Cam and Nate
July 20, 2017
We were woken up at 5:30 a.m. by the kind hotel staff with a knock on our doors. It was so early, but we managed to wake up and have some Nepalese tea with biscuits in the dinning hall. We then split into our two groups that were assigned to us on the previous night. Group A went on a canoe trip down the Narayani River and saw many animals including a crocodile, two rhinos, and many peacocks. We(Group A) arrived on shore and hiked our way back to the resort through the ominous jungle. Meanwhile, the other group took out the three Kali sisters (elephants) and rode them through the jungle. Some animals seen while riding the elephants were a hoard of rhinos, a family of goats, some cattle, a dog, and native birds. The two groups got back to the hotel and met up for breakfast around 8:00 a.m. After this, groups A and B switched the activities. We had lunch at 12:30 and then got to learn a little more about Asian elephants afterwards. We made rice sandwiches for the elephants and fed them. Fun fact: there are around 40,000 muscles alone in an elephants trunk. Some of us climbed up the elephant by grabbing onto its ears and standing on the trunk. The elephant did the rest and lifted us up on its back. Bathing them was also a fun experience. We cooled off by getting splashed with the freezing river water by the elephant. It was then time to roam through the jungle to see what else we could encounter. We saw more rhinos and enjoyed the beautiful views. There was a rhino that ran right in front of Sagar. It started raining and we retreated to our resort. It was a hard trek, but we came back unscathed. After dinner, we watched traditional Nepalese dancing performed by local children. We soon jumped in on the dancing and had the night of our lives. We then bid our farewells to our new friends and retired in preparation for our next destination to The Birthplace of Buddha!
– Daniel and Stella
July 21, 2017
Early this morning, we again found ourselves traveling on the bumpy road heading towards Lumbini. Arriving at the hotel in time for lunch, we settled in and began our tour of the town. Similar to Kathmandu, there were many stands and stalls full of merchandise aimed to attract tourists. Golden Buddha statues, singing bowls, and prayer flags lined the streets, and many people in the group stopped to purchase gifts for friends and family. After this, we boarded the bus again and headed to the World Peace Pagoda, a monument built to house the remains of the Buddha. It was a colossal marble structure shaped like the lotus flower to symbolize the rising to Enlightenment, or Nirvana. To enter, we had to take our shoes off, and we had to walk around the building in a clockwise direction. Here we were given time to reflect on our trip, and write a letter to our future selves about our feelings. For many individuals in the group, this was a new way to look at diverging cultures and religions, and we left the Stupa with a newfound appreciation for the Buddhist beliefs. At the hotel, we continued to discuss how we would interact with the young Buddhist monks the next day.
– Alice and Richard
July 22, 2017
Today was our last full day in Lumbini. We took e-rickshaws, basically motorcycle taxis, through the city to visit all the monasteries, stupas and temples. Many countries have their own Buddhist monastery in the city to show pride in their Buddhist population. We visited many of these monasteries in the morning and we noticed the similarities and differences between them. For example, we visited the Thai, German, Nepali, Austrian, Chinese and French monasteries. To finish our morning we went to Maya Devi Temple, which surrounds the exact place where the Buddha was born. This temple is one of the most sacred places to the Buddhist people and it is heavily protected. There are no cameras allowed inside the temple itself but they are allowed outside of the temple. We were able to take pictures of the pond and the Bodhi trees, much like the one that Buddha was born under. In the afternoon we visited yet another monastery, this one containing young monks who spent the afternoon with us. Their ages ranged from 7-14 and they all enjoyed playing games like “monk in the middle” and blowing bubbles with us. Then we split up into teams and played soccer with the young monks, which they loved. Lastly they gave a farewell ceremony of music and chanting which lasted about an hour. They gave us katas, decorative scarves, and they said their final goodbyes. On the bus we reflected on our day, which explored the religion and culture of Buddhism in Nepal.
– Nate and Rob
July 23, 2017
Today was our last day in Nepal before our long journey home. Our day started with a 35 minute flight from Lumbini to Kathmandu. From the air, we saw the Himalayas peaking over the clouds. Upon landing, we headed to a paper factory and picked up some souvenirs. All famished from our busy morning, we were off to lunch at a small rooftop restaurant. After, we made our way to the market where we spent hours hashing out plans for what to buy for everyone back home and expended our energy haggling prices with locals. Our day concluded with dinner at an international restaurant, allowing us to eat our favorite foods from all over the world. We reconvened at the hotel and gave out awards that covered subjects spanning from Cam’s amazing beach bod to Alice’s beautiful voice. The night ended with us reliving our favorite experiences and characteristics about each other in goodbye notes. We all can agree that this trip was more than just a service trip. It was an adventure that we had the privilege to spend with amazing leaders, locals, and most of all peers. None of us are looking forward to the travel we have ahead of us, as it will mean bittersweet goodbyes to each other and an entirely new, amazing world. However, we all know at the end of the day we must always come home to family, excited for the next great adventure.
– Nina and Elliott