Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Quite the Holiday

I am currently sitting at the E Street Cafe in Encinitas, CA. It is raining here and the beach is only blocks away. Mom sits across from me and we discuss everything HANDS related. She is applying for a retail license right now as I type and we hope to very soon be ready to start focusing on selling Nepali products. She heard a lecture given by Robert Thurman on the state of Tibet recently and was inspired to start working on a new, yes another new branch for HANDS to head into. Apparently Robert Thurman says that Tibetan's and their cultural heritage are just too strong and well-adjusted to the rugged Himalayan environment to ever be truly finished off. He believes they will out-survive the Chinese and that in fact the Tibet invasion will eventually, many years down the road spell the beginning of the collapse of the Chinese Empire.

The key to my mom's current idea is that the Chinese have started a new strategy (perhaps not so new) of killing yaks which have long since been a major part of Tibetan nomadic society. In that we are already so into exchanging yak hair products she wants to further the promotion of that along with a new take on it which would focus on the importance of retaining Tibetan cultural practices. It may not sound like much of a big new thing in writing but coming from across the table and with the mighty roar of Amma-la it carries a certain "can't fail" energy that excites me.

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Cold Day in Colorado

I have just gone through the process of moving into a new house in Boulder, Co. My room mate and I have been sharing a small, one-room studio for the last semester and now are moving up to a full-on 2-bedroom duplex. Its on 17th and Walnut, very close to downtown and very reasonably priced for such a location. The stress of securing that place, along with the ending of a very busy semester, combined with the bone-chillingly cold weather has left me with a lingering illness that is making it difficult to function. It seems to be better though with each day and soon I'll be heading home to the California coast to get some great family time in.

Next semester I will be only taking 2 classes with hopes of spending a lot more time working on HANDS-related work. We are planning to reorganize our very foundations before moving on. I have a few hopeful looking prospects with possible grantors, and will be focusing a lot of time and energy on writing grant applications in the coming months. Because of the success of our Nepali product sales we will also be looking into the resale aspect of our work and hopefully will figure the procedure for setting up an online store.

Due to some confusion with credit cards our old website which was created, designed, and maintained by our Minnesotan sister and daughter Stacy, is not going to be up anymore and instead this blog page will be our online headquarters.

A lot of exciting events will be happening for HANDS in the new year, including a very special guest visit to our school in Nepal. My professor from Naropa University, Debbie Young, the Early Childhood Education department chair, will be in Bhutan in the first week of April and for the next two weeks she wants to visit Nepal and help in whatever way she can with our work there. She will visit our school location and possibly implement some teacher training programs, and find out what sort of woman's issues may need some attention, something that she is experienced with. She has an NGO of her own which is focused with working in Nicaragua, primarily in an area known as Jalapa. The NGO she has been running for 18 years is called America's Association for the Care of Children, AACC. http://www.aaccchildren.net/

I unfortunately will be tied down to my classes and job in Boulder, as much as I would love to be there to show her everything in person. But on the bright side there will be a lot of activity focused around international aid happening in Boulder during the month of April, most notably the Colorado University Conference on World Affairs which hosts over 100 different guest speakers on issues happening across the globe. http://www.colorado.edu/cwa/athen.html

The other point to cover is that work will be formulating in the coming spring around the construction of a new school, the second one. Right now it is still just in the "talk" phase but we have a location ready and I think it will be possible to organize much of the construction from the States now that we know the process and how it will go. Then we will be making a visit sometime in May to finalize the deal. We are looking into locations as well as a new application process still and nothing is set in stone as of yet. But most likely there will be some physical work happening in Nepal again for us soon, as well as a lot of scholarship, sponsorship work for the children at the Buddhist Child Home orphanage.

Happy New Year everyone, and have some great holidays!

Thursday, December 2, 2010

Lots of News

Hello everyone! This blog has fallen by the way side as my classes and academic schedule have become quite the full platter. However, over the past 3-4 weeks lots of news has come up for HANDS and I feel it is now time to share again, and to become once again a regular blog page, with more consistently updated info.

Heres to it, hope you all begin to once again regularly check up on this page. Please e-mail me feedback about anything including adjustments to this page that might make it more presentable for you. daniels@students.naropa.edu

NEWS:
November 14th we had our second annual fundraiser at the community hall in Santa Margarita, CA. I flew out from Boulder to partake and to honor guests with my presence as keynote speaker. We had an incredible evening. Roughly 100 people in attendance and over $5,000 raised! That is nearly double of what we raised last year! Thank you so much to everyone who attended, and to all those who volunteered their time to help set up and attend the different stations. We now have around $11,000.00 in our HANDS account, which brings me to the next subject of interest; plans and projects.

GREG MORTENSON, MAN OF THE HOUR:
Before I get into the details about the first ever official HANDS board meeting held in our Margarita home over Thanksgiving break I would like to share the amazing opportunity I and my parents had to attend a talk by Greg Mortenson, the author of 3 cups of tea and Stones into Schools. We saw him give a talk in Salinas, CA to a relatively small audience. He spoke a lot on the global importance and value of receiving an education, especially for women, and went into detail on a few very moving stories from Pakistan and Afghanistan. After his talk he was doing a book signing and after standing in line for about an hour we got to have a quick exchange of words, handshakes, and autographs with the man himself. Such an honor! He is an incredible person and very real! During our brief one on one I slipped him a HANDS brochure with some personalized notes, and my mom presented him a Nepali gift bag.

THANKSGIVING BOARD MEETING SPECIAL:
On Saturday the 27 of November we had our first ever official board meeting since we have gathered members of our extended family to help with the HANDS project. Those in attendance are all people who now will have a say in the undertakings of HANDS and the direction we will be headed. My girlfriend Bree came home with me for thanksgiving and was also present during the meeting taking everything down on her laptop, which is what I will now use to transcribe onto the blog.

Those in attendance and now part of HANDS decision making were: Heidi , Ptolemny, Sam and Tahira, Kate, Julee, and Jan and Don.

Here is the transcription from Bree's notes, its a lot, but worth looking into, lots of valuable new information came from much brain storming and think tanking.



Board Meeting – Hands in Nepal Nov. 27, 2010


1. Fundraiser:

- what went well? what did you like about the evening?

- what could be improved upon? any new ideas?

  • $5,012, money from fundraiser… now total over $11,600!!
  • Latest Nepali scarfs, all the rage! They will go like hot cakes! Price of the scarves will go up in price.
  • Food was set up very nicely, two tables in the middle of the room, more people could reach it at one time. – Danny likes that idea versus a
  • WINE! Get wine donation again for next time.
  • Silent Auction and 50/50 Raffle : More raffle items for next fundraiser, maybe prizes! (Jan)Bought a ticket to get in was also part of a raffle, different than a raffle.
  • MUSIC – having a headliner was great, a great act. Keep your ears open for another band interested in playing.
  • (Jan’s idea) Chapel in Morro Bay behind bookstore around New Years fundraiser, “Hands Unplugged”
  • GUEST BOOK! We need to get people’s e-mails, for newsletter (Jan and Don have addresses from checks)
    • o E-newsletter,
    • Have greeters at the door, here is the silent auction, here is the store, - describe to them the different areas
    • - maybe wearing certain outfits to identify those that can be targeted as volunteers.
    • Concern: are we tapping into the same people, how often can you ask for money??
    • o Additional ideas: tapping into a new source of people, spread the word
    • o Utilize the bookstore: selling items that you produce and the name, contact cards, etc. thus access to a larger group of people
    • o Presentations: Jan has been working on presentations around the community (has someone interested in supporting two children)
      • Americas Association for Women(sp?) – Presentation in February, specifically interested in women and girls issues.
    • o Go to various organizations looking for speakers to present different non-profits and ideas. Different organizations, build relationships with them. Then being able to utilize their source of people.
    • Good idea to keep the money separate, did that! – Store brought in the majority of the money, tickets were about $1,000
    • How few people read posters, how can it be spread by word of mouth. Maybe let’s not waste energy in posters, new times, and newspapers.
    • o Talk to new times, three weeks before, link the new times to the fundraiser as an advertisement. Show the success that is being shown.
    • o Maybe focus on toilet facilities, amazing to people when it is discussed with people who don’t know, then take that angle
    • o Free Speech Areas at Cal Poly.
    • o Greg idea: a postcard about the event, an eye-catching photo with a little blurb about the event.
    • Different shops around town for selling merchandise, put out the books on Hands in Nepal (they have contact information at the end of the book). Book signing, meet Danny; maybe making the book smaller where there isn’t a loss.
    • o A part of the curriculum in school, classrooms can integrate the book into the curriculum. Teachers would consider this as a project or gift for a class and would bring the word out.
    • o Ex. Monterey classroom, had fundraiser and made $600 for HANDS
    • o Pennies for Peace, gets the name out there and then the kids are working to help fellow kids.
    • o Don: having younger people speak about HANDS, being young shows a different perspective and impresses upon other peoples.
      • seeing the hands on experience, seeing the school, knowing the people and the area.


2. Finances:

      • Book keeping: maybe too big for our britches, Toby in SLO. Nonprofit budgeting, quarterly meeting will cost $600-$900 to keep the books clean, a good clean record.
    • o Heidi: will help file taxes, CPA needs to file it. (New Treasurer?)
    • o Need to set up a formal set of accounts, will have the information you need. A formal set of books.
    • o Filing the taxes need to be updated with the status.



New Connections:

    • Grant-writing: Danny will be working on grants next semester.
    • Joe Karsner: meeting with Danny during graduation.
    • Conference on World Affairs at CU: April 4-8, 2010



3. Scholarships:

    • Talk to Durga with about the children at BCH. Tahira(sp?) can translate with Durga. $1500 a year to sponsor children, seemed a bit high.
    • Need to make clear, the accountability of what the money is being spent on and how to monitor the money being spent.
    • Get pictures of children in school.
    • Durga says this is her first time, new kids. Next kids, get photograph and story from them. Jan and Heidi will get stories and visit all the places.
    • 4 scholarships. Need to get the details down. Still leaves money for another school.


4. Applications and Next School Location

    • Applications – getting more information from different areas who want to get scholarships. Do the work to get the budget. As if they are applying for grant. Find out that they need to get an application. Get an outline, budget for materials, transportation, people (work), etc. all inclusive on the form.
    • o Maybe inclusive in application, how can the community maintain the sustainability.
    • Village closer to the city: about an hour away from the city, the feeling Danny got was that they were savvy to NGOs, felt less intimate with the people, different feeling. Not ruled out, still need a school.
    • Danny would prefer to go to the more remote villages. There are hundreds of villages that are cut off, with high illiteracy rates.
    • How do others feel about the other village? Possibly put it up for application. Start spreading word to encourage people to apply as if for a grant.
    • Make clear that the application isn’t a promise.
    • It’s important to see these places.


5. Debbie Young's visit to Nepal in Spring

    • Debbie Young wants to have teacher training programs. Wants to go to the government, getting Naropa’s name registered with different Ministries.
    • Getting the Naropa students on delegations and then getting the Cal Poly students as well.
    • Have a dialogue with the women of the village, starting to talk with the issues that come along with women.


6. Hearts in Nepal – Jan

    • Mission statement: add at-risk to description of girls, why they would live there.
    • Safe house: girls of teenage years could live in a place in Kathmandu, trundle sewing machines. Something made of yak hair, girls can stitch and sew and go to school. Kelsang may need to guard them, from prostitution. (Making something and then creating a sustainable business)
    • How do we keep schools sustainable? Maybe one more school, we can still do a lot with the school we just did, it is a good example of doing good. Let’s focus on energy on keeping this school and program sustainable.



7. Next Board Meeting

    • Board members input:
    • o Stay in remote areas, the scholarships snagged me in, support education will support the community.
    • o Move slowly, gradually. Make sure what you’ve done is successful and sustained. Need to have a program that provides a foundation that works. Take a project and make a difference and learn from it.
    • o Darka school will have new bathrooms soon.
    • o Interested in planning a winter fundraiser?
    • o Media: take the time to make a movie about HANDS, show and present the idea through video format. Show success is critical.
    • Next board Meeting:
    • o When? End of January or Beginning of February when Tahira comes back from Nepal.
    • o What? Talk about Tahira’s trip, update from Danny on new connections, accounting update, media update, etc.

Saturday, August 21, 2010

Itemized Price List

Here is a list of items still needed for the school and how much they cost, as well as the cost of other things not physically attached to the school. If you would like to buy an item for the school or donate money for another one of the causes then please write out a check to "HANDS in Nepal" and send it to:

HANDS in Nepal
PO Box 738
Santa Margarita, CA 93453

Please write a note with the check stating what the money will go towards.

At this point we need 18 table-benches (a long bench with an attached, raised table made of iron and wood) to furnish the 3 classrooms. We also need cabinets for storage in the teacher's room. Each room will need a black board which will be made out of cement. You can also sponsor a student for meals and books, as well as help pay one of our teachers who is not receiving a full-time salary.

Price List:
Appreciation and thanks to our friends in Singapore!

A huge thank you to the Bauer family for securing enough money for a bathroom facility!

bench-table......... $30 (13 remaining)
Jaun Yong
Xu Zhi Heng
Ayden Loke
Adam & Amily
Brenda Choo

blackboard.......... $25 (2 remaining)
Celestine Lim

storage cabinets......... $20 (2 remaining)
Irene Oh

student's materials......... $20 (82 students in total)

teacher salary...... $30 per month (One year salary donated by Sam and Tahira of Atascadero)





*I will update this and re-post it regularly with any necessary changes. And I would also like to add that we will be including the donors name on the object they purchase and we could also dedicate it with someone else's name if one is so inclined, just be sure to note that. We will also be trying to get pictures back to the people who paid for the item, but that may take time.



Monday, August 2, 2010

Expense Analysis

Here is an update with some figures on the expenses that went into the school building.  Now that I am home I hope to soon write a synopsis of the work and include many details about the decisions we made and why we made them, and just basically a more thorough and specific explanation of the process we went through to build this school.  Since I've been home I've had many interesting questions come at me about the project and its made me realize that I need to step out of the first-hand, personal standpoint and look at everything a little more objectively so as to be able to answer the questions concerning the larger picture and finer points.  So for now I offer a quick summary of our general expenses and our estimated projected expenses for things yet to come.  

Expense Analysis: 
Laborers earned 170 rupees a day ($2.50) (*there were about 10 laborers)
Carpenters earned 300 rupees a day ($4.00) (*an average Nepali salary is $1.00 a day)
Supervisor earned 300 rupees a day ($4.00)
Total Labor cost:  $3,328.00 (*this is for around 3 months of work)

Backhoe was 60,000 rupees ($833.00) (*for fuel and operator, about 5 days in total)
Tin roof was 81,226 rupees ($1,128.00) (*85 pieces of tin, 10 more still needed)
Cement for walls 6,000 rupees ($100.00) (*only for part of the total amount needed)
TOTAL at this point: $5,895.00 (424,435 rupees)

-----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

Projected Expenses:
Retaining wall behind school: $250.00
Building toilets: $100.00
10-sheets of tin: $140.00
Cupboard and blackboard: $50.00
Desks and Chairs: $300.00
Second teacher salary: $30.00 per month
Plaster walls in and out: $600.00
Projected TOTAL: $1500.00

$355.00 still remain with our partner Rajan in Nepal, left over from the last order we sent him.  And we hope to get about a half-refund on the money spent for the backhoe, which is supposed to be paid for by the government but there is no reassurance there.  There were other small expenses that added up and accounted for the extra spending in the totals that I will look into.

The school will be opening for use sometime in September.  There are three things that need to be finished before it is ready;  a separated toilet needs to be built, the walls and floor need to be cemented, and desks and chairs need to be provided.  It is entirely possible for us to arrange for these things to happen from the U.S.  We just have to work through our partner Rajan and he will send any of his 3 or 4 trekking guides who were involved with our project to oversee the transportation of materials and the quick and timely completion of the jobs they will be used for.  

We are offering to put names of donors on desks and chairs for anyone who would like to buy one for the school.  Could be a great potential birthday gift for a loved one or a friend who is fond of education.  We will write a simple dedication to the person whose name would like to be honored, and also send a school card with information and if possible a photograph.  Desks, chairs, blackboards, cabinets, are all available for adoption and dedication.  

If anyone is interested in buying a chair, desk, or other supplies for the school please contact myself or my mom Jan by sending an e-mail to: 
daniels@students.naropa.edu 
or 
jansprague2@gmail.com

Here is a rough estimated price list:
Desk: $30.00
Chair: $25.00
Blackboard: $30.00

I will re-edit this price list again as soon as I get word of the actual price and style of furnishings we will go with.  

Friday, July 9, 2010

For Your Viewing Pleasure

Right now I'm sitting here in a Berlin flat, the corner window looking down onto a busy European street with a flow of people coming up out of a subway station, U-bahn as its called in German, and plenty of bicyclers and walkers. It is the late evening but still very sunny out and very hot. In the summer time in this part of Germany, the Northern part, there are only about 6 hours of darkness. In the winter time its unfortunately the oppositte, only 6 hours or so of sunlight, very depressing. These days the sun sets around 9:30pm and rises again about 3:30am, of course even after the sun sets there is still about 2 hours of light left so its really not getting dark until around 11:30. It took a while to get used to this but now my clock is adjusted. Because of how hot it is in the day time most people wake up late and go out in the evening, and stay out all night. Its cool and strange to be out walking around and using buses at 2am.

Berlin is an incredible city, I really love it. Its enormous and diverse, and yesterday I found out that on top of all the cool typical European city things one comes across in a place like this, Berlin is also known for having huge and beautiful parks scattered about. My friends invited me to come along to play some soccer, football I should say, in one nearby park yesterday evening and I was blown away by its size. It was enormous, and very quiet and secluded though it is only a ten minute walk from the flat where I'm staying. Dense forests, little ponds and streams, bike paths, and very few people around, a great contrast to the bustle of the city. I wish all cities were like that.

I think I will make a side page about the trip I'm doing around Eastern Europe, but I really wanted to point out for anybody still following this blog that I have uploaded a lot of pictures now. On the side bar to the right are a few different pages and at the bottom of each of them are some nice pictures to help visualize how everything I've been writing about actually looks. The one side page titled "photo gallery" is nothing but pictures of the school and the village of Darkha.

Enjoy!

Monday, June 14, 2010

Whats Next?

Today is Monday the 14th and I'm leaving Nepal for good next Tuesday, the 22nd. Now things are coming to a close and I'm feeling good and ready to move on to new things. I returned from my last village trip yesterday morning. A group of us, my mom, my friend from school and his girlfriend, my Tibetan brother Yung Dung, and Rajan made the trip out together as one big ole happy family. For me the strenuous jeep ride through the treacherous mountains has become routine and I know exactly how to handle it and what to expect. For my companions it was a wild experience anew and a challenge to get comfortable. My strategy is and has always been putting on head phones; I carry a floppy black case of cds with me everywhere I go now having learned that down time is a regular part of my job requirements. In Thamel, the tourist area of Kathmandu, there are amazing music shops selling all varieties of pirated cds for roughly 2 bucks a piece and I spend much of my free time browsing for hard-to-find artists.

On the way out of Kathmandu we hit an unexpected delay that pretty much doubled our travel time. Winding down the mountains after peaking over them coming out of the Kathmandu valley we looked way down to the valley floor and saw that the whole windy road was stopped up with colorful buses and big trucks and motorcycles and people walking outside along next to them. It was terribly hot and before I knew it I had cycled through my entire library of music. Luckily I had just bought a new Carl Hiaasen book, whom I've been loving lately along with my new Henry Miller book, Nexus. Plenty of fantastic reading material and never a better time for it. We never did find out what caused the jam, but I would have to say that it happens when the buses coming up the mountain at a slow chug try to pass another slow climbing bus. This low-speed passing makes any oncoming traffic, zipping down at a high speed have to slow way down and wait for the big bus to get back on the appropriate side of the road. Sometimes 3 or 4 buses will pass a really slow one together and cause a minor traffic jam that could easily develop into a 5 mile blockage.

In Dhading we had a couple of hours of waiting before we were able to commandeer a jeep for our rugged outfit. Then we hit the trail and made it all of 30 minutes before a scary sound came from under the frame of the jeep, a popping metallic sound that seemed to be spinning and whacking against the under belly. My spirits were squashed. We were told to get out and that the jeep was broken beyond roadside repair and would need to return asap to Dhading for serious surgery. We would have to wait until a jeep came from the other direction and then convince the drivers and passengers to basically swap places with us. We getting the fresh jeep for the long journey and them taking the beat up failure back to town. About an hour passed before one of the Nepali guys in our own outfit came running back down the road from up above with an empty and strong looking jeep following close behind. He went around and accepted every one's gratitude happily. Where he found this empty and ready to serve jeep is a complete mystery to me. Then a long argument took place about the new price for our ride.

With these complications we didn't get to the lower part of Darkha, where the jeeps stop, until about 9pm, way too late to make the hike up to the heart of the village. So we slept in a rooming house down there where we all had to share beds, mom and I sleeping on one that was outside under the starry sky. In the morning we packed up and began the serious hike up to our school to see how it was looking. It was very exciting for me to be sharing this place that has become so dear and precious to me with my mom. After months and months of hearing about it and seeing pictures and reading all the descriptions here in my blog I couldn't wait to show her everything in person. We walked up slowly taking many rests and running into many friends who were thrilled to be meeting my mom. Up and up we went. My legs have become a bit stronger from all the stair hiking that one must do every day in the village so I wasn't feeling too much fatigue but my friends and mother were. When we came close to where our school building sits I went ahead and hopped on up there to wait for my moms arrival and watch her first impressions and reactions. I was really surprised to see that once again Rajan had somehow organized a huge gathering for a welcoming party. There were painted banners hanging, half in Nepali, half in English. A homemade archway with a red ribbon across it was placed at the entrance to the school and there were children in blue school uniforms scattered about all over excitedly awaiting my moms arrival. I was now a pretty regular fixture to them and didn't cause such a ruckus when I arrived but rather went around to friends to say hello and namaste and such.

Then we all gathered at the edge of the land where the trail comes up from and watched as my mom struggled up the steep narrow trail, looking up at us with a huge smile. When she came to the crest she let out a huge sigh and then looked around at the scene with a permanent huge smile plastered on her face. There was our school building with a lot of people all gathered around it and lots of decorations hanging off of it, and here all around her now where all the students who would be attending it. We were laughing and I was introducing her to more and more people who have been involved. Then the kids were called over by the adults and made to stand in two separate lines. They arranged themselves in the same way as they had a few months earlier when I first came on my own. I stood back in awe and realized what all had taken place since that first trip out when we were surveying the land and making loose plans. Now here it was, our beautiful school.

Once everyone was in their position we walked towards them and then in between the two lines of students who were all holding home made flower leis and ceremonial katas, and then we all took deep bows to accept them from the children, most of whom only reached up to my knees. It was incredibly touching and a joyous moment for all of us. We were all meandering around and talking with each other, a lot of laughing and big smiles, a lot of cute little kids saying "Namaste" again and again to us. Then mom was handed a pair of scissors and told to officially open the school by cutting the red ribbon; a real ribbon cutting ceremony! All was quiet as she stepped up to the archway, scissors in hand. Then a roar of applause cut loose as the cut ribbon fell to either side and she stepped through, me following close behind. On the other side we began to mosey around the nearly completed school building. There are 7 more sheets of tin needed to cover the last part of the last room and the floors still need to be filled in and cemented, and then we will have to furnish the rooms. Aside from that the bulk of the work is finished. It is strange to think about that, after all the concern and hopes I had invested in this.

After more talking and laughing and inspecting and describing the work of the school to mom we all met in the front of the building for a quick art project. We had two large sheets of cloth that we wanted the kids the paint with their hand prints. It was a hit, every kid got a chance to cover his/her hand with brightly colored paint and then slap it onto the hanging cloth. Took a gallery of photos of that for future HANDS promotions. Then we were served tea and some biscuits and more time was allowed for this momentous occasion to sink into psyches. Then it was time for a speech giving ceremony so we decided to huddle into one of the classrooms which felt like a kind of christening to me. A few chairs were provided for mom and I, a table was set up as a podium for speech givers to stand behind, and the rest of the gathering sat cross-legged on straw mats on the floor. Mom and I sat in silence while much Nepali was spoken. Then Rajan informed us that everyone wanted to start by holding a minute of silence in memory of our brother and son Sean. I was took completely by surprise and my heart lurched when I heard him say this. This whole time I've been here I've felt like Sean has been at my side, every step of the way. I feel like his spirit has been with me, this is something I know he would have loved so much and at that moment when we stood in a big circle in silence in our classroom, perched way up on a Himalayan mountain in the heart of Nepal, surrounded by the most outstanding and just straight up cool people ever, I swear I could feel him right there with us smiling from ear to ear. I couldn't help but cry with joy at that moment, I was completely overwhelmed, and even now writing this I can't help but get a little teary, it was so moving and incredible and unforgettable. In that moment I knew that I had been doing this for Sean, without him I would not have been there.

I was knocked into an emotional state for the rest of the meeting, I was so touched and completely overtaken by the fact that we did it, how many amazing friends we've made! What an incredible community to now be a fixture in! What doors it has opened! What confidence it has given me! Now a few people stood up and took their place behind the table podium to give heart felt speeches that we're translated after the fact by Rajan sitting next to us. Soon enough it was my turn and I still felt unprepared emotionally to speak in front of everyone but I got up anyways and walked up to the podium. I said Namaskar then fumbled about trying to let them know how much I appreciated their commitment and kindness. I was speaking my thoughts as they came to me and suddenly I said "Now when I think of Nepal I will always think of Darkha," and as I said Darkha I couldn't stay calm and had to laugh and look up at the ceiling to contain my tears again. At that moment I just realized what that meant to me, and what Darkha represents to me and the wonderful people who live there that never waver or fumble in their humor and kindness. I quickly, with choking words, wrapped up what I had to say by just thanking them all again and again. I just wanted to thank them for being them, for existing and living in the way they do. People of Darkha, I love you so much!

The rest of the day was spent having a good meal of Dal Bhat and doing a bit of hiking around showing off the beautiful landscapes of the area. Around 3pm we hiked down to the river, took a quick dip to get refreshed, then got seats arranged for a jeep ride out. This was a quick trip and we all had many things to do in Kathmandu. We completed what we had came for and now it was time to go. Pratap and Gopal accompanied us down and I assured them that I would be back fairly soon, at least in the next year.

Now in Kathmandu we have been doing so so so many things. Mom is an incredible doer. Every hour of the day is filled with productive activity, very well-managed and usually very successful and efficient. Today we stopped off at the Buddhist Child Home orphanage, which I haven't visited in a long time, and rained piles of dolls, clothes, balls, and candy down on all the kids who were thrilled out of their minds. We made arrangements to take them on an outing this Saturday to a famous Shiva temple which is also supposed to be a wonderful picnic spot. Tomorrow mom, Yung Dung, Karma, his wife and I will all be going to Pokhara together for a little get away. We also wanted to visit the Tibetan refugee camp there to see if we can lend our HANDS. On Friday we will stop off in Dhading where Rajan will meet us to also scope out another village site for a possible future school. He told us that there is a village there that is of a lower caste, meaning under-privileged, community of shoe-makers who could really use help of any kind.

Thursday, May 27, 2010

Lost in Mcleod, Found In Nepal

I had a wonderful time in Mcleod Ganj, it was a great excursion and well worth it, but it was definitely time for me to go. My bus left yesterday evening at 6pm and two good friends whom I had met over the days and weeks were there to see me off. Leaving at 6, making two stops in the middle of the night for food and a bathroom break, we finally arrived at Majnu Teela (the Tibetan community) in Old Delhi at about 6:30am. Weak, feeble, shaky with legs that had been rolled up in my lap for 10 hours I got my gear together and argued a price for a taxi to the airport. No pre-paid taxis here, when I said, "Hey wait a minute, a pre-paid taxi from the airport to Majnu Teela only costs 350rs!" They just laughed and said 600 was the best they could do, so shut up and get in and be grateful. I was, and I stretched out with legs fully extended in the back seat and got settled in for the hour drive.

All the connections went fine at the airport and I landed in Kathmandu at 2pm and got back to my family's house around 3:30. Its really nice to be back here, I'm already feeling grounded and productive. Today is the Buddha's birthday so a lot of celebrating is going on. Tomorrow, the 28th, is supposed to be another bad political day for Nepal. Its supposed to be the deadline for the new constitution but from what I'm hearing it sounds like it will be delayed. I was really worried about flying in so close to this potential disaster but then when I found out today was the Buddha's birthday I felt a profound calming energy that seemed to put things back in their place. I wonder what tomorrow will bring, hopefully not another serious strike. Two good friends from Naropa are here in Nepal now and have been e-mailing me to come meet them in Boudha. We'll see how things go tomorrow but its fun and exciting to know that a few of my college buddies are not too far away.

I will contact Rajan either this evening or tomorrow and I plan to head out to Darkha to once again join in with the school work in about 2-3 days. Rajan is saying that now it is time for transporting and installing the tin roof, and then cementing and plastering the parts of the walls we want to be smooth and neat looking. Basically because of the stone and mud construction the outer and inner surfaces of the walls are not very neat and clean. To do them all in concrete and plaster would no doubt look really good but would also be expensive and not necessarily needed since its not a common style for them. So we have decided to just create a few spots that will be smooth and neat, on both the inside and outside, and these will be used for some art or other stimulating visuals.

Aside from that everything is really close to being done. Just in time for the monsoon, which will be starting around mid-June and would have put an end to our work for the time being. So for now I will stop and head back to my room where I think a nap is waiting for me, I am beat and my brain is feeling dull. I'll put more up here soon!