My last stop in Nepal was the one I looked forward to the most. It was back to Ghusel, the village that we built temporary shelters in back in May. It was surreal walking into the village again and my mind was replaying memories from 6 months ago. Gorbindra, the village leader, met our taxi and helped carry our bags. He asked me how I felt being back, asked me about my friends, asked how I’ve been. We worked together when they didn’t have any other help and were in crisis. I could tell that being back meant a lot to both of us. We walked past ruined buildings to Gorbindra’s and his brother Ram’s new houses, built recently with cooperative loans. The terraced fields that were bare in May are full of golden mustard.
We came upon the Women’s group having a demonstration on proper handwashing. Nepalis eat with their hands so hygiene is extremely important and they were laughing as we walked up. Monzu, a woman who had served us tea every morning in May when we slept in the schoolyard shouted out “Nicole!” Many people there only know my Nepali name, Mamata, and it was emotional to feel known and remembered.
Walking further we came across two men standing on the side of the road. One was Prem, a man who helped us everyday with the shelters, and another man whose name I don’t know, but who we built the very first shelter for. They were both drunk on Nepali whiskey (which almost every house here makes and sells in Kathmandu for pennies), but still recognized us and were very happy to see us and escort us around town. We first went to the man’s home – most of the village are still living in their temporary shelters – and he seemed proud of the overflowing corn hanging from the walls, and the tarps and extra insulation he had attached to the bamboo. We continued through town and I was amazed to see so many of our shelters built. We had completed 18 when we left in May. Since then volunteers from Canada and Australia had continued the work and it was amazing to see how wide-spread our ultimate impact was. While I wish these people were able to work toward more permanent homes, at least they had something more solid than just a piece of tarp, like before our project started.
My time in Ghusel was not long enough. I was able to stay 2 nights in Gorbindra’s home before I had to leave to start my trip home (one day earlier than planned due to plane refueling issues). The last night I was there their third buffalo gave birth (they had been worried about her for days and stayed up all night with the animals under the house) and we broke our fast with a very special dish made from the first milking, boiled way down to curd with a bit of sugar sprinkled on top. Then I sat on the front step next to Ama (Grandmother) and started to tear up, just enjoying being in the beautiful, simple place. She patted my knee and and just kept saying “beautiful” over and over, one of the few Nepali words she knew I understood.
Eventually it was time to hike out to catch the milk truck and after warning everyone that I would cry, went ahead with the waterworks as Ama and then Didi (Auntie) Sita smeared tika on my forehead and placed a bindi on my third eye. On the walk Didi Sita gave me bracelets off her own wrists, and before we got on the truck touched her heart and then pointed to the sky. A younger girl translated for me – when I see the bracelets think of her as I travel to the other side of the world. I did, and I do every day.
[Stand by for one more post about what I did on my way out of Nepal to spread the love from all of you and your donations]