(The long overdue post of our most memorable day @ Chankhu Besi)
It was Day 1 of our community project. The plan was to start immediately after breakfast and then see how the rest of the day goes for our carnival. All the volunteers were ready to go as we hastily started to clear out the classrooms of all furniture, desks, and wall hangings. We were also accompanied by a dozen or so eager community members, most of which taking the initiative on various tasks and happily trying to figure out some of our initial start-up problems (we had no tools, buckets, or any idea where to get water). Overall, it was a great start to our day.
The classroom walls needed dusting and washing before we could apply the paint and the doors and windows needed some prep work done as well. Helen, Manish, and Jimmy were inside taking care of that along with a few teens that started trickling in to help. Donald took on the doors and windows prepping followed by myself and a few young talented painters. I taught Santos and few other kids on how to hold a paint brush and to use as little paint as possible when covering a surface (remnants of my Student Painting Works days).
We bought wall brick brushes but could not afford any handles and so we started looking for any sturdy branches to attach the brushes to. Of course, how do we attach them together without any tools? A Nepali gentleman saw our predicament and went back to his home and brought back a hammer and some nails and started nailing the brushes to the branches. Yes, we were in business after that.
Outside, a community member (darn I forgot his name) took on the task of patching up the side of the school walls. Some of the women started making mouldable clay by gathering earth from the surrounding area and mixing it with water and which was then liberally applied to every hole and gap around the school. Luckily, the sun was out all day without a cloud in the sky allowing the newly repaired walls to quickly dry within a couple of hours.
Finally, Gord (a fellow Canadian volunteer) took the lead on designing the English alphabet wall just outside the main classroom. Each letter was carefully stencilled out along with an object whose name started with that letter. It was starting to look like a really neat place to learn.
One of the most interesting and perhaps entertaining highlights of the morning was the instalment of their new tire swing. The location of the school was next to a very large tree, probably the oldest and most prominent tree in the village. Jimmy and I were charged with the task of trying to figure out how to tie a rope around the largest extending branch over the school yard and then securely hang a tire to it. In the end, the solution was pretty easy as our young counterparts quickly figured out what we wanted to do and excitedly scrambled around us to quickly assess how to build their new “thrill” ride. And before you know it, the teens were already scaling the tree and securing the rope while crowds of kids gathered around jockeying for position to be the first person to try out the swing.
We were all praying to Bhagwan that no one would slip and fall.
The Unfortunate News
By the late morning, we were more than half way done repairing the walls and repainting the inside walls, doors, and windoews of the school. It was about that time when we heard they news from Udaya that we had to cut our time short at Chankhu Besi (we still had two more nights) and immediately return to Kathmandu.
Protesters (about a particular issue of which I do not recall) have declared a bandha somewhere in Banepa or Dhulikhel and the main roads were potentially going to be indefinitely road blocked, thus preventing any flow of traffic whatsoever to and from the towns. The “indefinite” part of the details that we knew signified that this bandha was considered highly unsafe. With this in mind, there would be a possibility that we would be stranded in our village and not be able to reach safer areas. Thus as per VSO policy, we had to leave Chankhu Besi immediately and return to Kathmandu.
We were all shocked by the news and I was mostly saddened as we were just getting started with our community. Day 2 of our community project was yet to come and I was mentally preparing myself leave in a couple of days. Nonetheless, were determined to get through everything. By 2pm, we finished painting the school, played a few games, and managed to squeeze in some dancing, snacks.
The long good bye and the road home
After our unexpected and emotional goodbyes to our Nepali families, we set forth back to Kathmandu. All of us were exhausted from today’s events – from repainting the school’s interior and exterior walls and playing educational games with children to having one last kajaa and long farewells promising to email, text, call and visit again soon. We slumped into our bus seats with our malas and tikas on, emotional/physically drained and dirty while reflecting back on our experiences and what could have been if we stayed a bit longer.
I never got the chance to say goodbye to my host brothers Bidur and Sudarshan. They were working when we had to leave. I do have their mobile phone numbers and I will definitely call them once I get a SIM card. I definitely plan to visit the village again and bring my host family an album of photos taken during my stay. I also made a lot of friends throughout village, especially the extended Parajuli families and Tlell’s host family. I am sure they will remember me as that funny-nepali-looking-moto-guy.
The time shared will forever be remembered as it was the first experience for not only the volunteers but for the community members as well. Time will only tell how much of an impact was made and it will definitely be exciting to find out what the ripple effect will be.