14 Jan 18
Dhampus to Pokhara
Today was full- when I think about it, I should be overwhelmed and exhausted by all that we did, but somehow it seemed a natural pace. A few of us woke to see the sunrise, but unfortunately the Annapurnas were obscured by clouds. I am glad they were out for last night’s sunset- seeing the range from Dhampus was alone worth the trip! The beauty of the mountains against the sky gave the impression of a theatrical backdrop- it was hard to believe it was real. Our elevation was one mile but the Annapurnas are in the range of five miles!I imagine that we weren’t even that close even though they seemed so.
After a delicious breakfast of eggs, porridge, hash browns, and Tibetan bread, we had a quite a bit of confusion getting down the mountain. Some were hiking halfway, some riding, and some shopping beforehand. In this, one group member got left at the top of the mountain. White the van went back up to find her, the rest of us took a leisurely stroll down the mountain road. Though dusty, it was nice to see the countryside at a slower pace. The botanists held us up even more, exclaiming and theorizing over various plants, crops, and flowers. We we finally picked up, squeezed back into the vehicle, and delivered back to our hotel in Pokhara.
“Though I’m not sure what age would be appropriate for this trip’s subject and content, I wish there were young girls on this trip at least to see Sarala being a boss. What a role model to look up to!” -Paul
We went from the hotel to the Riverside School. While we met with the leaders, I watched out the window behind me from time to time. I saw two boys tussling with a box of pencils and wonder where the box came from and what it meant to them. I watched boy running behind a dump truck heading for the quarry, then caught on and hung off the back for a ride- I wondered if this was fun or if he was hoping for pocket money by helping to load it. I also shared a smile with a little girl standing in the doorway. She was standing in the doorway, in a nearly perfect first position (ballet) with her hands on her hips. She smiled at me and gave a small plie. It was a reminder that she could be one of my girls. I could teach her ballet steps and she would smile as she twirled. At the heart, we are created the same, created to dance.
The Riverside School provides informal education for children in the neighborhood to prepare them for formal schooling. It was previously funded by an outside group, now it is funded by the government, but that funding ends in April. It takes $500/month to continue the mission of the school, but they are not sure from where that will come after April. This $500 funds three staff, supplies, and lunch for the students. Some children bring younger siblings. These children are usually migrants. If not in a school setting, these children will work, filling trucks in the quarry. They can be lured by truck drivers into trafficking situations. Many parents in the neighborhood use alcohol and quarrel amongst themselves- children then run away and risk trafficking. At the Riverside School, children are educated on risks of trafficking, since the school is a collaborator with Shakti Samuha
We walked through the quarry as we left, trying not to get in the way of men carrying loads of sand and river stones by straps on their heads, trying not to gawk at people going about their jobs, their everyday work. These workers carried loads of 160 lbs., spent the days sorting rocks according to size, all for $1.00/day. Paul and I wondered why it’s not more mechanized in this era. We know it would simply deplete the riverbed, but in this day and age, the method of work we saw seemed primitive.
We went next to WSDO, where we saw women spinning, dyeing, weaving, and sewing. It was wonderful, but such a contrast to the quarry. Function versus dysfunction, fair versus unfair.
WSDO is a Fair Trade workplace for women who are disabled, abused, single mothers, previous trafficked, or other factors that make it difficult for them to find other work. There are currently 568 ladies working here, spinning, dyeing, weaving, or sewing. 80% of the work they create is sent internationally to be sold. Women here earn a fixed salary, which it based on the number of pieces they create. We found them very welcoming and were excited to watch them at work, weaving and sewing. (I admit we hadn’t had lunchtime and it was nearing supper-hour by that time, so we tried our best to enjoy ourselves even if we were slightly hangry by that point)