Global Village Journal
Nepal – Oct / Nov 2011
Sightseers. We are sightseers – from Knoxville and Chapel Hill and Smyrna, Georgia. Fourteen sightseers who dreamed of seeing the sights of Nepal halfway round the world. But also dreamed of a fabulous sight – two Habitat for Humanity homes built by hand onsite in the province of Kavre – not far from Kathmandu.
And sightseers we were as we made our way! Whether trekking the Himalayas with guides and porters face-to-face with steep inclines and treacherous descents or scrunched into tight airplane seats, sleeping in pods at the Delhi airport. We first saw the sights of Kathmandu wide-eyed from the windows of a van darting through motorcycle traffic while pointing at buildings and tangled power lines and mini farms and dusty rock paths. We arrived at the gathering place, providentially named the Hotel Magnificent View.
Against the backdrop of an evening sky and urban rooftops, we sat “up top” as Nikita from Nepal and Tom from the U.S. became Global Village partners laying out plans for two work sites and two crews ready to make a difference in the lives of two families – the Shresthas and the Tamangs – in Tinpiple, Kavre.
From being a group of far-sighted missionaries, we became near-sighted workers ready to sling mud, lay on roofs, or became willing fetchers for seven days beginning November 1, 2011. We were ready to move from being sightseers to site developers – making a difference together!
Team Tom Team Susan
Overseer: Tom Pfalzer Overseer: Susan West
Sightseers / Site Seers Sightseers / Site Seers
- Bill West - David Mackay
- Sharon Frankenburg - Kelle Shultz
- Ginger Baxter - Jacob Townsend
- Catherine Townsend - Morena Constantinou
- Elsa Bryan - Rusha Sams
- Bert Sams - Richard Isaac
Two Days in Kathmandu - Saturday, Oct. 29
by Rusha Sams
Yes, we had our sights on building homes in Nepal, but we also came to smell, taste, listen and see – the world of Nepal. And so it was that we saw Bhaktapur on Saturday, Oct. 29.
With “KC” as our guide, we entered the almost-closed world of brick streets, winding paths and open squares where the people of Bhaktapur live, work, worship and celebrate in many ways similar to their ancestors.
And oh, the sights we did see:
- Temples where ladies in colorful flowing dress offered food to temple idols.
- Children playing in the streets with found objects anxious to see their pictures on our digital cameras.
- Sellers of wares. Old stuff – handmade paper, pottery, carved Buddhas, and flutes. And new stuff – dozens of necklaces dangling from outstretched arms, artwork (thakets) bearing stories of U.S. influence – Coca Colas and bottled water!
- People flinging rice from shallow round baskets or sweeping the piles with handmade brooms to form mounds they would later cover with woven mats.
- Old people sitting in doorways, tending the shrines, spinning yarn, and posing for pictures.
- And temples straining to maintain ornately carved doors and arches bearing figures of people and animals or reaching five stories high with steep steps bearing pairs of elephants, eagles, and lions.
Wide-eyed we returned to our hotel thinking about the Nepali people who opened their city for us to admire. It was a great sight-seeing day!
Sunday, Oct. 30
by Rusha Sams
This was a free day but not for the hale and hearty shoppers! A group of women set out to bargain their way through the Thamel district.
They stopped in shops selling pashminas, blankets of yak wool, felted purses, silver jewelry, necklaces of turquoise and coral, and more pashminas. Morena asked one shopkeeper to demonstrate what a “ring shawl” was – and he slowly but proudly pulled the soft blue pashmina through her ring – supposedly the test of the “real deal.”
Two shoppers emerged as Gold Shoppers – prize winners not for the quantity of goods (although they filled several bags) but also their ability to haggle. Kelle and Sharon found the best items and the best bargains! In fact, at the ring shawl shop, Kelle successfully got the owners to reduce the price of THE softest pashmina from $225 to $50! So, of course, we all had to have one!
Some of the guys walked through Thamel eyeing shops, the local market (think raw meat, veggies, etc.) and ended up enjoying an Everest beer!
Ginger and Elsa enjoyed a genuine Nepali yoga class with a private instructor – meditation, stretching, and calmness all around!
At the end of the day, all of us headed to Nepali Chulo. We had a guide walk us down narrow sidewalks (uneven bricks, potholes, dirt, etc.) for a lot longer than anticipated, but the trek was worth it. The hard part was yet to come: sitting cross-legged on the floor under low tables. We were served rice wine in tiny bowls artfully poured from a brass pitcher. Then course after course arrived – roasted potatoes, bean soup, rice, spinach, chicken, wild boar, yoghurt for dessert. We photographed dancers in native dress, offered rupees to an ostrich that hovered over the table, and painfully tried to stand up while sitting way too long! We may be sightseers but our knees are not as strong as they need to be for a Nepali dinner!
Monday, Oct. 31
by Rusha Sams
We awoke knowing we would be leaving Kathmandu to begin our Global Village work in Kavre. After a generous breakfast of eggs and toast, we loaded the bus to see the sights of the city before moving to the country.
But it wasn’t long before the bus stalled, sputtered, and finally broke down. Not to be dismayed, a group of us braved the sidewalks in search of food and we found The Bakery Café, a restaurant known for employing hearing impaired waiters. Sign language worked well for us, and the pizzas and French fries filled us up!
On the road again, we pulled into Kavre and the Dhulikhel Resort Hotel. Some of us stayed in faraway rooms up a steep hill; others had matrimonial beds in a separate building.
We ate our first meal at the Dhulikhel buffet – rice, lentils, chicken, cauliflower, and pudding for dessert.
This was the place we would call home for nearly two weeks and the view from the balcony is to die for!
Morning – Tuesday Nov. 1
By Bill West
A great tone for the build was set by Kelle’s thoughtful devotion. It was initially given at KHFH’s Building Dedication on Washington Ave. Everyone was in great spirits, and jumped on the bus! (Regarding the bus: needless to say I think we will all be thankful we have our last uneventful trip to the job site!)
Site comments: I think we were all moved by the Welcome given by an elder in the community along with the homeowner. Their expression of appreciation was very heartfelt.
As we began our build it was very great to see the dedicated spirit and positive attitude exhibited by all as we help build this house into a home.
“Sight” comments: We all see how the people in this area appear to have nothing. Where do they worship? Where do they get the strength to endure the day-to-day hardships? For the most part they appear to be happy and content.
What will we learn from them in the next two weeks?
Afternoon – Tuesday Nov. 1
By Morena Constantinou
First day at work in Kavre. Since this is my first journey with Global Village, I did not quite know what to expect this morning as we were driven to our workplace.
The drive to the jobsite was very winding, and the scenery was just beautiful. All of us were welcomed by the homeowners in a special Hindi way. We all got a red dot on our forehead. I believe it is a kind of blessing. This ritual was performed by an older lady.
Our work today consisted of piling stones and carrying them up the hill to the jobsite. The house we are helping to build consists of stone and mud.
The children were very curious about us, and it was just wonderful to get to know so much about the family and the community we are helping.
I would have loved to know what the people we are helping are thinking about us? It was quite an eye-opener to see what little these people own and how happy they are. The children seemed to be so content and happy with their lives.
The Nepali woman had a busy day today cleaning their laundry in the nearby pond and taking care of the children. It was a holiday today so we had the pleasure to meet and play with the children. Rusha even taught them “Itsy Bitsy Spider – went up the water spout.” It was beautiful to watch.
Morning – Wednesday Nov. 2
By Ginger Baxter
Great day for Team Tom!
Our call and response for today: “How do you eat an elephant?” ANSWER IN UNISON: “One bite at a time!” And that’s exactly how we operated all day long.
When we arrived our site was a bit muddy from the rains last night. Bert and Bill made the decision to move our rock pile only part way up the hillside and then again the rest of the way to the home site. Great decision because no one had to walk more than about two steps with each rock. We finished the whole Elephant in not much more time and we were all happy and ready for more work at the end.
Then we went to making Mud Balls and helping the masons spread mud for stones. The morning went by fairly quickly and at lunch we were still a happy and not-too-tired team. (And many thanks to Tom for making manageable rocks!)
Afternoon session was more of the same. Small bites of the elephant passing rocks from up top, and throwing them down to Bert and Bill. We did rock duty all afternoon until 3:30 with one break. We were happy, safe, and not exhausted at days’ end. Yeah for Learning to Eat that Elephant one small bite at a time!
We even sang all afternoon as we worked:
- Rocky Top
- UT alma mater
- Wheels on the Bus
- Oh Lord, Woncha buy me a Mercedes Benz
One local boy that Tom made friends with yesterday helped us on the rock chain. Elsa kept calling him “Muscles,” and asking him to flex. We teased that she was flirting and teasing him. Her response was: “He’ll be looking for Honduran women the rest of his life!”
Ha Ha – What a Great Day! Rock on team.
Afternoon – Wednesday Nov. 2
By Kelle Shultz
We are re-building the United States of America state by state on team “Rock Solid.” Seems every time we bend down we find – Tennessee, West Virginia, New Hampshire. Not found Texas yet, but we have picked up rocks the size of the SEC.
For the first time today saw a male not interested in sex. The cow even flirted a little with the bull – wiggling her tail, and giving him a few good licks – and still nothing. So she went home.
Site seers: The site is steep, wet, muddy, sometimes smelly – but the best site is the people. The smiles. Tough, callused hands and feet working beside our gloves and boots.
The site we see is families – wanting to make the best they can, and that is consistent anywhere in the world. Mom brushing their daughter’s hair before going to school, taking care of the animals. Planting flowers – growing roots.
The work is hard. I just couldn’t do it today like yesterday. Bending and lifting.
Rusha defied us all and made the men show her how to build a wall. We want to help but are resistant to be pushy – invade their space and life and so we wonder if they really want us or want to know us, like we desire to learn from them.
We are there and we are an oddity but the distance between us is great in culture – little in space.
But we work as a team and get to know each other and to me that is why I am here. For friendships I can expand back to my home and to share the vastness of this beautiful land with a group of people that I can learn from and admire.
How blessed we are with God’s gifts and the gifts of each other.
Morning – Thursday Nov. 3
By Jacob Townsend
I’ll start this entry with a side note: Catherine and I left our home stateside on October 8th. Our travel time is now nearing 30 days. Thoughts of home and creature comforts now invade my daily routine with the frequency only equaled by the artillery shelling of the bugle horns all cars, motorcycles, and buses blare. That is to say I am officially homesick but WOW, this place has an amazingly unique culture.
Site notes: The home we are working on is moving along rapidly. We have worked very hard to keep our masons well stocked with ample rocks to choose from. The front door has been installed as have 2 windows. Several mysterious holes have been created in the structure by the masons today. We have surmised that this will likely create the foundation for bamboo scaffolding, but none of us actually know for sure. We are continuously distracted from our work (in a positive way) by the many children of all ages coming and going – going to school, chasing the animals, changing clothes repeatedly, and most happy when they choose to help us move the rocks.
I myself can’t stop watching the animals. Whether chickens are scratching, cows are fornicating, or goats are climbing on the roof of the home, I hate to admit, I can’t help but stare. I have 2 favorite goats which I have named “Dirty Socks” and “Floppy.” If you could see the length, coloring, and angle at which their ears hang, you would know why I call them this.
The weather has been perfect and we are already almost halfway done with the build.
That’s all for today.
Afternoon – Thursday Nov. 3
By Catherine Townsend
Team Elephant continues to work great together, chomping bit by bit, to get this pachyderm eaten! We threw more rocks today, made more mud balls, and continued to bond as a team.
After lunch today (and a “brief” shopping trip J), we had the opportunity to see the Bamboo House. The bamboo is mostly used as supports, and plaster fills in the walls – pretty neat!
We are enjoying the kids that walk by our house daily in their school uniforms that smile and greet us with a “Namaste.” We were also joined by “Ernie,” an adorable dog that was Ginger’s new friend after she sang “How much is that doggie in the window” to him.
This continues to be a fun experience and I look forward to all that is to come!
Seen and noted by Rusha Sams: Ginger is in charge of Theme Nights, so tonight she challenged us to dress appropriately for White Night! And we did! We wore white blouses, T-shirts, scarves and vests! Winners were Catherine and Jacob who designed white hats – a nurse one for Catherine and a folded paper sailor hat for Jacob!
Morning – Friday Nov. 4
By Bert Sams
Today begins as usual – a damp foggy day controlling our ability to view the wonderful terraced landscape of this area. However, the fog has not hampered our spirit or our enthusiasm.
We do the breakfast thing, get inspired by Morena, and off to the mud and rocks! Team Tom (or the “Elephant Eaters” as we are known throughout the land) arrives at our site - - oops, no rock masons - - no doors or windows! So, we do our elephant-eating and move rock up the hill and then off to we’re-not-sure-where – maybe to another HFH site, maybe to Team Susan. Alas, we end up with our other team and do our thing – moving rock. Our team enjoyed seeing the residents at the other site (oh yeah, the cow, goats and chickens as well). Our site is relatively secluded with no other homes within view but lots of foot traffic up and down.
This day is pretty much like the others, but a highlight for me was the “group” picture that included all of us – the workers, and most of the neighborhood.
We are all happy that the week is ending and are looking forward to some R & R in Kathmandu. The Everest flight is coming on Sunday morning and I am so excited!
Afternoon – Friday Nov. 4
By David Mackay
Morning breaks and “the Team” gathers for a 7:00am breakfast. Some look relaxed, others show a lack of a restful nights’ sleep. Soon the sight of warm pancakes bring a joyful smile to the hungry hoard. Hot coffee – hot tea – each has their own favorites.
A healthy breakfast leads to the team gathering for the morning inspiration. Morena chooses a message that holds a meaningful thought to each team member. Times wasting and the bus is off to the sites.
This morning we passed Nepalese soldiers in full battle gear. The sighting is a little unsettling but we passed the checkpoints with no issues. Sightings like these make each of us glad we live in the home of “the Free.”
We reach Site 1 and the stone masons are in full swing. We drop our gear and it’s off to “moving rock.” A short while later the rest of the team unites on the site of “Rock Solid.” Their masons did not show and no windows or doors were delivered. The other team members pitch in and we “rock-on.”
Lunch brings a grateful break and the ladies shop till they drop. The afternoon is, as you know or have probably guessed, moving more rock.
Time for a photo op. The family, the masons, the neighbors, the Habitat affiliate all gather with the Team for the traditional Kodak moment. The work day ends with a rock conga line moving up from “the pit.”
It’s Geek night and all get a good laugh. Everyone is safe, happy and very, very thankful for what God has graced them with. Tomorrow it’s off to Kathmandu for the weekend activities ...
Seen and noted by Rusha Sams: Ginger declared this night as Nerd Night! Richard and Bill wore their shirts backwards; Ginger, Elsa, and Morena wore cute skirts, tops and vests with Ginger sporting pig-tails; and several folks added tape and band-aids to their glasses. Winner? Tom!! He pulled his pants up high, added ball point pens to his shirt pocket, and cocked his Habitat visor to the side! Pretty nerdy indeed!
Saturday, Nov. 5
By Rusha Sams
After breakfast, we boarded a tour bus for our Middle Weekend tour. First stop was a trek (about 3 miles) up to see Namabuddha. The scenery was breathtaking – not just for its beauty (mountainsides with terraced gardens, modest homes with decorative swags of marigold roping, and animals everywhere) but also because some of us were quite winded hiking up steep narrow pathways.
At the destination, we noted long strings of prayer flags and worshipers gathered before a shrine chanting in unison. The hike from there was even more strenuous but we were rewarded with a spectacular view and a shrine honoring Buddha who, upon seeing a tigress so starved she couldn’t feed her cubs, allowed the tigress to consume him, thus elevating him to a higher realm of existence.
We were allowed to tour a portion of the monastery there after leaving our shoes by the door, but we were asked not to take pictures.
Our bus parked as closely to us as possible but the steep descent made for a tough climb down. We were delighted to reach the bus and eat the box lunch prepared the Dhulikhel Lodge Resort – chicken, boiled egg, French fries, and mango juice.
Kelle and Bert chose not to hike but instead asked the bus driver to show them small towns and rural scenery. Bert said he enjoyed seeing Pananti, a town that could have been reached by the hikers if they had had another 3-4 hours “in them” for hiking.
We passed rice fields, streams where people were washing their clothes, and small villages where there were few stores, houses, or anything that we would see at home. Still, there was beauty amid the bleakness: a woman bathing herself even with all of us walking by; children running around haystacks; old men visiting and sitting and watching.
We checked into the Norbu Linka Hotel in Kathmandu and enjoyed an afternoon of shopping in Thamel and eating at a restaurant that served Nepali, American, and Mexican food. My chicken fajitas were a welcome sight!
Sunday, Nov. 6
By Rusha Sams
Several of us woke up early for our pre-booked flight to see Mt. Everest at 6:30am. We arrived at the Kathmandu Airport and watched as plane after plane took off for this awesome adventure. Although we were expecting a small prop plane, we found that our spacious little plane was comfortable, and most importantly safe.
The trip did not disappoint: when we first glimpsed the peaks of the Himalayas, we all oohed and ahhed, and that’s when the stewardess invited us one at a time into the cockpit to take pictures. Ginger was truly moved saying that she never dreamed she would have the opportunity to see something of this magnitude – and we all agreed. Everest explorers (well, just seers, I guess) were Tom, Bert, Rusha, Sharon, Ginger and Kelle.
After breakfast at the hotel, we packed our bags into the tour bus and headed for Patan Durbar Square with its collection of temples said to be the finest in Nepal by Lonely Planet.
We had lunch upstairs at a restaurant overlooking the square. Ginger was the only one who could sit cross-legged for the whole meal (chicken, rice, French fries, mixed vegetables)! Our guide took us to several temples – mostly Buddhist – built by the Mallas in the 16th, 17th, and 18th centuries. One highlight was seeing a line of women, mostly dressed in red, waiting their turn to place food at the shrine or lay strings of marigolds at the base.
Everywhere in Patan were hawkers, sellers and beggars, but we’d seen the goods before in Bhaktapur; armloads of beaded necklaces, flutes, singing bowls, Tiger Balm!
We did enjoy a demo of some rather large handmade singing bowls. The owner placed a bowl on David’s head, tapped it with a padded mallet, and set the healing vibrations in motion!
Some of us wanted to see more of the Patan Museum – a clean, beautiful place with tasteful gift shops and artifacts from long ago.
Another stop after the square was at a handicraft place that housed Tibetan refugees. We marveled at the women who could quickly yet skillfully weave rugs while sitting on the floor and looking up at a hand-drawn pattern. Bill, Susan and Kelle found special rugs to take back home!
Our last stop of the day was at Bodhnath where an enormous stupa forms the base around which hundreds of shops open to the tourist trade. This stupa is a more recent construction after the original (built in the 6th century) was destroyed by Mughal invaders. It is the most outstanding evidence of a Nepalese stupa with a whitewashed dome and eyes of Buddha facing north, south, east and west.
Some of us, however, took our best pictures of Bodhnath from the office of a Tibetan doctor at Kunphens Tibetan Medical Center! David had requested a visit since his eyes have been watering quite a bit since his arrival. The doctor prescribed medicine for him which David now takes “crushed with warm water!” Other patients included Rusha, Sharon and Ginger!
On any trip to or from Kathmandu, we all marvel at the skills the typical driver has to have to maneuver through laneless streets and darting, death-defying traffic!! Our ride back to Dhulikhel was especially harrowing – late afternoon traffic, light rain and approaching darkness. With so many near misses and the constant sound of Nepali horns and beeps, we arrived safely (thankfully) at our hotel where many of the team unpacked their luggage in “new” rooms on the same floor as those who had originally been assigned matrimonial bedrooms!! We’re a team now, and ready to rock-on for another 3 days of building!
Morning – Monday Nov. 7
By Elsa Bryan
Musical notes: “I can see clearly now – the rain is gone.”
Today was a beautiful sunny day. The brightest and clearest so far. I was able to see mountains that were previously covered with fog.
The morning devotion was led by Rusha, but we were all active participants. We stood in a circle and held our rocks, and in 25 words or less had to say something that started with “seeing” and ended in “priceless,” as we passed our rock to the person to our left. When everybody had a turn, we ended up holding our own rock in our hands, and everybody’s priceless memories in our hearts and minds.
I’m writing this entry while a big BAT is playing on my balcony! PRICELESS!
Musical notes: “It’s gonna be a bright, bright, sunshiny day.”
Afternoon – Monday Nov. 7
By Sharon Frankenberg
After our routine lunch of dahl baht in the village, many of us picked up items sewn by the village seamstress. The fabrics were colorful and embellished, as that is the custom of Nepali women. I do not know how they can keep their gorgeous clothing looking so nice after working hard in the fields. Even after squatting at a mud pit. The dust doesn’t seem ton collect on their nice clothes.
We went to the jobsite on the hill this afternoon. After moving another ton of rock up the hill, our team help build walls on our house. We placed small stones between the large rocks set by the masons. Some stirred mud and some squished the mud in place. Pretty satisfying stuff to see walls go up and know that you were part of that. Washing my muddy hands in rain barrels is another reminder of how a little bit of Nepal will always stay with me. Red clay, just like home.
Morning – Tuesday Nov. 8
By Rusha Sams
Whether it was Catherine’s birthday or just the Lord knowing we needed a spirit lifter, we were blessed with a magnificent sight: a view of the Himalayas from our hotel restaurant balcony! To celebrate, we sang Happy Birthday and then dined on the outside terrace to take in the breath-taking scene!
At Team Susan’s site, our usual rock-passing task was interrupted with what Reema called “a tour of a nearby town.” It turned out to be a sawmill where were “rewarded” with a new task – carrying lumber back to the house! We all laughed while at the lumberyard at the “Don’t Pee Here” sign! A nice break to the day.
We were also entertained during the morning with Morena’s retelling of the “visitor” she and Elsa had on their balcony – a rat!! Elsa was quite disturbed, according to Morena, with the litter critter’s crawl up the doorway and the scratching on their windows!
A good morning filled with birthday wishes, laughter, and tales!
Afternoon – Tuesday Nov. 8
By Richard Isaac
During our usual luncheon meal at the same family restaurant, we wished Catherine a Happy Birthday. One of the family daughters presented her with flowers and a birthday present. That was a very special thought by our luncheon family, where we had dined for lunch every day.
The afternoon was beautiful with a continuing view of the Himalayas. In fact, after lunch we climbed above the build site to have an even better vista of the gorgeous mountain range. A truck brought water jugs to the site in the afternoon and some of the team participated in carrying the jugs to the barrels to be filled. The remainder of the afternoon was used to move rock into the house as the team split up into 2 groups moving different piles of rock into the interior.
It was truly a glorious day that was enjoyed by all of the team. A lot of progress was made, but the highlight had to be the skies giving up to a magnificent viewing of the Himalayas.
After dinner we once again celebrated Catherine’s birthday with a cake and champagne. It was a very special occasion for a wonderful young woman.
Morning – Wednesday Nov. 9
By Susan West
For the last 12 days we have been bombarded by the sights and sounds of Nepal. Some foreign and some universal. Foreign languages we don’t understand, the indescribable daily life of hardship, and sometimes the look of hopelessness on young men’s faces. However, amid the strife we have been awestruck by the beauty and majesty of the mountains; been delighted by the smiles on children’s faces and their squeals of laughter; and have witnessed the love of family and community support.
As a team we helped create a future of hope for two families. Each of us will be touched in our own way. Some will re-live the memories over and over, and some less often. It’s an experience that will live within us and no matter how tucked away it becomes it is still a part of who we are.
And all God’s children said “Amen.”
Afternoon – Wednesday Nov. 9
By Tom Pfalzer
… and then we got to spend time with God’s children – literally.
We visited the Bhabishya Ujjwal Primary School (Ward No. 9) in Ektabasti, Kavre. It was located just down the street from the Bamboo House that Habitat Nepal had just developed, with the help of a women’s GV team lead by two Habitat staffers from Atlanta.
The children ranged in age from about 3 to about 8, and they were precious. Even though we all knew that they had parents of their own, most of us were sorely tempted to scoop up several of them and bring them back with us to the States. Some of the best memories were watching Richard put socks-and-shoes on a small boy, and then finally convincing one of the beautiful little girls that it’d be ok if he picked her up. Those are probably my strongest Kodak moments of the trip.
I could go on about this excursion for some time (mentioning the bangles that Kelle brought for the girls, and the rubber frogs for the boys; the “sing alongs” that Rusha initiated; the commitment and dedication of the principal and the 5 teachers for the 40+ kids; the new classrooms that had been built with grant money a dozen years ago; the lunch-time feeding of all the children with a handful-or-two of dry rice; etc.), but I’ll leave it with this – it was the perfect way to end our adventure in this wonderful land. And wouldn’t it be even more remarkable if we could make a lasting difference in the lives of these children by providing them something to shoot for, some scholarship that they could achieve if they set their minds to it. It’s something worth looking into.