NEPAL – Volunteering in Melamchi part 1

Patience is a virtue…

(Written by Steph)

The night before we went to Pokhara, we applied online to be full-time All Hands volunteers. We had heard the waiting list was a few weeks, but we thought we should chance it. Under the “My Skills” section, I elaborated on my dance history, English teaching, love of Spanish – all those things vital to clearing a rubble site.

A couple of days before we were due to come back, we received an email asking if we would like to volunteer for the couple of weeks we had requested in a place called “Melamchi.” They had obviously been impressed by the essay I wrote on my application form after all. Either that or they were desperate. As it turned out, they were. A big group of volunteers had had to drop out at the last minute and they needed the manpower. We had no idea where Melamchi was, but it seemed we were going there…

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The Bridge across the Melamci river

Patience is a virtue…although not one that I possess. After sitting on a local bus for two hours, in the blazing hot sun, I was less than impressed, and about to have a “princess” moment. Did I mention that we hadn’t actually moved at that point? Another 5 hours of broken chairs and zero suspension on windy mountain roads, we had arrived at our destination, and I was tired and hungry. It was not the best of moods in which to become aquainted with my new place of residence.

Melamchi First impressions:

As we walked up the path, we were greeted by two whitees waving and shouting at us from the roof. It was a hugely friendly welcome, but as we got our tour around the guesthouse, it dawned on us that the privacy and the relative luxury we had been accustomed to was over.

Inside the base:

We had arrived just in time for the daily meeting, something we had been lucky enough to miss out on doing the day volunteering. Standing up in front of a group of strangers and telling them “about myself,” is my idea of hell. I hate putting on a front, so Miss Socially Inept here displayed her obvious discomfort all over her face, uttered something about as funny as a “Scary Movie” sequel, and sat down again as quickly as possible. Nick, on the other hand, was typically witty, and going to have no problems being liked. I’d have to keep him around.

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Back to nature - the base was right next to the river

Our first night was a weird one – instead of socialising, I ploughed myself into washing up after 40 people and got straight into bed. We were lucky enough to be given a double bed, with a mattress, although I use that term lightly. Less lucky was the only other person in the room who had to play gooseberry to a newly-married couple. We would have to make an effort not to be too lovey. Not such an issue when the shower was inside the drop toilet room, which didn’t have the most pleasant of smells; I was due to spend the rest of my time there in variable states of filth…

We quickly realised that there was no 50 homes project here; we would be rubbling everyday. Not only that, but the petrol crisis prevailed, and we would have to walk to site, pushing wheelbarrows full of water and our tools uphill, before even starting the day’s work. Nor would there be any exuberant, tourist-aimed restaurant meal to reward us for our efforts at the end of the day. The guesthouse did, at least, sell Snickers and beer; we (I) could get through this.

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The steep walk downhill, back to base from site. This was preferable to the steep walk in the other direction.
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Snickers! No doubt there was a beer somewhere off camera, too!
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