namaste again from nepal! well, i am now officially finished with the habitat for humanity build part of my trip to nepal. this has been the toughest, most physically challenging 2 weeks of my life. i thought i was fit before i came here but i had no idea what building a home the old fashioned way in a developing country entailed. in l.a. there are all of these fancy bootcamp classes and gyms... i think habitat should seriously consider creating their own workout regimen... a full body workout with a great physique and a few houses to show for it! the tools we used were completely old school - shovels, picks, spades, a screen for sifting sand and good old fashioned arms for lifting. the fact that 4 families now have homes because of our hard work almost makes the nasty hotels worthwhile. my habitat team was really awesome and completely made up for the fact that our leaders were so very far from it. it was very cool how we worked together in harmony so quickly after having only just met.
|the outhouse from hell|
|yep, my floppy hat may have had something to do with why i didn't see the door|
|taking tools from kids|
the families we were building for are from the very poorest caste in nepal. we learned that their last names determine what class/caste they and their children will be a part of for the rest of their lives. wow. i have to say that bit of knowledge really affected me, especially going through this massive career change at this point in my life. i cannot imagine my place in life being determined before my birth. i am so very lucky to live in a culture where you can be rewarded well for hard work and overcome odds no matter what social class you may have been born into. it is unlikely that any of these children will be able to rise above their current level of poverty and that is really heartbreaking. one of the guys in our group (part of the cute l.a. married couple) really bonded with this 14 year old boy who has dreams of becoming an architect someday. i hope they are able to stay in touch because i know that this guy could be an amazing mentor to the boy with his positive attitude and strong work ethic. before we left he wrote the boy an inspiring letter about the importance of staying in school (his parents work very hard in order to pay the expensive 70 rupees -less than $1- per month for his education) including his contact info. without postal service to the village and access to a computer for email it may be tricky to stay in touch but fingers crossed...
|the village band|
|rockin our nepali style dance moves|
|my building team with mongole and his family in front of their new house|
|my habitat team with the villagers|
so i thought it would be fun to show you guys the process of building a home in nepal with photos from our build... when we signed up for the trip we were told we were building with bamboo. turns out it was cement. yeah, i can see how the leaders might mix those materials up since they are so similar. the running joke among the group of us was "so when does the bamboo come in?" so, please excuse what may seem like an overuse of the word "rocks" and "cement" but let me tell you, those darn rocks and cement mixing were a part of my day every day for the last 2 weeks.....
step 1 - dig a hole. a really big and deep hole around the perimeter... note that it is dirt mixed with heavy jagged rocks that you are digging through! (photo below of my south african roommate...)
step 2 - fill it with rocks and mix some cement by hand and help the mason pick and place the rocks for the perimeter base foundation. and yep, we were moving many of the rocks we dug out back to the place they just were!
|mixing cement and mortar over and over again...|
|how to sift...|
step 5 - check to be sure it is level
step 6 - when you have your door frame in place add some cow poo, ribbons, and a coin for luck with a little hindu blessing
step 7 - fill the floor with rocks and then mix some cement to cover the rocks and then smooth with a long wooden stick
step 8 - add some poles to place the tin roof on and then rocks and cement blocks on top to weigh it down
|bamboo scaffolding used at one of the houses|
|taking a break from lifting blocks onto the roof|
step 9 - celebrate with the village and dance for joy when done (like my main man mongole!)
|this is the biggest of the 3 houses we completed|
i am so grateful to have had this experience but i'm not gonna lie, if i don't lift another big rock or cement block for quite a while i will be just fine with that... and advice to anyone thinking of joining one of these habitat for humanity global village teams, be sure to really interview your team leaders before the trip. my team and i agreed that we really lucked out that we had such an amazing team so the experience was awesome and once in a lifetime despite the very lacking leadership. this is one unforgettable experience that i am truly glad to have been a part of! and i have met some very cool people from all over that i know i will stay in touch with including a groovy roommate that i was lucky to be matched with. it is nuts to be living in close quarters 24/7 in a developing country with someone you have only just met. bonus is that she lived through those crazy hotel experiences with me and knows i am in no way exaggerating just how bad they were! and she and i laughed and joked our way through it!
|my shoes on the last day of the build|
|relaxing next to the toilet with a view|
until next time...
the (formerly almost) 40 year old intern