By Katie Hilborn
I never quite imagined myself as a foreman. Engineering, buying construction material, gathering workers, making measurements... It feels good to build something, starting from nothing.
"Thank God for Krish!" I found myself saying.
My trusty Nepalese field manager! He's confident, assertive, caring, and gets things done! Not to mention, we share the same vision for our project. I rarely have to tell him what I want or how I see things going. It's truly synchronicity.
My eyes wander back to the digging. Organized piles of stone and dirt are in an outline of an L-shaped structure. Krish is yelling at one man as he digs. It looks heated; something is up. Their voices, in a language I cannot comprehend rise up over the top of each other at a rapid pace.
"Krish? Everything okay?" I ask apprehensively.
He looks at me quizzically.
"So you're not angry?" I chime in after a moments stare-off.
"No of course not!" Krish replies nonchalantly.
Ah the Nepali. I'm laughing on the inside for my mistake. I will never quite understand their tone. I frequently find myself wondering why everyone sounds like they are Kung Fuing a cinder block when they converse! It causes great confusion.
"No worry, I manage everything," he adds as my worry wrinkle on my forehead fades away.
It's been a busy few days. I've been tirelessly trying to sort out our banking woes - transferring money into Nepal by avoiding the exuberant fees and exchange rate commissions! Nepal government laws forbid money departing Nepal; though will gladly allow it to flow in.
To further the headache, American laws make it egregious as well.
There is a perpetual fear of money laundering. Thus, opening a business account here is a long and tedious process involving a lawyer and authorizing a local Nepalese as a grantor to our holdings. Humph.
In the end, we've sorted a bank-to-bank transfer, but I'm convinced Wells Fargo should donate their wire fees to nonprofits. Come on Capitalism!
Tea has just arrived.
Brought down from the cliff-top from a shop next to the school. The men take their drink and cookies and sit fervently in a circle, sweaty from their labors. We exchange smiles and they share their tea with me.
We're paying them a fair-trade wage, but my mind starts to wander to the national average. Factory workers, for example, earn a meager $2/day in this country.
I often think about how hard people work in this country and it still saddens me. I wish I could ease their back pains, assuming they have one. Having just trekked into the high himalaya to visit some schools, back disintegrating under the weight of my pack, and knees swelling to a balloon from the 6,000+ steps daily, I can sympathise with their hard labor.
I think I will buy them lunch and bring some coca-cola for them tomorrow. Not that I'd ever support people drinking this, but it is a luxury here. Besides, I hear the best way to men's hearts are through their bellies :)
After tea, the men get back to work. Two are digging a ditch in the outline of the shed while another is hacking a round white stone brought up from the gorge bed. The tool of choice, similar to an axe, is swung high above his small frame then allowing gravity to take care of the rest, slams down onto the stone.
Only a small piece of rock breaks away. He laboriously begins the process again.
Once broken into smaller bits, the rock will be used to fill the ditch, then hand-tossed cement will be poured into the cravasses to form the foundation.
Seems like it should hold.
But then again, when you live in country where most concrete construction is done my hand, one hopes for the best. Luckily they are skilled in cow shed construction.
Left: Our tractor from the bluff, stuck in the bush.
Right: Seeming like clouds in the distance, the mighty Annapurna peeks out from amongst the haze.
The high sun is now beginning to fade in the distance. My Mac is about to crash because electricity is scarce up on this bluff overlooking the river. Internet has been slower than a turtle and is sometimes out for days. Loading a picture could take more or less 20 minutes each go.
I take this as my cue to head home and stop yelling at the computer. Besides, who could be frustrated when the mighty Annapurna decided to show her face amongst the haze? It allows one to take a moment's pause to be present and mindful.
Tomorrow will be another day on the construction site afterall.