Well! Nepal was Truly the Normal Adventure
We left early on new year’s day this time with Singapore airlines and two nights in Singapore.. This was a much better option I think than via Bangkok. Probably the only down side is the last five hours is in an A320 airbus rather than the 777. But I think a much better city for that travel stopover and the airport is great if you have a 5 or 6 hr wait as there are plenty of places to lay down in comfort as we did on our return. We were met at Katamandu by Prem, our partner in Nepal.. I must say in the past year things have really picked up in KTM, plenty of new cars from India, small but new and new banks everywhere. But the cars do make the traffic even worse than before. Most cars are over 20yrs old. The hotel we stay at was about the same, old with charm and character, and hot water about 70% of the time, with a new generator. That is an improvement on last year. Maybe one or two stars here but you are in one of the world’s poorest countries that has had and still has lots of political trouble so five stars are only seen outside of KTM in the sky.
The travel to the village was the ultimate adventure; we took a couple of Prem’s family in the Pajero, 11 of us in total. The highway was much worse than last year with lots of gravel where the tar has broken. In all this is just an adventure, not a smooth highway drive as we know.. We had decided to go via the old capital of Gorhka, as they had just put in a new “””road?””” to the village.
We left Gorhka and the road was basic, 4WD in places but the buses do this route.. After some hours we reached the end of the bus route in a small hill top village. We were met by police here as there had been some trouble in the past week with a small group of youth. And in the hills they all know if you are coming or travelling in the area. Well two police got in the car with us so we had 13 in the Pajero and a very full roof rack… The track got narrower and the views were just fantastic, it was truly like driving on a postcard and sometimes as narrow. But with a sense of adventure it was truly unforgettable!!
We reached the next village and we were met by many familiar faces and all the music, horns and dancing and our police friends departed without anyone even noticing. Well! the next 3hrs was just fantastic, not sure if they were happier to see the us or the 4WD.. The track (road) was a real thrill at times we had groups of Nepalese moving the rocks so we could keep moving, all in low range 1st gear. We had a few stops to talk to more people and drive over some very high country, for that area, up to 8000ft in the car. The track had only been put in a few days prior with a bull dozer, and where the first vehicle to attempt this drive. It made local radio news in the area.
It was almost dark when we arrived at Jala Kanya School, we left KTM at 6am. We had a great welcome, as normal in the hill villages. Arriving over the mountain about Jala Kanya was a buzz and the school looks really good, neat and tidy, I have met these people before, Nara Neupane runs the school and they have the best women’s group on the hill in my opinion. Mostly lower cast people here. They still live by the cast system a lot in the hills.
Next was Dharapani Secondary School, where the library is currently half built.. Lal Khanal and a cast of hundreds were all out in the dark to meet us. Lal also meet us at Gorhka 32 kms walk away. We tried to keep this short as we had to get to Bhairabi, our first project and I consider my baby….. Well it was 2 more stops on the track, dancers in headlights and lots of music, red on the head, red on the car and garlands. Lots of garlands made of local flowers.
Bhairabi was a sit down dance show, it was a very moving very long day. We reached the house at about 8pm and had nice beds in the buffalo shed, we had upstairs and the 3 buffaloes where downstairs. It was good to get to bed.
Well! Over the next week Sam worked almost every day with the children at Bhairabi and I went to Dharapani and Bhairabi. It is about half an hour walk to Dharapani but with my leg it was an hour each way, but I truly love my time with the class 8 and 10 kids. Sam also talked with year 8 and loved it. And the week goes ever so fast. One thing I know is that you take away a lot more than you give.
In the past 3 years we have knocked down and rebuilt Bhaiarbi from the ground up. It is part 2 stories and now has 5 teachers and 1 helper. All but one teacher are paid by us and school fees, which are very low, like a token payment. It has grown from 39 kids and 2 teachers to 112 at present. This is stage 2 completed and stage 3 has started this year, new toilets and 3 more rooms when we have the funds. It is a truly great little school now. Not perfect but what is!!
I must say that Sammie has never been to a 3rd world country and is a typical private school north shore girl. She adapted so well and really shocked me at times, I could have not been prouder of her, and she is planning next year, she truly loved it.
We did notice that the teaching practices are very old fashion and really need change, but most of these kids mothers would have been to school and their grandparents never had schooling. So this is fairly new to the area and will only improve as time goes on. It is good to see that these children now can go school, and believe me a week with the kids really brings you back and makes you think about things a little clearer. And it is all about the kids. We had 80 year old men crying with emotion and happiness about our work. It was very moving. The local people are really over the moon about the schools and the chance the kids have to learn now.
As far as the project goes things are moving along nicely, the toilets at Bhaiarbi that are in conjunction with the Aus. Embassy are well on the way with the septic tank/pit almost finished and work on the toilet building just started. Bhairabi School is now 6 rooms and all brand new, stone construction with one section two story, due to the steep sloping nature of the land, and extra land was purchased to build the toilets. Sammie also spent a lot of time with the staff trying to introduce craft and drawing/coloring to the kids. They have not done this before. She spent many hours and the rooms where very colorful by the end of week, with smiles all round from staff as well as kids.. Sammie really hit it off with the 4 female staff at Bhaiarbi School. The Community Bank at Turramurra (Bendigo) provided over 120 color pencil sets for the school which we carried over with us to give to the children a chance to color. We had some colour sheets and ran off 1200 copies that we left at the school for future us. Also one of my customers at the shop gave me other colour pencil sets to take over, that we dropped to Jala Kenya School, the school that Ray & Pam Sleap sponser, I would like to that Elizabeth for the pencils for these children.. . Thanks to Ray & Pam Jala Kenya has had a total refurbished, and looks very tidy.
Dharapani School has grown a lot in the year, they have finished their two new rooms and now teach to year 10, they are putting in a small brick making works, so they can sell bricks to the local area, saving a big trek from the valley, and thanks to a wonderful couple Cam and Geogie, the first library in the Arupokhari region will soon be completed. This will benefit many thousands of kids over the coming years, and is the only one for many miles, a real first for the area.. Again we met the Chief Education Officer and he had come to Dharapani to open the new building and look at the library, he had only praise to say about our help in the area.
We also have just finished the first every teachers training project in the area, helping ten schools and 60 teachers over a one week period. Richard Jackson has done much work on this and really made a impact on the local teachers. I got only good reports, all positive about this program, and year ten students had noticed different and more positive teaching by their teachers since. Richard has also worked none stop on the embassy for the toilets and with the library project, he has been the driving energy behind all the hard, as I say crap work, endless papers, detail and email, and it now shows on the ground.. His work is fantastic.
There have been many people that help with money, time and effort and when you see the smile on the children’s faces, and the tears of happiness in the old men and women’s eyes it is truly worth it. I would like to thank everyone that has helped….. it is making real change to many hundreds of people every year.
The village now has a very basic track/4WD road to it, and limited power supply. Maybe this will change, maybe it will not all be good, but it is progress and everything changes everywhere in the world. Every time I see the village I see more things that need doing, there are many things to do. Sammie has full of ideas and with that energy you can change the world, and she wants too!! But overall it was a great trip.
As for next year, many of you have asked me about doing a trip there, and I am working on it at the moment.
But please remember this “””Nepal is an adventure, not a holiday””” and with this in mind when things go wrong, and they will “”we will make a plan”””. Things go wrong, it is a 3rd world country, they don’t know what 5 star service is, they struggle with structure, the country, the detail has little structure and you need time to understand this.. It is not Fiji where things work on or close to time. It is basic, it is fun, it is dirty, it is sad, but no matter how much you give, you will always take away so much more,, that is up to you. If you make the most of the headaches, breakdowns and setbacks and look on the light side when you eat the same meal for lunch and dinner, look past the rubbish, and sometimes the smells you will have a life lasting adventure that will leave you so much richer.
Sammie really did not want to go, now she really wants to go back. You will be much richer for the experience.
As for my knee, well it looks like a reconstruction, so I will be so much stronger next year, maybe a bit of trekking.
I feel, now that I am almost a local in the village, I know many people and we have some contacts in government, it is in some ways hundreds of years in the past but in many ways I enjoy what these people have that we have lost, they laugh, they smile and they giggle, it not perfect, but it is fantastic.. And all of us have made great positive lasting change.
Please check our web page https://www.sambhavnepal.org or if wanting to travel Prem’s site www.acethehimalaya.com