Our host community Barbandi provided a deeply moving insight into Nepali village life as each pair of students and leaders spent two weeks with a different host family. Each morning we met at the work site for a community breakfast before tackling the day’s tasks. In the end we had helped to construct an addition onto a primary school and a set of bamboo monkey bars on its grounds. We also painted a world map and did some other odd paint jobs on site. Students also had the chance to help families with farming during their stays, and so were given a taste of the intensity of work villagers of all ages must endure. Even young children were seen regularly in the rice paddies or carrying loads up and down Barbandi’s monsoon-weathered streets and paths. The hospitality with which we were welcomed in Barbandi was unforgettable and was captured in the closing ceremonies they organized on the night of the 28th. Hauling in speakers and erecting a temporary pavilion against rains (which collapsed once under the weight of suddenly strong winds), our host families, the school’s headmaster and chairmen, members of the Mother Team (a group organized to curtail gambling and other vices in the village), and other villagers threw us a six-hour farewell ceremony with speeches in three languages and traditional dance. Our girls were dressed in traditional Nepali saris, jewelry and makeup, and the boys got off easy with just a traditional cap/topi. We definitely felt appreciated.
Coming out of the mists of Barbandi village, we are now mystified in a new way. The winding streets of Nepal’s cultural capital, Baktapur, reveal intricate wood carvings on almost every building and Hindu alters and temples around almost every corner. Several students have voiced the sentiment that this is where they’d live if they were to move to Nepal. Indeed it would take an extended stay here to learn all of Baktapur’s secrets. We are fortunate to have three days to poke around. Today we will take a local bus up to the Changu Narayan Temple, which was constructed perhaps more than 1,500 years ago. Tomorrow morning we will head to the Buddhist enclave of Bouddhanath for our final two days.
See you soon!