We finished the house only moments before the mayor of Lekhnath showed up to preside over the ceremony. Bring forth the mass of neighborly villagers and the members of the Habitat team, to dedicate the house at the ridge of the valley to the lovely Ms. Sharmila Pariyar and her son. Happy happy, joy joy.
We still had work to do when we arrived that morning. The entire back wall of the house and a significant section of the eastern bow had yet to be mortared. Have no fear; along with three technicians, I, the ‘American Technician’, was hot on the scene (it was really hot out).
Mortar was mixed, rocks were hauled, dirt was picked and piked, and all the while the village kids were running around being obnoxious trying to help out the big people. Kanchan pulled me aside and handed me a drawing she colored for me, a little horse, inscribed “I LOVE YOU”. awwwwwww
When the procession of Habitat Nepal officials finally arrived, we had just slathered the final mess of mortar inside the western room of the house, in effect finishing the build right at the last moment. A red ribbon was tied up upon the porch, a Habitat banner was hung on the outside wall, and table was set up with a military-grade steel tray filled with red chalk and flowers. It was time to begin.
They called us up one by one and placed a wreath around our becks of vibrantly colored flowers culled from the valley below. They chalked our foreheads, handed us a slightly-religiously tinged thank you certificate (It is Habitat, after all), and placed a traditional Nepaliese Topi upon our heads. As a side note, someone really needs to inform the local municipalities that American heads are orders of magnitude larger than Nepali heads, so a to avoid the garishly silly sight of tiny Topis atop massive western noggins.
Staci gave a heartfelt speech that left her in tears, and Sharmila spoke through Narayan translating, also leaving Staci in tears. Staci was in tears, is the point here.
NOTE: I wasn’t able to get any pictures of this, as Staci’s camera died, and she used mine with her SD card to take videos and pictures. Thus, I got nothin’.
It was nice seeing the house officially handed off, but due to the constant work leading directly up to the ceremony, it felt like one more job that had to be done, rather than a glorious transitory moment. No matter; the work was finished, and as all things must pass, we simply must keep on moving onward.
I was planning on giving a big goodbye to the kids who’d become my little guys “(BROOOHKKKSSS!!! *arm flex*”), but someone had the great idea to give the them the rest of our uneaten snacks and therefore they, as kids, were entirely distracted from the fact that we were leaving for good. Goodbye waves from afar would have to do. However, I did seek out Kanchan for a especially special hug; I’m gonna miss that one.
We grabbed all the Habitat-owned tools, piled them into the back of the bus that had come all the way down to pick us up (YOU MEAN THE BUS CAN COME ALL THE WAY DOWN TO PICK US UP…..), and took the treacherous drive up to town. There’s a reason the bus didn’t come every afternoon to pick us up: the roads around the edge of the valley are treacherous, causing moments of not-just-slightly hilarious panic while tipping around tight edges. Finishing building a house then tumbling off a Nepalese ridge isn’t exactly my ideal method of logging off planet Earth, but I figured it wouldn’t be the world’s worst way to go.
Saying goodbye to Anil Sky was also an emotional moment. He started to break down a little himself as he got off the bus for the last time. The last two weeks he’d spent with us junk mouthed Americans seemed to rub off on him, and a little instant nostalgia must have seeped into his brain. He was the rare a goofball who knew exactly what he was doing at all times, guiding us into correct Nepali construction methods, laughing along the way. We really got along and would spend a lot of time on the site working together on the little things, one upping each other with bamboo flinging and weapon tossing tricks. He was my on-site buddy, the closest thing I had out here to a partner in crime. If I end up never again crossing paths with Anil Sky, I will be surprised. Dude is bigger than Nepal.
This, being the last full night together, we all went out to a fancy dinner, to a fancy bar afterwards, and ended up at a scandalous thumping dance party before spending the night on the rooftop talking until the wee hours. This blog is not in the business of recounting the details of evening activities, but suffice it to say we did Pokhara right.
We did do Pokhara right. We built a house for a local villager, helping to provide one of the basic human needs to someone who did not have it prior. A village has now grown, with a new member of the family beginning to set a solid foundation. This is something worth being proud of; there aren’t many moments when you know you’ve helped, but here it is as evident upon Sharmilas face: the warmth of gratitude; the glow of understanding; the hangover that follows.
OFF TO THE MOUNTAINS!!!