Today was a travel day, the first half of it spent moving from our urban base at Pension Suzata, just outside Kathmandu, to our mountain base in Dhulikel, closer to the villages of Sindhupalchowk district, which suffered some of the worst destruction of last year's earthquake.
That meant a lot of driving, something we had all been initiated in during the last day or two, as our various city taxis careened around the winding lanes Kathmandu, sometimes zooming so close by pedestrians that they pancaked themselves against walls for safety, or veering down such narrow lanes you felt you could almost reach out and drive-thru shop from neighbourhood market stalls!
|The fuel shortage continues here in Kathmandu. People wait for hours (better than when it was 8 days wait) lined up as u see these motorcycles are.|
Think of driving here like a loud and colourful video game. The game's controller would have a blasting cheerful horn, used liberally and conversationally (for everything from a quick "I'm behind you" toot to a full "I'm coming at you head-on" extended blare).
We had a small temporary delay at 7 in the morning, as our bus negotiated the narrow twisting lanes Suzata to pick us up. Then we discovered that our proposed vehicle didn't have nearly enough space for all the inventory and equipment, 18 large cartons.
As usual in these situations on a TWECS project, though, the diplomacy and resourcefulness of our leaders prevailed. We crammed our baggage into the back of the bus and headed on the road, while our self-proclaimed Sherpa and super-organizer David stayed behind to sort things out. He materialized at our next stop an hour later, a truck packed full of our boxes magically procured and back on schedule.
As we climbed through the Kathmandu Valley, we left the dusty incense-and-smoke haze of the city behind. The view became one day of tidy, lush green terraced hillside farms. The roads, winding and bumpy; the valley views, vast and awe-inspiring.
Signs of earthquake destruction and reconstruction were everywhere. Sheets of corrugated metal, stacks of concrete blocks, endless piles of bricks... We saw a lot of bright shiny new corrugated roofs, and heard that apparently a religious group recently passed through the district offering cash for converts - just enough money for essential home improvements, it appears. It makes us even more determined to bring some relief from desperate poverty and distress to these people, with no strings attached.
Finally, after a quick pit-stop at our new hotel, and almost 4 hours on the road, we arrive at the top of a rocky hill. In a dusty clearing we see a signboard with before and after pictures, showing a once-sturdy pre-earthquake school reduced to rubble. It had been replaced with rough tin sheds and two US military tents that have held up well for the past year. Here we set up today's clinic, mostly for local children.
|The interior of the classroom|
|The Exterior of the classroom|
|Nepalese woman happy with her new glasses|
We saw more than 150 patients in just a few short hours, including, at the end of the day, a lovely, tiny, 81-year-old woman who won everyone's heart. She had one arm amputated above the elbow, and a thumb missing from her other hand, due to a childhood accident and resulting infection. She waited patiently for a few hours as the doctors thoroughly examined her, and when she left with her new eyeglasses she stopped and thanked each person in a TWECS shirt with what were clearly heartfelt sentiments in Nepalese, thoroughly delighted with the gift of vision she had been given.
A small one appears as an actual painted sign at Hotel Arniko, where UN and other aid workers have frequently stayed: it's the first stanza of the serenity prayer, a reminder to be gracious in the face of things we cannot control. It's inspiration often repeated by our longtime and invaluable TWECS volunteer Rodger - and an essential reminder when operating in the developing world. In this case, it felt like a sign we were exactly where we were supposed to be.