It was a three-hour drive to Maya’s Village, Bhotenamlang, in the district of Sindhopalchok. After Kathmandu, the road was dirt and stone. The driver was a champion. The surroundings were stunning. The settlements we passed were devastating… (But I had no idea what I was going to see in the days that followed…)
When we got there things were tentative. Actually, I was tentative. To be more precise, I went through a mini existential crisis. What am I doing here? Why did I come? What can I do…? I’m useless. Unlike me, Maya had no time for self reflection. She was arranging lunch, introducing people, saying goodbye to a group who had built the temporary school and welcoming the new group at the same time.
We ate in Maya’s home – a wooden hut with a tin roof, a few goats outside and a dirt floor. Due to their hospitality, I completely forgot this was a temporary shelter they had built after their 3 story home collapsed in the earthquake.
We went to see the nearest school. Tyler – Shailee’s husband, checked out the toilets with a recently graduated engineer, Suman. Others were figuring out where to build the temporary shelters for the teachers – who had been left homeless. The principal was there in his demolished office space.
There is a magic tree here next to the school where people gather to to talk, think and look at the world.
Following another meal we walked up the hill to see the water source for the village. “It is 20 minutes up this hill,” Maya told me. 40 minutes later, we were still walking…
Walking on the mountains is completely overwhelming. Because we are so high – all you see is your own surroundings on one side and then the heights of the mountain opposite you on the other. I remembered Shailee telling me about the spirit of Everest – how it has a language that you feel when you are there. I can only imagine what that’s like when I am sensing a spiritual overwhelm only a quarter of the way to that height. I share my internal experience with Shailee. “Oh, in our language, we don’t even call this mountain. We call them hills.”
The night ended with a joy that trumped my initial trepidation. Once I’d got used to the pace, the dust, the complete lingual isolation, all of a sudden I was part of a family who welcomed me as their own. This was like a dream. I sat with people I had only just met and felt like I had known them all my life. Men and women with huge smiles and great spirits surrounded us. I forgot why I had come here. I felt like I was with a new family.