Story and photos by WeiYeeng Chin
I felt so honoured by being chosen to be the volunteer to go to Laprak Village, Nepal to help the earthquake victims. Without hesitation, I said yes and I was prepared to depart anytime when everything was confirmed. However, due to political issue between Nepal and India, departure date was uncertain. India was not willing to provide fuel to Nepal, it was really a hard time for them, fewer food ingredients could be delivered to restaurants, fewer vehicles could be moving around too. In Kathmandu, many restaurants were not operating and some schools delayed their reopening because of this issue.
Finally, we have decided to depart on 26/10 and stayed for 10 days in Nepal. We spent 2 nights in Kathmandu to get everything that we needed. Kathmandu city has almost everything, so we could get some stationaries and toys here and brought them to Laprak. We did enjoy the hustle and bustle of the city life too. After buying everything we need, we made a trip to one of the attractions, Durbar Square. We visited the temples and played with those black pigeons. We were amazed at the restaurants in Kathmandu too, they were special and happening at nights.
Woke up early in the morning, met with our guide and another French guy who was going to spend some days in Laprak Village, we started our journey by boarding on a bus. It was so bumpy and the dust outside just kept flowing in. Passengers boarded and left, the number of passengers were not limited, some of them sat on the passageway, some of them even sat steadily on top of the bus.
After 8 hours of bumpy journey and a few hours of trek, we were not there yet. Our guide, Lakman suggested that we could stay a night in the ‘hotel’ we passing by along the journey. This was the first time I stayed in such hotel, no light, no water to bathe and no heaters as well, but we survived, as we knew the following stays wouldn’t be easy to adapt too.
With the rain and the load on our back, the journey seems to take forever. Are we there yet?? We were soaking wet, caused by the sweats and rain. We were getting colder, every step was heavier.
We finally reached Laprak on the second day of the trek, before the sky turned dark. I was totally not prepared for this kind of weather. I was like shouted silently inside: Mummy~~~ I wanted to cry out loud! The villagers told me that the weathers were not as cold in the previous days, but due to the rain the weather at night became so unbearable. Bad things came in twos. I fell down to the mud and my pants just got dirty. I slipped over for ‘N’ times and fell down for 3 times!!! Every time they heard the sound of friction between the mud and my shoes they would turn and checked if I was OK, and then started to laugh at my clumsiness. But it was because my shoes had worn off at the bases.
At that night, we went to this auntie’s house to have our dinner. She has a few little helpers to assist her in daily works. Her husband has passed away during the earthquake. She treated them like her own kids, she keeps them as her helpers because she wants to help this poor family. She will provide them food and some paid for being helpful. She prepared Dal Bhat to us. The food and their friendliness gave me so much warmth.
Our Laprak princess, Priya Miang Gurung is so adorable, smart and hardworking! We appreciated the presence of her. She was like the little translator for her mum too. ‘Hungry’?? This is the question she asked more frequent. Auntie wouldn’t allow us to get hungry. Priya was also our little guide, brought us around the old and new settlement. Her favourite spot is definitely the aero plane place. It is a big field with lots of small flowers, where helicopter takeoff and landing.
I felt like I am having a baby sister, I combed and styled her hair, and played with her. Auntie was like my god mum, she cooked for us, always inquired after our well-being, which moved us a lot. My favourite spot was actually the woodshed where we made the fire. It was a place for me to get warm. We had to chop the woods and kept blowing. This was where I can get hot water for showering too, after 5 days oops! I was like returning to my mum’s generation. The life was not easy, we shouldn’t take all things for granted.
I did survive without internet and phone as charging was not easy too. We had to wait for the solar panel to be charged first and only we managed to get 30% battery.
We spent 2 days in the old village too. The old village was where the villagers used to stay. It had 300 years of history. Old settlement was not as cold, so during the winter season the villagers would actually like to stay in the old village. Also, this season was a season for the funeral (from the earthquake), according to the saying of the priest. We went down to attend one of the funerals. The two monks kept dancing in the ceremony and everyone would gather to attend the ceremony.
Not forgetting our main mission to Laprak was to deliver stationaries to the kids, age range between ages 2-6 in the nursery school, and to understand what they really so that we could give feedback/ suggestions to the next volunteer who come to help. Send what they really need is very important as trip getting up is not easy and we do not want to accumulate trash in their village. We actually bought some nail cutters and combs for them too after talking to their teachers to solve the hygiene problem. When we pass down the snacks and stationaries to the kids one by one, every one of them uses both hands to receive the items to show appreciation. This action really touched me!
Also, not every family have the solar panel at home, they may spend night times in the dark. After we came down to Kathmandu, before catching our flight, we went to a shop to pre-order for 100 pieces of solar panel and Suman, another local guide will help us to bring them up to Laprak next time
Spending 7 days in Laprak was a bittersweet experience. Proper cubicle for wash up, lights and hot water are all luxuries. I have never imagined a life like this, but it is what the villagers are going through every day. As much as we wanted to leave for our nice warm home and hot shower, saying goodbye to adorable and friendly villagers was hard. Thanks for the beautiful memories.