Nepal Part 2

 

Credit: Ric Chong

Credit: Ric Chong

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Unfortunately the incredible synergy of our shelter building group couldn’t last the whole time I was there. The boys (Sean and Ben) had work to return to in Colorado, Ric was needed back in Kathmandu, and we needed to arrange another shipment of zinc roofing sheets. So what did I do with the rest of my time in Nepal?

I tagged along with all other CASD field operatives that I could. Ric and I visited the orphanage where he and Prakash met – Prakash as an employee and Ric as a volunteer. The kids were mostly teenagers and so excited to have visitors. I was extremely impressed with their manners, their English, and their motivation. I talked about traveling for a long time with one boy and then about engineering with another. They are getting ready to go to college and all ahead of their classes.

I also learned a traditional Nepali dance from an absolutely beautiful girl who teaches dance in addition to being a full time student.

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While we were there another big aftershock hit. Everyone in the village ran outside screaming. They asked me if I was scared and I said yes, a little. They told me don’t worry, everything will be fine.

The next trip we took was out to Prakash’s village, which took a 7 hour car ride (along the “death highway,” named because at least one vehicle falls off into the gorge a day) and then a 30-45 minute hike in.

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We spent the night in Prakash’s parent’s house and in the morning went to the neighboring village where CASD has their biggest project to date. People here still travel long distances to get their water so CASD has designed and raised money for an extensive water system for the village. I looked at the plans and I was impressed with the level of detail and quality.

We had make the trip out because work was supposed to start on the project in May. Obviously when the earthquake happened there was a more immediate need for deployment of CASD’s resources elsewhere, but people were starting to loose trust. They were afraid the project would never happen, that the money for the project would be spent somewhere else. It is a fear I’ve seen a lot working in Honduras and other places where promises of development haven’t been kept, but I was surprised to see the depth of emotion here. (Did I mention that in most of the places I went on this trip we were the first white people they had ever met?)

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The community meeting we had that morning gave me an odd realization. For the few days prior I had been feeling like I wasn’t contributing enough. We had gone from an extremely gratifying instant reward project (building shelters) to more vague, long-term projects. But in this meeting I got the sense that just being who I am, a white foreign engineer, and just BEING there, that I was helping. I think I somehow gave credibility to CASD and their representatives there; I represented a level of seriousness and commitment that they needed to see. What an odd feeling to have an impact without actually doing anything.

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After many more flowers and teeka we rode on the roof of the truck back to Prakash’s village and then made the long trek back to the highway. There I decided to take one day to myself and visit Pokhara, the gateway to the Annapurna region and supposedly one of the most beautiful places on the planet. My Nepali friends flagged down a local bus for me and I paid about 80 cents for the hour long ride, and then was promptly picked up by Prakash’s friend and brought to their beautiful hotel where I paid $15 for a private room with a balcony view. I’m pretty sure I was the only person in the entire 3-story hotel because tourism is reportedly down to 0.5% (yes, half of one percent) of what it usually is. And Pokhara was relatively unaffected by the earthquakes because it is up in the mountains and sitting on granite bedrock.

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The next day it was back to Kathmandu to start a psychological trauma counseling workshop with the same team that had visited our village the week before. I really love all of those people. They are some of the most generous and resilient people I have ever met.

We spent 2 days with a group of about 20 Nepalis, learning about what trauma is and how to help manage it in ourselves and others. Some of the stories we heard were heartbreaking. There was one man there who had watched his house collapse, I think with his wife and children inside. But he didn’t come for himself, he rode his motorbike 4 hours in order to learn how to help his friend, who also lost his home and family. I also spoke to a man who made a deep connection to the land through this experience. He said that Nepali people are hurting and need help, but that in turn the land is hurting and needs help. He spoke poetically in English about the beauty of the trees, the rivers, and the mountains. It’s incredible how much beauty can come out of devastation, if you take the time to look for it.

 

Credit: Ioanna

Credit: Ioanna

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In between all of this we did a little touristing and shopping. We visited a traditional Thangka workshop and saw one of the most holy sites in Nepal: Boudhanath stupa, which was damaged by the quakes but still standing.

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And the girls all bought traditional Nepali outfits to wear our last day together.

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I did not want to leave Nepal but you’ve probably already read that in my last post. I met some of the most beautiful people yet, people who make me aspire to be more and do better. Those are the kinds of people I want to surround myself with, and I have been greatly blessed.

I’m now back in California trying to find work so I can afford to go back this winter. I was more traumatized that I thought by the earthquakes – I’ve only recently stopped feeling the ground shaking (when it wasn’t), and I slept about 22 hours of my first 48 back. Even so, I hope to do more disaster relief work in the future. We’ll see what doors open up for me in the coming weeks….

 

 

12 comments for “Nepal Part 2

  1. June 8, 2015 at 8:19 pm

    This is too big, too amazing, too beautiful. It must be hard to be looking for a job in the States when your heart is in Nepal.

  2. Rick Chong
    June 8, 2015 at 9:32 pm

    Nicole it was a pleasure and honour to have shared part of your life’s journey with you. I’ve said it to you before and I’ll say it again,you amaze me with your level of resilience. I’m proud to have been your partner in crime in country and in proud to call you sister. I’ll see you in Nepal in Dec and beyond.

    Namaste Kyle Mason. Go forth with the wind and break waves and may you never succumb to scabies.

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