It is our last day. As we drive through the beautiful countryside locals who,
when we had first arrived, viewed us with curiosity, now wave a greeting. And when we walk the last half kilometer to the house, “our” house the festive feel is palpable. The final thin cement coat is on the floor and looks great. The bricklayer and his two assistants are already hard at work finishing off the part of the wall that abuts the rendered lattice walls. The other villagers are busy decorating the house with balloons and bunting, silver balls that sparkle. The women are laughing and clearly plotting together as they help with the cooking or the decorating. Only later will we find out what they have in store.
As fast as we blow up the balloons the throng of kids gets bigger and bigger. Soon the ratio is one for the house two for the kids. They are wide eyed with delight. The little ones ecstatic when we carefully tie a balloon to their arm so it doesn’t fly away. A tub of soapy water appears and suddenly the air is filled with bubbles, a kaleidoscope of colour in the bright sunlight. I can’t remember the last time I saw a child so genuinely delighted with such a modest present or moments of fun. When their excitement gets the better of them and they intrude too far into the preparations for the hand-over, one of the village elders roars at them and they run off, laughing in delight.
The official ceremony begins. We gather, our team and the community, blended together by a week of working together and the feeling of achievement. There are chairs for the Habitat Australia team, officials from Habitat Nepal and our partner organization Forward. A brand
We are now beginning to get the hang of things. Our first attempts at shaving the bamboo strips that would be woven into neat and functional walls were awkward and uneven. Then an elderly man, clearly a local craftsman who had arrived to work on the partitions, unceremoniously took us aside and showed us how it should be done. Not only was the result ten times neater, it was ten times easier. It’s simple (well, simpler) when an expert shows you know how it should be done.
We were still the focus of rapt attention. Locals seemed to be queuing up to watch as we worked. The children were inquisitive but initially shy, watching from afar. However they were the first to join in, working alongside us as we formed human chains to move sand, aggregate, cement or anything else that was needed.
The fact that a number of the men simply stood by and watched irked both males and females on the Habitat for Humanity team. Many men could be seen laboring in the fields; hard, exhausting, backbreaking work. Others were working incredibly hard on the house build. But others didn’t seem bothered by the fact that they stood
It is just after 9am and still slightly cold. The sunshine has not yet completely broken through the mist which lies like a veil across the countryside giving everything a slightly eerie, smudged effect. It’s been a bumpy, noisy, take-no-prisoners ride from our hotel in Biratnagar, Nepal’s second city, to a tiny rural community not far from the border with India. The community where we are being hosted is home to people from dalit indigenous backgrounds such as Pasman, Sardar and Chaudhary; people who are doing it tough, most existing on the equivalent of just a couple of $US a day.
As we drive we transition from teeming dirty, chaotic city to a vast sprawling patchwork quilt of small cultivated fields that sprawls far into the distance. It is stunningly beautiful but behind the beauty lies a hard daily reality.As we crunch and crash along the rough dirt road that gets narrower and narrower until it is little more than a track, the incessant bark of the horn clears people and the animals tethered to feed. Occasionally we screech to a halt as the driver’s mate ushers a baby goat or hen with her new baby chickens to safety. The world