Field Report #1
Below is a short glimpse into living and making filters village style in Nepal. We should the filters finished by the end of the week. Then we will start training with the Nawalparasi Health Students and in two weeks training with the Bara Team.
Welcome Back Linda
Maybe it was the thick fog covering the city in the early morning or the seven hour crazy drive watching trucks, buses, jeeps, and cars weave in and out of a two lane road at full speed to Parasi, that made me decide to fly to Bhairahawa. An easy 35 min flight then another 30 minutes in a taxi to our office. On Jan. 13th I arrived in the Sahuwatikar office minus a suitcase that I imagine is having a merry time flying from Denver to Doha and back several times. Luckily the suitcase with the donated children’s cloths did make the connecting flights. This is the first time in 14 years my bag has been truly lost- they couldn’t even track it- “not in the system, mam” replied the Qatar baggage claim attendant. As I write this report, another 17 days have passed and no bag, “but all the papers have been filed mam” said the same attendant yesterday.
I arrived in Sahuwatikar on the eve of a holiday. The landlord and friends were preparing a goat to take to Kathmandu where his wife and family are living. Goat prices in Kathmandu are 300 rupees (~$3) per kg higher than in the Terai, it’s becoming a delicacy. However, my main concern was getting to the outside toilet through the maze of large pots of boiling water and avoiding the slain goat lying on the cement near the water pump, the only route to the toilet. After a few leaps and shuffles I made it to the immaculately cleaned western toilet with my pack of Kleenex safely tucked in my pocket. Following a few hours of meetings with staff and Ramesh the Principal at the school across the street, who has been helping us, I decided to head to bed. Up the 450 outside staircase to the bedrooms and the landlords rooms. I barely took notice of the large catch of fish lying on newspaper on the floor in his kitchen, all I wanted was my bed. Fumbling with the lock on my door I was pleasantly surprised to see the room clean and the bed covered with fresh linens. I dumped by backpack and fell into bed, still suffering from jetlag I woke up around 4 am to make the journey down to the toilet when I realized the landlord had gone with fish and goat to Kathmandu on the night bus. He locked the hall door from the outside forgetting I was there and happily set off to visit family. I was stranded upstairs with some rather urgent needs. I waited for Gynu, a lovely young mother who lives next door, to make her way the well for morning washing. Luckily my window faces her direction, when she arrived at 5:30 am, I yelled “Gynu help, door locked”. Off she ran to get a key from the landlord’s brother and with the help of a few more people I was unlocked and my needs taken care of.
End of First day in the field.
Our first mission was to get the materials for the filters, this includes buckets, lids, basins, taps, nylon net, charcoal, iron, sand, gravel, clay bowls and a host of small items. Sumai, my main technician and I bicycled to the vendors—we could only buy 30 buckets on this trip but managed to order the other 110 which would arrive a week later. We’ve gone through a lot of adjusting this year, our old office was turned into a school so we’re learning how to manage “filter making” without our little factory, challenging but not impossible. Our new location is just across the street from the old one, where plastic bins now hold sand, gravel, and charcoal instead of our lovely large cement bins. We will be able to recycle some of the materials from the factory; tin roof, iron, wood and bamboo beams, 2,000 liter water tank, pipes, and other smaller items. We were there 12 years – at a cost of $3500 it was a well used space and very functional especially after Ray Beard and his team preformed a miracle by removing the old straw roof and installing a solid tin roof on a not so square frame.
End of Day two.
The fog was so thick this morning only faint images could be seen 10 feet ahead. I was up early – sharing a cup of tea with Bali, Gynu’s father. We walked around the village with our cups of lemon tea. Everywhere goats were seen, baby goats leaping with no effort and adult goats. I laughed and called the village : Bakhara Gaur (goat village). Not long after returning to our gate, we saw a group of men circled around someone. It was the “honey” man, they were discussing the cost of his fresh honey. He climbed up a tree across the street, and brought down the hive. He was squeezing honey out of the comb into large pans right in front of us. I ordered 750ml for about $ 4.50 with a bit of wax and a few bees included. I’m not sure if this process is bad for a hive but it doesn’t seem to bother the bees. The hives are huge, over 4 feet in height. It was an exciting morning, all before the office opened. Around 8:30, two local women arrived to sieve and clean sand for the filters, while Sumai, my technician, drilled holes in the basins and buckets. In the afternoon we collected the rest of the materials for the filters, nylon thread, nylon net, and taps. Sumai collected charcoal from the local entrepreneur, it’s about $1 for a tin of charcoal, maybe 3 gallons. The weather is foggy and cold, we drink a lot of chia (tea) and tato pani (hot water) to warm our bones. At the end of the day most of the materials are collected.
End of Day 3.
Another cold morning, with thick fog. I could barely see the women sieving the sand from the office door. Sumai and I headed to the iron mystery (machinist) to check the iron supply and to confirm he is only giving us the dry filings, nothing processed with oil. In the afternoon the women, Mira and Santoshi, sewed the nylon net onto the basins for the pre-filter that fits on the upper bucket. They can sew about 10 in half a day. I spent time cutting the large circles of nylon net for the basins. Sometimes we hire 5 women to sew these in their homes, but this order is a bit smaller so it’s easier to keep everything in the office. I was invited to dinner at Mini and Ramesh’s home, but I’m still struggling with jet lag and can barely stay awake but the dinner was delicious, chicken, sag (green vegetables) roti, and potato curry. I fell asleep by 7:30 pm only to be awakened by a loud angry brawl between men and women in the village. This time I’m happy to be on the second floor. A few women picked up wooden boards and were going at a man—but I couldn’t see what happened only the wailing and crying and men yelling. Later, I learned there was roski (rice whisky) involved. Ugh--- landlord locked me in AGAIN, only 4 hours this time. I’m prepared, a big bucket and water in my room for emergencies this time. I’ll have a stern talk with him tomorrow.
End Day 4