Building schools in Nepal October 21, 2016

Posted in on October 21, 2016

October 31

Can this get any better?!

The elephant safari was undescribable, I’m still gushing!

We met our elephant Champakali and her faend (driver) Gobiend. To get on Champakali, we mount from these towers, four people to an elephant. Their ‘tack’ has two thick pads (matresses) and a metal square frame to sit and the driver sits on her neck. He steers with his bare feet behind her ears, a small wooden stick to tap her and verbal commands (some are so soft you barely hear him speak to her).

All the elephants are females. The faends (drivers and keepers) are a career by family trade. They’re assigned an elephant for its life (feed, care and ride). There is one senior and one junior keeper for each elephant.

When Champakali would ‘talk’ to one of her elephant friends, we could feel the vibrations in her body (kind of like nickering horses do). We walked through thick jungle (just our elephant) on paths and crossed a river with a crocodile sitting on the bank. Wow.

We saw spotted deer, crocodile, wild peacocks, mongoose and a one-horned rhino and her baby. At one point, Gobiend said, “Listen to the noise.” It was the deer alerting the others of a tiger, so we followed the noise. He said, “Be very quiet the tiger is close.” We sat in dead silence, the only noise was from our legs brushing the foliage as we travelled (wow, that feeling was unbelievable) but unfortunately, we never saw one (but we did see fairly fresh tiger poop on a walking tour). Later that evening, our hotel guide Krishna told us of a close encounter he had once in his life with a Bengal tiger (and lived to tell the tale).

When we got back to our hotel, an elephant was standing at the entrance. This was the hotel’s elephant (they own one) her name is Anarkali and she’s 45 years old. We hung out with her and her friend for more than an hour, our group and even the hotel staff came out (including the cooks) with treats for her. Never once did I feel unsafe.

The friend showed us all her tricks and she just stood around us, enjoying all the attention. The hotel staff asked her to lie down and they put a special elephant-sized flower garland around her neck and the mark on her forehead as a blessing. These elephants are so gentle (Rene was scratching Champakali’s forehead and she would rumble and flutter her eyes). The elephants all looked well cared for.

We also did a canoe tour on the river and saw kingfishers, storks, a Gharial crocodile and rhinos. The wooden canoe was interesting. You sit flat on your bum on a little wooden chair and the water is only about five inches from the top of the boat. Krishna said, “Please do not put your hands in the water as there are crocodiles.” We also visited the Chitwan elephant breeding center (the youngest baby was five months old).

On a walking tour, Krishna told us what to do if you encounter the three most dangerous animals. Tiger — keep eye contact, rhino — move/run in a zig-zag and sloth bear — move very slowly and hope you survive.

Our hotel is like a palace, with beautiful gardens and kind Nepalese staff. They treat us like gold. We were told it’s only safe to walk out of the hotel grounds during the day, not at night. Not because of people but the animals come out of the jungle at night, including wild elephants.

Kathmandu is synchronized chaos. Its population is over one million and there are no traffic lights. You have to see to believe it, things seem so crazy but once you’ve settled in, there is vibrant energy and organization. You never feel unsafe and people just ignore you or give you a friendly “Namaste.”

As you can tell I love Nepal and will return. Before I left our hotel for touring, I received a blessing from one of the hotel ladies. She took her time to carefully paint on my forehead. One of the Nepalese guides noticed it and when I said I asked for a blessing, he said “And you are so beautiful.”

Namaste my friends.
Danielle Frothinger,
Volunteer in Gorkha, Nepal, October 2016

October 29
We have finished our DWC work and had a special last day. Salangiri school and the villagers gave us a warm, heartfelt goodbye (some tears). We each received a blessing (red mark on forehead) then were draped in fresh flowers. There was local dancing by the villagers and then we danced with them on the new concrete school floor. This school will be finished by February.

Then at the Bandevi school, we finished the painting (sky blue on the inside and yellow on the out) and four talented artists from our team finished up painting these amazing murals in the classrooms. And the ‘Himalayan gods’ opened the clouds to show us a spectacular view of Annapurna at sunset (a mountain range in the Himalayans).

There’s also a rather crazy story I can only tell in person of our whole team getting sick, all within 48 hours (fortunately a few were staggered and our team leader never did get sick but looked after us.

Our DWC team has been exceptional and have come to know each other very well. Experiencing adventure, heartfelt moments and misery (looking after each other while we were all sick) made us more like comrades than teammates.

The food we eat is similar to Indian food, the curry is fairly mild. During our work week, meals were made by local villagers or hotel. Our first lunch was served in a beautiful leaf bowl. Daal soup, lots of rice (beaten rice is common, cooked beaten flat then dried, we eat it dry). Curried chicken, curried veggies, rice pudding and eggs (boiled then fried whole). There’s also black beans and lentils, and meat that you’re never entirely sure what it is.

There’s lots of fruit, bananas (everywhere), pamalo, oranges, apples and all kinds of tropical fruit. One night in a restaurant I did try all traditional Nepalese dishes. They have fantastic Himalayan coffee!

The women dress similar to Indian dress. Hinduism is their prominent religion and culture. There were tigers in the mountains we were working in but apparently rarely seen. There are small geckos, giant spiders, some poisonous snakes and spiders but none that we had to worry about (you’d only encounter if you went into their habitat.

Driving is WILD! They have different horns to communicate on windy, narrow roads. They slow down for a chicken or dog crossing the road but that’s about it.

There is a caste system and it is interesting to watch, even with the school children.

I have huge respect for the Nepalese men who were hired laborers for Salangiri school. They worked so hard and are freakishly strong and kind, kind souls. When we shared our Canadian snacks with them, they’d break pieces to share among themselves and some wouldn’t eat and said they would take it home to their children.

Dogs are owned and I have yet to see any dog poop (or smell it). Nepali people have a high regard for their animals (some countries eat dogs). A festival is just starting where one day is devoted to dogs and will mark a blessing on their forehead and drape in a flower garland. We’re already seeing flower garlands (made from wild marigolds) on all the dogs now.

They command a strong presence (people walk around them), are quiet, never mean and do literally act like a guardian of their home (restaurant or shop). One quote I read: Dogs are the most obedient animals and they guard our house as true guardians.

We have seen goats riding on the top of busses.

Some have asked about donating to Salangiri school and that can be done on Creating Possibilities website You can email them with any questions and mention my name or you are welcome to ask me any questions to forward to CP. The Creating Possibilities Nepal executive director, Dinesh, was our in-country host who looked after us. Jen Baillie was our DWC team leader.

The villagers are harvesting rice right now. In the mountains, they build rice terraces up the mountainsides. It’s beautiful to see them change the landscape as they harvest, all by hand.

Rene and I headed to Chitwan National Park today and had the bus ride from hell, it took nine hours to travel 98 kilometres. That was a story! The only thing we ate and drank the whole trip was Coca Cola and Digestive cookies. However what a treat when we got to our hotel.

I’m off on my jungle tour tomorrow to ride the elephants in search of the elusive Bengal tiger!

Danielle Frothinger,
Volunteer in Gorkha, Nepal, October 2016

October 25

Painting at the Bandevi school is now complete. Four amazing artists from our team painted murals in each classroom and they painted the Canadian and Nepalese flags on the front. Here are photos of the school and the view of the sunset with the Himalayas in the background as we were finishing the day.

Danielle Frothinger,
Volunteer in Gorkha, Nepal, October 2016

October 24

The people of Nepal are beautiful, warm and friendly. They are very affectionate towards each other and warming up to us. They now greet us in the morning with big smiles, big waves and “good morning.” The teachers, school children, construction workers and villagers are part of our day, working side by side with us.

Laughter and kindness is universal language shared by us all.

I’m actually the team reporter for this trip. DWC is trying something new and designating one person each trip to document with interviews, pictures for proof of program, etc. I have been fortunate to spend extra time with the teachers and families. I worked in the school office one morning typing my notes and had fun showing them my tablet and keyboard. They don’t have power or computers (all pencils and paper at this school).

I’m still working on an email about our food, just trying to figure out what it’s all called.

Someone from our team rented a cement mixer and we finished the floor today!

Danielle Frothinger,
Volunteer in Gorkha, Nepal, October 2016

October 22 – 23
Seeing the Himalayan mountains is an undescribable experience. Your jaw hangs open, partly because you rarely get to see them as the clouds seem to keep them secret. When the clouds break open, even the locals get excited, point and name the peak. The mountaintops are always above the clouds and the rare sightings make them more mysterious.

We had a rare sighting while at Salangiri school one morning. It only lasted about 15 minutes, then they disappeared into the heavens again. We also caught a sighting of one peak from our hotel at sunset and the mountain peak was pink.
For a break, we travelled to Pokhara (city closest to Annapurna mountain) for the weekend to enjoy some deserved rest and relaxation, hot showers, soft beds and toilets to sit.

The tractors and trucks are usually decorated, check out the John Deere. And it appears to be a dog’s life here. They’re everywhere; on the streets, in the stores, in outdoor restaurants. They’re all quite healthy and just ignore you. One of the Nepalese festivals has one day devoted to dogs. You can Google it, it’s quite interesting to read!

The cows also wander at will. It’s interesting the cows and dogs are so mellow and quiet amid the chaos and noise (or just chaos to us, maybe).

Back to our hotel bathroom, the toilet is a squatter (meaning you have to squat to use it). There’s a tap beside it and bucket to flush by pouring water down the toilet (brush to clean for bad aim). No sink, so you use the shower taps to wash your hands. And just spit into the floor drain to brush your teeth. There’s no hot water, but at least there is running water, which feels quite nice after a day of work.

By the way, the ages of our team members range from 19 to 77 years old.

Danielle Frothinger
Volunteer in Gorkha, Nepal, October 2016

October 21

Well today was a sad day for me as I was leaving the work site outside of Gorkha. I was heading home a week earlier than the rest of the group.

It was unbelievable to be in the middle of nowhere looking around at a top of a hill (as in Nepal anything under 8,000 feet is a hill). Our work site for the school was about 5,000 feet.

Today was a very hot day and we all felt it, but progress on the school foundation is going really fast. Lots of laughter within the group and we all get along great. At the end of the day, I ended up giving away my work shoes to one of the Nepalese bricklayers. He tried to return the favor by giving me his flip flops.

All the school children shook my hand, which ended up in a big group hug. These kids are amazing!

The school principal was upset that he didn’t have going away gift for me, so he ran back to the old building that they where using as a school and ended up taking a Nepal map off the wall and presented to me as my going away gift.

With tears in both ours eye, I gladly accepted and told him I will be hanging it on my wall at home.

I often ask my girlfriend, who has been on four other DWC trips, “why do you go on these trips?” Now I know why!  Words can’t express the feelings I had this week, and I hope I will be able to do another trip.

Thanks, DWC. All the best,

Cam Millward
Volunteer in Gorkha, Nepal, October 2016

Day 5
As I reflect on this day and past week, so much has happened every day. Today started out with some good byes as Cam was only able to stay with us for the first week. It is amazing to see the bonds and relationships forming among not just our team, but with the Nepalese people. We are now no longer strangers as we traverse the road in two jeeps to our work site. There are people waving from all locations as if we have known them for many years. They come out of many trails and pop up out of the rice fields waving at us.

The construction on the school went well today as the foundation was completed. We were able to help level the dirt inside the footings, haul more rocks piling them in one area only to have to move them again. The volunteers move quickly and work together singing, chatting and learning Nepalese words as the day flies by.

Lunch today was French fries (yep that is true) cooked in the village and rice pudding. We experienced pomelo (a new fruit for me) which appears on the outside to be a large grapefruit. When opened, it stills look like a grapefruit however the insides are almost tendril-like. They mix them with a hot spice that makes it an interesting combination for the taste buds, especially with the sweetened rice pudding.

The afternoon went quickly as we helped pour the concrete floor in one of the classrooms. The pouring of concrete consisted of four to six people shovelling sand, rock and cement into a pile with water.

Once the proper consistency is reached, the bowls are filled. Each takes about a shovel to fill. The bowls are then passed down the human line of all of us workers. We pass the bowls to the Nepal guys in their flip flops with their small hand tools who dump the bowls onto the bed of rocks ensuring they keep the concrete level with their string line. Many bowls later, in the scorching heat, we see that the floor is about a third finished. It’s a lot of manpower for what seems like so little work in some ways but in other ways, there is tremendous progress.

The most fun part is feeling the gratification of looking at the work and knowing we have helped the workers to move more quickly on the project. Seeing the joy and appreciation in the local people, adults and the children, provides satisfaction like no other.

The pleasure being derived from our group – well no words can explain it- many emotional moments and connections within the groups as they work together. I am deeply grateful to be experiencing the intensity of this journey with so many beautiful souls.

Penny Hoban,
Volunteer in Gorkha, Nepal, October 2016

October 19

Here we are in Nepal with a fantastic team of folks from all over. Everyone arrived safely in Kathmandu, with most of us arriving at different times all collected by our very reliable and friendly hosts.

Several volunteers came early to enjoy some pre-volunteer adventures. Our first day was great with a site visit to the two work locations. Teachers, parents, workers and especially the children met us with enthusiasm and friendly openness. We gelled very quickly as a team and worked moving bricks, mixing cement, laughing and interacting with our Nepalese hosts.

The stones we were moving in rock brigade fashion have some concrete left on them as a harsh reminder that we are rebuilding a school that was levelled by a devastating earthquake less than two years ago. Luckily, the children were not in the school at the time so they were safe.

Our team is led by Jen Baillie who along with team member Gerry quickly fills a room with infectious laughter. Highlights of the first days were definitely meeting the children which included Lindy giving out toothbrush and toothpaste gifts and Vida giving flossing lessons. Other highlights included the 4×4 ride through the mountains and alternately the fantastic hike to and from the worksite.

My personal favourite experience was talking to a village elder who we nicknamed rainbow for the bright-coloured umbrella he carried. Through our DWC host interpreter, sign language and facial expressions, he explained the school has three feeder villages and is very necessary to provide the education to these children in such a remote location.

We see kids every day walking great distances through the forest to get to their school. The days ahead will continue to be very rewarding as we get to know each other and together see the school rise from the ground.

Russ Carmichael
Volunteer in Gorkha, Nepal, October 2016

Celebrity alert: Eight members of the team painted at the Bandevi school site today with Miss Nepal.

At Salangiri, everything is done by hand to build the new school (cement mixed, carried in bowls, all rocks are moved by hand).

We travel about an hour each day to get there. I worked on a brick line to move a pile of bricks closer to the work site. Our DWC team, villagers and school children all in line together. I had a beautiful little Nepalese girl handing bricks to me, then I handed to this lovely older little Nepalese man, who just gave me giant grins. In between, I had a spectacular view from the top of this mountain, life does not get any better!

Here are my new friends at Salangiri primary school our work site (a remote village on top of a mountain). What an adventure, everyday just gets better. That’s even starting with seeing Mount Everest!

Our DWC team is fantastic. The Nepalese scenery is spectacular and people beautiful, Nepal has touched my heart!

Danielle Frothinger,
Volunteer in Gorkha, Nepal, October 2016

October 15

What a way to start the first morning in Nepal. I arrived at midnight (after 28 hours of travelling) then off to the airport by 5:30 a.m. for a flight tour of Everest, the tallest mountain in the world.

The Himalayan mountains were absolutely spectacular and peaks you see are also eight of the tallest mountains in the world. We were all in awe and basically speechless.

Danielle Frothinger,
Volunteer in Gorkha, Nepal, October 2016

Posted in on October 21, 2016