The Nepal Building Project has officially begun! We arrived in Kathmandu on Tuesday after 26 hours of traveling. Highlights of the trip over:
• American airlines. My flight was listed as a United flight but I needed to check-in with Continental. I had paper tickets, circa 1999, which were pretty hilarious to the gate agents. Then, they insisted that I couldn’t enter India with a visa and I had to politely encourage them to read the rules of the Delhi airport. I wasn’t allowed to check my sleeping bag because “it’s Newark”.
• The intoxicated war vet who was drunk when we boarded the 14 hour flight to Delhi. He doled out parenting tips to the poor couple in the row in front of him for 12 hours, called the female flight attendant an “ass” when she politely declined his “gift” of a dollar coin (and then he threw it at her), and he “seductively” invited my friend Sarah to join him, sprawled across the middle aisle, on her way to the bathroom while she was half asleep. Tempting offer Romeo.
• Sleeping 12 of the 14 hours on the flight to Delhi. Sleeping pills, I love you.
• Our 10 hour layover in the transit room in the Delhi airport. Actually, it wasn’t as bad as I was expecting. Since you need a visa to clear customs in India, those who have less than a 24 hour layover are held in a transit room. I was envisioning wall to wall people sleeping on floors with a prison feel. I was pleasantly surprised to discover ample space, reclined chairs to sleep in, a tap of drinking water, and two vendors with snacks. Unfortunately, our friend had a layover too.
The Maoist strikes continue in Nepal, now on day 5. While the media portrays a Nepali Armageddon, the strikes are more of nuisance than anything else. The strikes have crippled the local economy as businesses, shops, and restaurants are closed except from 6-8p when they are allowed to open up so the day is not a total loss.
Despite the strike, the mood in Kathmandu is generally upbeat. Kids are playing cricket in the streets, neighbors are catching up, and from 6-8p, the streets of Kathmandu awaken with their typical vibrance and activity. The politicians need to start thinking more about their citizens and less about their political agendas to resolve the deadlock. We hope that the strike lifts in the next day or two so that life returns to normal for the people of Nepal.
Yesterday, we met for several hours to discuss the design and timeline for our Nepal Building Project. We are rebuilding a primary school in a rural community outside of Gorkha. An Edge of Seven volunteer and American architect, Travis Hughbanks, designed the new school and arrived in Nepal with me on Tuesday. For months, we have communicated about the designs with our project managers in Nepal but it was wonderful to sit around the same table and discuss the designs in person, as a team. We are all on the same page about what the community wants, what is feasible, and the plan of attack for building.
The materials have arrived at the site and we are ready to go!