by Kristen Bagwell
At the end of a charitable work-week in a foreign country, what are you left with? We first mentioned a friend of mine who is currently on a mission last week, and today is a follow-up to that blog post. It's been so interesting to follow her online updates, and to try and imagine all of the experiences, emotions, and fulfillment that comes with a trip like this. I'm so happy and proud of my girlfriend for heading out on this challenge, and hope to do the same someday.
Below are some excerpts from her daily notes - these paint a picture of what the week was like, in her own words.
When you pull together a group of random people it could go one of two ways: either you click or you don't. This group was made to be a team. As we sat in the lobby prior to dinner sending Facebook requests to one another and telling each other, "I love you man" it was really hard to say, "I will see you soon." Together in a quick week we have laughed many, many times, cried, sang the best of rock, played games and formed friendships built to last.
The village we were building in is set in a valley of terraced fields, simple homes and a simple way of life. There is a road paved with rocks running down the middle with homes alongside but instead of a garage parked out back most families have their farms with cows tied up to the back of the house. The first thing that hits you in the morning is the smell. It is a combination of mud, sewage and animal waste to put it lightly. It takes a bit to get used to but you manage.
Our leader asked, "what is the mental picture you will take home with you from this trip?"
We all said the same thing: the fact that as an American we have so much yet appreciate so little of it. For me, my picture is the Nepalese people in the village where we built. They always, always greeted us with smiles and Namaste. You never heard a baby cry, adults fight or argue.
You quickly realize how much as Americans we are perfectionist's and overachievers. Nothing gets done fast enough or we always feel like we need to prove something to the world. If I could offer advice or say one thing it would be, "breathe or relax". I'm not talking about laziness, but take a moment to really see and feel life around you. There should be no rush, but rather give it your best shot and be proud of what you have accomplished (and stop worrying about what you didn't). Get to know the people you spend time with and build on those relationships.
Here are some things I cannot get used to:
The latrine! There is no plumbing in any of these homes, so we all use the family's latrine out back by the cows. Also, women coughing and spitting out phlegm right in front of you, men & women picking their nose and eating their boogers (seriously), the lack of traffic laws in the city, traffic lanes and the constant honking of car horns, unpaved roads, one lane roads for 2 cars passing and again the latrine! The latrine is simply the nastiest, grossest thing I have ever experienced. I even dreamt of a beautiful white porcelain throne last night.
Most memorable teammate:
Let me introduce you to bad ass Betty! She is an 84 year old Mother & Grandmother and has been traveling around for some time now, with Israel as her dropping off point. She is amazing and often puts us to shame. She works just as hard as everyone else, but also has taught us that it is not just the work but experiencing the people and culture. During last night's reflection she said if we don't take the time to enjoy the village, the people and environment we are missing the total experience.
My teammate Matt & I were splitting 12 ft. lengths of bamboo to be used as window framing. The wedge got stuck and Matt suggested I take a turn at whacking the wedge out. We were using a 2 ft. section of bamboo as a hammer against the metal wedge. Picture us standing in the middle of a dirt road centered on the village with children and adults all watching to see how "Americans" split bamboo. We had made fast work until the wedge got stuck. I took several good whacks at the wedge when Matt says," you got it, one more time." I wound up like a major league pitcher and crushed him right in the crown jewels!
The was the loudest roar of laughter as all the women, men, children and teammates laughed at us. Matt turned slightly purple in the face and finally caught his breath. I felt horribly embarrassed but what can you do? Immediately the village men took over showing us the Nepalese way.
Top lessons learned:
Patience, to not pass judgement, acceptance, and that everyone simply needs love.