Walk Through JRM’s Relief Mission in Nepal with Trent Whitney
Trent Whitney is a Police Sergeant in Pocatello, Idaho. He joined the JRM Foundation mission to Nepal, led by Dr. Fahim Rahim. Trent is the life of the party, and it’s always a party when you’re around him. He wore many different hats during his week in Nepal — helping run the health clinic, running events for kids, he did the moonwalk (aka, gravel shuffle) for the school kids in Waku-9 of Solu Khumbu, and taught a little girl how to fistbump (pic above). He jotted down detailed notes through out the trip on his iPhone. The unedited notes are published here with his permission. He said “plagiarize the **** out of it.”
Psssst! Guess what? There’s a photo gallery at the bottom of this article.
We flew to Nepal from Bangkok in a Boeing 777–200 on Thai Air. As we approached Nepal we began our decent from 40,000 feet with about 20 minutes to land when I saw passengers with cameras on the right side of the plane. Through a heavy layer of clouds Mt. Everest was poking up in the distance. I was amazed that I was looking at mountains to my right, as high as we were flying, instead of down at mountains underneath the aircraft as I had always done. Wow- The size of the Himalayas can’t be over exaggerated! They make the Rocky Mountains look like a very small set of hills.
We were greeted at the airport immediately by a man who asked Dave if we had arrived with Dr. Rahim. We pointed out Fahim, who was looking for his ID, and a buzz in the airport began as lots of people seemed to know who we were.
We met Fahim’s friend Gokul (a Himalayan Guide that lost his home during the earthquake) and the rest of the team at the airport and then went to a local hotel where we enjoyed a Coke. We discussed logistics of the missions around new mud slides and flooding in the area.
Our transportation was a small school bus made out of a very small van; smaller than a Dodge Caravan. The stock seats had been ripped out and thirteen small seats were put in their place.
Amy, our nurse from Boston, took us to her in-laws house in Gattaghar where we were fed fresh Mango, pudding, bananas, and tea. They were very nice!
We drove through Bhaktapur which was hit very hard by the earthquake. This 12th century community was the first to be settled in Nepal. It is a historically religious town with many places of worship. There were toppled buildings everywhere. We passed several brick factories where the smoke stacks were toppled. There were people displaced everywhere with collapsed homes and buildings everywhere. There were tent cities that had been erected in several locations around the city.
We drove near Basi where there was also much devastation. We stopped at a local tailor’s shop/house where they were making school uniforms for the schools funded by JRM foundation. Within three hours blue material is turned into a school uniform on a vintage sewing machine. Fahim treated a baby with an infected wound on her face and then left the family with medication and medical instructions.
We drove into the mountains to the Dhulikhel Hospital where would stay our first night in tents. Again the town knew who we were. We were greeted by the family with the two-week old baby that Fahim had saved on his first trip with his home-made dialysis solution. The baby was now three months old and looked great.
Fahim and Amy left Dave and I to fend for ourselves as they went to meet the hospital director. Dave and I went on a short two mile run as it was getting dark. We ran up and then down the very steep hills of the town. We were greeted by the town’s children during our workout. They loved the push-ups and many joined in. I was happy to be running for the first time since my foot surgery ten weeks ago. We then went to eat with Amrit (a Huffington Post reporter traveling with us) and Gokul in the hospital cafeteria.
Dave and I finished the day by setting up a micro-projector, my iPhone and my Klipsch KMC-3 speaker in the children’s ward of the hospital. We used a full sheet on the wall held up by duct tape and showed Despicable Me to the kids.
Our day began at 3:30 am with an earthquake that lasted only a few seconds. We were at the epicenter and it only measured 4.4. It woke the entire town up and felt like somebody was shaking me to get up. We were sleeping in tents on the side of the grassy helicopter pad at the time. All of the animals started making noise and the dogs barked for the rest of the night. None of us could go back to sleep so we were up after only four short hours of rest. I went for my second run of the trip. I ran a 5k nice and easy to be careful not to hurt my foot. Dave and Fahim ran a 10k.
We boarded the helicopter and flew into the mountains. Visibility was very low, but we never flew anywhere the pilot couldn’t see at least the outline of the terrain, changing course several times for safety. On our way to hill village, Waku 9, we flew over the site where the U.S. Marine helicopter crashed that was on its way to various villages to drop off supplies. The terrain here is very unforgiving and we were fortunate to be flying with one of the best helicopter pilots in the area. His helicopter was a brand new Hillstar French made B3 Echo. It was designed to fly to the 18,000 foot base-camp at the base of Everest with six passengers and all of their gear. It has a 23,000 foot rated ceiling, but a similar helicopter flew to the summit of Everest in 2003 after it was stripped of its weight with a single passenger on board. By a French pilot
We stopped early at a village to ask for directions, landing on the dangerous hillside. I would compare it to stopping at a 7 Eleven to ask for directions. We then flew about five more minutes to Waku 9 where our helicopter pilot surgically place the helicopter in an unused rice field on the stack farmed fields of the mountain. The rotor blades almost touched the hillside and were overlapped four feet above the next field. Our pilot was extremely skilled pilot working with inches instead of feet. We landed at 7000 feet with occasional glimpses of Mt. Mera through the cloud cover which towered 20,000 feet over us at 27,000 feet. We were immediately greeted by the villagers who Decorated us with so many Katas (a silk scarf) that they became heavy and hot. They then had us drink rice wine during a customary welcome ritual. I took the initial dose as a shot which caused the villagers to erupt in applause. They kept filling my cup so I kept drinking. Four shots later I found temporary happiness on an empty stomach. The kids lined up and sang their national anthem and danced. Their community was very different from American life as they took their time to enjoy the moment. I was eager to get to work and the festivities felt like an eternity. The people treated us like family.
We surveyed the damage to the hospital and Dave showed the men the safest way to fix two rock walls that where almost collapsed; as they were left leaning from the earthquakes. We were greeted with hot tea and Coconut Crackers which we shared with the kids instead of eating them all ourselves.
We gave the kids brand new uniforms and backpacks from the JRM Foundation. We listened to music from the top 20 currently on the radio to Journey and Kings of Leon.
We put on a medical clinic and saw over 100 patients. I helped set up the pharmacy with Dave and Amy. Dave primarily ran the pharmacy. I helped with patients.
An older man came into the clinic and had a severe urinary track infection along with diverticulosis. He was in bad shape and the first patient to be examined. Fahim and Amy were very concerned that the man’s life was in danger and so was I. I helped Fahim and Amy with giving him IV antibiotics and IV fluids. The man was highly dehydrated. I checked on the man often between patients sitting him up often to give him water and prescription drugs. After a few hours the man suddenly sat up on his own seeming to feel much better. It was amazing to see him walk out with little assistance after being on his death bed just hours before.
I cleaned infected wounds on children under Fahim’s and Amy’s direction. Every wound I cleaned was severely infected. One small toddler’s face was completely infected on his chin and under his nose. He had been picking his face with his dirty nails which appeared to be the cause of the infection. I peeled the infected scabs off of his face as he cried. I felt extremely bad for him, and my heart was heavy watching him scream in pain. Truth be told I put my sunglasses on because I started to tear up. Dave helped me with all of the children as we put antibiotic ointment on the infected wounds and then bandaged them up. All of the parents left with antibiotics and ointments for their children. I was happy when I saw the toddler again a few hours later and he actually smiled at me.
As the children gathered in the village late in the afternoon I set up our projector. I put our make shift theater in a temporary school house which was basically a stick frame with tarps for the roof. Next to us was the actual school house which had been damaged from the quake. One wall was badly collapsed into one of the two classrooms; although the entire building was barely standing. Looking inside of the building revealed a classroom that had been abandoned the way it was the day of the earthquake. Desks were still in their places amongst the rubble. School assignments were on display and and posters were still on the wall. It looked like the earthquake had only occurred hours before our arrival.
The kids loved the movies despite the fact that we showed them in English. We showed Despicable Me followed by Frozen. The kids laughed often and had a great time. Many of the kids were seen as patients. They were glued to the screen and didn’t leave until we had to shut our theater down for dinner.
Which brings me to food- I didn’t eat anything today that wasn’t fantastic. It was the definition of organic food. I really enjoyed it! The people were very grateful and they feed us very well.
Today I’m missing my wife and kids pretty bad! I’m homesick but there is so much work to be done.
I woke up last night with bad leg cramps. We worked very hard yesterday to the point that we all were extremely tired, but it was worth it! I wish I could say I slept well, but we were sleeping on a rock bed to avoid the leaches. I obviously overlooked drinking as much water as I should have because I woke up with terrible leg cramps in the middle of the night during a monsoon downpour. It rained all night which I found very soothing. I have always enjoyed sleeping through storms with thunder and lightning. Last night; however, the thunder was really loud. When I walked out last night to go to the bathroom I found out why. Visibility was only about five feet with the pouring rain and very dense fog with my flashlight because we were so high that we were actually inside of the storm cloud.
The weather cleared up by morning and it was a beautiful day. Dave and I walked to a small waterfall outside of the village to get some water. We were attacked by leaches and had to repeatedly keep pulling them off of us, but the walk through the dense jungle to a spring-fed waterfall was awesome!
Before we flew out of Waku 9 to Kathmandu Airport the school staff and high ranking townspeople had another special ceremony for us in the damaged office of the school house. They were very appreciative of the work that was done in just one day. They repeatedly told us that they had not received any aid or assistance since the earthquake. In fact they told us that we were the first people they had even had contact with despite seeing helicopters flying up and down the valley every day. I’ve helped a lot of people in my career but I have never experienced the appreciation and satisfaction that I felt helping the people of Waku 9.
When we arrived at Kathmandu Airport we immediately drove to the Dawarika Hotel which is the most expensive hotel in Kathmandu. The purpose for our visit was to meet with the officials from the U.S. Aid Office of Disaster Relief regarding the $130 million that the U.S. has donated to Nepal. We never got any straight answers about how our U.S. tax dollars are going to be distributed to help Nepal, but I’m pretty sure the hotel is very nice based on how nice the lobby was. It was pretty strange sitting in on such an important meeting with American Officials where Fahim will be reporting back directly to the Nepali Congressional Caucus. We sat in the meeting in three day old dirty clothes without a shower. But my own filth didn’t stop me from asking a very direct question about where our U.S. tax dollars are going to be spent in Nepal. The answer I was given was a wild ride on a roller coaster that went nowhere. I’m glad the official introduced himself to me by name before the meeting. I felt that if he hadn’t of introduced himself in the beginning and I had asked him his name after the meeting had started he would have provided me with a big long explanation that he goes by many names without giving me so much as a hint of what I might call him. It was bizarre.
We went back to Kathmandu Airport and our helicopter was late. It started pouring some of that monsoon season rain again so we sought shelter under a Turkish Airlines Airbus A330–300 that was crash landed at the Kathmandu Airport in March of 2015. The plane apparently was landing in the fog and slid off the runway collapsing the front landing gear. Luckily nobody was hurt. This once very nice wide-body aircraft came in very handy today as a huge personal umbrella for us. During the downpour we blasted loud music from my portable Klipsch Bluetooth speaker listening to 80's rock and roll four a couple of hours.
When the rain slowed our helicopter arrived and took us to Manekharka. The power company was in the town restoring power after a landslide took out the power poles. There was power company equipment on the helicopter pad by the hospital so the helicopter pilot dropped us in a very muddy rice field 200 feet below the hospital. Hundreds of village children ran down and greeted us at the helicopter. As we were climbing up the very long rock stairs I noticed hundreds of villagers that were waiting for us. They greeted us very warmly and we immediately went to work since we were late.
We joined Dr. Khalid, Dr. Rehman, and another nurse Rusha that had traveled to join Fahim. They treated tons of villagers and even delivered a baby. They made a huge impact. In addition to delivering a baby in the field center. The baby and mother are doing well.
The town had a huge ceremony for us. The kids performed dances and sang for us for almost an hour. It was so cool! Fahim gave out hundreds of backpacks and school supplies provided by JRM Foundation.
Dave, Gokul, and I ran the kids program and again showed a movie. Several Nepali Military personnel and Nepali Police Officers helped us turn a pavilion into a movie theater with double and triple lined tarp walls to keep the sun out. Then over two hundred kids came out to watch Despicable Me. Before the movie was over the town’s village bell rang signaling the kids that it was time to go home. Every kid immediately got up while still laughing at the movie, thanked us and left. Many of these kids walk over an hour to get home everyday and the bell signals enough time to get home before dark or when a monsoon storm is coming. The disciplined behavior of these kids was very foreign to me because my kids have to be told ten times before they will do anything. I love you Ashlee and Zachary but in the future it would be great If your mother and I only had to tell you once!
We are staying at the hospital in Manekharka in tents on the lawn tonight. I showered tonight for the first time and even got to change my clothes. The water was cold but it felt great and I was thankful. I had parted ways with my clothes and backpack before our journey to Waku 9 to save weight and space on the helicopter for more medical supplies. It was nice to be reunited with my clothes.
Now I’m going to eat another healthy organic delicious meal. I know the chickens are fresh because I watched Dr. Khalid bring them into the kitchen alive.
Last night we slept in a large tent on the lawn of the hospital in Manekharka. I was told it rained all night, but I wouldn’t know because I finally surrendered and took a sleeping pill to get some sleep.
We got up at 6am to prepare to hike to Yangri Village. As I was putting my shoes on at the front door to the hospital an earthquake hit. I definitely felt it, but I was really surprised how loud the rumble was. Everyone stopped in their tracks until it was over.
After the earthquake our team of 10 set out to hike to Yangri Village. The trek was very treacherous and the change in elevation was about 2500 feet over four miles. It typically takes the locals about two hours to make the journey to Yangri on foot. I was late leaving Manekharka as I was trying to buy D Batteries from the town’s store. The batteries were for my Klipsch Bluetooth speaker for the movie we would be showing the kids in Yangri. My group had already left me and had about a five minute head start when I finally left. I started running with my heavy backpack to catch up to the group with my speaker in hand. I Bluetoothed my phone to it and blasted some rock and roll as I ran. The villagers just stared at me as I ran by. The weather was beautiful, but I could see storm clouds coming up the valley and I wanted to get to Yangri before it started raining. My shoes had been wet for days and I wanted to keep them dry. As I ran, I gradually passed members of our group that were hiking in pairs to their comfort level and ability in this dangerous terrain. As I passed them they all laughed at the fact I was blasting music while running through the jungle. I caught Dave and ran right passed him. He started running with me and we started passing locals on the trail. They must have thought we were crazy. Then in the middle of nowhere we caught up to Fahim who was at least a quarter of a mile in front of everyone else. We came to another store in the middle of nowhere when the trail briefly joined up to the mountain road (better described as a two-track jeep trail) from Kathmandu to Manekharka. This road was blocked by landslides and river flooding so we never saw or heard a single vehicle. This wooden shack that sold merchandise had a single bottle of warm Mountain Dew so Dave, Fahim, and I shared it. We continued to run, and then shortly began our very very steep decent on the jungle trail down to Yangri which was located next to the river about 2000 feet below us. The stairs were a wild ride. I think everyone in the group fell at least once on the very steep trail while carrying all of their belongings in backpacks. I fell twice on moss covered rocks and ripped my pants. Fahim blasted himself three times cutting his leg, arm and foot on the mossy rocks and muddy trail. Dave, Fahim and I ran so fast that we ended up leaving the others in the group far behind arriving in Yangri in a very competitive, but unnecessary 53 minutes based on Fahim’s GPS watch. Amy was the first to arrive after us, but Dr. Khalid, Rusha, Dr. Talha, Prabin, Amrit and Gokul walked like normal people and were left far behind. Our guide and friend Gokul stayed with most of them, but Amrit and Dr. Talha dropped behind causing us to later go look for them. They were fine and we later found out that they had stopped at the same shack store to take a break and drink some tea.
We were warmly greeted by the villagers of Yangri as several were awaiting us on a helicopter pad just outside of the village. They had constructed the helicopter pad that morning in a muddy rice field on one of the many mountain terraces. The night before Fahim had made arrangements for ten kit-built permanent homes to be flown to Yangri by the Nepali Army. What showed up was not a small helicopter by any means, but a heavy lift helicopter that could not land on the wet soil without it’s wheels sinking. The pilot took one look and aborted his approach. He flew across the river and set the helicopter down on a sloped field directly underneath a landslide over a mile away from us. Fahim spoke with the villagers about where they want to begin building and Dave and I ran to the helicopter before they could unload it and leave.
The helicopter was a brand new Soviet built MI-17 heavy lifting helicopter. It was basically the Russian version of our military’s Blackhawk. The pilots and crew were very nice. They were eager to show off their new toy and said that this was the first time supplies of this sort had even been carried on it. The pilot said the Nepali Army received the helicopter after the earthquake and that it only had 20 hours of flight time on it.
The helicopter made three trips from Kathmandu to Yangri within four hours. It dropped off enough supplies to build ten 10' by 20' permanent homes, or at least so we thought. We all helped the villagers carry 4'x8' sheets of plywood, metal framing, metal trusses, and metal roofing the long distance from the landing site to the village. It was truly incredible. The villagers did most of the work carrying two sheets of plywood on their backs at a time with lifting straps worn around their foreheads. They were eager to get started. The original plan was to help them complete the first three homes, but they asked us to only show them how to assemble one. The local woman cleared a corn field by hand within five to ten minutes to clear a site for the new home. A factory rep for the kit homes was on site and had slipped in initially unnoticed by us on the first Army helicopter trip. He really helped a lot by going to the village and standing around. Dave inventoried the supplies with the only help the rep initially offered and they quickly discovered that there was no hardware to build the homes (screws, etc.) or tools that had also been promised.
Fahim used his connections to get a hold of a Nepali Army General at the air base. He was very grateful to help even though the Nepali Army typically doesn’t fly mountain missions after 5 pm due to the dangerous mountain terrain. At 7 pm; however, the MI-17 returned with four more factory reps for the houses, the hardware, and tools. It was awesome!
Gokul, Amy, Rusha and I ran a kids program and gave the kids school supplies from JRM Foundation. The kids danced and sang with us. The rest of the group helped work on the first house. At 7pm I showed the kids Frozen in a U.S. Aid tent. They loved the movie and it was very nice to see them laughing.
Dave instructed and led the villagers well after dark until about 11 pm building on the house. They framed the home and were able to even get a few roof trusses on. I’d like to say the five factory reps for the houses helped, but instead they just stood around and watched. It was comical to us, but I don’t think they were happy to be there.
The devastation in Yangri is unbelievable. There is literally nothing standing including the monastery high above the village. There were tents next to the collapsed rubble where houses once stood all through the valley. Yangri had a hydroelectric power plant which was destroyed during the earthquake. A landslide that followed shortly after then sealed the fate that this small power plant would likely need to be rebuilt somewhere else. This village is by far the worse I have seen so far, but the people here are resilient. They have been working very hard to clear building sites by hand, and have continued to farm to insure they will have plenty of food. The townspeople move a single gas generator around the main town area from place to place depending on power needs. There were also some solar powered batteries.
During a brief break I followed one of the villagers down to the river to watch him fish for a few minutes. His fishing pole was really just a net on a long pole. The fisherman pole-vaulted from rock to rock stopping only momentarily to scoop his net into the water before moving on. He fished an area on the river the length of two football fields, vaulting and scooping. The river was very high and muddy from the monsoon rains. Amazingly the fisherman caught twelve small fish called Teetey within minutes and placed them in his hand-woven hip basket. The Teetey resembled some sort of weird catfish that I had never seen before. He battered them as is, spiced them and then fried them. The flavor was very good; tasting similar to a fried oyster. We ate very well while we were here. The corn and potatoes were some of my favorites. I hate to admit it but the Nepali mountains have the best potatoes I have ever eaten. My all-time favorite food in Yangri; however, were the omelets. They were made with fresh eggs and onion. The water also tasted really good here, although we always treated it or drank it using Life-Straws.
All ten of us slept in a large tent that had been donated by Canada. The tent material was filled with black mold, but we made the best of it. We were thankful to have a roof over our heads to go to sleep.
Today we got up early and helped the villagers nearly finish the first house. The house was framed, the walls were up, and most of the roof was on. All that remained was the finish work. The houses were designed to have a metal roof, metal siding halfway up the outside walls, and then paint on the wood above the metal siding. They were also designed to have a compact dirt floor similar to cement.
The villagers’ enthusiasm could be felt as they gratefully continued to carry the heavy building supplies from the helicopter’s landing site approximately one half of a mile from their village. There was so much material dropped by the helicopter that it took them the previous evening and all morning to carry all of the supplies to the main part of the village.
While building the first house we learned many lessons about the complexity of construction in the mountains far from modern civilization. We had to take turns with the power tools because even though they were plugged into a power strip there was a significant load on the small generator when we ran more than one tool at a time. I said plugged in, but what I really meant was bare wires pushed into the power strip’s outlets. The wires to the tools were nothing more than two wires twisted together and then duct-taped to the metal prongs of the power tool plugs. Everyone worked very hard in the humid heat.
Before we left Fahim and Dave met with the town villagers. They were very appreciative of our help. They liked the home that was under construction; however, they said they only need the ten that were shipped to them and not 50. The five factory workers of these kit homes agreed to remain on site until the completion of each of the ten homes to include painting the exterior and completion of the floor. The villagers said these structures would be adequate for their immediate needs until they can build the more traditional homes that they are accustomed to. The Nepali people are full of pride and ready to get their lives back on track. They appreciated the extended hand to get them off the ground, but really want to dust themselves off and get back to their lives.
Dave left the villagers with suggestions on construction techniques with the available building supplies they have on hand. Hopefully they will take his advice and build themselves more earthquake resilient homes to hopefully avoid such a tragedy in the future. We are really hoping they will avoid the construction techniques that have been passed down from generation to generation while still building themselves homes that reflect their culture.
At around 12:00 pm we backed our bags and prepared to say goodbye. The villagers had a very nice ceremony for us before we left. They brought out a ceremonial table decorated with flowers and their prized rice wine. They sent a bottle of the wine with us and decorated us in khatkas.
The helicopter made two trips to the Kathmandu Airport from Yangri in order to get all ten of us back. Without any time for a shower or a change of clothes we drove immediately to Ekta Academy which Fahim helps sponsor. My pants were completely ripped open at this point on the inside of both of my legs just under my groin. I had ripped one side when I fell on the steep trail to Yangri, and I ripped the other side by snagging my pant leg while working. Fahim decided that in order to save time he would drive us to the school. Our van driver surrendered his position to Fahim and got in the back of the van. Driving in Bangkok can be terrifying. I would describe the traffic pattern as walking through a busy chaotic airport while at the same time ignoring every traffic signal, dodging pedestrians in the middle of the road, and constant horn honking. Letting Fahim drive in Kathmandu was probably the most dangerous part of our trip. He said driving made him exhausted and compared it to a real life video game.
We arrived at Ekta Academy without dying in a fiery crash with Fahim behind the wheel for the school’s ceremony. The school was nice and happened to be run by Gokul’s father-in-law. The kids sang and danced. The JRM Foundation donated money to the school and also gave out several scholarships to students for academic excellence. It was the last day of school for the seniors, so they hung around for a while at the school to celebrate.
After the ceremony I was finally able to change my ripped pants into another dirty pair that I wore the first few days. Fahim, Dave and I went to Dr. Tshering’s office to meet with him and the engineer that designed the kit homes in Yangri. Dave offered many suggestions on how the kit could be simplified using universal components of equal length.
After the meeting the entire team went to Kilroy’s of Kathmandu for an awesome dinner; meeting up with the rest of the people that assist Fahim in Kathmandu on his various projects. I ate fish and chips out of newspaper like I did when I was a kid in England. It was the highlight of the meal for me although all of the food was really good.
Dr. Tshering then took the group to a really nice dance club which was so packed that you couldn’t hardly move. Did I mention the bathrooms were still not clean in this nice establishment? For those of you that don’t know- the bathrooms in Nepal aren’t traditional toilets. They simply have a hole in the floor, that you squat or stand over. And occasionally toilet paper. Traditionally they use their left hand absent toilet paper and then wash with water. Included in all bathrooms is a small bucket to help flush the hole. Many of you have seen a nightclub bathroom in the U.S. with all of the yuck, vomit, clogged toilets, etc. Now imagine a clogged hole with vomit on the floor and a line to use it. I probably would have been better off peeing on the floor to kind of help power wash the place- unbelievable!
After about an hour the group left and went back to Ekta Academy where arrangements were made for us to sleep in one of the classrooms for the night. I should have showered but I fell asleep before getting it done. It was my best night of sleep yet. We had a small earthquake during the night that woke some of the group up. I slept through it like a baby.
We woke up around 5:30 am and I finally took a shower… well kind of. I went into the bathroom and turned on the water only to find a small trickle coming from the hip-high faucet. There was no water pressure to make the neck-high shower head work. Apparently the school’s water tank was empty. In Nepal your water is only on for a couple of hours each day due to their poor infrastructure. You fill a tank when the water is on and that’s your water each day. They also usually don’t have hot water. I’d like to say I was upset, but I was just thankful to be cleaning up. It took me about ten minutes to get enough water to wash each limb one by one from the hip-high faucet. I probably only got enough water out of the system to fill a small bucket. Oh, and no towels. Most people here air dry and then put their clothes on. To paint a better picture of a shower in Nepal imagine a 4' by 8' cement room with tile and a drain in the floor. The sink is in the shower with you along with a mirror and an actual raised toilet with a seat. Now imagine the toilet wet, the mirror wet, and the sink wet because these fixtures are “IN” the shower with you. Each shower comes with a community set of sandals that are left in the shower for each person to keep their feet from touching the floor. There are also buckets on the floor to use.
After my shower we headed out to Gokul’s village. He showed us his house. It was three-story brick home where his entire family had lived including his parents, siblings, and their families. The top floor was already demolished with any reusable bricks already piled up on the ground next to the structure. I went inside and noticed that it had sustained tremendous damage. Gokul said the structure will eventually be carefully demolished in order to recover any materials that are reusesble- they don’t just use a wrecking ball in Nepal. Gokul’s family fed us a wonderful meal including a very traditional delicious yogurt. We ate in a very modern house next door to Gokul’s home that also belongs to the family. This house was made with modern construction techniques reinforced by steel and rebar. It was designed to be earthquake resistant and faired fairly well with only cracks. Gokul and his wife have a temporary shelter next to this house in the yard where they live. Gokul, even before rebuilding his own house, has been involved in many projects to rebuild houses for others in need. He very proudly showed us a new earthquake resistant brick home he is working on for a poor family that has worked in the brick factory all of their lives. What a cool guy and an example for others.
After breakfast we went to visit a school that Fahim helps sponsor for the Little Sisters Program. Kids are very vulnerable in Nepal and often end up slaves or involved in prostitution all over the world. This program seeks out to educate females to break this terrible cycle. They have found that if you educate the boys it only educates the boy. If you educate the girl she becomes a mother and breaks the cycle to insure her kids, male and female, are all educated. Several girls from this program, that attend various schools in the area, gathered at one school to see the team. It’s was cool to see the difference between a little sister that had just started and then hear one talk after only being enrolled for a single year. They come from various backgrounds- a lot of them already working in the many brick factories with their entire family. This program is awesome and only costs a sponsor $3,000 over twelve years. The money fully educates, feeds, and provides each girl with all of the necessary school supplies. If you are interested in sponsoring let me, Dave or Fahim know. Each girl introduced themselves in English with what grade they were in, what school they attend, and who their sponsor is. Dave has already sponsored a girl and Fahim has sponsored several. The girls and their families were so grateful to see us!
Dave and I went to the airport in Kathmandu while Fahim went by motorcycle to pick up a painting before flying out. When Dave and I arrived at the airport we were met by our team and new life-long friends. Amy’s in-laws were there to see us off. They brought more of that delicious yogurt right to the airport for the group to share. Dave and I went through security with Fahim’s bags after saying goodbye to our new life-long friends. We waited for Fahim wondering if he would make it in time. And then in typical Fahim style he made it. We boarded the plane and flew to Bangkok. The three of us sat in front of the flight attendant’s chair in an exit row. We joked around and reflected on our trip. When the landing gear extended to land all three of us bent over in the crash position and put our hands over our heads. The flight attendant is from a very serious culture and waived at us to sit up. We started laughing and so did she.
We were picked up at the airport in Bangkok by Fahim’s friend Kahn. She took us to the mall to buy new clothes. Everyone found clothes quickly except me. I shopped for two hours to find pants and shoes big enough. The employees thought it was funny and many gathered around as I tried on shoes way too small for me. Apparently everyone in Thailand does not have feet any larger than size 9. I eventually found some open toe sandals. We went to dinner with Kahn and ate an awesome meal at a Thai restaurant with a live band.
I slept in a real bed!
This blog post is brought to you from the notes of Trent Whitney, and published here with his permission.
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