From February 15 to March 8, 2016, KC and I spent three weeks volunteering with All Hands Volunteers (AHV), a disaster relief non-governmental organization (NGO) in Nuwakot, a rural district of Nepal that had been hit hard during the devastating April 25, 2015 and May 12, 2015 earthquakes. For those three weeks, we lived at the AHV’s communal living base while we worked. This experience was my favorite part of the year we spent traveling. While we were there, we got to know the region more intimately than any other we visited around the world and we met some awesome people. The work AHV did in Nepal was amazing and made a huge difference. They helped to rebuild Nepal and brought relief, joy, and hope to the Nepali people. If you have time, go and volunteer. It’s a life changing experience.
More photos at the bottom of the blog.
6:00AM Wake up. I can hear some music in the distance as I climb down from the top bunk. On my way to get a clean work shirt I stop at the squatty potty and practice my aim. Then I get dressed, brush my teeth and hair, and pack my back pack for the day.
6:30AM Breakfast of instant oatmeal (the devoid of all flavor variety) with a dab of peanut butter and chopped banana added in, and a cup of instant coffee. I sat down at a table outside (there aren’t any inside tables), where I can see the foothills of the Himalayas. The view of the valley and the mountains was amazing each morning, a sharp contrast to the oatmeal. There were three types of morning people in this group: those who walked in with earphones/earbuds listening to music, getting pumped for the day; those who were chatty and smiled; and those who were generally quiet, but would respond if you asked them a question. I tended to fall into the last category.
6:50AM Blur of activity as everyone rushes around to be ready to leave in ten minutes. I quickly wash my dishes, pull on my work boots, and rush over to the staging area to get the less beat-up tools and wheel barrows.
7:00AM Everyone starts walking towards their respective worksites. I can hear calls of “Have a nice day!”, “See you later!”, and “Did anyone remember speakers?”. The weather is still cool at this time, almost cool enough where I need my jacket.
7:05AM We arrive at the worksite, greet the family we were helping that day (aka “the beneficiary” on paper), go over work for the day, and start working.
7:10AM Tea break. After a long five minutes of work, the family makes us tea and a snack, usually cookies.
7:15AM to 12PM Work hard and stay hydrated. The weather turns hot fast in the morning. There’s music playing or (verbal) word games as we work. Get a lot of work done and get dirty doing it. At least the dirt makes me look tan (otherwise I glow in the dark).
12PM to 1PM Break for lunch. The matriarch of the family usually cooked us lunch consisting of dhal-bhat (rice and lentils) with a curried vegetable. Very good food, very mitho-cha (“tasty”). Then relax for a little bit. Try not to fall asleep in a food coma.
1PM to 3:45PM Get back to work. Try to work hard in the afternoon heat. Take more water breaks. Work continues, if slower than the morning. Try to find work in the shade as the shadows lengthen in afternoon.
3:45PM Tea break and snack break. Talk with the family.
3:50-4:00PM Wrap up work, clean worksite, and pack up to go.
4:00PM Say good-bye to the family and start walk or car ride back to the base. Hope to get there before everyone else to get a shower and a bucket of warm water before the nightly debrief meeting.
4:00 to 5:30PM Get back to the Base, take shower, and relax with friends. Days varied. Sometimes relaxing includes beer, sometimes soda. Sometimes I waited for a shower, sometimes I was one of the first ones back and there was no line. After the shower, sometimes I wanted to write in my journal and sometimes I just sat outside socializing.
5:30PM Daily debriefing. All the groups describe their days. Some in poetry, other in laughs. Meet new people, say good-bye to departing people. Hear about new and upcoming mobile projects. Be reminded to re-hydrate “yo-self,” don’t flush toilet paper, and don’t be a dick (also called being aware of and caring how your actions affect others). Sign up for the next day’s work.
6:00 to 7:00PM Dinner time! Wait in line, get delicious homemade Nepalese food, find a spot, and eat and socialize.
7:00 to 10:00PM Free time. Sometimes there would be team leader meetings, fun planned events at the base (like a silent auction, pub quiz, and lessons on making mo-mo’s), or head into town for internet at Maya’s café.
10PM Quiet time begins and the day draws to a close. Most people are asleep by this time, but some stay up, talking quietly amongst themselves.