August 11, 2014

August 9th: Family Day in Kathmandu

Our Saturday morning began with a nice family breakfast at the Eco hotel consisting of pancakes, hash browns, and granola. The Canadian food was a nice change after nearly three weeks of dal baht in Lamahi. After breakfast our two families met up with four boys from CP for a beautiful hike. These wonderful young men took us on a two hour walk to the oldest temple in Nepal. This temple was constructed more then 1500 years ago and the boys told us the legends of the history of the temple. Their insight of the temple gave the hike a lot more meaning for all of us. 


After the hike the 13 of us traveled to Durbar square. Noah, Maddie, Miles, and myself had already been to the square, but we couldn't pass up the opportunity to show the rest of our families the culturally enriching tourist attraction. Following a couple hours in Durbar square, our two families went to our new favourite restaurant, OR2K, and dabbled in some of the best vegetarian food we have ever eaten.

This eventful morning gave us all good reason to return to our hotel and get some much needed rest before exploring what Kathmandu had to offer on a Saturday night.

For dinner our two families ate at a local pizzeria and indulged in quality Nepalese pizza and some very strong, but tasty mojitos. After a dinner full of stories and laughs the four parents and Maddie returned to the hotel, while the four boys explored the night life of Kathmandu. After walking for about 10 minutes we decided to enter, "Club Tequila," where we experienced Nepalese live dancing and tried a hookah. We finally returned to the hotel after a fun filled night and all fell asleep exhausted after an amazing day in Nepal's capital city.

Jake and the Boys
DWC Participants 
Nepal, July 2014

August 8, 2014

Aug 8th: Sad Goodbyes and the Long Drive Back

Today was another day filled with mixed emotions as we finally said goodbye to Lamahi. After an early breakfast we wasted no time hopping on the bus and beginning our 10 hour drive back to Kathmandu. As we drove out some of us chose to take the time to rest and others chose to really take in the beautiful landscape that has surrounded us for the past 3 weeks. We stopped in Chitwan for a lunch consisting of momos, French fries and spring rolls stirring up memories of our adventures with elephants and crocodiles from Chitwan. After fuelling up we went for our final leg of the drive, again seeing the breath taking surrounding that are truly like no other.

Once getting to Kathmandu we checked into the Eco Hotel where this whole trip began before going out for an amazing dinner with Nura and her husband and also Dinesh, his wife and his oldest son. To finish off the dinner we had to have an emotional goodbye with Dinesh who is departing to Canada tomorrow morning.

Tonight is a time to catch up on sleep and get well rested before the trek we have tomorrow morning in the mountains surrounding Nepal's capital.

Noah Marchand
DWC Participant
Nepal, July 2014

August 7, 2014

August 7th: Final day at Unako and Sincere Thanks to Bill Adams, Maddie Adams, and Miles Marchand!

Today was our last day working on the Unako House project.  My mind is so full of things I want to share, I don't even know where to start...

Our favourite breakfast was served right on time as usual at 8 am. We all love the scrumptious potato medley, fresh roti with honey, hard boiled eggs, plantains (mini bananas) and the juiciest, tastiest mangoes you can imagine! The milk tea was also a favourite morning ritual.

Although the bus ride to the site is about 45 minutes, it is a ride that no one would ever get tired of. Every day we enjoyed the sights and sounds of life in rural Nepal. From water buffalo, goats, dogs, chickens and a few little piglets, to stunning women in colourful saris to copious quantities of children clad neatly in their distinctive school uniforms to families piled onto motorcycles (four on one bike was the most I saw) to people of all ages riding rickety bicycles to women carrying huge, and I mean HUGE, loads of grass or sticks on their heads, to people young and old herding their buffs to jeeps loaded with people inside and out, to mud houses with thatched roofs, to crowded shops -  we loved this ride every day! 

Arriving at Unako House is always a treat because the 150 children who attend the neighbouring school greet us with such enthusiasm and excitement it would make anyone want to be a teacher!!  It didn't take long for the shy little hellos to turn into swarms of hugs each morning.  What a nice way to begin work each day.

A lot was accomplished at the site today: chaining two huge piles of bricks to the second floor, grouting, staining metal bannisters and windows, white-washing the walls and ceilings and installing electrical panels. In between all of the work, Katie and Jiwan went to teach a math lesson to the older kids while Noah, Keegan and I went to teach the four primary classes some fun action songs. Keegan's leading of The Hokey Pokey was definitely a highlight and watching Noah sing and dance along made me smile from ear to ear. In the afternoon we had the whole school, teachers and all, sing and dance The Hokey Pokey! (Bill and Len's OCD was in full gear as they worked non-stop all week and couldn't possibly take a break to join us at the school!) To top off all the fun, Katie played Ferrell's song "Happy" on a little speaker plugged into her iPod. We danced "Canadian" style and it wasn't long before the entire field of people was jumping, laughing, dancing, singing and holding hands.....It was a blast!

Miles, Maddie, Jacob, Noah and Jiwan were like celebrities when we arrived but it didn't take long for the kids to fall in love with Keegan and Katie. I guess I can say that I had a few fans as well.

The Nepalese people we worked with on the site were some of the hardest working people you could ever meet and although we could not communicate verbally with most of them, we all worked beautifully together. The teamwork and effort of all was inspirational.

At dinner tonight, Jacob had each of us share highlights of our time here. Miles' highlight was that Bill's vision and two years of planning had all paid off and we accomplished everything that Bill had hoped for. Bill definitely deserves a pat on the back for inspiring us all to take this project on.

The last thing I have to say is how wonderful it was to share an experience like this with our children. Miles and Maddie were unbelievable team leaders with their organization skills, compassion, confidence and humour. Jacob, Noah and Keegan have never worked so hard (ok, maybe Jacob has!) and all three of them made us all so proud as well. Our kids (can I still call them that?) made this trip incredibly memorable for Bill, Katie, Len and I.

None of us want to leave and all of us hope to return.

Laurie Marchand

DWC Volunteer
Nepal, July 2014

August 6th: Bricks, panels, windows, and grout.

The work day at UNAKO house began with some heavy lifting. We all worked together to transport hundreds of bricks to the top level. After that we split off into groups, each with a specific task. Bill and Jacob continued the installation of the electric panels, Maddie and Miles grouted, Laurie and Katie taught a math lesson at the school, Len and Noah painted the windows, and I helped to pass bricks and cement to the roof.

Following a delicious lunch of roti, potatoes, and rice pudding, the school kids came out for recess. Miles, Noah , Jake and I did our best to entertain the 110 children with handstands, frisbee, and soccer. The kids didn't seem to understand the "one at a time" principle of piggybacks, as swarms of children attempted to jump on us. Although this was a little overwhelming, everyone had a great time. My smile never left my face for the entire hour-long recess. We returned to work quite exhausted, but it was well worth it.

Once we arrived back at the hotel, we had a few hours of down time, followed by a fantastic dinner, made up of a chicken, rice, and a variety of vegetables with vanilla ice cream for dessert. After dinner, we spent the rest of our night enjoying our favourite card game, President.

After a high stakes wager, Miles now has to rock a moustache for the remainder of the trip. It's safe to say he isn't too happy about that.

Tomorrow is our last day here in Lamahi, and I think I speak for the whole group when I say I will be extremely sad to leave.

Keegan Marchand
DWC Participant
Nepal, August 2014

August 5, 2014

August 4th: Visit to the local school and the work begins again.

Another amazing day in hot Nepal!

The morning started with a traditional breakfast of roti and eggs accompanied by milky tea that would rival anything from Starbucks! Then on to the bus for a 40 minute ride that allows us to peek into the lives or rural Nepal as we bump on down the road.

 I was very excited to get to Unako House because the day before I had arranged for a visit to the school. The school and the classroom conditions would make any BC teacher wonder how we can even think about striking. The students sit on rickety benches in tiny, one window classrooms. The only teaching aid is a 4x6 well used blackboard. The children are neatly dressed in their uniforms and the girls have beautifully braided hair with white ribbons. Every student has a smile on their face and appears eager to learn. The curriculum is all taught using outdated English textbooks. The teachers understand some English but really don't speak the language. Luckily, we had our lovely interpreter Jiwan to help us communicate. Laurie and I showed up with pencils and dice to play a math game that reinforced basic facts. The kids were keen to play. Their variety of skill level kept us hopping around the stifling hot classroom. The best part was that the teachers seemed so pleased to have a different strategy to help them with their difficult job. Not only did Laurie and I feel appreciated, but we really felt that we were helping. We bought chart paper today so we can return tomorrow with multiplication tables and hundred charts.

While we were doing that the rest of the team was painting the windows and whitewashing the walls. Our full day's work was rewarded with a supper of delicious chow mein noodles and cold beers. As a final treat we had ice cream , which is amazing considering power outages are common and fridges are not! The nightly card game of President calls so that's all for today's update.

Katie McCormack 
Math teacher and DWC volunteer
Nepal, July 2014

August 3rd: The Families arrive in Dang to a Tikka filled Welcome!

The inspiring welcoming ceremony made our two families realize why we started down this endeavour. The young women who have been empowered by this IWEN, DWC and Creating Possibilities project made all our efforts over the past year to support UNAKO House so rewarding. I had tears in my eyes when a young Thelma girl read a poem in English about her experience of being returned from bonded labour to her family and what it meant to her life.

The welcoming ceremony was followed be a tour of UNAKO House to see the progress that has been made on this spectacular building. The U30 group that spent the past two weeks at the site did an amazing amount of hard work (I could not believe how much concrete they poured). The 36 solar panels looked great on the roof and the team that tackled this challenging assignment last week deserves recognition.

I was especially touched looking around the second floor where the bricks were placed by all the names of the individuals who have contributed to the project.

Our two families then spent the day prepping the window frames and stair cases for painting and continuing on the solar panel electronics installation.

The Marchand and Adams parent's we're glad to reconnect with the kids and enjoy the stories of the U30 DWC group's exploits.

Bill Adams
Enthusiastic volunteer and solar power project leader
Nepal, August 2014

August 1st: Arrival of the Adams and Marchand families

Bill and Katie met Laurie, Keegan and myself (Len) at the Vancouver Airport Thursday morning. We picked up our boarding passes,checked our bags and moved through security very quickly. We departed Vancouver right on time at 1:05 pm and settled in for our 14 hour flight to Guangzhou., China. Laurie, Keegan and I watched several movies together, played some games and slept a little. The flight went by quickly. We had a relatively brief stopover in Guangzhou before boarding our next flight to Kathmandu.

All of us were able to sleep a bit more during the five hour flight to Kathmandu. We arrived at about 8 pm local time, picked up our bags, cleared customs and were met outside the airport by our Creating Possibilities partner, Nura. After a short bus ride, we arrived at our hotel, the Eco Hotel, in the Thamel area of the city. We went to bed early but only gifted and renowned sleeper Laurie had a big sleep.

Everyone woke up early and enjoyed a nice buffet breakfast together at the hotel before tackling a walking tour of our area of the city. A local named Rakesh befriended Katie and then led us through the winding, narrow and busy street markets and to many Hindu and Buddhist temples. Rakesh took us to his art school where we purchased some paintings and we then walked back to meet a number of the accomplished board members from Creating Possibilities for lunch.

Though we only walked through one area of Kathmandu, it was quite a remarkable experience. Kathmandu is colourful, diverse, chaotic and exotic. We learned that there are about 100 different cultural groups in Nepal with about 80 different dialects spoken. We saw that the streets either have no rules or very sophisticated ones that we could not figure out. Either way, we were amazed at how things move along with no one getting hurt!

Laurie Marchand in Kathmandu

We flew Yeti Air from Kathmandu to Lumbini, the birthplace of Buddha, on Friday afternoon. Laurie was not that excited by the small plane and less so when we had to circle Lumbini several times before landing due to poor weather. Our flight attendant reassured us by telling us "not to worry" because it was "too dangerous" to land. Our attendant was lovely but I think something got lost in the translation. I am sure you have figured out that everything worked out well or I would not be writing this blog.

On safely landing in Lumbini the five weary Canadians plus the effervescent Nura took a jeep to the Dreamland Resort Hotel where we were happily greeted by the rest of our families - team leaders Maddie and Miles and workers Noah and Jacob - as well as Creating Possibilities partners Dinesh and Jewan. It was great to link up and hear more about the team's adventures, experiences and successes from the previous two weeks. Miles and Maddie spoke to us with enthusiasm, compassion and pride about the work already completed by their dream team.

Monsoon rains poured overnight as we all slept well. Everyone was up early this morning and many of us went for a swim after breakfast and before boarding our bus for Lamahi. We stopped at the birthplace of Buddha where we walked through many temples built by Buddhists from various countries around the world. The temples were breathtaking. The locals got a good laugh when Laurie asked our rickshaw driver if he'd like to ride in the back while I pedalled for a while. I was able to keep the rickshaw on the road but neither Laurie nor the driver offered me a tip for my safe driving.

From left to right: Keegan, Len, Bill, Katie, Maddie, Laurie, Noah, and Miles

Noah, Miles, and Keegan Marchand

After lunch at a local hotel we completed our four or five hour drive to Lamahi. The scenery was stunning and we learned quite a bit from Nura about the countryside and people. Our driver was quite amazing. He dodged potholes, pedestrians, cyclists, vehicles and animals with aplomb and elicited only occasional shrieks from Laurie - whose barf bag was at the ready but was fortunately not used.

We have just arrived at our hotel in Lamahi. It is very comfortable, quaint and clean.

Our two families are really looking forward to diving into project work tomorrow!

Len Marchand
DWC Volunteer
Nepal, July 2014