Blog 2. CAN Team in Nepal Dec. 2015



Please click on the above images to see Anne’s pictures from CAN’s visit to  projects and communities  in Nepal.

A maxim of writing something like this must be to keep it timely so the fact that ten days has passed is hopefully an indication not of laziness but only of how busy we have all been together with the difficulties encountered in getting internet access. This has been a real struggle and a lot of time has been wasted in the endeavours but it would be very unfair to blame all of the delay on the Malla system – some nights it’s been a question of falling asleep virtually on one’s feet after the hectic schedule of the day.

I started to write up Day Three – see below:

DAY THREE – WEDNESDAY, 25th NOVEMBER: A day where Richard and Denise kindly took me in hand and showed me around a little bit more of “real Kathmandu” – it was a leisurely start! The star of the morning was The Garden of Dreams – which was a tranquil oasis amidst noisy chaos [except it cannot really be called chaos because bikes, rickshaws, taxis, even pedestrians seem to arrive at a destination unscathed in spite of many close shaves].

but have since had a spectacular period of silence.

So here goes on DAY THIRTEEN with some of the highlights of the past ten days or so.

Doug, Trish and Dr. Rob Lorge arrived safely on Thursday 26th November since when it has been a whirlwind of meetings and greetings. Once the news that Doug-sir is in town then there are so many old friends, today it was the family of one of Doug’s old climbing companions and yesterday evening Jamie Rutherford, fresh from running the Everest Marathon, called by as previously arranged.  Jamie is a dentist working in Darlington and the report from the local paper has done both him, and CAN proud. Please follow the link from the Darlington and Stockton Times:

Everyone at CAN thanks Jamie for his magnificent fund raising activity which stands at around £1,500.00 – and in the course of yesterday evening’s conversation he has indicated he would like to volunteer his professional expertise as a dentist – hopefully sometime in 2016. If you wish to offer your support there is still time so please go to the Just Giving page Jamie Rutherford and follow the links. In fact, the organizer of the Everest Marathon called in the following morning – she arranges the event from her home in Windermere – does not charge a penny for admin fees [save the costs of the annual audit] and gives away the proceeds to charity including CAN. It was another reminder for me just how respected CAN is amongst such a wide range of people.

Sandwiched in between has been what, for me at least, the highlight of my stay in Nepal to date and that was our team visit up to Bahrabise School for Deaf Children. Don’t even begin to imagine that being over here one is having a lazy time with breakfast in bed and a leisurely hot shower to start the day. Sadly, the 5 star Malla doesn’t always manage hot water but then the fuel blockade continues to bite and has a lot to answer for. Nonetheless, it’s a far cry from home where my power shower of virtually scalding water shocks me into action but then perhaps the cold version actually works equally well in it’s own way – certainly as a shock! No, early starts are the order of the day and we were all on parade and in the mini bus by 05.30 hours to leave town before a demonstration put paid to any means of our escape from town.

A long drive of around six hours with stops for breakfast at a roadside tea house where I couldn’t believe I could tuck in with such relish to dal bhat at nine o’clock on a Sunday morning. Not your average fodder to start the day but simply delicious when washed down with black tea – milk tea being a step too far for me being so sweet – and a meal which Doug could enjoy for breakfast, lunch and dinner without any problem at all!

Another stop enabled Doug and head teacher Mina, with Murari’s help, to purchase around £50.00 worth of fresh fruit and vegetables – an enormous amount – in order to ensure that all forty of the children in school could enjoy an apple, orange and banana with veggies on the menu the next day or so.

The final stage of the journey into Bahrabise was over extremely rough terrain, a reminder of the devastation this region suffered in the earthquake. I know that many images have already been posted on CAN’s website but nothing quite prepares you for the shock of reality and looking across to the damaged Bahrabise village community brought home how difficult life has become for so many Nepali’s.

A short walk of around half a mile brought us to the temporary school site and, for all of us, this was a revelation of relief. We had all been so anxious to discover how these traumatized children, who had no understanding of what was going on as their home and school cracked up around them during the earthquake. It is hard for me, perhaps for any of us with normal hearing, to truly understand that moment when, not being able to hear anything as the earth ripped apart their security. Instead, we were greeted by an advance party with beautiful garlands of marigolds and were led inside to meet all the other children.

School has two temporary classrooms – built as a rectangle – and made of bamboo with a tin roof – but, as sign language is silent, four year groups could be taught in one room. It was emotional and having written “My name is Anne” on the whiteboard I was instructed in the English alphabet – Bahrabise sign language style. The simplicity of the signs fascinated me but my favourite has to be “e for elephant” which involved running a finger down one’s nose but adding on an extension for the trunk!!

We then re-joined the path, walking past the fields being ploughed by teams of harnessed buffalos – and listening to the cries of the villagers it seemed as if many of the teams had minds very much their own – until we reached the damaged school. Words become inadequate at this point and, although they have been displayed on the site before, some of the images are shared again. For me, the most poignant has to be that of one of the Mickey Mouse family grinning cheekily from within a severely damaged dormitory.

It was a quietly sober and reflective journey back to Kathmandu and the enormity of the task ahead was not lost on any of us. As many of you will know from reading reports from previous visits a constraint to managing the site is access and before any rebuild can take place the concrete structure which was Bahrabise School has to be demolished involving getting heavy plant across the river. It can be done but adds in factors of complication and expense.

Jumping forward a day or so found us squeezed into a four wheel drive Land Rover for an even earlier start [alarm set at 0400 hours!] en route to Ghunsa. Once the city was well behind us this route, although metalled for much of the way, proved to be a sporting challenge both for the driver and to our bottoms!

It was a long day on the road and, having arrived in the Ghunsa area, we then had to undertake a bit of what is termed by one of CAN’s trustees a “wee bit of uppies and downies” reaching the Health Post in the dark. We were shown to our accommodation – Denise and I being fortunate in being able to share one of the nurses bedrooms for which we were very grateful; Dr Rob slept on the examination table – being about the right length for him – whereas Dr Richard bedded down on the delivery table in the birthing suite. All great fun and a testament to the support CAN receives from a team of medical practitioners.

Only in the morning and the cold light of day did we appreciate the hard work put in by a group from Yorkshire dubbed the “Project Nepal Team” which has left this particular health post one of CAN’s flagship projects. Our sincere thanks go out to this dedicated group for what must have been ten? [I think that’s right] long days of hard work.

We all walked up to see where many Tamang’s have their houses – a lot of them damaged including Tej’s and Bhai’s – but then split up. Doug and party walked up to Lapcha to see the school and Denise and I to walk through to Paphlu along a trail which went passed many holy places.

Which brings me more or less up to date – another nighttime walk into Paphlu – and a couple of overnight stays at a less than hospitable hotel where any source of warmth was obviously considered unnecessary! Doug, Trish and Dr Rob arrived the following evening and Tej, one of Doug’s guides, managed to wheedle a glowing brazier which went some way to thaw the bones – but as Nepali’s seem to be immune from the cold it was a battle to keep the door closed!!

In the meantime Denise had set off to walk a circuit ending up in Jiri taking the opportunity to familiarize herself with a trekking route; for myself the thought of all the uppies and downies and the fear of holding Denise up on what was a pretty tight schedule gave me the bonus of a “ruhetag”.  My lovely guide Dawa Tamang – from the Ghunsa community – led me up the valley to the Pera tea house.  It was a delight to take time to engage with the locals – whether they were splitting bamboo before weaving baskets or leading cows to water – but it was a very special six hours of sunshine.

Dawa initiated me into Buddist chanting when we came across a wall of 164 mani stones – all that was missing was the sound of a singing bowl.  Another enchanting image was the one of the numerous donkey teams plodding backwards and forwards along the track carrying produce up the valley. None of the loads seemed particularly heavy and, apart from one animal which hobbled somewhat, all seemed placidly fit. Many of the houses in the valley had been damaged by the earthquake and bright blue shiny tin roofs gleamed in the sunlight – my understanding is that all households have received a small grant from the government toward repair work – I’ll try to find out more about how this works and write it up later. A lot of work was going on – a great deal of carpentry taking place – but one gazed in astonishment at a five storey monstrosity with concrete columns and solid walls up to the roof arch and could only hope that the valley had suffered enough and further tremors would leave the place unscathed.

Now, back in the comfort of my room at the Malla after a long morning of meetings, the images from the past few days resonate. The contrast between life in the Solukhumbu and life in Kathmandu is almost indescribable – and if I hadn’t experienced it no one would have convinced me otherwise!!

The one thing about blogging on a laptop is the inability to proof read a paper copy – so as always apologies for spelling and grammatical errors. Place names in Nepal seem to be spelt with so many different varieties it’s hard to know which one is the correct version – at least that’s my explanation and I’m sticking to it.

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