Adventures of Two Americans Living and Working in Nepal

Archive for the month “March, 2012”


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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Welcome to Basa!

Yesterday, eight Edge of Seven volunteers arrived in Basa to kick off the new higher secondary school project, and, in truth, I’m a little jealous not to be with them.

Having just returned from a trip up to the new site with Travis, I can say that Basa is an amazing place. Right now, spring flowers are blooming and villagers are at work planting their crops. Everywhere I looked there was something beautiful to see. The village is reached by a different route from Phaplu than we took to go to Phuleli, and the trail is very peaceful. It even goes by a viewpoint of Mount Everest, which Travis and I were lucky to to see on our walk in on a clear morning!

The people of Basa were excited to have both of us there, and I know they were eagerly anticipating the volunteers. According to the most recent update from the field, the community made quick work of the site preparations and foundation, so the volunteers could get right in to the earthbags when they arrive. The site is right next to the existing school building and near the center of the village, so it’s a great place to be stationed in terms of giving volunteers plenty of opportunity to get to know the students and people in town.

Here are a few photos from the trip. More to come soon on the update from Phuleli!

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