Friday, September 30, 2016

Hello from Nepal

Thursday, September 29, 2016

Dear Family & Friends,

We are back in Nepal for the 4th time and are here for the usual reasons and to meet the couple we’ve been corresponding with for many months, Elder & Sister Oliphant; they are doing a really good job.  There are several projects that they are closing up, and so we’re here to see those, plus a couple of new projects that we are going to commit to, to satisfy the Nepal government. Our humanitarian agreements allow us to keep two couples in the country.  The other couple is E/S Weaver, who share in the responsibilities here, but do not work with water projects. 

Lately we have received several travel perks.  Several weeks ago when we were returning from West Africa, we were  upgraded to business class the entire way home—this has never happened before.  It was such a gift especially since I had gotten sick on the way home so that lying down the entire way was really appreciated.  When we arrived at the airport to board our Cathay Pacific flight for this trip, we again asked for a free upgrade.  Since the plane did not appear to be full, we were not surprised to be turned down.  Therefore we were really grateful when we went to the gate to hear that we had been upgraded after all!  This was for the long 13½ hour flight from LA to Hong Kong.  We were so very excited and couldn’t believe our luck!  On the shorter flight (6 ½ hours with one stop), our Church travel lady had already gotten us into Business class beforehand.  On the smaller Dragon Air flight, business is slightly better than premium economy but still made the last leg very comfortable.  I was so sleepy by this time that I passed our regularly.  From the time that we left home till we arrived at our hotel in Kathmandu, it had been at least 27 hours.  Showers sure feel good after a long couple of days of flying!  It was very late when we arrived, and even later by the time we got to bed.

While flying on Dragon Air I looked out my window to see the most incredible sight, one I’d never seen before—beneath us the clouds were thick and billowy in various shades of gray; on the horizon we saw the most beautiful sunset (or was it a sunrise?) in a deep orange, highlighted by a streak of brilliant white.  The contrast was stunning.  As I took picture after picture I gave up—there was no way that my camera through that tiny window could even begin to capture that lovely scene.
We are staying at the Shambala Hotel, a new one for us—before we always stayed at the Radisson.  It is less expensive and one that other visiting Church couples now use; even though we could see that it isn’t as elaborate as the other hotel, it is still really nice.  The staff is very helpful and accommodating and have a good reputation.  Everything we need they have: good air conditioning, a nice shower, and a comfortable bed.  There is a beautiful pool at the top of the hotel on the 8th floor.  It is interesting that it sits right at the edge of the building with only a small ditch between the pool and falling off of the hotel.  There is a sign that says not to stand on the edge—what, we have a death wish?

The pool at the Shambala Hotel, 8 stories up; the only barrier to keep you from falling off the top is a small ditch around the edge.

Besides changing hotels, the couples now live in a different apartment and the Church Branch meets in a different building—both structures were condemned in the earthquake a year or two ago. 

I wanted to wake up at 7 AM so as to meet the driver at 8:30 for today’s travels.  I woke up at 5 AM, having gone to sleep at 1 AM…Jetlag.  We traveled with Elder & Sister Oliphant and the mission couple, President and Sister Hodges.  They are stationed in India but are in charge of enough areas that they are often airborne.  They will be leaving for other parts after church tomorrow, which here, is held on Saturday along with all other worshippers, or at least that which is a typical Sunday in the States.  The other oddity is that time here is 15 minutes off of ‘normal’ for the rest of the world.  I think President told us that one of the countries he is over is 30 minutes off of what we consider to be normal. 

We visited three projects in the morning, bringing with us people we have previously worked with—it was so good to see them again.  One was the church’s site monitor, another the man representing CHOICE Humanitarian here in Nepal, the Branch President who lives in this area, and Rakesh.  We traveled first on the crowded but nicely paved main road out of town (English style on the ‘wrong’ side of the road).  Once we headed for our projects the roads were either previously paved but potholed, or rocky dirt roads.  They had rented a van to transport all of us, but the man had a hard time as he often got high-centered.  Sometimes he had to get through mud without getting stuck.  Once he just had us get out so we could walk the rest of the way.  All of these roads wind in all directions and I wonder how they know where they are going.  They are so narrow that they accommodate one car and maybe a biker.  They are laden with students going to and from school, shoppers and workers.  When passing other vehicles we creep past each other trying not to scrape sides.

This is a bathroom block we had built to service the school.  

This is a picture of where the school used to be.  It fell down in the earthquake so that the school had to meet elsewhere, however close by.  Rakesh has now found a donor to rebuild the school, and this is as far as they have gotten.  In the meantime, there are a few people using it, but not too many.  They will have to do a little minor repairing and cleaning when the school is completed, and then the bathrooms can be better taken care of, but at least it didn’t fall down in the earthquake.

The school was having a final celebration, and so when they heard that we were coming to see the latrines they wanted us to join them.  Because of our schedule we only stayed to watch two of the acts—the first was anything but traditional—they danced a modern number that you might see performed in the U.S.  The second was obviously more traditional.  I was actually sad to leave.

We also visited a project that captured a spring, put it in a huge tank, and went to taps next to about 300 homes.  Jim showed them a few construction fixes to ensure that it doesn’t fall apart, and also told them how important it was to get money from every family—the water is metered, but I think many do not pay and they do nothing about it.  Jim encouraged them to be strong, that it was not fair that only part of them should pay.  They need to keep money in their accounts so that when things break down, like the pump, they need to have money to fix it.  This place also had a problem with the government not wanting to hook up the powerline.  The guy was waiting for a bribe.  Finally CHOICE got the government to replace the man, and it was finally hooked up many months later. 

One of the huge water storage tanks supplying an area with clean water.  These projects we looked at today supplied schools and/or homes or both.

I enjoyed walking a bit, sometimes up trails that made me breathe hard, trying not to twist my ankle; sometimes we walked up short, steep trails.  After sitting around for two days in airplanes and airports, it felt good to get some exercise.  The day was pleasant enough but was very humid and eventually hot, so by the end of a few hours we were glad that we were done for the day and could rest up at the hotel.  We were sweaty and dirty and needed a nap.  We were even too tired to use the pool.  We ate lunch at the hotel with the mission president and his wife.  They are also staying here at the Shambala.  Afterwards we ended up falling asleep.  We were supposed to meet E/S Oliphant and E/S Weaver for dinner at the Radisson Hotel and take a taxi with the Hodges’ but we ended up being so tired that we stayed back at the hotel.  In the early evening it rained—we are just at the tail end of the rainy season. 

Good evening from Nepal.

Love, Jim & Karen, E/S Greding, mom and dad

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