Johan Magnusson’s travel diary with Lööf Foundation, volunteer trip to Nepal , in order to follow up on the building of the family home “Home of Hope”, 3rd visit January 2015.
I have managed to pack a suitcase of exactly 30kg and 7 kg in hand luggage, which is the allowed weight limit. I’ll put some little things in my jacket and carry the camera on my shoulder. In the suitcase, is almost all the things for the orphans or the school, I could just fit my personal items in my hand luggage.
19:20 The taxi picks me up at home, the train seems to be 20 minutes late so there is no rush to Skövde. I’ll take the night train to Luleå which stops at the airport, and I will spend the night at the Ibis hotel, where I arrive at 00:30 in snowstorms, the train was almost an hour late!
09:00 I wake up then get up to eat a leisurely breakfast and do a little exercise.
12:00 I transfer to Terminal 5 in snow chaos, apparently it’s traffic problems in Stockholm and heading out to the airport.
15:00 The flight sets off to Doha. Just ten minutes late, I had feared a much worse delay considering the snow. The twelve snow ploughs did an excellent job of dealing with the situation. I am flying with Qatar Airways in their new Dreamliner, this will make a big difference from previous trips.
23:00 (local time), I land in Doha, not nearly as hot as on previous visits it was only 17 degrees outside, a comfortable temperature. In about 5.5 hours I will set off on a flight to Kathmandu.
I wake up at 3:40. I managed to sleep for an hour, I had found a “quiet room” with comfortable chairs.
03:50 I became upgraded to business class on board, this was a delightful surprise.
04:30 The lift to Kathmandu is on time. I get a delicious breakfast; omelet and cereal with milk, juice and coffee to drink. I managed to sleep for two hours.
10:40 Landing in Kathmandu, I am quite refreshed, despite only three hours of sleep over the last few days.
11:30 It was quick to get through the foreign exchange as well as passport control. One advantage of the business class is that you are first in line for all this. At luggage collection it is chaos (Welcome to Nepal!). The ties are broken so they have simply poured out all the bags in large piles on the floor, I spent about 30 minutes finding my bag.
12:00 Outside is also complete chaos, worse than previous trips, lots of people, cars and police officers. I will just need to find Karma who had come to pick me up for transport to the monastery. The ride is as chaotic as before but I’m starting to think I was getting used to the traffic situation. It is sunny, 18 degrees plus, as well as being dry and dusty. The air is full of smoke and fumes, there are a lot of people wearing surgical masks to help protect them from the thick smoke produced from all the traffic.
12:45 We arrive at the monastery’s hostel. Indoors it’s cold, about 10-12 degrees. I have a meeting with Karma for the planning, it turns out that we can’t go tomorrow as that is the Maoists strike day. They do this because they want more power in the regions of Nepal.
13:30 I’m going with Karma to his business with the stupa buddha (Buddhist prayer hall). This is the biggest in Kathmandu. We walked there, which is a great start to helping me find my way around when I need it.
15:00 I am walking back to my home in the monastery, which was no problem to find.
17:30 I cook freeze-dried food for dinner, I heat water on a camping stove so I can eat some rice and chicken with curry sauce, I thought this was quite good.
19:00 I thought about showering but changed my mind when I realized that the water was about six degrees. I hope solar panels on the roof can heat the water in the morning.
20:00 I am extremely tired and crawl down in the sleeping bag with underwear and socks on as the temperature drops.
08:00 It was a cold night, I would have worn my hat if I had known it was going to be so cold. I can see my warm breath against the cold air when I breathe it is probably just five plus degrees indoors. I am eating apple porridge with cinnamon and coffee for breakfast.
09:00 I had a look at the solar panels on the roof, the sun had began to warm the water, I am hoping for a hot shower later today. I did a little exercise on the roof.
09:30 I went out for a walk, I looked out over the stupa and the department store at the Hyatt (hotel).
10:00 I found the department store but sadly it was closed because of the strike, so I went into the hotel and bought a cup of coffee instead.
11:00 As I left the hotel through the park, I took the opportunity to exercise a bit and sat down on a bench in the sun to rest for a while.
12:30 When I got back to the monastery, I cooked lunch and ate on the roof in the sunshine.
15:00 I had imagined a hot shower, but with much good will I stretched to it being lukewarm.
17:00 I was visited by Karma to complete the final plans on the last day before tomorrow’s trip to Ratankot.
18:00 I made some more freeze-dry food for dinner. It was very cold inside, couldn’t have been over 10 degrees.
21:00 I crawl into a cold sleeping bag with my hat on, sending sms to Sophie and the children. After this I fell asleep.
07:45 Breakfast consists of rice porridge and coffee. Not so cold in the night so I was able to sleep okay. It was just as cold inside today as yesterday.
09:00 Waiting for Karma. In Nepal times are not so important.
09:30 Karma is here and now we can begin the trip. We stopped at a “pharmacy” in Kathmandu and bought some things for the school. Not as good as in Sweden but with a decent range anyway, they had plasters, wound cleaning and wound dressing products. fever and diarrhea medicine, bandages and surgical tape.
13:30 I arrive at the hiking trail to the village. The trip went without incident.
13:50 The walk starts, beautiful as always but very dry at this time.
15:10 I went directly to the school to meet the teachers and hand the medication to them. It was greatly appreciated. The children were practicing volleyball for tomorrow’s tournament at the neighboring village school. It was girls against boys and they were both good, it was very evenly matched.
16:00 I was invited for a visit to see Karma’s family.
16:30 “Checking in” in Community Halls guest room. One could say it had lower standards than the hostel at the monastery. I had a good look at the family home building just next to the Community Hall, it was a lovely sight!
17:00 I am waiting for Shyam (Karma’s brother) who will come with my suitcase of 30 kg via the “way” that leads to the village, you have to have all-terrain vehicles to get around to it. In the meantime, Karma and I are planning the upcoming work week.
21:00 Shyam arrives 6 hours late, nothing new about that in Nepal. There was something wrong with the brakes on his car. Not the right roads to drive on without brakes!
21:15 Late dinner, because I had to wait on my suitcase as that had the rest of the food.
22:00 I crawl into a cold sleeping bag once again.
07:45 I have slept badly, but it is a very beautiful morning, the sun was shining on the snow-capped Himalayan peaks and it warms me when I eat my freeze-dried breakfast; apple porridge with cinnamon and coffee.
09:00 Shyam comes to show, and also talk about the construction. There are workers today as it is holiday.
10:00 Shyam and I set off towards the top of Ratankot to meet and “interview” orphans who will move into the family home. At the top where some of the children live is the 1000 meter rise.
11:00 After an hour of climbing, we meet the first child, a boy whose father killed himself a year ago because he did not have enough land to support the family. Not without feeling depressed, we happened to arrive just at the time of the memorial service for his father, so we were invited to be with him for a while.
11:30 We continue upwards. Stopping and talking, drinking tea in several places. Shyam is well aware of who everyone is from working with them in his great water and toilet project in the village. Up here it’s a great view, plenty of terraces with the Himalayas in the background. In the shady parts it is frosty.
13:00 At the top, we meet two children who will move into the family home, their dad died when a wall collapsed. Their two siblings should stay with the mother until further notice.
14:00 On the way down Shyam comments on everything we see, he has many ideas about what could be improved, but I hear how frustrated he is about the villagers not having the ability to embrace new thinking, but it is not so easy when you are barely literate.
16:00 we are now back “home” and Shyam shows a little more of the construction work.
17:00 We light a “campfire” outside the door of my guest room, its warm and cozy. We are joined by an older man who talks incessantly but I don’t understand a word. Dinner is arranged and I heated a water bottle in front of the fire so that I am able to use at the foot of my sleeping bag.
07:30 I wake up after having slept well. It was warm with the water bottle at my feet.
08:00 I had breakfast in the morning sun, as it was beautiful that day. I found out that it is the same weather every morning for a few months. What if it was also like this at home in Sweden! The villagers were walking past with their cows and goats.
08:30 Construction workers begin to appear at the family home building. Some of them have a one and a half hour walk to work. It’s messy at the site, one of the workers had died of old age during the night.
09:00 There will be seven children for me to “interview” before moving into the Home of Hope.
10:30 I will hand over the cartoons, and all the other things I have with me to give to the school. I receive many garlands and shawls. ”You look like a king” says Karma and laughs. The teachers and the children are very happy. I took a lot of good pictures.
14:00 I took photographs of the building and construction workers. Twelve additional children come for “interviews” before moving to the Home of Hope.
15:00 Shyam shows me the quarries where all the stones for the construction are retrieved, an absolutely amazing job to get the stones. The first quarry is located 25 meters above the road which the stones are carried on, with terraces between. This means that each stone has to be lifted and thrown at least five times before it can be lifted on the truck. The next quarry is located about 20 meters below the road, here Starts a chain of people that send stones between each other up to the truck. After this, they drive on the virtual absence of any road, which means that once again they have to throw all the stones about five meters down, women transport stones in baskets on their backs.
17:00 The old man lit a fire for me and it will stay on until around 20:00. I eat dinner as I enjoy the warmth of the fire and send some text messages to Sweden.
22:00 I had heated two water bottles and added them to the sleeping bag tonight. After, I creep down and fall asleep.
08:00 I eat breakfast in the morning and sun again today. I slept pretty well last night, it takes a few days to get used to non-existent mattresses and the temperatures. I am a little sad that it’s the last morning here, while I also feel some relief to begin the journey home. The police show up, clearly unexpected but apparently this happens once every six months, they wonder where I come from and then they quietly move on.
08:30 Construction workers begin to appear.
09:00 The construction is in full swing, Shyam is in command and it looks great!
09:30 The teachers submit a list of things that are in short supply in school. They are all very thankful and happy about all the things we had done for the school! It feels great!
10:30 The walk towards the car starts, my much lighter suitcase being carried by a villager, but I wear my backpack myself. I hadn’t come that far, when there was a stop with Karma’s and Shyam’s parents, Shyam’s wife and daughter will apparently go with us to Kathmandu.
11:15 We start walking again, the six year old daughter putting up a good fight on the steep trails.
12:00 Down at the suspension bridge in the bottom of the valley, we take water and have a rest.
12:15 We start our trek upwards, quite warm and I start to burn in the sun, I had not thought of sunscreen.
12:35 I stop for a rest and a drink of water, with an unparalleled view of the terraces and the village Ratankot. The six year old struggling on, she had an amazing ability to get around among the rocks in the steep uphill.
13:30 The car is packed, a Suzuki Swift with four adults, one child and a lot of packing. Luckily there isn’t so much traffic, so we are able to handle 90 km in “only” 4.5 hours and without mishap.
18:00 I checked in at the hotel, it was nice to have a hot shower. I ordered pizza to the room and had a rest.
19:00I am Uploading photos to Facebook, chatting with Sophie and my son Martin.
24:00 I went to sleep.
08:00 I ate Lovely breakfast with omelets, bacon and coffee.
09:00 I organized accounting and sorting receipts.
10:00 I went to Karma’s business and paid the transport to the village. We drank tea and made plans for the inauguration of the Home of Hope.
11:00 As I went to the monastery to pay for the room, I start to feel a bit at home on the streets of this district. On the way I buy milk for a mother with a small child for 50 SEK. This lasts about one week for the baby, I felt upset but happy with being able to help.
12:00 Back in Karma’s shop to buy some gifts to bring to Sweden.
14:00 I went to the store to buy honey, pancake batter and spices to bring home.
15:00 Back at the hotel and I pack for the journey home.
16:00 I had some food that consisted of kofta with saffron.
17:15 I have just checked out at the hotel.
17:30I am Going to the airport by a chaotic swarm of vehicles and people.
18:45 I am Sitting and waiting to go through security. It was pretty awkward to get through baggage check, they unpacked the bag, asked questions about why I had honey with me and pancake batter out from Nepal. They wanted to open the packages but I managed to avert it luckily.
23:00 (Qatar-time) Sitting on the flight to Doha. I should be landing very soon. I have just successfully finished transcribing a clear diary on my computer.
01:30 I went to sleep at the hotel.
05:25 Wake-up calls, not at all keen but it was nice to sleep a few hours. I took a quick shower, then had a cup of coffee.
05:55 I jumped on the bus to the airport.
06:45 I am Sitting at the gate, just over two hours until the flight goes. I will try to get to an internet connection so I can send the diary to Sophie. That’s all from me this trip. Thank you for this experience – it has been amazing!
For Lööf Foundation