Field Trip- Baluwa VDC, Kavrepalanchowk

The whole summer course students were divided into 4 groups. I was in group 3. It was decided that Group 1 and group 3 were going to be sent to Baluwa VDC and Group 2 and Group 4 in Dapcha VDC. We had Barry, Mark and Tammy with us and I felt relieved because of their presence.

The night before we went to the village, Barry explained the dos and don’ts in the villages.  Some of them were – dress conservatively, if the villagers  offer you something and if you don’t want it, say I already had my lunch, or I’m already full. Some of the instructions were very helpful even to us Nepalese. Being a medical doctor, he would always tell us “Watch what goes inside your mouth”. Dr. Bim talked about the leeches and that seemed to scare everyone. Barry told us how to get rid of the leeches, which later few boys imitated and made it look very funny.

The day of the departure from DLR, all our bags were packed. I was feeling nauseous and excited at the same time. With the we-miss-you-all faces, we left Dapcha group in the next bus and Baluwa group took off at 10am. I sat beside Elliot my American friend. We talked about things in general and I explained to him about organic lassi (yogurt shake) that was famous in the highway.  It was getting hotter every minutes.

Our bus was huge and the road was narrow. This reminded me of an article I had read in the magazine somewhere. It said that the Nepalese drivers are one of the most competent drivers because they have the ability to drive in the geographically difficult highways. And also they have the patience to wait for the endless traffic jam. At one point our bus came face to face with another bus coming from the opposite direction. So, the driver had to back the bus and after few minutes we were travelling at our normal pace again.

At around 12pm, we reached Baluwa. Our bus was parked right in front of the Dhulikhel Hospital Outreach Center. It was extremely hot and humid.

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We had a lunch pack from DLR and had our lunch under a big tree. Later, that big tree became a place of meeting point and a memorable venue for the entire Baluwa group. 

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After much discussion, we were allocated at different houses. My roommates were Anat, Hadas and Kelli. At first, we were taken to a house which had small room, so we were again taken to the next home, were we could comfortably stay. Our “host dad” was Mr. Kanchan Acharya. He was always smiling and made us feel welcomed. We also met our “host mom” who was also friendly.  We had “host granny” and “host brother”. All of them were very talkative. My career as a translator had started!

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After a bit of chit chat, we returned back to the tree. Some of them started talking to the villagers. Some of our Non Nepali friends practiced Nepali with the kids. I was not feeling well. I laid with someone’s backpack  as my pillow. Segev started playing flute and that acted as a stress reliever to me. I will never get tired of listening to his music.

 

Mark had once said in the classroom, “Kids are one of the best sources of information”. He was correct. The kids at Baluwa were very friendly and seldom shy. With a bit of persuasion, they would sing songs and dance. We gained lots of information about the number of schools, local vegetation, rivers around, local bazaar nearby etc.

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As the dusk approached, we were served tea by the catering nearby. We sat in circles and talked about random stuffs. The cool breeze had started making me feel at ease. The night sky looked beautiful. I remembered my family and my boyfriend. I had forgotten to call them. I felt I was far away from them.

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From the next day, we worked very hard. At first we had very little clue, regarding what information to collect. By talking to some of the villagers, we found that water was the main problem there. So we roamed around the villages in groups and asked questions randomly. We were careful not to promise anything to the villagers. We explained them clearly that we were there only to get the information about the village and its problems. The villagers cooperated with us very well.

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We visited “Beaten-rice” Mill, a regular Mill that grinded rice and maize, few shops, a nearby water spring popularly called as “Ranipaani” and paddy fields.  We had our food at the “Women Center” prepared by the catering group. We were lucky enough to have spaghetti, puri tarkari, samosa and other yummy edibles.

Visiting Baluwa, has been one of the best experiences so far. I think I will go back there again someday! 

 

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Week Two at the Top of the World

Sunday

With the end of our break, we resumed classes at KU on Sunday, covering a range of topics from analysis, synthesis, and design of solutions, to the generation and potential of biogas (an alternative and renewable energy source derived from the composting of organic waste and excrement). We also reviewed the results of Steve Forbes’s reconnaissance trip to Solumbu, the village we were planning to do our fieldwork in. His presentation mainly covered the road conditions, which were mostly tight, muddy, congested, and crumbling. The expedition (minimum 5 hours in optimal conditions) would need to be taken by jeep, meaning a large increase in the number of vehicles needed and the chance of delays or incidents. Our staff discussed this risk and decided it would be to the benefit of the program to return to planning to the plan of doing our fieldwork in the villages of Baluwa and Dapcha (Khanalthok).

Steve Forbes goes over the Solumbu recon

Steve Forbes goes over the Solumbu recon.

Monday

Monday brought a slight change in the daily routine with a presentation on improved cooking stoves by a KU graduate student and a tour of the lab where the actual stoves are developed and tested before being used in field tests. One of the prototypes exhibited was a stove that uses the differentials between the room temperature air and the air heated by the stove to generate a resonance in a series of PVC pipes. This resonance was then captured by speakers to generate electrical energy which can be used for a range of purposes. It was amazing to see that such an impressive concept can originate from the need for improved basic stove. Hopefully the student team in charge of the research can see it through to successful field testing and implementation. We also began to develop our plans of attack within our teams for our village appraisals that were soon approaching in less than a week.

Tuesday

We spent Tuesday in Kathmandu as a sort of workshop/free day. The morning started by turning down an alley in Thamel to enter the workshop of Sanu Kaji. As the founder of the Foundation for Sustainable Technology (FoST), Sanu Kaji has explored and developed several solutions to the basic needs of the people of Nepal and various other countries. His main endeavor is the creation of a sustainable fuel source for cooking. The common fuels of Nepal (along with other countries) are either wood, kerosene, natural gas, or liquid petroleum gas (LPG). The use of wood has led to the deforestation of over 80% of Nepal, and requires people in rural areas to spend valuable hours each day searching for fuel for their cooking fires. The other fuels have their fair share of downsides as well. Not only are they unsustainable, they must be imported, thus driving up the cost and making them vulnerable to shortages. These problems are only amplified as you approach the more remote regions of Nepal. To solve this crucial national issue, Sanu Kaji developed briquettes that can be made from many organic wastes, including sawdust and tea and coffee wastes. He has also designed stoves to efficiently burn the briquettes that come in several sizes, even a trekking version!

After his presentation, we got to get our hands dirty in the learn by doing mentality. Donning our aprons, we split into groups and set to work creating pulps from newspapers and egg cartons and cutting grasses. Once our materials were ready, additional wastes of coffee, tea, and sawdust were spread on the ground. Each type of mash was mixed by bare hands with everyone digging in. As we started to finish, the monsoon showed its true colors and unleashed a torrent of rain. We rushed inside for a great lunch cooked on FoST stoves and briquettes before heading back out our work area to start pressing the mashes into briquettes. I must say that it was extremely satisfying to watch as the FoST designed presses gave birth to several tightly pressed briquettes which we had mixed ourselves not an hour earlier. It is astounding to think that this technology, which uses waste collected from the streets was only created by Sanu Kaji as recently as 2008. He has successful introduced the concept to a number of communities across several countries since that time.

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Prepping the mash.

Mixing

Mixing

Chopping ingredients.

Mixing

 

 

 

 

 

Finished product ready for the fire.

Finished product ready for the fire.

The workshop concluded in the afternoon and we were turned loose to explore as we chose before taking the bus back to Dhulikhel at night. Some played indoor football, some went shopping, and some went dining on a variety of cuisines as a respite from the routine daalbat and curries. I went with the small group of students that ventured to the temple complex of Pashupatinath. Braving the downpour, we grabbed taxis across the city, but on our arrival at the temple, we found out that foreigners were not allowed inside, and the fee to walk around the outside would be Rs. 1000 each. We weren’t thrilled. Given the rain, limited sights, and price, we were about to walk away and return to Thamel when the guards agreed greatly discounted group fee thanks to the quick negotiating of the Nepali students that were with us. Walking around the outside of the temple, we were first shown the area used for cremation ceremonies. Here there were around 6 active cremations going on on the banks of the river. Seeing the stark contrasts of the raging pyres, the unrelenting rain, and the fast and muddy river created an image that was quite powerful and sobering. From there, we crossed the river and were given a tour of several small shrines, a number of which formed a line which you could look through, a sort of infinity mirror effect. The guide seemed only interested in telling us about the details that were related to sex, giving the impression that the tour was designed to appeal to a younger crowd. It left me unimpressed with the experience, though I understand why we could not enter the temple out of cultural respect.

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Back in Thamel, we walked to a restaurant called Fire & Ice (interesting name choice for a pizzeria). It proved quite popular to locals and tourists alike, which is always a good sign in my eyes. The food was tasty and decently priced, and ample seating for our sizable group of eight allowed for a fun and social atmosphere. Since time was running short, a few of us dipped out early for some last minute haggling for gear before the bus back to Dhulikhel and the DLR as the end to our excursion.

Wednesday & Thursday

Back to class for some more lessons on appropriate technologies and sustainable development approaches. We focused on group time and getting ready for our departure to the field on Sunday.

Friday & Saturday

Free time to do with as we pleased. Some of us went to Kathmandu for some last minute shopping, relaxing, or comfort food. Some stayed in Dhulikhel to explore the old city and marvel at the traditional buildings, many of which are visibly slanted from past earthquakes.

My personal adventure in Kathmandu was quite a full day. Taking the public bus from Dhulikhel, my group arrived in Kathmandu near Ratna Park. We then walked to Thamel, which would be the hub of our activities. After shopping around for our various necessities and souvenirs, taking lunch at our preferred restaurants, it came time to make plans for the rest of the day. Rather than spend the night in the city, I went with a few others to see a movie at the Civil Mall Cinema. Perched on the 7th floor of a shopping complex, the theater easily rivaled anything we would find at home in the USA or Israel, and at a fraction of the cost. It’s interesting when you get so into the movie and comfortable in the building that you forget that you’re even in Nepal. Then someone answers their phone and starts speaking Nepali, snapping you back to reality. After the movie and dinner, we caught a taxi to go back to the DLR for the night. Towards the end of the ride as we were passing through Banepa, the car suddenly died. We tried to help the driver identify the problem, which he guessed to possibly be related to the starter, though we thought the carburetor. Unfortunately, fiddling with the heavily jerry-rigged engine only made the problem worse. After what seemed close to an hour and a half, we decided to throw in the towel. As luck would have it, a police patrol drove by and offered to take us the rest of the way. We said our goodbyes to the driver, gave him the fare, some snacks and water for the night, and jumped in the back of the truck with the officers. We finally walked into the hotel at midnight, ready to crash from our long day.

Spotted a street art installation by Invader in Thamel!

Spotted a street art installation by Invader in Thamel!

We’re now making any final preparations before we have to leave early tomorrow morning for our respective villages of Baluwa or Khanalthok (Dapcha). Finally, we’ll get to the communities and be able to interact with the villagers, making our assessments firsthand.

Be back in about a week! See you on the other side.

Will Michul

Cal Poly State University, San Luis Obispo, California, USA

Materials Engineering

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