Minutes after I published our last written blog post, we hauled our bags down the five flights of stairs at Chunta’s apartment and piled them, along with the four of us, Pradeep, Ram, and our driver into a small backcountry jeep. We drove through countless winding streets, many deserted because of the petrol blockade, and burst forth into the beautiful fields and scattered buildings that surround the stifling city. Seven hours later, in a ride that was marked most memorably by poor Pradeep losing his lunch violently all over the back of the jeep, we arrived at our actual jumping off point: Syabru Besi.
The following 15 days were spent climbing up into the mountains, through the most remote regions we could access in that limited time and following trails that few foreigners had traveled since Maoist insurgents had made them impassible 20+ years ago. From the beginning, we had a very limited idea of what to expect and attempted to prepare for the worst case scenario in advance by carrying what food, shelter, and emergency supplies we might need along the way. To aid in this endeavor, we enlisted the help of four faithful porters: Gukarna, Ramesh, Kumar, and Anil, and one less than faithful cook, Tek; who never actually did any cooking… In total, we passed through 4 districts: Nuwakot, Rasuwa, Dhading, and Ghorka, traveling an average of 8 miles a day over mountainous terrain and hazardous landslides, climbing several 12-13,000ft passes, and sleeping on any flat ground – a valuable commodity in a country that goes from sea level to 29,000ft in less distance than lies between Spokane and Seattle – that we had the luck to find.
Yet 15 days is far to short a time to understand one small village, let alone 11; each more unique than the last, and all separated from any outside contact by miles of mountainous terrain. Our goal for this trip was to assess CCF’s work in 5-6 communities which we had provided various forms of immediate aid to following the earthquake, and survey where else we might be of service in the future. The process of doing so was heartbreaking. We saw hundreds of homes reduced to piles of rubble, families of four or more living in tarp tents that were close to six months old, individuals without even a clue of what the future would bring.
Together, Grant and I had the task of talking with these men, women, and children, in order to formulate appropriate recommendations to the board of CCF as to what our next steps should look like. Before beginning our trek – before we even arrived in Nepal – we had arranged a set of questions to ask in just such a situation, yet it was apparent from our very first interview that these would have to be heavily modified and adjusted. Our initial questions had been based on the assumption that we would move fluidly from one person to the next, asking a relatively standard set of questions to generate largely quantitative information. Yet the people with whom we talked could not be clinically quizzed on the aid they received, in what time, and from whom. When asked what their biggest need was at the moment, many said that they simply wanted to invite us into their tin shelter for a cup of milk tea. So from village to village we amended a new set of questions that we began from scratch. The final result looked more like a list of open ended conversational prompts than any formal survey or interview, but the reactions and responses we received were more heartfelt and heartbreaking than we ever could have expected.
So we have returned, overwhelmed with information, but with a more realistic perspective on the obstacles the obstacles faced by those we seek to assist. Now we begin the process of attempting to overcome these obstacles. After climbing back up the final flights of stairs with our now familiar bags to greet a warmly welcoming Chunta, we shrugged off our packs one final time and rushed to wash away two weeks of grime and sweat before sitting downto begin the long process of restoring hope!
Thank you all for your support and stay tuned for more posts in the next couple days!