Sunday, July 22, 2012

Starting with the Basics....

Our decision to move to the village of Dharapaani in central Nepal raised many questions, two of which seemed pretty fundamental:   What would we do once we got there, and where would we live?

The housing issue gave us the greatest angst over the longest period.  Rental housing stock in a small village of farmers is limited and the few options offered no privacy and/or had low ceilings that would have crippled us. Ram Kanta Giri, Harvey's mit (ritual friend), offered us an 8' x 8' room above the water buffalo shed, but a week's residence there last summer convinced us that our marriage would not survive a month of that.  Building a house in mit's compound proved impossible due to lack of space.  In the end, mit came to the rescue by suggesting that he tear down his 35-year-old house (above) and, with our financing, build a new one for the three of us.   

Construction was more involved than we had anticipated.  Stringent community forestry regulations meant that mit had to search far and wide for trees for the frame lumber.  Water to the compound is gravity-fed and that complicated the placement of the water tank and related issues. Labor was scarce.  While there in 2011, we had discussed with mit only in general terms what the house might look like, and every phone call revealed new features and work-arounds.  Nothing resigns one to the arms of fate quite like building a house on the other side of the world in an imperfectly-spoken language over a bad phone line.  

We recently got these photos and we are delighted with the house. Mit will live on the left side, we on the right. The glass windows are a novelty in the village and, since the house is unheated, will be welcome in the winter. We will find a carpenter to make us tables, chairs and cupboards, and will buy dishes, pots, and everything else needed to set up a home.   What we cannot get locally we will likely find in Dumre Bazaar, two hours to the south by foot and bus. 

The detached bathroom has an outhouse and bathing area. A solar hot water tank (the first in the village) will be installed after we get there.  The wall reads “Let’s always keep the bathroom clean.” With nine of us using the facilities, that will be a challenge.

We are curious about mit’s reaction to his new home. One clue comes from the inscription on the south peak of the house.  20 Chait 2068 (April 2, 2012) is the date a goat was sacrificed to consecrate the house. Following Ram Kanta is the single word nebas: residence. We think he is proud of it. He should be.

For work, our initial idea was to teach English and computer literacy in the local public school.  We met with the school committee in 2011 and they seemed happy to have us teach the normal six-hours-a-day, six-days-a-week load.  That is not why we retired.  Over the past year, we have been involved with three excellent NGOs.  The Gorkha Foundation has an array of projects in health care, livestock, and microfinance throughout Gorkha district.  The Rural Education Network provides teacher training.  OLE Nepal, which operates across Nepal, offers computer-based training and resources in English, math and science.  We plan to work with all three organizations as well as to teach (in smaller doses) in the school.  We will figure out our scope and schedule when we get there, and are especially enthused about a role that will take us all over the district. 

This past year has been an endless series of "what about...?" conversations and
to-do lists. Expecting limited communications, we have tried to anticipate every family, financial, tax, health, household, and logistical contingency. After 27 years in the same house, uprooting ourselves has been a challenge. We think we have done a good job getting ourselves ready, but we won't know for sure until we get there. We take comfort in knowing that Roald Amundsen, that most experienced of polar explorers, forgot to take snow shovels to Antarctica in 1910.  

Meanwhile, mit, two daughters-in-law, four grandchildren, and a hillside of extended kin are in Dharapaani waiting for us to arrive.  We imagine that they are counting down the days, speculating on what living with us will be like, and wondering what on earth they got themselves into.  Which is pretty much how we feel.

For background and more photos, go to

Use of photographs only with permission.


  1. Malinda, I am so happy to see that you selected to have a new house built and not live above the water buffalo shed. Now you have a new house, built with pride and love, and structurally equipped with some modern elements. I hope you are able to do as well with the three organizations for whom you will be working (in a non-draining fashion). Good luck. Use those crampons. Quinn

  2. Harvey and Malinda,

    Omigod, the place looks bigger than our house here in Oakland...Keep that blog up when you have a chance, we're going to really miss you otherwise, and the best of the journey ahead!


  3. H & M

    Finally seeing the pictures for the first time - couldn't do so at my work computer (que joke about city of Chicago workers). I agree, the structure appears to be far more sound than I had imagined. The Chicago Blustains wish you all the best on your authentic adventure.


  4. Thanks for inviting me to the blog! It will be exciting to follow your progress. Do you have a guest room?! - sarita