After a long hike back down the mountain from our outreach, we spent the evening in Thamel at our favorite (and yes, cheapest) hostel. Since we were weekend-less while gone on the outreach, our coordinators Wyatt and Natalie gave us a day off on Tuesday, and later that evening we moved into our new home! It is a blue three-story house and we live on the bottom floor. The house is actually brand new, so we are still working out some of the kinks. Pros of the new house: it is cute, homey, close to the girls at Raksha, and the fact that we have it is a huuuggggeeee blessing. Cons of the new house: we are in very tight quarters and 12 of us share one bathroom. Oh yeah, and it’s a squatter toilet. All-in-all though, I am very grateful that we have a home, and I am very grateful that we can still be close to one of our partners, Raksha.
We are ever-so-slowly getting back into our previous routine, so Wednesday was earthquake cleanup. Just in case you are unaware, Nepal got hit by a huge earthquake in 2015 and, especially in the rural areas, the country was hit pretty hard. Bricks are the most affordable building materials, but are, unfortunately horrendously dangerous during an earthquake. They provide a great deal of vertical structural integrity, but minimal horizontal support. I experienced that firsthand when I (not to brag or anything) single-handedly tore down a wall, and then took a battering ram to the next. I hope this doesn’t make me seem like a complete vandal, but tearing things down was incredibly satisfying! Our project partner, Kiran, organized lunch (dal bhat, of course) and snacks, and we had a lovely ol’ time.
Thursday and Friday were devoted to an organization called DOKO. In case you couldn’t decipher from my previous emails, Kathmandu is fantastic…but filthy. There is no government infrastructure to support trash management, nor is there a culture of proper trash disposal. The end result is exactly what you might expect – trash is absolutely everywhere and the problem is increasing every day. DOKO is an organization run by a small group of young professionals who are determined to change that. They did the math and an overwhelming majority of all trash thrown around Nepal can be recycled. Here is a link to their info video. I have such a high respect for them and for all they are doing. They are so capable and intelligent; if anyone can fix the trash problem here, it is them. Thursday night we had a business meeting with them to coordinate our collective efforts, and the following night we volunteered at a music festival in the French embassy.
Not only was this an incredible foot-in-the-door to teach people how to recycle, but we volunteers got free access to 5 hours of international music, as well as some incredible French bread and cheese. All I had to do was fend off people trying to throw away water bottles or put their compost in the dry waste bin. Not a bad bargain if I do say so myself! I was also incredibly pumped to practice my (very minimal) French. In a slightly ironic turn of events I actually spoke the most French with an old Nepali man who happened to be a French teacher. He was very kind and offered to teach me French and Nepali. If I had had more time here I would have taken him up on the offer, but unfortunately I only have about 6 weeks left in Nepal. Where does the time go?
Prior to La Fête de la Musique, we were at our school, Mega Academy, teaching English. Through a bit of an oversight on my part I haven’t filled you in much about what has been going on at Mega. Mega academy is a small school ranging from classes 1-8. I am on the teaching team with Mickinley (class 7), Kayla (class 6) and Kim (will take over Kayla’s class when she leaves). We have become good friends with the headmaster, Rakesh, and he has been a fantastic project partner. He is young, quiet, and a little serious, but is also incredibly kind and extremely motivated to change the lives of his students. When we were first introduced he handed us a detailed set of lesson plans including topics such as leadership skills, gender socialization, basic first aid, and even sexual health. He certainly doesn’t beat around the bush. Even more admirable is his background in fighting the sex trade, just like the leaders of Raksha. Rakesh used to work for a non-profit (NGO) which used football (soccer) as a medium to empower victims of sexual violence. He only stopped this work because he sustained a foot injury. He is an incredible man!
I teach class 8 about 3 times per week. It’s been a learning curve in many ways, but I’ve still loved it. My class is composed of 5 boys and 2 girls. Not to perpetuate stereotypes, but the girls are calm, quiet and respectful, and the boys are a bit rambunctious as you might expect adolescent boys to be. Due to our recent nomadic existence, Rakesh’s ideal of our teaching being consistent has fallen through, but the times I have taught has probably been more educational for me than for my students. There have been fantastic lessons and not-so-fantastic lessons, but I have appreciated every one and have developed a deep love for my students. I came back to teaching this Friday and the topic was health, first aid and the human body. It was a bit of a struggle to get past the language barrier, and they weren’t physically comfortable enough with each other to practice CPR, but I had fun laying on the ground pretending to be injured while they practiced calling for help in English. In stark contrast to the silliness though, the lesson ended on the topic of the importance of our bodies and protecting against assault. We discussed what sexual assault is and how we can fight back against it. I have never seen the class so intensely engaged. One of the girls raised her head from the desk and the boys who are usually giggling in the back fell somber and silent. I told them they were loved and that I wanted them to be safe. I found myself wondering, like I often do with the Raksha girls, what their stories were. I wondered what experiences they (especially the two girls in the class) had had with this. I wondered if the boys had experienced getting beat-up, or if the girls had ever been touched inappropriately on busses. It was bittersweet, because these kinds of issues seem to hit home with far too many people. I hope, in some small way, that these teenagers are becoming better equipped to deal with the issues so prevalent in the world.
Saturday was our first day back to church in a while and it was a breath of fresh air! Don’t get me wrong, I have loved our outreaches but of all things to miss back home, I miss having my church family. Weekends off to reboot and go to church or whatever else anyone wants are really nice. The rest of our weekend was spent in Thamel and then we came home. Not too much to report besides that!
I love all of you and hope you’re staying healthy, happy, and are learning something new daily. To close with the words of Eleanor Roosevelt, “do one thing every day that scares you”.