After the devastating earthquakes in the spring of 2015, over two-thirds of the homes and community buildings in the remote and economically disadvantaged Nepalese village of Sotang, Solukhumbu were either destroyed or unsafe to live in. Almost 80% of the Himalayan community’s schools were gone. Two years later, the government of Nepal has yet to start rebuilding essential community infrastructure in many poor and remote areas like Sotang. (The settlement is one-and-a-half day’s walk from the nearest drivable road or airstrip.) The dZi Foundation works in partnership with remote communities in Nepal to create lasting improvements in their quality of life, and they have been working to help this community since the disaster, and we at Mexicali have offered our support with help from YOU (and all the wonderful customers who bought prayer flags during our Prayers for Nepal campaign)!
Now this awesome organization has designed and begun construction on a new earthquake-safe school, and we are dedicated to helping them do it! We’ve donated over $30,000 to fund the building of the school, and are in Nepal right now trekking to and through Sotang to check out the progress of the building! Your Mexicali Blues purchases are what powers our corporate philanthropy, so thank you for helping us help the dzi Foundation and the people of Sotang!
Check out this video we shot today of our exploration of the local market, and read on for our reflections from the beginnings of this trek!
We awoke before the sun and assembled our gear over a cup of milky coffee. Outstretched blooms of raw rebar punctured the low lying cloud cover, evidence of extensive post earthquake construction, while budding vegetation and fluttering prayer flags symbolized the regrowth and newfound tranquility of the nations capital, Kathmandu. The dZi 4×4 pulled up to our hotel and amidst greetings we loaded and bundled up the bed of the truck to protect the contents from the dust of development that has blanketed the nation. In these hours the city was oddly quiet, but the gentle predawn birdsong was rapidly replaced with the far from melodic staccato of blaring car horns, the murmuring of the city rising to a crescendo as its streets awoke.
There is a purposeful chaos to Asian autoways, and Nepal is no exception. Motorcycles weave their way through the melee as the swarm of cars establish a pecking order loosely based off of size, with colossal tractors playing the king of the urban jungle, and further regulated by the skill or stupidity of their drivers. All the while, bicyclists and pedestrians fluidly float to and fro, crossing two-lane-three-wide highways, and peddling wares on all available asphalt, unperturbed. Our driving guru, Saan Tang deftly and safely maneuvered us through the madness, a challenge that we would not have been comfortable undertaking.
As we exited the city we were greeted by black smoke belching smokestacks, churning out scores of red brown bricks that lay in various levels of organization all along the roadside. Thus began a discussion on the necessary evils of coal in a developing nation that laid the foundation for our ongoing conversation on development, its trials and tribulations, as well as its triumphs in Nepal and around the world. Good company is important on a multi day road trip, and we were very fortunate to have been accompanied by Julia, a dZi intern from Vermont. She was able to communicate in Nepali on our behalf, as well as to share with us a wealth of knowledge on the past, present, and future involvements of dZi in Nepal, and their “deep development” that empowers local leaders at a micro level to facilitate the growth and further integration of ethnic communities in the nation.
As we wind our way along climbing and descending valleys and ridges the road is a reflection of the nation, perfectly paved in parts and giving way to bumpy rocky mayhem. The two lane is punctuated by potholes that would give Maine’s frozen and buckled blacktop a run for its money. As we drop down to the riverside we enter an ultra modern roadway funded and constructed by the Japanese government. Halfway through the road disappeared into a cliff side chasm falling some 250 feet into the river, further testament to this roads representative role.
As we climb higher, through the mist shrouding the mountainside’s middlesection the signs of spring blossom in the form of roadside rhododendron. The blooms vary in gradient from red to white with a brilliant pink in between and give a just a glimpse of the beauty that lies ahead. The presence of other cars peter out as the road steepens. Just as the beauty lulls us into a sense of complacency we peer over the roadside precipice and the sight of a mangled bus chassis yields strong emotions. As if to signal our arrival in the raw reality of high altitude Himalayas, all of the prior colorful architecture changes to a nationalistic blue red and white. We stop for another tea pitstop served by a jolly woman with a penchant for rich laughter, a symptom shared by most Nepalese.
As we descend the other side of the ridge to rest our heads for the evening after a long 13 hour drive we enter a thick pine forest and are reminded of how far and yet how close we still feel to the Maineland. After a delicious dinner of wood fired goat daal bhat, the staple dish of Nepalese life, we retire upstairs in the rickety but welcoming wooden structure that we are fortunate to call home for the evening. Let us see what tomorrow will bring us in the birth nation of Buddha. Namaste.
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