Adventures of Two Americans Living and Working in Nepal


A guest blog I wrote for Edge of Seven. Stay tuned for one from Travis soon!

Originally posted on Edge of Seven:

Reflections By Board Member Sarah Andrews

I can’t remember where I first saw the photo below of three young girls in rural Nepal using a frightening, trapeze-like pulley to cross a river on their way to school, but I do remember having a visceral reaction to it of disbelief and awe. In addition to being blown away by the peril that these girls have to face every day in order to get an education, I was impressed by their courage and determination. Not a personal fan of treacherous heights, I cannot honestly say where I might be today if as a child I had to face a tightrope above a raging river twice daily just to get to school. I can imagine, though, that blowing it all off and staying home would have sounded like a very appealing option.

    Photo Source: Global Giving

This past March when visiting…

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Happy Mother’s Day from Sun Valley, Idaho!

Celebrated Mother’s Day today with Travis’ mom and dad – Nancy and Fineas – in Sun Valley, Idaho. Such a lovely day. It’s nice to be home!

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Farewell for Now, Nepal!

It’s hard to believe this day is actually here, but today Travis and I fly out of Kathmandu on a 40+ hour journey back to the U.S. Though we had originally planned to stay in Nepal through June, with the Edge of Seven and The Small World projects in great shape and my work at Next Generation Nepal wrapped up, we made a split-second decision a few weeks ago to head back a little early so we could make it to a few of our dearest friends’ weddings that we would have been so sad to miss.

So, where to begin? This has been an incredible journey. And I know I speak for both of us when I say that we are beyond grateful to have met all of the amazing and inspiring people who have crossed our paths during our time in Nepal. We’re also beyond grateful to have had the opportunity to spend our days working with organizations that are doing so much good in this country.

I can’t say I am not bursting at the seams a bit to get home, eat a taco, and soak in the uninterrupted flow of electricity and clean drinking water, but leaving is definitely bittersweet. For all of the hardships life in Nepal contains, there is also an unending beauty that can strike a person even on the most chaotic street of Kathmandu. And from the kids I worked with in Kathmandu to the teachers and elders of Phuleli and Basa, many new lessons and perspectives on life have been gained. As with my previous trips here before, I leave having once again been strengthened by people who live life with exuberant joy and light despite having been through extremely difficult situations.

And the deal with the blog is that we plan to keep it going. Being officially homeless at the moment, we still have many travels and unknowns in front of us. Plus, our schedules and lack of Internet access over the past couple of months have made it difficult to update this blog in the most timely of manners, and I think we could both benefit from some time to decompress and process everything that has happened during our time here. So, look for more updates and photos about our work in Nepal to come!

Farewell for now, Nepal! We’ll see you again someday soon.

Wedding in Nepal

Recently, we had the honor of attending the Nepal ceremony for the marriage of our good friends Erin and Binod in Kaski, Nepal. It was a an amazing day, and we are so happy we were able to be in Nepal for the occasion. Now, on to more celebrations in the States!

Congrats, E + B!

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F.L.O.E.! (For the Love of Earthbags!)


The school in Basa is rapidly nearing completion, and we need your help! F.L.O.E.! is our latest campaign with the goal of raising the final $6,000 needed for the school. Thanks to many generous donors (both online and offline) we have already brought in $3,200. Incredible.

We have just 7 days left to raise the remaining $2,800 and any amount helps! If you’re as much of a fan of building with dirt as we are we hope you will check out the campaign. Not only will the money go toward the cost of the school, but it will also be used to develop several free graphic educational and resource materials about earthbag construction that will help to further this practice of sustainable design across the globe.

Follow this link to learn more about F.L.O.E.!: http://www.indiegogo.com/floe.

And thanks to all who have supported this project throughout it’s duration. We appreciate you more than you can know!




By Travis Hughbanks

Blog post written on April 14 from Phaplu, Nepal

I have just arrived at the guest house in Phaplu from Basa where I will spend the night before my morning flight to Kathmandu, weather permitting.  This is one of those moments I will miss most after I leave Nepal.  After 30 days in the village at the project site and a fairly arduous hike out, I am dirty, bruised, bug-bitten, and completely exhausted.  What makes this moment so great is the anticipation of what is to come tomorrow.  A hot shower, clean clothes, rest and, most importantly, a relaxing diner with my lovely wife.  This moment and theses anticipations are entirely too rare in my day-to-day life in the States.  I don’t pretend to think that every time I step into a hot shower from here forward that I will truly appreciate my hot water heater, as previous experience tells me that it will only last a few days, but I do think I will always cherish the memory of these intense moments of anticipation.

Everything has been moving along well at the project site.  Building 1 is 95% plastered on the exterior, the cement floors are complete and we are ready to begin the roof as soon as the wood is ported in from the jungle.  Building 2 has the foundation complete and the first gravel bags are being set.

The weather has not been our friend of late, and we have been getting intermittent rain through out the day and night.  Luckily, we have plenty of tarps to cover our work areas but it definitely has slowed us down.  The great thing about all the rain is that after it clears out, we get some incredibly clear views of the mountains that have just been getting dumped on with snow.  My pictures do not do it justice.

Happy Nepali New Year to everyone (year 2069).

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Out and About Kathmandu: Part II

So, I’ve been a little MIA lately on this blog. Lots going on and many new updates to come, but for now just wanted to share some photos of life out and about in Kathmandu!

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By Travis Hughbanks

Off the beaten path from all of the trekking routes of the Solukhumbu, the village of Khastav in the VDC of Basa is very secluded.  Things are starting to change, though.  Over the past few years efforts have been made to construct a road through the mountainous terrain that will eventually pass near the village.  While the road itself is still years from being an accessible route for even the most off-road of vehicles, the excavator that was tasked to rough out the road has made its way deep into the mountains.  We were fortunate enough that our construction was scheduled when the excavator was working nearby, and the villagers agreed to allow the “dozer” (the local term for the excavator) to descend through their terraced fields to the project site to speed up the site clearing.

The first motorized vehicle in the village was a definite attraction; children cried (a bit scared by the noise), livestock scattered and the workers were eager for the chance to play with the new machine.  While the dozer worked at leveling the project site it quickly became a race for the workers to see who could save the most and largest of the unearthed stones.

First, you have to understand that throughout the VDC of Basa rocks for buildings are in short supply and are considered very valuable, hence why earthbags can be a great solution to building needs in the area.  Typically for construction, stones have to be cut from remote areas of the mountainside and hauled down to building sites by people.  So, introducing a 19-year-old excavator operator driving a machine that indiscriminately buries tree limbs, garbage, and rocks alike as he levels the site makes for an interesting scenario.  Workers and villagers were darting from left to right trying to rescue stones that weigh up to 100 pounds each.

As workers tried to role flat stones down the hillside the dozer operator would quickly pivot the steel shovel directly over their heads in a attempt to claim dominance of the work site.  You would think that after the first person was accidentally knocked to the ground, uninjured, the game would have found a victor.  Not a chance.  The taunting from the young operator continued and the villagers refused to back down. Eventually a mutual respect was gained.  By mid-afternoon, the dozer scope would rest momentarily on the ground as the workers loaded it with surfaced stones which would be deposited in a pile off to the side for future use.

After 3 days of work with the volunteers, we had both doors in place and four courses of bags laid for the walls.  Happily, we are a week ahead of schedule and hope to be finished with the earthbag walls of the first building by March 26th.  Excavation is complete for the second building and the retaining wall is under construction.  Below are some photos and more updates to follow.

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Phuleli Interior Photos

By Travis Hughbanks

I am back in Kathmandu for a few days for some rest and to get a little work done.  We finished up the interior wood paneling at the Phuleli project site about a month ago and I wanted to post some photos.  More on Basa to come shortly.

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Updated Photos of the School in Phuleli

After the recent blog about Basa, it’s time for the Phuleli update!

We spent three days in Basa before embarking on the four hour hike to Phuleli, and it was great to get back. There was a definite comfort in plopping our bags down in a familiar place and shouting hello to people we knew around the village. Our host family from before, Angat and Rana Maya, were away during this trip, so we stayed with a man named Karka and his family. Karka is the mayor of Phuleli, runs a store in town, and hosted volunteers during last fall’s trip.

During our few days in Phuleli, we were able to see the carpenters put many of the finishing details on the building and do some whitewash painting on the exterior. At the time, the students had all moved temporarily back into the old building so the remaining roof work could be completed. But the school looks great, and everyone in Phuleli seems very happy with the way it turned out. Some updated photos below!

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