Today, armed with bag lunches and pencils, our gracious driver Madan took us an hour & a half outside the city to the remote village, Sindhupalchowk to visit the Bair Nahadev School. As we approached the village where the school is located, we learned that the roads were washed out - not suitable for the car - so we’d be taking motorbikes the rest of the way. The teacher, Ragav Ja, and a volunteer, Abheneet, arrived on motorcycles and made two 15 minute trips along treacherous, bumpy roads with incredible views, getting us almost all the way to the school.
The last 5 minutes of the journey were made on foot, down a beautiful path, across a river, past rice paddies and oxen, into the valley.
In stark contrast with yesterday’s relatively well-appointed urban boarding school, the Bair Nahadev School was simply two open-air concrete rooms with two classes of children, a younger class and an older class, ranging from what appeared to be about 3 years old to 12.
Unlike yesterday’s group, in their school uniforms and book bags, these kids had nothing. I mean no shoes, no food, no homes, nothing. Like, after, when they got a snack, the only food they’d eat that day, it was a single cup of puffed rice. That kind of nothing.
They had also been waiting for us for a while; we are not sure how long. They were resistant at first and confused by the invitation to get out of their seats. It may actually be that they’d never seen a freckly, redheaded, fair skinned lady before, or a bearded, red wings on his boots, tubby, white fellow, or a conspicuously tall, smiley, blue eyed Viking woman. This is entirely possible.
Nevertheless, we moved forward and with much encouragement from the teachers and some improvising, eventually got some rhythm in a call and response format and we were off to the races again.
While we intended to start with the younger kids, the environment had other plans for us and once we had gathered the tiny students together and made a first little noise, the older kids came right on in and joined.
This group was rapt with attention and had a really full range of expression. We could have gone on all day. I think we went an hour, easily, with a few self-selecting 3 and 4 year olds, just getting straight up tired out. Mission accomplished.
Jennifer and Deneen, again, had some more practice in the circle, improvising and playing, and making really good lion faces and noises, and we found our way outside and continued, finally ending with some photos and bubbles and a gift of pencils, a very hot commodity in rural schools.
After the PLAYshop, in the shade of the office, following a traditional Nepalese thank you of Mountain Dew, Jonah shared one last game for the grown ups: the cup trick. If an upload works, you can see a video. No promises.
We all hiked back up to where the bikes were parked and enjoyed a photo opportunity – also shared below (no promises). While Deneen and Jennifer took the first motorbike rides out, Anju, Jonah and Abheneet started to hike back.
It was a long day out. Teachers told us we were the first people to visit since the earthquake. It’s simply remarkable: as we told the kids and on-looking adults, “We flew across the world, drove hours from the city, rode motorcycles along bumpy roads, and hiked deep into a valley just to be with you, to make noise, be silly, and play.”
We drove away in silence with profound gratitude for the opportunity.