This blog entry comes to you straight from the “comfort” of my top bunk where I have spent the last five days in a pretty dazed state. What started as a mild stomach bug in Kathmandu nine days ago, has progressed to the point where I had no choice but to venture to the makeshift clinic in town yesterday for some advice. Turns out I have Giardia, a nasty little parasite. I am going to spare you the details, but suffice to say this has not been the most fun I have had in a while, and I am currently tripping on some very strong medication. I have been out of action work wise for the whole week, and have found this unbelievably frustrating to deal with, because I am simply not in Nepal to be sick, but to work and improve lives. I complained about this to my friend, who in her infinite wisdom replied that I have already helped many lives change, including my own. And that made me remember again just how lucky I am to have already had such life changing experiences, in addition to adding some value for others. Besides, getting some form of stomach related illness has almost become a rites of passage to Nepal. I feel as though I have earned my stripes! Now let’s hope it clears sooner rather than later so that I can get back to the rocks and dirt I have grown to love so much.
Since I last blogged, I have joined one of the mobile teams for a week at a school rebuild site, called Jalpa Yuwa. This was without a doubt the best week since I have been on project. We have a mobile base set up with tents, outside showers and toilets built with bamboo and tarpaulin on a rice paddy at the top of a mountain. 360 views of more beautiful mountains were my office view for a week. (I am pretty sure that a Nepalese person would describe these as hills rather, but for me they are pretty magnificent mountains.)
We arrived to this base on the back of a truck, which was a dusty, bumpy, crazy experience, and there were more than a few times I silently thanked the dhal bat padding I have gained for soft(er) landings. I saw the most spectacular sunsets which no amount of words or pictures will be able to do justice. The school rebuild is taking place in partnership with a local organisation called Room to Read, working on retrofitting and building schools. On Thursday we mixed and poured concrete all day. It was good to do something construction related. We work right next to the temporary school and the kids entertain us throughout the day (and we them, I am sure).
The small village at Jalpa have embraced us and welcomed us into their community. Here too, the generosity that is shown to us is unlike anything I have ever experienced. On our last night, Sunita, the local lady who cooks our dinners, arranged a party for us. She laid on a buffet dinner in front of her corrugated iron house and we had the entire village watch us eat this feast. As soon as we all had more than our fair share, the music started and we had the best time dancing the night away. I have never experienced so much love and happiness in such simple surroundings. It rates as one of the best nights of my life.
The next morning we were heading back to our Nuwakot base, and had to walk down the mountain to meet our van in town, as it could not make the drive up to base on the damaged roads. After having walked down, my mind is somewhat blown as to how we got up there in the truck in the first place.
Last Monday the entire Nuwakot base trekked en masse to Kathmandu to celebrate Holi, the Hindu spring festival of colour. I was also due my break after Holi, so had an entire week of downtime to look forward to. To celebrate Holi in Nepal is as authentic as it gets, and it did not disappoint. Everywhere you walk people rub paint on your face, hair, clothes and arms. Water guns and buckets of water tipped from balconies above also make for a fun mess. We walked to Durbar square where a massive party was underway. It was a sight to see, the colour crazy literally everywhere I looked! I have never had as many people touch my face as during this one day, everyone saying sincerely “Happy Holi” as they added yet another colour to the layers and layers of paint already on me. It was a weird and wonderful experience.
After Holi, my friends Emma, Ellie and I spent another day in Kathmandu just relaxing, before setting off for two days to Nagarkot. This area of Nepal is about 20km from Kathmandu and is famous for its views of the Himalayas, especially at sunrise. After a four hour trip including three local buses, and an ascent of about 1,200m during which I was standing the entire way, we got to Nagarkot and checked in to the Mount Paradise Hotel. It’s a good thing that relaxing was high on our agenda, because that is all we ended up doing for the next 48 hours. Sadly not because we had much choice.
The three of us were all down with this bug, and pretty much slept and slept and then slept a bit more. Having heard about the famous, breathtaking views, we did however plan to at least make the trip to see this. So on our last morning we got up at 5am, walked 3km to the viewpoint, saw absolutely nothing due to the smog and haze, nearly dehydrated on our way, walked 3km back to the hotel, slept some more and then traveled back to Kathmandu. And ever since then I have been woman down with this little parasite. Today I am finally feeling so much better and I am hopeful that the end is in sight and that I will get back to rubbling next week. One of our previous beneficiaries invited us to lunch tomorrow, it will be good to go and spend some time with them.
When I first got to Nepal, I kept thinking to myself that signing up for two and a half months was maybe a little bit ambitious. Now I just desperately want time to go slower. I am getting so anxious about leaving this country, this organisation, these friends I made and of course the daily dhal bat. It’s been nothing but a privilege.