The Latest From Our Work In Nepal
I Want to be...
Ke Karne in Phulkharka
Jan Sprague (in green shawl) and Heidi Lewin-Miller (HANDS Board Member, with flowers in second row) with villagers in Phulkharka.
Because of the long dry spell, the powdery dust was often several inches or more deep. This made for a slippery road for our jeep, that began to bog down on steep inclines, spinning in a rut of powder, making reddish brown clouds behind us. We soon had to get out and help push our bogged down vehicle.
My breaking point almost came when the driver, emptying us out, gunned the motor and disappeared in a puff of dust, leaving Heidi, Kelsang and I to walk up a steep track of jeep trail. Each corner I expected to see him waiting for us-but nothing. He had gone way up ahead, maybe a good mile, before idling to wait for us. I was so mad when we caught up with him, “What do you think we are, Nepalis?” I scolded. “I am not a Nepali!!” That was the strongest thing I could think of to
say as my racing heart calmed down and I gained my breath. I am a 60 something woman not used to waking in hills like this, and my hips ached! Nepalis have such a distorted view of what a difficult walk is.
not maneuver with us in it, and the hail, wind and lightening began. To my relief, instead of cursing me for
bringing her to this impossible to travel place, Heidi began to laugh at the absurdity of the situation we were in-our clothes clung wet to us, hail dotted our hair, and thunder clapped ridiculously loud over our heads. When one thunder clap shook the ground we stood on, we practically jumped into each other’s arms and hugged each other laughing. Ke Karne? As they say in Nepal, which quite literally means, “What to do?”
all day. That night we piled heavy Nepali blankets on us in the little shed room they had made up for us-and the Amma
brought in hot cups of tea in tin cups sweeted with sugar. The water buffaloes were right outside the window and the
thunder was off in the distance. We knew we made the right decision to push on despite the bad road
conditions. Tomorrow would be the big book donation ceremony and I could not wait to share with Heidi the
delighted looks on the children’s faces she was about to experience. This is why we have HANDS in Nepal. All was right in the world!
1,000 Lights for Nepal
The Elusive Himalayas
We departed Pokhara with Jan's friend, Bishow who owns the Eco-village in Astam. We stopped to give some adorable old Tibetans solar lights and Girl Scout cookies at a Tibetan refugee camp. They were so grateful!
After another steep, bumpy ( your internal organs get massaged on this road) jeep ride...
We arrived at the Eco village moments before a ginormous storm. We are talking sideways sheets of rain, deafening thunder,lightening, and gnarly big pieces of hail. The beautiful grounds and plants here looked completely different within 1 hour. I feel badly for all the damage to their organic farm. Like I said, Mother Nature is quite busy in these parts!
We were so happy to be inside the little dining area with about 7 other guests and the whole family who runs this lovely place. And I got to try out my new $20 knock off Gortex jacket a few hours after buying it. Good purchase!!! Jan was shocked, as she expected warm weather this time of year. This is a place of many surprises. No wonder all those climbers never know for sure what is coming!!
Anyway, hopefully we will awake tomorrow with amazing views of the Himalayas, as was promised to me. They seem so close from here, and I so want to see their presence, not just feel them!”
Unfortunately, for this trip, the mountains stayed hidden behind a mist of clouds for our stay at the Eco Lodge. Still, the area is beautiful even without the backdrop of Annapurna. Bishow has created organic gardens to roam, there are trails intercepting villages where you can stop and watch people farm as they have for hundreds of years (once I watched a Nepali woman grind seeds into oil with an old fashioned stone and mortar) and the people are the friendliest I’ve ever met. Bishow and his family are amazing hostesses. Nighttime in the stone lodge is a step back in time, without electricity we play music, cards, sip hot, organic tea made from garden plants, and engage in the old world art of conversation. It’s restorative, to say the least, and one of the highlights of my visits to Nepal.
The Eco-Village, Hemja and the need for education.
After many busy days in the Pokhara-Astam area, we are a little lighter in luggage. We’ve delivered over 200 pds of books, dozens of solar lights and distributed eye glasses for the NGO I CARE. While in Astam, a little village that sits above Pokhara on the edge of the Annapurna Nature Area, we awoke each morning hoping to see the towering Annapurna peaks that you can view so beautifully from Eco Village-except the last few days have been untypical monsoon weather with low overcast skies. Again, the views were obstructed by the mist. So after a hearty breakfast (including a rare treat-french press coffee) we shouldered our backpacks and set off down the jungle trail to Hemja Village, where we would get a taxi for Pokhara. Bishow wanted to take us to a village along the way that is asking for HANDS in Nepal help build their village a library/learning center. We were greeted by the villagers waiting on the dirt trail for us-flowers in hand and Namastes galore. Although we were on a bit of a time crunch to catch our plane to KTM at 1 pm once we got to Pokhara, the villagers request for us to sit for a minute to hear their request was hard to resist. We sat and got the ceremonial Nepali village welcome of tikka powder applied liberally to our faces, and flowers in our hands. Bishow translated their needs and request: children walk very far to their school, there are no facilities for books and computers in this village, and they would very much like a community center/library like the one we built in Kalika. News travels fast in these mountain villages! We would love to make a library/learning center for this village, the need is apparent, but can we find the funding?