We are back in Kathmandu after another week at the project site. The school has progressed significantly since the last group departed on May 30th. When we headed back to the city on Tuesday, we had secured all eight windows in the community room and had installed the first door! In Nepal, it’s traditional to celebrate the major milestones of the construction so we all got tikka’d (yes, I’ve made tikka a verb) and placed flowers on top of the first door frame. All of our hard work is starting to look slowly but surely like Travis’ architectural rendering. It’s pretty insane when you look through our wooden frame windows at the rolling rice paddy fields and snow capped peaks in the distance.
Our second crew of volunteers has been doing a fantastic job with phase two of building. When we arrived with the group early last week, we started tackling the arduous task of leveling the land to the base of the school. You have to be a dedicated volunteer to dig down through feet of solid rock during the heat of the day just to protect the school from flooding in the future. We’re literally moving mountains over here people. We’ve also moved piles of brick no fewer than 100 times. It seems that the perfect location to place brick is a moving target so we’ve all enjoyed our hourly bicep workouts.
Over the weekend, the skilled Nepali workers laid the first bricks on the foundation. The Nepali system of building is QUITE different that the American system of building so there has been several discussions around the best way to build a strong school in this environment. After much debate, we collectively feel good about the direction we’re headed. There are moments where, as an American, you want to scream (like when the Nepalis were mixing cement on the concrete floor that was still drying) but I’ve learned to pick my battles. It is more important that the community takes the lead and we advise along the way. After all, it’s their primary school.
I feel like I’ve gone full Nepali after almost a month in the village. I can throw back Dal Bhat twice a day without hesitation and I’ve even started asking for seconds. You know it’s bad when your morning wish is that you have a raw onion with your rice at lunch. My hair particularly loves the Nepali system of showering with just water and I’ll probably have at least a handful of dreads when I return home. We keep joking that one of these days we’ll catch Travis, who has been at the site for 4 weeks nonstop, riding around in a loincloth on a tiger with a sickle strapped to his back. Ah, Jarang.
It’s hard to believe that the final group of volunteers is arriving on Sunday. We’re thrilled to welcome Marilyn and David, Travis, TJ, and Julie to the party. We still have our work cut out for us in the final weeks with putting on the roof, painting, and doing all the final building touches but I’m pumped to take a break from digging and hauling rocks. I’ll never complain about an office job again.
To all of the volunteers that just left (Aileen and Heather) and are leaving on Monday (Tiffani, Kierstin, Quentin, and Holley): Thank you. This project is manual, hard work and is a far cry from two weeks on a tropical beach. But, as you know, this community will remember your efforts every time they look at their new primary school. I’m extremely proud to be a part of our volunteer team.