I suppose a blog update is in order here. I know some of you have patiently been waiting to hear about our village trip. I've needed the last week or so to collect my thoughts, as our journey to the Koshi Tappu region of Nepal was one of the more stressful things I've done in my life. Which is why, I've spent the past week traveling through Nepal. Long bus journeys and a stop in Lumbini - the birthplace of the Buddha - has done wonders for my psyche.
The much needed reflection and meditation has allowed me to organize my thoughts and come to realize the scope of the project at large.So what exactly happened at the village? I'm not going to sugar coat this - it was unreal and I was thrown completely out of my element (to be put plainly). As many of you know, the Nepalese Orphan Fund's mission is to fix the problem before it occurs. To prevent children from becoming orphans by giving the mother or father a source of income generation, so they are not inclined to "give" the child away to an orphanage.
Right, so this is why I thought I was traveling to this remote area of Nepal. To help a village become self-sustaining by donating a few cows or goats. This was not the case. Somewhere, my plan was lost in translation between my Nepalese connection and the connection of the village.
When we arrived in the small jungle village of Udaypur, located in the southeast corner of Nepal on the Indian border, the people were very excited to see us. We had just traveled two long and difficult days by local bus to help them, and they were very thankful. No one had really helped them before.... someone at some point had built them water pumps, but that was about it. The road was next to impassible, and when the monsoons rolled in, the falling apart and corroding bus couldn't even venture to the village to pick anyone up. It was a two hour walk to the nearest location where a taxi could gather us upon our return home.
I can say that I am going to only skim the surface of our time spent at the village. There is so much wonderful and amazing things that went on behind-the-scenes. The moments at night dancing away to the drums the villagers would play, while a female elder dressing in her sarri sings the most beautiful tune in her high-pitched Nepali-language. The words, I know not, but I do know it makes me happy and proud, and wholesome again.
The moments in the heat and exhaustion, walking through the rice planations... crossing the fields on a raised dirt border. And an unpleasant bate with E.Coli that left me bed-ridden for two days, leaving Flo and Dipak in charge of organizing the project. All these things, my friends, will have to wait for another time. For now, you will have to suffice and hear the "Cliff Notes" verison of this tale.
We left Kathmandu in the evening, and drove all through the night to Bhaglapur, arriving in the early hours just after sunrise. The bus took a shy 14 hours, and really was quite exciting -- despite the excessive high speeds, while continually passing other buses in the dark along the twisting and narrow mountain switchbacks. Not knowing how far the cliff dropped on our side below the wheel.
There in Bhaglapur, we waited a few more hours in the heat and humididy for a micobus to scoop us up and take us additional hour to the village of Udaypur in the middle of the jungle and amongst the plethora of rice plantations.
The villagers welcomed us with flowers and a ceremonial red mark on the forehead. We had a nice tasting dinner, in which I woke the following morning to E.Coli. Hello morning! Nothing is more enjoyable in life than being plagued with a stomach bug in 100 degree heat, in the middle of no where, with no toilets or running water. Oh yeah, did I mention you must include the lack of toilet paper? Ah yes, the traveling life.
Little did we know, the school and the village community had planned a ceremony in our honor that day. Our entourage made the 40-minute journey by foot to the school while I was shuttled on the village's only motorbike. I waited patiently for the other people in my party on the grass at a nearby house keeled over in stomach pain, not really knowing my left foot from my right.
Flo, Dipak, and several Nepalese people who helped Flo and I organize the project eventually caught up with me, and we continued the rest of the way to the school by foot. From this point, the motorbike could no longer get through the muddy path, so walking was the only option.
Dipak, Flo and I hadn't realized that the entire community was waiting for us at the school. I had thought we would just be examining the property to determine what needed to be done. I was in no condition to do much of anything, let alone participate in a ceremony. Fainting under the jungle sun five minutes prior was really my last draw. Going in-and-out of coherency during the entire walk to the school, I questioned my decision in coming to the village and I immediately wanted to go back to the comforts of Kathmandu. Upon standing back up, I saw the 100 or so people and the school from a distance.
Oh my god -- "quick, full power," I excalimed as the little Nepalese lady fanned my face and put my hair into a pony tail. I was completely shocked at what I saw in the distance. I can not believe I'm walking into a ceremony right now, I thought, and I can't even stand on my own. I splashed some water on my face, did a little jump to shake it off and on we went.... with a person helping me on each elbow.
So many emotions were going through my head. I felt like I was hallucinating from a combonation of the heat, the illness, and the fact that I was in the strangest place and participating in a ceremony so forgien to me. I was so happy, but also disappointed that one of the most special and important moments in my life had to be overshadowed by the E.Coli. But I guess I can relive the moment through the photos, because my mind was never really present.... to me, it was all just a daze.
They adorned us with flower necklaces, and each child came to the stage to hand us a present. Many speeches were given, in Nepalese, so I'm still not really sure what was said, except they were happy to see us. I tried to stay collected as long as possible, but eventually had to run off the stage to vomit into the bush from the illness. Of course, it was all a bit comical, as all the children came running over to gather around me, and the village women were rubbing my back. Definitely an embarrassing moment, so I got back up, did a little wave, smiled, and said "I'm okay! Let's please continue."
After another two days of rest, and after taking a strong antibiotic that we had brought with us from Kathmandu, I was finally strong enough to start eating again, and continue with business. Flo, Dipak, myself, and two men who helped us organize the project got to work with discussions and planning. The Village Development Committee was already established, and they had organized a committee of 15 villagers to manage the project. My fund would spearhead the implementation and provide the money.
Like I mentioned earlier, I thought I was coming to the village to buy a few cows, so you can imagine my surprise when they asked for a school. My ideas were obviously lost in translation when we started planning the project the weeks before. First off, I only had one English-Nepalese translator, and that was Dipak. Internet and phone connection is really bad in Nepal, so the whole trip to the village was an adventure from the very beginning. We went with a "we'll wait and see" attitude. Not really knowing what to expect. I can convey one idea, and think that what I'm saying is being translated properly. But really, one can only hope.
To build a school, they Village Development Committee needs $4000. I only had $1000 to give from my budget. After that, my fund is depleted. It's finished. What were they thinking? I am not god, I can't just arrive and build them a school, I thought. This was a very stressful moment for me. I had traveled all this way, and they threw us a ceremony. It was occurring to me, that this was going to be a failed mission. There were many people in involved at this point, and I kept thinking that I was going to have to let a lot of good people's hopes down. I was not looking forward to breaking the bad news.
Then, just like fate always does -- a serendipitous moment occured. There was a secret donor amongst our group. He, to remain nameless, donated a good chuck of money to begin the project.
The school is already in place, they just don't have a building.... or desks, or books for that matter. They have pupils and a few teachers.... and some notepads with pencils. Not really conducive to any type of learning.
We asked the committee to determine what was needed most, as building an entire school was not in our funds at this moment.
They need desks and chairs for the children to do their school work on. However, without a solid foundation for the pavilion, we knew immediately that these purchases would be a waste of money. As soon as the monsoons started, the desks and chairs would become destroyed. We determined it was more important to build a concrete floor to start. Then as the funds trickle in, we can continue with the walls... then the desks and chairs last.