February 11, 2016 by Alyse LaHue
On Friday night around 10pm, as my roommate slept, I was sitting on the edge of my bed in the dark, facing the window, and working on my phone. I felt an internal jolt then the room started shifting side to side below me for several seconds. I clung onto the bed as my mind raced after exploring the city all day and seeing the crumbles left from a year of seismic vibrations. I could hear the sound of panic outside the window, only imaging what this is like for locals that surely brace themselves for the worst every time mother earth shifts. All went calm after maybe 20 seconds, but every cell in my body remained vibrating as I lay in bed googling ‘what to do in an earthquake’ for the first time. Needless to say I slept in my clothes with a bag packed by the bed, just in case.
But the good news is Saturday was the day we finally got to head to the Lotus Children’s Home (which is actually just a 4-room apartment) and meet the wonderful family and kids! Laxmin (the father) and Laxmi (the mother) have opened their home and currently have 9 children under their wing from age 7 to 16. So 11 people sleeping in 2 rooms and sharing one bathroom. But trust me, what they lack in space and utility they’ve more than made up for in heart. The children were all exceptional, fun loving, some deeply shy at times, some exuberant, but all grateful. There was also a happy gang of dogs that live outside including 3 puppies but due to circumstances I mention below, the puppies are in bad shape.
After the April earthquake the family lost their security wall around the house, running water and electricity in their home. They have no fridge. They have no furniture: no couch, no chairs, no kitchen table. The landlord has rented out the large front yard, which used to host a beautiful garden and play space for the kids, to two separate mechanic shops. So the green has turned to car parts, sharp edges and oil spills all which have to be circumvented entering and exiting the house.
BUT, thanks to all our generous donors we exceeded our fundraising goal and were able to rebuild the security wall, install a water pump so they have continuous running water indoors, install a solar panel on the roof so the kids no longer have to do homework by flashlight every night, and purchase a wood burning stove to combat the constant cooking gas shortages in the city! You all have dramatically changed the quality of life for these once-orphaned children.
So back to Saturday: I ate my first dal bhat which is essentially the national dish and eaten twice a day by most natives. It consists of rice, lentils, maybe potatoes and veggies and a sautéed green like collards or spinach. The natives eat with their right hand which is a work of art for this type of food. Luckily us novices got spoons so we didn’t destroy the kitchen spilling our food everywhere! We brought suitcases full with donations of clothes, sheets, games and toys to pass out so it was fun to share that with them.
Then we took the kids to the Kathmandu Fun Park! We had no idea what to expect but were pleasantly surprised to find so many things to do there, in spite of it being a little aged. We let the kids go on every ride they wanted, eat snacks and mo-mo’s (basically dumplings. I’ve eaten these everyday here, no joke), and have a general blast. The kids hadn’t been in two years so it was really cool to be able to give them that experience and see the ear to ear smiles. Our group was also last to leave the park as darkness fell, so we made the most of it!
On Sundays the kids have school so we had one more adult adventure day. Laxmin (the father) works in the tourism industry so he helped set us up for white water rafting 3 hours into the mountains. Some of us were a bit fearful of the cold, but adrenaline set in as we flip-flopped peaceful floats with class-3 rapids and had a fabulous day watching life on the banks of the river and the serene mountains around us. Oh, and occasional goats on a beach.