What a wild ride this past week-and-a-half has been. I’ll take it day by day like I did last week! A week in review:
After taking it easy Sunday night I thought I was ready to get back to work, but my body had other plans. I woke up feeling moderately ok, but a few hours later I realized that this did not mean I was at 100%. If my level of “fine” upon waking up was 60%, the bumpy bus ride promptly dropped that to 20% (if you’re squeamish please disregard the following) when I casually puked outside the bus window. I just feel incredibly grateful (for the sake of all on the bus) that I got a window seat when I did. I must have been really subtle because no one even knew it had happened except for my friend sitting next to me. I call that a win! I spent the remainder of the day home resting.
Tuesday was Nepal Independence Day, and also a day of great personal reflection. As exciting, enlightening, and absolutely amazing as all my adventures have been here in Nepal, I have felt a slow, steady drain of my emotional battery that I couldn’t quite troubleshoot. I was staying physically active, eating great food, serving, praying and reading my scriptures and was surrounded by some of the most incredible people on planet earth…in one of the most incredible places on planet earth. I was baffled. It wasn’t until my sick day (most of which I spent solo) that I realized an unanticipated streak of introversion. Don’t get me wrong, I still love being around people as much as I ever did, but I guess I need more time to reorient myself than I previously thought. This is one aspect of NGO work that is rarely talked about but definitely should be. Everyone desperately needs to take healing time for themselves or else they will burnout. These burnout tendencies have occasionally materialized in my team members too. Sometimes they will begin to act distant, or even just get a far-off look in their eyes, and it is plain to see that things are taking a toll. This is just another reminder of how raw and human this work is and heck, how life is. To quote High School Musical, “we’re all in this together”, so we all need to take turns supporting one another and doing our best to meet each other’s’ needs.
Wednesday was a par-tayyyyyyyyyy!!! Our normal schedule would have involved earthquake cleanup, but plans (as they frequently do in Nepal) fell through. Quite frankly, I considered this a huge blessing because we got to do some very important things – we got to continue working on making gravel for Raksha, see our girls perform the dances they’ve been working on for months, and have a collective birthday party for all Raksha birthdays for this month (including our beloved country coordinator Natalie). The school performance (as a whole) was about the quality you might expect from your average middle school…but then our girls blew everyone breezily away. They were easily the best performers from the entire program (and that is the honest-to-goodness, unbiased truth!) On a totally unrelated note, I ordered samosas from their school canteen and they wrapped it up for me in someone’s old homework. Way to recycle! After getting home we rushed to get dinner ready (enchiladas, chips and dip, and truffles). Pro tip – almond butter, cocoa, powdered sugar, and sweetened condensed milk over the stove make for incredible no-bake balls of sinfully, chocolaty goodness. We celebrated other Raksha girls with cake, flowers and faces covered in red tikka powder, before breaking off to eat our trying-to-be-Mexican dinner and topping everything off with dancing. What a night!
Thursday was where things got interesting. It began as a regular day – we got up with the girls and did exercises, ate breakfast and split up into our project groups. Erin, Kayla and I were in town busily assembling Days for Girls kits when Natalie texts us to get home as soon as we can. Due to some other unexpected plans falling through, we had to switch things up a bit and start our weekend earlier than usual. The local vacation spot around here is a place called Pokhara, and our previous plans were to vacation in Pokhara in a few weeks but given the circumstances it seemed prudent to do so immediately. Can everyone please just take a moment a give a round of applause to Wyatt and Natalie for planning everything so last-minute? They are powerhouses and we are so grateful we have them. In a matter of hours, we were on the long (and very bumpy) road to Pokhara, and we even got a fabulous bed-and-breakfast which we affectionately named “The Bungalow”. With all of the craziness, I just couldn’t help feeling so grateful that a) everything ended up working out so beautifully and b) no one was sick on that crazy bus ride.
Our day consisted of an amazing breakfast of juice, toast, pastries, and hardboiled eggs (note, this is what we had for breakfast every morning at the bungalow and it was daaaaannnnggggg good). We went swimming on the lake, hiked to the beautiful peace pagoda (if you’re curious, you can do a quick google search) and had some incredible Italian food for dinner. I guess that’s one perk of being in a touristy town; the food is varied and (most importantly) clean enough to eat. Side note: on the hike one of the girls in the group got yet another leech and may or may not have bled on the peace pagoda a bit. What’s the verdict, do you think she’ll get cursed by the gods?
Bat cave day! We went to two different caves. The first one was a bit lame (and they always charge us extra at these things because we are foreign, oh well, it was still only $1.50), but the second cave was ah-may-zing!!! There was a Hindu man handing out blessings at one end of the cave and on the other we found some nooks and crannies that led us a cavern filled with thousands upon thousands of bats. I may or may or may not have had a batman fantasy moment, and I may or may not have gotten severely pooped on. We went to crepes for lunch (again, ah-may-zing) and the group split up for the evening. Kayla, Melanie and I went swimming in the lake, made some friends, went to a scenic outdoor movie, and toured around town enjoying the nightlife (I even saw fireflies for the first time). It was an absolutely magical night! The rest of the group went out to dinner at The Harbor and then dancing. They said it was a blast!
We woke up early to go hiking/exploring and saw some incredible mountain views. I’m not 100% sure, but I think we were looking at Annapurna. Wyatt and Natalie stayed behind to work on some logistics. Can we give them another round of applause? Even on vacation they are still working so hard! After hike and the lunch, we all went our separate ways again. Kayla, Melanie and I loved kayaking on the lake, Kayla and I got our first Nepali leeches (a disgusting badge of honor, I know) and then met up with the rest of the group for an outstanding Vietnamese dinner. This was easily my favorite out of all the dinners. All of this culinary goodness was rounded off with frozen yogurt for dessert. I. Was. In. Heaven. If you know me at all, you know that I have an incredibly soft spot (no pun intended) for all frozen yogurt. Nepali frozen yogurt did not disappoint!
Then we travelled back to Raksha. We were greeted so lovingly and thrilled to see our girls! Raksha is a beautiful sanctuary of healing and growth.
Danielle Bennett, Nepal Team Member
*All HELP blogs written by volunteers reflect the beliefs and thoughts of that volunteer and do not necessarily reflect the organization's outlook. For any questions about HELP International's official stance on any topic, please email us directly