On our first morning in the Village, New Year’s Day, we started off with our daily Yoga practice from 6:30 – 7:30 am with a local “Yogi” that BuildOn brought in to lead our practice each day. This was outside on a tarp, and although it began in the dark, it afforded us the luxury of watching the sunrise each day mid way through Yoga. Let’s just say that it was very different than what many of us were used to from our Western Yoga classes, but we grew to love the Yogi and his quirky ways!
What ended up being a great perk is that many villagers (children and adults), joined us each morning for Yoga, and it was a really wonderful way to start the day. Also, we’re pretty sure the morning Yoga helped to keep us limber and was the reason our bodies ached a lot less than we expected after the grueling work on the school site!
One thing our Yogi would have us do every day towards the end of our session was “laughing yoga”, where you first laugh with your mouth closed, then with your teeth together, and then open mouth laughing. Of course we would all be cracking up by the end! We loved seeing and hearing the village children giggle. By the second morning, Desmond couldn’t help himself and got up once it was light enough to get some photos! And of course, getting photos of sunrise as well.
After Yoga, we were given a hearty breakfast prepared by our BuildOn cook. BuildOn provided breakfast and lunch for us every day, but dinner was spent with our host families. We ate very well during our time in the village, and all of the food (all vegetarian) was incredibly delicious! One of the favorite treats during each meal was Nepalese Chai, which we drank up in large quantities!
Work on the construction site started at 8:30 each morning and we would start with everyone gathering in a circle (including our team, BuildOn staff, and the local villagers who had come out to work on the school). Some words were shared (and translated) by people on both sides, and again the villagers shared their gratitude for their new school (cue more tears for Roxy!). We ended the circle with a cheer that would be lead by one person from our group and one villager.
The site was already marked up to show where we needed to dig the foundation, needing to dig 14 holes, each 6 ft deep by 6 ft square, as well as 2 ft wide by 2 ft deep by 10 foot long trenches running between them all.
There were different tasks that we could each do, such as digging, shoveling, carrying (rocks, sand, rebar), stacking bricks, and actually tying the rebar. We would work on the job site from 8:30 to 12:30 and it was some of the hardest, most backbreaking work that any of us had ever done. The ground was very dry and hard and it was definitely not an easy task to break up the earth and then shovel it out….especially using the oversized hoes that the village provided to do all the digging.
We were sweating in the hot sun and exhausted not long after starting, but watching how hard the villagers worked, especially the women who kicked our asses in their level of strength and stamina, kept us going! We couldn’t be more proud of Evan and Ella for getting in there and working so incredibly hard doing all the same labor as the adults. We honestly didn’t know how they were going to handle this, because it really was back breaking work. Even the fittest of our group were feeling incredibly fatigued at the end of 4 hours, but we did it as a group and were extremely gratified to see the great progress being made each day.
At 12:30 we would break for a delicious lunch, prepared by the BuildOn cook, who always cooked on an open fire with the help of a few village women. While eating lunch, we would not only get to know each other better, but would also have discussions about our thoughts on the work we were doing and the experiences we were having in the evenings while we were all apart in our separate houses with our separate host families.
After lunch, the second half of our day was dedicated to cultural exchange experiences with some of the villagers, but the locals on the work site worked all day.
Our first cultural exchange experience was “fishing”. A group of local villagers (mostly woman and the village chief) walked us through a part of the village we had yet to see, with beautiful green fields, mountain views and finally to a small river. It was obvious that the water levels were typically much higher, but we were there during the dry months…..but there was still enough water for fishing! The villagers in our group went down to the river with some nets and then got in the water. Their technique was to walk as a group through the river, with the net spread out in order to catch the fish. Sadly, most of the people in our BuildOn group, including us, didn’t feel comfortable going down in the river because several of us had heard horror stories about bacteria and hook worms which could be caught when going in rivers in Asia and SE Asia and the terrible illness that came as a result. Better safe than sorry is the motto we chose to go by in this case! Although we felt bad not helping, it was still lovely to walk along side the river, watching and interacting with those in the water, and taking in the beautiful sites. We met other villagers, water buffalo and cows along the way, and as always many photos were taken!
One of the great parts of this afternoon, on the way to the river and back, was a chance to see some scenes from typical village life.
After a good mile and a half of walking in and along side the river, we headed back to the village to go back to our respective family homes for a shower (outside, with a cold bucket of water!), dinner and (usually) games….typically not seeing each other again until morning.
Playing games in the evenings with the families and local, neighboring kids, was definitely a highlight. Playing Jenga or Uno would never cease to evoke squeals, giggles, huge smiles and lots of laughter!
By the way, in regards to the New Year, given the Nepalese aren’t on our calendar year, we didn’t do anything for New Year’s eve. I think we were all in bed by 9pm! However, actual New Year’s in San Francisco was at 1:45pm Nepalese time on this day and given we were just finishing lunch at that point, we made a point to celebrate it then. Ella and Lilian (an architect) came up with the idea of doing a human 2017! They sketched it all out and assigned each person a position. It took some time but we sort of got it right 🙂