Tee and I just finished up 80 days working with All Hands Volunteers in Melamchi. When we first arrived someone told me, “the days are long, but the weeks are short” and that couldn’t have been more true. Though most of our photos are of festivals and day off activities we spent the majority of the last 2.5 months clearing destroyed homes (mostly hauling rocks and dirt) to create space for new shelters, for people who are unable to do so for themselves (the elderly, injured, ill, single mothers, etc). Join us on a journey through our time in Melamchi; the seasons changed, the project changed, the volunteers changed, and I have no doubt we changed as well.
On the walk between Melamchi and the All Hands base- probably the most photographed view in town because on a clear day you can see the Himalayas
No matter where you walk here you are surrounded by destruction. The house with the bed hanging out of it has haunted me since I was here in August.
The week we arrived was Dashain and a beneficiary from the village across the river invited us all over for a feast. We ate, got bless, drank rakshi, danced, caught goats, and Tee taught us how to blow bubbles from a plant.
Tee became well known on site for his rubble ninja skills and his leaf hats.
The first site I was in charge of during my team leader training was a complete fiasco, but we got the site finished in one day!
Taking a break from work under a huge beautiful sacred tree-looking out over the Indrawati River valley where our base is located.
Day off hike in Bansbari followed by a quick dip in the chilly waters of the Indrawati River.
Tee’s best buddy Chad. One of the hard parts of staying on project long term is watching so many of your new friends leave.
Gold gilded grasshoppers.
When we first arrived the fuel crisis had hit All Hands hard and we walked to site each morning with all our tools. This scene along the river, of terraced golden fields of ripe rice and stone houses looked to me like it was stolen from a fairy tale. The reality of the scene, visible at the periphery, of temporary shelters built from tarps and CGI don’t match the lightness of a fairy tale setting. The All Hands demo team later demolished this stone house and our rubble teams cleared the site for a new home.
I spent a week working on rebuilding a TLC (temporary learning center) a 30 minute hike straight up the mountain from Melamchi. The hike to and from work, up the terraced millet field, was one of my favorite parts of the day. In just 2 weeks the building was reworked to be more weatherproof, soundproof, and secure. Keep in mind this is all down by hand with the exception of a few power drills. Every piece of bamboo was split, cut , and cleaned by volunteers. I was on the team that finished the TLC and got to take part in a tika ceremony to celebrate the building being finished. We were dripping with flowers from the children by the time we left the school.
A day off hike along one of the tributaries to the Indrawati. We wandered up the road checking out fruit trees, birds and other fun stuff until we came to a small village and stopped in for lunch. The family was performing a tika ceremony for the brothers in the family as part of the Tihar festivities.
Just before Thanksgiving Tee and I join the mobile teams that were heading up the mountain to Jyamire. Tee was working on building a temporary learning center and I was working on clearing a demolished 5 room school building. It was nice to camp out on the mountain and work with a smaller group of volunteers. We had views of the Himalayas everyday and the only negatives were the cold weather at night and the debilitating food poisoning I got the last 2 days.
I filled in for the volunteer coordinator 3 times during our stay which amounted to about 25% of my time on project. Most of the times I was in the office Tee joined mobile teams for the week. This is the site that broke Tee physically.
In early December Tee and I went on break down in Chitwan. Unfortunately we both got sick, but we made it out on an amazing canoe trip where we saw a rhino, monkeys, deer, wild boar, 4 kinds of kingfishers, storks, and much more. I also went on a walk out into the countryside, a solo venture that was good for the soul.
This is one of the communities we worked in before and after break where we cleared 6 neighboring homes. The beneficiaries jumped in and helped us where they could and threw us a dance party when we finished the last home.
Our Saturday feast continued in fine form and things kicked up a notch when a chef from Seattle join the crew.
Christmas on base was way better than I expected! We cooked breakfast and dinner as a group, everyone helped out, and the food was amazing. We had biscuits and gravy for breakfast made with real butter and hot chocolate made with buffalo milk. During the day we sipped on mulled wine and had a white elephant gift exchange. For dinner we feasted on roasted pig, flaky empanadas, and mac n cheese. Holy smokes it was awesome.
On our last day in the field we took a brain jostling ride up the hill to a site about 45 minutes from town. We had clear views of the Himalayas all day as we channeled our last bit of energy into clearing massive rocks mixed into a sticky red clay foundation. Didi brought us milk tea, made with fresh milk (a huge treat!), and pomelo. Tee led the leveling team, the site was finished, and we said goodbye to rubbling for awhile.
Saying goodbye is never fun.
I have a funny feeling that Nepal and I are not finished, but for now Mr & Mrs Coconut Head are off to Cambodia to soak up some sun like a lizard.
Until next time. XOXO