Volunteering in Nepal with Org4Peace

Part 1:  The Journey

Friday, November 8, 2013.

Fenelon Falls – Pearson Airport

Thank goodness for friends and family.  The Jardines, my dad and Sandy helped us to get all our luggage to the airport – 8 large suitcases, 1 keyboard & stand, 1 guitar, 5 carry ons.  Only 2 suitcases and our carry ons contained our things.  The rest of the luggage and the keyboard were all for the people of the village and the school.

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Toronto – Brussels

The first leg of our journey took us to Brussels, Belgium.  The airline was fabulous.  We all loved the individual, touch screen tvs with movies, tv shows and more.  None of us slept, as we were all too excited.  We had a 3 hour layover in Brussels, at the airport.  Luke and Ella managed to catch a quick nap, as it was now the middle of the night, Ontario time, but sunrise, Belgium time.

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Brussels, Belgium – Mumbai, India (Bombay)

We then boarded the next flight that took us to Mumbai, India.  We all slept on this flight, some of us more than others.  We landed when it was dark, so we were not too sure what life around the airport looked like, until we took off 12 hours later.  The 12 hour layover at the Mumbai airport provided us with some new experiences.  The kids discovered that just because it is a familiar Fast Food Restaurant it does not mean the food will be the same.  Their ham and chicken/bacon subs did not actually have ham or bacon on them, as pork is not eaten by many in India.  The other very new experience was the “Indian” toilets.  When the girls and I went to the bathroom there was a lineup to use the stalls.  There were, however, 2 stalls marked “Indian Toilets” that were free.  Ella and I were desperate, so in we went.  The toilets are porcelain and are embedded in the ground.  They have 2 spots for your feet on either side and a hole in the middle.  There is no seat and no toilet paper.  There is also a hose and tap in the stall. This was our first introduction to what toilets in this area of the world are like and we both survived.  After trying to sleep, without much success, it was time to leave for our flight.  We had to squish into buses on the tarmac and drive to our plane.  Surrounding the airport are some of the slums of Mumbai.  The homes are made of tin and wood, seeming to be pieced together from scraps.  There was barbed wire on the tops of the walls to keep people from going onto the runways.  There were also guards, with machine guns, at various check points.

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Mumbai, India – Katmandu, Nepal

Our next, and last, flight was from Mumbai, India to Katmandu, Nepal.  The plane was much smaller and not as fancy as the previous two.  The flight was less than 2 hours long and the views from the plane were breathtaking.  The descent into Katmandu airport is fairly abrupt and the landing rough, as Katmandu is located between many mountain ranges.  After getting our Nepal Visas and clearing customs, with all of our luggage – thank goodness – we were met by our host Surya and a driver Surice.  They met us with garlands of orange flowers to welcome us and for good luck.  We loaded into the jeep/truck – Jeff in the front seat, the kids and I in the backseat and Surya and our luggage in the back.  The back of the jeep/truck is caged and covered in canvas.  Surya had a bench seat to sit on, but was pretty cramped with the luggage.  Driving through Katmandu is an experience – thank goodness we were just passengers.  They drive on the other side of the road and there really iaren’t any lanes to follow.  Using signals and the horn you weave around other vehicles and people.  Motorcycles squeeze between vehicles and there are many buses, loaded with people, and trucks.  What appears to be chaos is actually very civilized.  Nobody gets angry or aggressive and surprisingly nobody gets in an accident.  It was surprising to us because in Canada people really only use their horns to say hello or if they are angry.  Also, in Canada, everybody seems to be in such a rush to get places and would not tolerate people cutting in or weaving through.  As we headed out of the city and into the mountains the road narrowed to one lane.  The driver would honk for corners to warn potential vehicles or people that we are coming.  The roads are also very rough.  Sometimes it is paved, sometimes dirt, sometimes rock, sometimes holes, sometimes all of the above.  There are many sharp turns and when you do meet another vehicle, there just seems to be enough room to pass each other.  They just patiently wait for them to pass or they for you to pass.  Even though there really aren’t any guard rails, you are winding around a mountain and there weren’t seat belts to wear, I was never afraid for our safety.  Both men were excellent drivers.  Occasionally we would have to stop to speak with the police.  They would check to see who was in the vehicle, check the driver’s papers and then let us pass.  Along the way we stopped at a Chinese market, approximately 20 minutes south of the China border, so Surya could buy us toilet paper.  We thought this was very considerate and were relieved (pun intended).  Our next stop was a rafting company and restaurant.  It was chilly and dark as we sat at the water’s edge.  Despite being a tourist place, it was fairly simplistic.  We ordered french fries (the kids were happy) and mushroom chile.  The food was delicious, but when I ate what I thought was asparagus in my chile, I almost died from the heat – it was not asparagus, but hot peppers!  Surprisingly the kids were able to fall asleep in the cramped quarters of the backseat.  I suppose they were tossed and turned to sleep.  After about 6 hours of driving we arrived at Surya’s home.  Our bedrooms were waiting for us and his wife had prepared a Nepali dinner for us.  Another nice surprise was that he has 2 flush toilets, with seats for his foreign guests!  We were feeling very spoiled – flush toilets and toilet paper.  We were not expecting such familiar comforts.  With the luggage unloaded and our tummies full, we fell into our beds for the night (which was really morning at home).  It was now Sunday, November 10, 2013.  I can’t really say we experienced jet lag as we had had such a strange sleep pattern throughout our journey that we did not care what time it was – we were exhausted and ready to sleep!

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4 thoughts on “Volunteering in Nepal with Org4Peace

  1. I am really enjoying reading your blog. what a life experience for all of you.was talking to your Mom Yest after her appt at the specialist. she sounds very positive and upbeat. take care Luv evie

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