Travel diary from a volunteer trip to follow up the construction of the family home Lööf Foundation “Home of Hope” in the village Ratankot – Nepal, visit 2.
Monday, September 15
Today I had planned to start packing for my Nepal trip on Tuesday night, but I have slept with fever (40 degrees) and I’m not feeling very well. Sophie tries to reschedule the trip so I can go on Thursday instead.
Tuesday, September 16
I wake up and feel a little better, no fever in the morning, it is not possible to reschedule the trip so at lunchtime we decide that I go even if I feel a little mediocre.
Spurs with the gasket, the taxi will pick me up to 19:15 to take me to the train in Skövde to Arlanda. Finish on time with little margin.
Perfect train, it is the night train to Luleå so it goes directly to Arlanda, very convenient to just step right up in Skycity. Staying at the hotel at Arlanda.
Wednesday, September 17
Up at 8 am, the aircraft is at 11:40 to Doha, I’m not super but it will probably be fine, eat a hearty breakfast and kill the fever. The flight passes time and that’s Dreamliner we get to fly with, amazing difference on the planet and others. I feel pretty good, good service on the flight as it is usually when flying with Qatar. Halfway to Doha with the fever returned, certainly 39 degrees, gorge myself antipyretic and sleep for several hours. Arriving in Doha there is a waiting time of about 8 hours before the flight to Kathmandu, dwelling on the name Kathmandu, feels almost unreal to think that it is the second time in 6 months I go to such an odd and special place. Ports in Doha’s new terminal, really nice and comfortable.
Thursday, September 18
Now it starts to get weird with the times when there are time lags, so what time in Sweden? I have not really tracked it. It is not as hot in Kathmandu as it can be in Doha, it is probably at 35 degrees, which is the start of autumn here as well. Flying to Kathmandu goes almost on time (1:15 local time), only 15 minutes late, after about 5 hours of flight, we arrive punctually at 8:45. Kathmandu Airport is Nepal’s furthest international airport and is a Class C airport, only specially trained and experienced pilots may land here. You can see the approach between mountain peaks and the airport is located in the middle of the city, the houses are right up to the fence to the runway. The runway and airport buildings makes you feel that you might as well be in a movie. Everything is so old and worn, it feels like time has stopped. It is a whole procedure to get out of the airport, it should be written visas and various forms, exchanged money (can not do outside Nepal), will be scanned several times along with passport and bags. But it is more for show, I believe, the scanners honk and flash all the time but no one cares. I get picked up by Karma, he is one of three brothers who are enthusiasts of the village Ratankot that we should help, good to see him again. We go through the streets of Kathmandu, which is an absolutely amazing experience in itself, it is such a wonderful chaos of people, old worn and dirty vehicles of models never seen and vending stalls in a mess. We go to the monastery which Pema (Pema Dorjee Lama, a Tibetan Buddhist monk who is passionate about helping in Nepal) is responsible for, I’ll stay in their hostel located next door to the convent and is run and managed by Tibetan monks. Once at the monastery, we have a planning meeting for the trip to the village. The rest of the day I lie and rest, doing nothing further.
Friday, 19 September
The night was not like any other you could say, awoke shortly before midnight during a storm, it was without doubt the worst thunderstorm I experienced, the thunder was just above the rooftops and it was a tremendous rumbling and roaring, the mountains around it certainly did its part to enhance the experience. I was coughing a lot and had a fever so I slept no further. When the thunder stopped at 1:30 the domestic flights (various twin-engine propeller plane) began to run, the approach thunders about 30 feet above the roof of the monastery. I woke up not just rested. I was right, both Perna and Karma says that they have not experienced anything like the thunderstorms.
9:00 departure to the village Ratankot, today’s vehicles would have been a four-wheel drive Toyota Jeep but as the last bit of road to the village collapsed so it will be a Suzuki Swift instead, and then we walk the last bit, say what you like but they know how to pack cars in Nepal. They manage to squeeze in two large suitcases (about 40 kg of material to school, etc.), a large bundle of Loof Foundation blankets and sweaters, various hand luggage, two boxes of water, a driver, me, Karma and Pema, like sardines in a tin.
The trip is about 90km and will take 5.5 hours, the roads are not like at home in Sweden. It’s hard to describe, we have no roads similar to these, a Swedish forest road is a dream. Here they are just half-way asphalt and the asphalt is so bad, there are big holes and pits and there are boulders the size of cars on the road (rolled out during the monsoon). There are no guardrails, even though it may be 200 feet straight down to the side and to top it all, this is the road that connects Nepal with China and Tibet, corresponding to our E20. The traffic is huge and they drive like maniacs. At one point the road has slid into the river, where it has been backfilled with stone and gravel just so wide that a bus could get past, did not feel completely safe, but it was a good experience as well. We stopped and ate once on the road, or rather the others ate, I brought energy bars, had probably not survived eating there – so huge and dirty no food hygiene. Possible to write a whole story on just one food stop but it may be another time.
15:00 Now we’re no longer with the car! Time to jump out and go from “big” road to the village, the estimated running time with me who is half-sick and a 70 year old monk = 3 hours and then we do not wear the seal. There are some villagers who throw it on your back and banging away at a good pace on a trail that at times leans much more than 45 degrees downward. So the first hour, we go into a steep downhill, over a waterfall via suspension bridge and then two hours uphill, right sweaty, huge stack humidity and 24 degrees and no wind. It is a fantastic nature experience to go on this path, so enormously beautiful with all the terraces where they cultivated for many centuries, small waterfalls and streams. We meet the children on their way home from school, we meet and are joined by villagers who went to buy goods such as sugar, salt and oil. Everyone else has their own. It should be added Karma and his brothers walk this road every day of the school year, something to think about when the kids want to drive them to school in Sweden.
19:00 We arrive at the village Ratankot just before dusk and are welcomed with tea. I will be quartered in the same place as last time, upstairs in the nicest room. It is not as since as, Swedish dimensions (Swedish woodsheds is probably more well-ordered and clean) but there is a bed for me, though a little short bed, but it works and it’s not so smoky in the room luckily. The room is above the family’s water buffalo and goats, I can see the animals through the gaps in the floor.
I cook the dried food on my camping stove, feels sad not to be able to eat what is offered at, but if I did eat it I would surely get some sort of disease, the food is cut on the floor where the chickens, goats and people go, no washing of hands before cooking ! The cooker consists of a single fire on the kitchen floor, the smoke spreads through the house and disappears out where there are gaps, but it is mosquito-free indoors luckily.
Crawling down in my sleeping bag at 21 o’clock.
Saturday, 20 September
6:00 Breakfast, rained all night and I have not slept very well, not so used to sleeping with the rain pounding on the tin roof and the water buffalo grunting nearby. I feel alright, no fever but a cough. We hand out Loof Foundation fleece blankets to the old, a woman has been three hours down the mountain to get the blanket. She had so much pain in her leg, very moving to see how important a fleece blanket can be when winter approaches.
In the morning, we went to the school to hang out the kids things from Sweden, I brought various aids, posters and toys. The idea is that everything will be ready when the school children come to school in the morning Sunday (Sunday is living in Nepal). The teachers are very grateful and everyone in Sweden is thanked who contributed to this!
14:00 Lunch was dried food for me and now we are waiting for the architect who should have been here at 12, we’ll check out the place where the family home will be built and reconcile drawings against reality. We distribute more blankets while we wait, I take the opportunity to rest a bit, too, I’m not feeling well, a little fever sensing again
19:00 Dinner, freeze-dried for me, we sit in the kitchen and I’ll show picture books from the last time we were in Ratankot in April this year and the project in India that lasted for two years to help themselves.
Now the architect, only 7 hours late, quite normal in Nepal. We sit in the kitchen talking, Villagers came and go, everyone is so open and welcoming – a lovely atmosphere! I also tested the autumn homemade brewed, they call it whiskey but I’m quite sure it is not. But it is strong, how it smells and tastes can not be described – it’s not something I recommend.
21:00 bedtime, hoping for a quieter night.
Sunday, September 2
16:00 Breakfast, roosters make sure that nobody sleeps. A very beautiful morning, the sun is shining, the clouds sweeping in the valley below us, a bit unreal to stay above the clouds. The atmosphere is fantastic, so I take the opportunity to seize the moment and propose to Sophie at home in Sweden, later in the morning Sophie will answer, YES! Feels amazing and surreal, here I am in the wonderfully beautiful mountains of Nepal with water buffaloes, chickens and poverty around me and I have just decided that myself and my beloved Sophie are getting married!
During the morning, we distribute more blankets to the old, we are in school at 10:00 am to see the children’s reactions when they see what we hung up and left in the school. Amazing experience with grateful and very excited and happy children.
11:00 Distribution of Loof Foundation fleeces / jackets to the orphans who will live in the family home. Imagine, that a little can do so much, to see these kids get their jackets and try out clothes is a sight I will not forget. So thankful, so they almost do not believe it’s real.
Now on to the building site for the orphanage to see how the building has gone, much remains. They have started to dig out of the ground. Some stones have been made ready and all the wood that has been cut in the forest that has been sawn into boards and is dry. All this has been done completely manually, and even the saws used to split the logs into lumber were manual, the same type used in the 1800s in Sweden, before the steam engine.
We measure and mark the house in the grounds, realize that there is much digging left, it’s terraces where the house is to be built as it requires excavation of about 200 m3 by hand. We take some important decisions so construction can continue, feels good!
13:30 After a quick lunch (freeze-dried for me) begins the journey back to Kathmandu, the walk went a little faster today despite a couple of reststeps on the road, it becomes easy to be invited to tea when you have a Tibetan monk with you.
17:15 The ride starts, a little late, I think that I would prefer to avoid driving in the dark, have been advised against it. Much less traffic today so it feels pretty good, to be in Nepal India. But darkness falls down at 19 o’clock, without anyone turning on the lights, it is to my horror, that we are waiting until you can not see the road anymore. This lead to numerous incidents, braking and evasive maneuvers. There are people on the roads, motorcycles, cars and trucks without lights, roads without guardrails, rocks on the roads and so there is danger everywhere. I am very rarely afraid, but this, I would not do again.
But as Pema (the Tibetan monk) says ”no worry, life is constant”, do not know if it makes me feel safer just.
21:45 Back alive to Kathmandu and the monastery hostels, beauty, bedtime.
Monday, 22 September
11:00 Breakfast, slept for almost 12 hours. Rest day, the only thing I do today is to go to a department store to buy some gifts to take home. I am still not great, feverish and sweating so I decide to see a doctor. The doctor gives me some big red pills, I’m guaranteed to be healthy by within three days promises the doctor. Eat dinner and go to sleep early.
Tuesday, 23 September
8:00 Breakfast, feel a little better, thinking that the red pills may have already begun to do some good. Sitting all day and viewing the pictures that I have taken, uploading to Facebook and emailed back to Sophie.
16:00 Meeting with the architect and review of the new drawings and calculations for the changes we made in the village, looks promising. I take home some issues for decision by the Loof Trustees. (here photo of new blue print)
21:30 Flying to Sweden means for a stopover in Doha, some mixed feelings, have experienced so much this week, but so nice to come home. It has been hard, especially as I have been unwell, it will feel good to get home and rest up!
Wednesday, 24 September
6:30 (Swedish time) Home at the airport, got some sleep on the flight so I feel quite refreshed, think the time change will help me a bit too. I get through the airport quickly and smoothly Quickly and smoothly some difference compared to Kathmandu.
8:27 The train goes from Arlanda to Stockholm Central Station.
9:24 The train goes from Stockholm to Toreboda, sitting and thinking through the trip and all I have been through and experienced, very grateful to have had the opportunity to make this journey and get a chance to be involved and help and contribute by Loof Foundation. Thanks Sophie!