Sunday, July 17, 2016

Bricks and Schools of Nepal

Some of you may be wondering if we are still alive.  Yes, we are and doing quite well.  After Nepal we went to Thailand, then to Laos, Cambodia, and Vietnam.  We are now back in Thailand, this time in the south on an island.  Our schedule through the other Southeast Asian countries has been intense and now that we have stopped we realize how exhausted we are.  Everyday here we figure we'll go explore somewhere, or see something but all that our kids want to do is just play on the rocky beach, swim in the little pool, and swing Tarzan style from coconut fronds.  Fine by us.  They have been troopers!  Maybe it will even give me some time to update my blog on our adventures, no promises.  :)

Another day hike from our homestay was to a local brick factory.  Just traversing the 30 minute walk to the Brickyard is full of interesting encounters.  Everywhere we go the locals stop and stare.  They are so friendly and they question Babu asking if it is possible that all five kids belong to one family.  When he confirms it's true they laugh, look at us in disbelief, laugh some more, and quite often give a little round of applause.  We smile, laugh along with them, and give a gracious "Namaste", hands centered together with a little bow.  

The kids are taking a little refuge in the shade of a chicken house.  At this particular hen house there was a women there watching the birds constantly.  In some hen houses we've seen radio's playing all the time to keep the birds from getting scared from loud noises.  But either way the survival of a flock is so important, and labor so cheap, that a person will spend their whole day just sitting with the chickens to ensure their safety.  The chickens stay fairly well contained, but other animals along the way, not so much.  On the way there Eli was butted by a goat and on the way back he was charged by a sacred cow.  He doesn't much care for the animals.  

As we approached the factory we encountered more animals, but these were donkeys.  Rail thin and bearing the bald patches where straps have worn their hair off and their skin raw from the heavy loads they bear.  They are carriers of brick and their equally rail thin keepers sat nearby watching them forage on the meager hillside.
A huge kiln, (small door) where they fire the bricks.
Two boys walking hand in hand through the brickyard.  It is very common to see young men holding hands, nothing queer going on here, just good friends.  It always takes us a little off guard just because it means something totally different in our culture.  They have other gestures that are different as well.  If you motion someone over by curling your pointer finger towards you it means your ready to fight.  To tell someone to come towards you curl all your fingers towards the ground in a little bit of a scooping motion.  But the one that gets us the most is to indicate "yes" you don't nod your head up and down.  Instead you kind of bobble it in a little side to side wiggle motion.  Cracks me up every time, because it feels like it should mean "I have no idea" instead of "yes". 

The local workers at the brickyard mostly come from the far reaches of Nepal.  They come to the big city to earn money during the dry season, then go back to their farms to grow rice to feed themselves during the wet season.  All those that are able to work usually do, including children.  They create makeshift temporary houses by stacking brick, and roofing it with salvaged tin held on by bricks and garbage.  None of the houses are more than 5 feet tall, of course no running water or electricity.  The back breaking work includes cutting, hauling, firing, and stacking bricks.

We took a few minutes to visit with the locals.  For us it felt a little awkward, but they seem to not be bothered by the gap between our socioeconomic status and theirs.  It was like the difference in body language and hand gestures.  For them life was normal and there was no reason it should feel otherwise.  The gap between have and have nots is something created in our minds.  We visited, joked, and let them see our blond hair, blue eyes, and white skin.  These people are so isolated that they don't come in contact with white skin very often if ever.  I think they were just as curious about us as we were about them.

The work of cutting bricks out of the clay begins about 1 am.  Then the clay bricks are hauled by young boys like these to the kiln area to be fired.  These boys lead their mules back and forth twelve to sixteen hours a day.  No opportunity for school here.

Area where bricks are hand cut from the clay soil.
It is sobering to see people living their lives out like that.  Yet many had a smile on their face.  Our kids were hot and tired.  Sweat dripped down their faces and saturated their hair.  They did well, but our journey was not without complaint.  We walked a long way in the scorching sun that day, but only for a few hours.  These people work hard everyday for a meager existence, yet they appear content, cheerful.  It leaves me contemplating how to help my children, and myself, make the decision to be happy and grateful.

The best guide ever, Babu Marharjan. 

Max, "Today was a sad day.  We saw the brickyard.  We walked an hour to the brick factory.  We saw little kids 10 and up with donkeys and sun dried bricks walking to the hot ovens.  People in shacks of stacked bricks like child's playhouses.  Lots of dirty kids molding and making clay.  We walked around the walls of millions of hard red bricks.  The system was that for each 1,000 they earned 10 dollars in rupies.  There was so many bricks!  the whole boundary was a huge mound of bricks that even without mortar would hold off a army.  It was incredible and sad that small houses and hauling bricks all day is what these people have to do."                                                            May 18, 2016  
On another day we were invited to visit the Orchid Gardens Nepal which is a school/daycare for mothers who cannot afford any other service.  Many of the women in Nepal work all day so they leave their children at home unattended throughout the day.  Orchid Garden Nepal helps these families out free of charge and is funded by private donation.  As you can see, it is nap time and many of the young children are sleeping.  I was amazed that anyone could get that many toddlers to sleep together all at the same time.  A few moments of observation held the secret.  If a child began to rise before the appointed time a nearby caretaker was there with a stick to give a swift reminder swat on their bottom.  Stay down!

Next we visited the classrooms.  The kids were proud to show us some of their work.  As they should be, above is the penmanship of a six year old!  Each of us took a chance to interact and work with some of the kids.  We sang songs, read stories, told jokes, danced, and simply gave them our attention.

By the time we finished with the classrooms nap time was over and we walked out to rows of little ones with their pants around their ankles transitioning into potty time.  They sleep together, they do potty together, then they eat together.  It works.
The kids were eager to show us some well practiced dances. 

Aaron is a master at entertaining the crowd, magic or
 seeing their own photo is equally mesmerizing. 

Some of the staff and children at Orchid Gardens Nepal.  They have such a wonderful work and mission in life.  At the far right is their founder, Bina.  It is through people like her and her dedicated staff that these children, and Nepal, have hope for the future.  Physically I stood a head taller than all of them, but they are giants in the good work that they do each and everyday.

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