Nepal has been in my bucket list for a future adventure and it is sad that it had to be after the devastating earthquake last April 25, 2015; we had to go. Knowing Nepal as adventurers’ haven, this time we come to respond and help people in Jogimara, Dhading; and not for the thrill of travel and adventure, but for a sustainable community service on education.
TRAVELLING TO NEPAL
It was a Friday afternoon last June 26, 2015 when we headed to Nepal. We were excited to get to Suvarnabhumi Airport in Bangkok after a month of preparation, concerts, raising funds, and purchasing of goods and equipment for the trip, studying our destination, talking to our Nepal counterparts; we were ready to go. From Bangkok to Malaysia was one hour and forty-five minutes; an hour and a half transit at the Kuala Lumpur International Airport then we had four hours to beat boredom on an airplane to Nepal.
We were so apprehensive to go through Tribhuvan International Airport in Kathmandu. We heard a lot of stories about airport customs officials charging too much and taxing everything that went through. We only had educational materials and for the four of us; we had a total of 120 kilos, thirty kilograms for each of us, of luggage allowed for us to carry.
Upon arrival in Kathmandu, the Tribhuvan International Airport is small. It had simple and basic functions for them to receive people from different parts of the world. It is chaotic but at least it is an airport and we just went through immigration and customs just fine. Taking a taxi from there to Thamel was quite a chore, we used our bargaining skills to get a good price so that we could save some money for our work in Jogimara. Thamel is a tourist area in which people from different parts of the world would get a hotel there and live for a couple of days before they go to where ever they want in Nepal. It had shops, bazaars, restaurants, adventure shops, the nightlife and all. Our contact, Prakash Aryal, already made a reservation for us and all we had to do is get to Nana Hotel.
Our luggage of four boxes, two supply bags, four backpacks, and other things fit into a van taxi. From the airport to Thamel, it was dark and strange. We kind of like got used to the busy night traffic in Bangkok to the airport; but there, it was quiet and we saw structures on the road that had been destroyed by the earthquake and it was dusty and bumpy that added a weird feeling plus excitement to only to remember that we are in Nepal and not somewhere else.
Entering Thamel, the taxi went through a narrow street and there were smaller taxis going through a narrow street, they were everywhere honking relentlessly, people were screaming on the road; the driver told us it was the night life. To us it was like three gangs fighting on the street with baseball bats and knives.
We found Hotel Nana and as we looked at it, we were not so sure if it looks like a hotel. It was close, the steel shutter was down and the taxi driver had to pound on it to make a loud noise for the guard to open. We checked in and waited for Prakash Aryal to show up in the morning together with his brother Ganesh, our contacts in Kathmandu and Jogimara.
It was not really a good night sleep, people shouting, screaming, and honking on the street, it was quite a fright night and we were not sure if we woke up in a dream as we looked outside from our window. There were hotels, inns, guesthouse, and shops; everywhere were structures, some destroyed by the earthquake but yet the city had better buildings than the rural areas so they were saved. You have to scan from the view to find the nearest mountain since the city is congested of buildings, your eyes are drawn to them.
We already purchased a lot in Bangkok; our physical education equipment together with our trekking equipment. We have come prepared but yet we can’t get everything in Bangkok since we also had to be careful in taking over baggage or else we would have to pay extra and very expensive penalties so we have had to get the rest of our needs in Kathmandu.
Ali Bernie Buga-ay (Project Leader and Founder of Adventchores), Glenn Steward Buga-ay (Project Assistant and a member of Adventchores), Richard Rattanthanakul (Liferevo Founder and Businessman), Rattaphan Ryan Joe (Entrepreneur and CEO), were ready to do the job. Saturday, we can’t do anything, it is a special holiday for Nepal and for the Hindus, so almost all of the shops were closed; we just had to wait for Sunday.
Sunday; we met Prakash, Ganesh and Mahesh, they are brothers who come from Jogimara and they were there to help us out in shopping for educational goods to be taken there. We walked from our hotel in Thamel to a shop in Kathmandu for forty-five minutes and we saw so many interesting things, peoples, sites and the display of culture on the streets. People, ancient temples and structures, cars, rickshaws, taxis, bicycles, vendors, shoppers and all, composed colourful ensemble of chaotic display of culture and life.
We got into an alley where there were shops selling educational materials. We met a man of whom we spent the whole day bargaining and purchasing the following items for Rastriya Secondary School in Jogimara: drawing pencils, erasers, paper cutters, sketchbooks, watercolor paint sets, drawing paper, whiteboard ink, whiteboard markers, permanent markers, steel rulers and plastic rulers, latex glue, scissors, cutters, flatbed cutters, crayons, extra cutter blades, envelops, staplers and extra staples and paintbrushes.
We also bought carpentry tools like hammers, pairs of pliers, saw, nails, steel tapes, square, screwdrivers, and a tool box. We bought these stuff in order for us to independently work on with some carpentry works at the school.
Glenn had to buy more food and extra cover for the rain aside from what we have taken from Bangkok. There were four of us in our team and plus the other people who were involved in the project has to be taken care of.
That was an exhausting day and we even skipped lunch just to finish purchasing everything before we headed for Jogimara. There is no coming back after that because it is going to be a constant uphill hike and to go down for something is an additional problem. Ryan looked at me and asked, “What about lunch?” I said, “We have to buy everything now and get some food later.” We finally found dinner and we had it on top of a roof deck of a famous restaurant in front of Durbar Square in Kathmandu. Richard was happy, we had to eat a lot now for we were famished. The four of us and Prakash talked about the place and the work in Jogimara while we were waiting for our food and we also enjoyed the ancient view which was also destroyed by the earthquake.
We repacked all our equipment to get ready for the next day and we just have to get some good night’s sleep to get ready for the most awaited adventure to get to Jogimara.
THE JOURNEY TO JOGIMARA
After our breakfast, we loaded our baggage on a rented truck to bring us to Jogimara. We left quite late but we had a very enthusiastic driver that scared the heck out of us as he drove to Jogimara. The road is not that wide, it had two lanes, not enough road signs and it is a dangerous mountain road in which truck drivers and private drivers have no regard to life.
Stopping for lunch near Dhading, our team have to take enough food for the hike going up to Jogimara. The team indulged with the famous fish viand in Dhading. After a while we were on the road again, excited to where our driver would bring his truck to a stop, he stopped on the left shoulder of the road after a bridge and we saw the small town of Hogtikulah.
The students waited for a long time, they were there to help us bring the goods up the mountain. There were houses and shops built on the each side of the near 50º inclined path going to Jogimara and the steps are cemented to start the journey. We unloaded our truck and gave some of our things to the students together with our backpacks, they went ahead. For the locals, it would be a two hours and a half hike, but for us it might be five hours to seven. Anyways, it took us seven hours to climb and I could not even carry my backpack and Ganesh took that burden from me. Richard and Ryan were also hiking light as they only had day packs to carry and some of my stuff. Glenn carried his backpack all the way up.
The journey to Rastriya Secondary School was only going up and up and nothing else. It was not difficult but it has been a long time for me since I last had a climb like that. I had been sitting in my studio painting birds and landscapes and though I go out with my family camping, hiking, kayaking, fishing and all sorts of adventures; they were not going up.
We reached the school at about 7:00 in the evening, we stopped for a while and we continued hiking for another thirty minutes to Ganesh’s house where his parents prepared a lovely Nepalese dinner.
We were exhausted, we talked to the family, shared our experiences and gave our thanks to the mother of Ganesh as she was a fabulous cook. Later that night, we were given our places to sleep, Richard and Ryan had chosen to sleep inside the house, Glenn and I decided to sleep at the front porch of the house where it was open. We wanted to smell the mountain breeze and feel the cold of the night. We can’t sleep together since Glenn and I snore a lot and while Richard and Ryan can’t sleep with that raucous human noise, we had to be out.
RASTRIYA SECONDARY SCHOOL
We woke up early thinking that we would be going to the school at 7:00 am but Ganesh told us that we are going to the school at 9:00 am an hour before the flag line at 10:00 am. They start late and so we had some time to eat another great typical Nepalese-Jogimara meal. It was Tuesday morning and everything was beautiful as we looked at the mud house of Ganesh’s parents, the view was great, the cloud was right in front of us, the sun was bright and the birds were chirping, it was a lovely day.
From the house of Ganesh, we had to hike going up to the main road for eight minutes and then follow the road down to the school. When we got there, the faculty and staff were waiting for us in order for us to have a brief introduction of our intentions and scheduling of what we were going to teach the students.
After the meeting with the school principal and the staff, we knew exactly what to do then, so I gathered the team and appointed tasks to each one for the whole week. For Richard and Ryan, they were there only for two days. I was in-charge of the formal arts and music. Glenn took care of the physical education program, Richard was to hold the butterfly and dream art for two days, and Ryan was to assist and work with grades one to five students.
During the flag line, we were introduced to the students, we were given garlands of local flowers, and they were so beautiful and fragrant as they hang around our necks. The students had their homeroom time and we surveyed the school looking for a potential Art Room and Music Room, Storage Room, and PE room.
As our work started, we met the students from different grade levels. I taught students from Grades 6 – 10 for five straight periods in the morning for art, drawing and painting; and another five straight periods with the same students from the morning for music using the Recorder as their musical instrument. It was difficult at the start since it was the first time for them in everything. After they have understood the basics in painting, I showed them how beautiful it is to paint and draw Jogimara. In music, I taught them how to play the Recorder with corresponding notes and later that day they were able to perform Marry Had a Little Lamb and Jingle Bells.
Richard and Ryan, taught also for five straight periods in Grades 1-5 from morning till the afternoon of Tuesday and Wednesday, June 30 to July 1, 2015. The Butterfly Spirit was Richard’s concept; he asked the students to draw a butterfly and he explained to them the idea of being a butterfly. Ryan and Richard taught students to draw their dreams. And on the following day, Wednesday, they had to leave for Kathmandu so that they could have extra days before their flight back to Bangkok on Saturday July 4, 2015.
Glenn, used a lot of his time zoning and assigning students to accomplish the sports program. He had to make goals for futsal, volleyball, and Sepak Takraw, and finally on Friday of July 3, he was able to make a sports event. He taught them the basic rules in playing the ball games he introduced to them properly.
THE FINAL DAY
Everything was so fast, we thought we had so much time and then we had to say our goodbyes. Richard and Ryan already left in the morning of Thursday July 2, 2015 and both Glenn and I felt the pressure right away as our time was also running out.
On the last day, I finalized the art and music classes teaching only the Grade 10 students for two straight days from morning until the afternoon. I tried to teach them all the basic knowledge and skills I could give in order for them to share to the younger grades after we have left. Glenn did his Physical Education Tournaments; and then all students just disappeared from the school. We thought that the students would stay for the whole afternoon of Friday July 3rd, only to find out later that every Friday is a half school day so that students can get ready for the weekend holiday which is Saturday and on Sundays, students would come back to school.
I asked some selected students to come back at 4:00 in the afternoon for me to take portraits and videos of their traditional songs and dances. The time was so limited because I did not realize that some of those students that I asked to come back had to hike back to their homes just to wear the best of their traditional costumes and then hike back up the school for two hours to the school. I had to be fast, I took the videos first and then asked the students to pose for their portraits using natural light. I panicked for the sun was setting fast telling me that my time was over.
EVERY GOOD THING HAS TO COME TO AN END
It was Saturday, July 4, 2015. Our bags were packed and we’re ready to go. We had a simple breakfast of instant oatmeal with dried fruits, had our coffee and we left the school with Ganesh and three other boys led by Sungdip. We gave our back packs to them and we were hiking down the mountain of Jogimara light and easy. To the boys, our heavy backpacks are nothing compared to the heavy sacks of corn and root crops they carry down the mountain. Sungdip is the most responsible of the boys and we trusted him on several things. He was also a very good student in arts and music.
As we passed by from one student’s house to another, it was very sentimental since they have waited for us to pass by. As we stopped by Pravitra’s house she welcomed us and we said our goodbyes. They also gave us more Naspate, a local apple-pear like fruit that is really good to eat as you hike because it gives a lot of refreshing juice.
We also passed by Guma’s house and there she was, dressed with her best, waiting to give us garlands of colourful flowers and she gave us that red dot on our forehead murmuring some good luck wishes. I saw some tears in her eyes, she was holding back. We said thank you and I told her to be strong, study hard and help the community move forward.
We passed by another student who was waiting patiently and as we passed by she threw flowers at us for good luck, blessings, and gratitude. She cried, it was the first time in her life to learn something real and now we are gone. She was dear to my brother Glenn so he comforted her and told her to be strong and to study hard. Leaving, she just cried some more, we had to say goodbye and we ourselves were sobbing deep within as we had to turn our backs.
The final stop was at Rita’s house. She threw flowers at us again and gave us another set of garlands and she added another red dot on our heads for good luck and blessings. Rita was sad to see us go. We told her to be resilient and help the community as they grow and learn together.
HOGTIKULAH ONCE AGAIN
Our steps were numbered soon we have to say goodbye to Ganesh and the three other students. We tried our best to breathe the last mountain smell of Jogimara. Going down the ridge of Jogimara, we felt like we have abandoned and deserted the students. Guilt was settling in as we thought that we could have stayed longer but our calculated plans told us that we really had to go.
We stayed and waited for a while in Hogtikulah for Prakash to take us to Pokhara which is supposed to be the place in which we could rest and observe ourselves if we contracted some disease before going back home.
It was a protocol that I imposed to the group that we must have extra days to know and understand our bodies and also debrief ourselves from the pressure and sentiments of leaving Jogimara and the people after we have learned to love them.
An hour later, Prakash showed up. He got off the bus, and now we have to wait for another bus to take us to Pokhara.
THE SUM OF ALL THE EFFORTS
We have taken so much in Jogimara. Richard, Ryan, Glenn and I have learned to love them and the students and teachers have a special space in our hearts. Our effort right there is 100% sustainable since we did not just deliver and dropped the goods right there, we taught them how to use them and they have learned so much from our teaching and mentoring; and that using the materials that were given to them, it made learning more practical as experienced and added life skills.
Our art materials together with educational materials will last for two to three years. Our Recorders as musical instruments can stay and be used for five years or even more as long as they don’t get lost. Our Physical Education equipment can stay for two to three years as long as they go find the balls after accidentally kicking them off the mountain of Jogimara. The shirts that we have taken can clothe the students for a long time until the next visit.
Our Educational Relief Effort touched 13 teachers and the whole community of Jogimara as we have given educational materials and taught 325 students. We had a surplus of materials which we also have given to Mahesh Aryal, a teacher of another school in a different location, which also helped 300 plus students. In total, we have made a comprehensive and positive effort for the community in Jogimara as Ganesh Aryal presented to us; and in Salang, 50 kilometers away from Jogimara, where Mahesh Aryal is also teaching.
GRATITUDE TO ALL
This project “Educational Relief Effort” in Jogimara, Dhading, Nepal will never be possible without the help of the people who contributed financially and in kind who would want to remain anonymous. From the bottom of our hearts and behalf of the people of Rastriya Secondary School we thank you.
We also would like to thank the following charities, companies and people who relentlessly worked hard and supported us to get to Jogimara:
The adventure companies: Tank, Thailand Outdoor Shop, Mountain Hippo, Kit Camp, Logonet, FBT Sport, Deuter, and Karana; thank you so much for sharing your equipment and indeed our trip has been a lot easier as we have taken those adventure essentials and without your help we could have could have not survived our trip.
Marcato, Acoustica Music Instruments, Cassia Café, Sakura Thailand, Dg Arts & Crafts for providing the musical instruments and the art materials that we have taken to Jogimara. Without all of you we could have had spent so much more.
Bangkok Charity Orchestra, conducted by Khun Chulayuth Lochotinan; The orchestra has had been rehearsing for this fund raising campaign and it has never been easy since Mr. Lochotinan had to work with each section of the orchestra with the difficult music they had to perform with the Bangkok Charity Choir which was trained by Mr. Eugene Eustaquio. Surely, there were a lot of people and companies working with BCO and we would also want to thank them.
Liferevo, founded by Richard Rattanthanakul for having the vision to help Nepal plus performing with the Bangkok Charity Orchestra and Bangkok Charity Choir was extraordinary. Performing also your composition for the concert was fantastic and also you have come together with Rattaphan Ryan Joe to Nepal to help us start and finish the job. There were those who also worked with Richard, thanks for your support and belief that this can be done.
Harrow International School and Mr. John Herbeson for having a jazz concert with the Harrow Jazz Band that sold out CDs that supported and contributed to our effort in Jogimara with Mr. Glenn Steward Buga-ay as the representative of that prestigious school. Ms. Susie Chan for the extra contribution in which our effort was made possible.
Al Baybay for again doing a fabulous job in booking the tickets and working on our crazy schedules. For Arpha in managing the basics and essentials needs for the trip, for Charity for briefing the team, for Karlo and Ayen for taking us to the airport, for Elcid cooking our last supper before leaving Bangkok. For Joan in helping us pack and get support for clothing.
AHRD Nepal – Adventist Help for Rural Development Nepal and Attractive Travel Nepal together with Prakash Aryal the founder and his brothers Ganesh and Mahesh for posting on Facebook the need in Jogimara, or else we could have not come.
And finally to Bernie, Richard, Glenn, and Ryan. Thank you so much for the ultimate sacrifices that you did for the sake of Jogimara, you made it up there and did what has to be done.
Putting all our funds and efforts together we made a 100% sustainable impact into the community of Jogimara, Dhading, Nepal. Bangkok Charity Orchestra and Liferevo, thank you so much for working with Adventchores. Bangkok Charity Orchestra, Liferevo and Adventchores working together, we have raised 250,000.00 Baht for the project in Jogimara, Dhading, Nepal. This amount was used to purchase music, art, educational materials, travel allowances and equipment, and what was necessary for the charity trip. Thank you for your support and God Bless to each one.