Monday, June 15, 2009

I am much too alone in this world, yet not alone
to truly consecrate the hour.
I am much too small in this world, yet not small
to be to you just object and thing,
dark and smart.
I want my free will and want it accompanying
the path which leads to action;
and want during times that beg questions,
where something is up,
to be among those in the know,
or else be alone.

I want to mirror your image to its fullest perfection,
never be blind or too old
to uphold your weighty wavering reflection.
I want to unfold.
Nowhere I wish to stay crooked, bent;
for there I would be dishonest, untrue.
I want my conscience to be
true before you;
want to describe myself like a picture I observed
for a long time, one close up,
like a new word I learned and embraced,
like the everday jug,
like my mother's face,
like a ship that carried me along
through the deadliest storm.

Rainer Maria Rilke

Here's some pictures from the past few weeks:

Alan received a king's welcome in my village.

Ruins at the birth place of the Buddha dating back to the 3rd century BC.
Me and Silpa at one of the newer monasteries on the grounds of Lumbini (Buddha's birthplace)
enjoying the view of Pokhara from the World Peace Pagoda.

It does.

View of a very big mountain from Ghandruk

I can't believe it, but I will be home in about three weeks. My flight leaves July 7. Today I am off to a monastery where I will be cleaning up after some very young monks (ages 5-15) for the next few weeks. This could very well be my last update.

I've decided to abandon my cell phone when I get home, but after July 9 I can be contacted at my parent's house (423-886-2328) until I go to college mid-August, and I am always available over email (

I am looking forward to hugging all of you.

My deepest love and respect,
E. Wray

Saturday, May 23, 2009


26 May, 2009
"Easter Morning"

Maybe someone comes to the door and says,
"Repent," and you say, "Come on in," and it's
Jesus. That's when all you ever did, or said,
or even thought, suddenly wakes up again and
sings out, "I'm still here," and you know it's true.
You just shiver alive and are left standing
there suddenly brought to account: saved.

Except, maybe that someone says, "I've got a deal
for you." And you listen because that's how
you're trained––they told you, "Always hear both sides."
So then the slick voice can sell you anything, even
Hell, which is what you're getting by listening.
Well, what should you do? I'd say always go to
the door; yes, but keep the screen locked. Then,
while you hold the Bible in one hand, lean forward
and say carefully, "Jesus?"

- William Stafford

Hey there everybody!

I know I've been out of touch for a couple of months. This is really the first opportunity I've had to update my blog since I was in Pokhara after the trek at the end of March. I did come back to Kathmandu one day about a month ago to do all of my course registration for college, but that was a very quick trip. Right now I am back in Kathmandu, because --very sadly-- my volunteership with SPW is over. The program actually ended a little bit early because SPW is really suffering from the current global economic crisis. We just finished this week, and I said bye to Uma, Silpa, and everyone in my village a few days ago. It was really hard for me to leave, but I am planning to go back to visit with my brother Alan in a week or two which will be really fun. I just found out yesterday that I am leaving this morning to go to Pokhara again to do a river kayaking trip for a few days with my friend Jessie. Jessie was planning on doing this trip with two other volunteers Fiaama and Rachel, who found out yesterday they couldn't make it, and somehow now I'm going along instead! I wasn't planning on spending any more money doing that kind of stuff, but kayaking should be alot of fun, and it will be good to have some time with Jessie before we go our separate ways.

After Kayaking, I am coming back to Kathmandu to meet MY BROTHER ALAN (!!!) at the airport in Kathmandu! Alan is going to be here for two weeks and we are planning to visit the birthplace of the Buddha together, visit Silpa's family, do a short trek, and spend a few days in my village in Sankosh. After Alan leaves, I am going to spend my remaining three weeks in Nepal sweeping, scrubbing floors, and washing dishes at a monastary in Kathmandu. My SPW field officer somehow knows someone who is connected with the monastaries in Kathmandu, so we called and asked if I could clean for them, and the llamas had a meeting about it (I think they were a little confused about the request), and they said yes! So I'm pretty happy about that. I'll find out which monastary I'm going to be at in a few days.

Now I suppose I should try to update all of you on everything that has been happening here over the past two months, which is, to me, a seemingly impossible task, but I shall try nonetheless. I hope these blogs are actually enjoyable to read and not too long and laborious. I rarely really know what I'm going to write before I sit down... I just put the pictures up and start ranting about whatever comes to mind-- probably not the most efficient way to communicate, but it seems to be working anyway.

After the trek, I came home to several suprises in Dhading. One suprise was that SPW was having serious economic trouble, and thus our program would be ending two months early. (Originally, the national volunteers were supposed to be on placement for an additional two months after the departure of the international volunteers.) This meant we had to do alot of shuffling and quick thinking to try to wrap up our programs in Sankosh and to try to ensure the sustainability of our Green club (students) and Youth club (out-of-school youth). This unfortunately was pretty stressful, but in order to cope, Uma, Silpa and I just picked up the frequency of sporadic instances of dancing and singing, which is a very reliable technique for breaking tension. My second surprise was a new host brother! Well, sort of. My family has three sons. The youngest is Bikash, who I think is about my age, and lives at our house. The first son, Ramesh, and his wife (my "bauju"), have their own tiny place close to the school where we teach. Their kids are Arpit and Ranjita who live with us. The second son is Suresh, who had been working abroad in Qatar, but he moved back home! Suresh is actually alot more talkative than the rest of my host family so having him there made things at home less awkward. The third and biggest surprise was rain! I came back to Sankosh and experienced rain for the first time in five months! It isn't raining every day yet (this will come with the monsoon in about a week), but the presence of water changed life in the village significantly. We were able to plant crops, save alot of already planted crops that had been dying from drought, and selfishly, I was most excited about being able to bathe and wash clothes more than once a week! Here are some pictures of me learning to plant rice in Parwati's (the 'w' is pronounced 'b') rice paddies during the first week in April.

That's Auntie (Parwati's mom). I feel just as loved by this woman as I do by my own beautiful mother, which is saying a heck of a lot. She kept telling that we had to smile when we left the village rather than be sad, but then she started weeping when we left a few mornings ago.

This is a street drama on safe motherhood that our green club performed for villagers in Kirakhor, one of our target communities. The kids wrote and directed the entire thing all on their own in just a few days. We were so proud of them, and all of the villagers were very attentive throughout the drama (which rarely happens).

This was during a door to door visit on nutrition in Kumal gaau. The old woman on the left was clearly not inspired.

This is another street drama on HIV that my green club performed down in the bazaar (market) in Dhadingbesi. They attracted a huge audience.

Here's Uma and me with our friends Raju and Ganesh, two Gurung teachers at our school (gurung is Uma's caste). This was taken on a religious holiday called saano desai. We left at 4:00 that morning, walked to a temple in the remote wards of Sankosh, spent an hour at the temple, and then walked back, arriving home around 7:00 PM. You can do the math, but that was alot of walking. Thankfully, since I'd just gotten back from trekking, the simple absence of my 15 kg backpack made the walk enjoyable, but we were pretty stinking tired at the end of the day.

Silpa putting henna in Uma's hair, which creates some reddish-brown highlights. They wanted to do this to me, but I never consented. I think the henna would have had more of a fluorescent orange effect on my already brown hair.

This is another picture from one of our nutrition door to door visits. We spent a week or so doing this in Kumal gaau after I came back from trekking.
Aren't they cute? These are my friends, sisters, and teachers Uma and Silpa. I'm getting emotional just looking at their picture. They have shown me nothing but love and patience over the past seven months. I'm going to see Silpa again before I leave to go home, but saying goodbye to Uma the other day was very difficult for me. She lives in the far western region of Nepal which is very remote and difficult to travel to. I don't know when I'll ever see her again.
Uma and me talking about family planning and population control during a workshop on Sexual Reproductive Health in Kirakhor.
Our audience. The women in Kirakhor were so supportive and showed alot of interest in all of our programs. There are alot of really terrible practices in Nepal in regards to menstruation. While bleeding women are ritually unclean and untouchable and often have to sleep and eat outside of the house, can't touch the water sources, and in some families, have to live in the goat shed so that the eyes of brothers, sons, and fathers, won't fall on them. Nothing was this intense in the village where I lived, but in my host family I still had to observe certain practices while on my period like eating outside, not entering the kitchen, not participating in worship, and not touching any cooking utensils, dishes (other than my own),water jugs or water sources. It was so exciting for me during these workshops to be able to discuss with these women scientifically what menstruation actually is, what is happening inside their bodies, that this is not damnation by the gods, but simply a very special and essential part of the reproductive process. Perhaps I am being overly optimistic about it, but I really feel that if SRH education is continued, the burden can slowly be lifted and the practices can begin to change.
My precious host sister is all ready for our school enrollment rally!

School enrollment campaign.
After walking through several villages, we stopped at a teashop in Baau Gaau to dance and sing a song that the students wrote about the importance of education.
Silpa's "birthday cake." Yes, those are boiled eggs. It was Uma's idea. I hope someone else thinks this is as funny as I did.
Celebrating Silpa's 27th birthday!
Team Sankosh.
Auntie kicking it in the kitchen while Parwati was cooking daal bhaat.
This is us with our community volunteer, Sita, and her mom. Also our dear friends.
I am going to miss my Aamaa's daal bhaat.
She thought it was absolutely hysterical that I wanted a picture of us eating daal bhaat.

This is our youth club.
We took four members from our Green Club to Nilkantha (another SPW placement) where the Nilkantha Green Club trained our students how to make these handicrafts from recycled paper. The handicrafts are to be sold for fundraising.
Then Ambika, Manoj, Kolpana, and Kobita trained the rest of our green club how to make the handicrafts back in Sankosh. I thought it was really good for the students to know how to do something and then be able to teach other students how to do it. Little stuff like this is why we're able to call this an "empowerment" program.
They felt really independent about this project and it was really exciting when the crafts were ready to be sold and money started coming in. The green club will use the money to fund programs like the ones that we have been doing with SPW after we are gone.
At a temple with our friends and Green Club students Kobita, Ambika, and Kolpana.
Arpit's got style.
Our gurus.
Our youth club planting ginger which will be ready to sell in a few weeks. We hope they will use this money to continue SPW programs in the community (while the green club--we hope--will continue SPW programs in the school).
a picnic with Nilkantha and Sankosh Green Clubs
The chickens that were happily squaking a couple hours previous. If you look closely you can see feet, heads, everything. Nepali people don't waste anything and eat literally every part of the animal.
I've got moves.
That's Parwati's house.
A bunch of us who's villages are close to Dhadingbesi (the western end of Dhading) went to visit a cave in Nilkantha one day. Here's Jessie crawling up through a very narrow passage way. Thank God we didn't get stuck.
What was supposed to be a day visit and two hour walk turned into a day long ordeal with a 4 to 5 hour walk to the cave and then a 5 hour walk back, partly in the dark, as the sun set before we got back, and then we all had to sleep in Nilkantha. That's how any kind of "planned" anything usually turns out in Nepal. It was fun.

Sita's house
Sita's kitchen
Sankosh is beautiful. Everything turned green after the rain finally came.

My host brother Suresh got married on May 8. I think my host parents didn't arrange the wedding until May 1. It's incredible what an extensive wedding party these people can throw together in one week. It was absolute madness.
Making rice flower for special cell roti (bread) with the neighbor ladies.
Cell roti: a cross between a funnel cake and a fried donut. Greasy but delicious. It appears in abundance at any sort of Nepali festival or celebration.
My extremely unsuccessful attempt at making cell roti. It's difficult.
Ranjita in her brand new clothes for the wedding.
This was at the wedding party at the bride's house. I wasn't there for that, but let the fam take the camera. The way it works is there's a big party at the bride's house (in a different village sometimes very far away) where the actual marriage ceremony happens, and then the groom and his friends and family arrive and take the bride with them to the groom's house (her new home) where people have also been partying all day. There are also ceremonies and forms of worship in the grooms home to prepare for the wedding night. It was super weird. The bride is always extremely unhappy... for obvious reasons. She has just arrived at a new house where she will share a bed with an older man she's never met and work as the family's lowest servant until another bauju comes along.
The wedding party. That night, we already had 7 people to share the 3 beds in our room (Me, Uma, Silpa, Parwati, one of last year's SPW volunteers, and two family friends from Kathmandu), but when we went inside that night tired and ready to crash, we found a bunch of random relatives we'd never seen before all asleep in our beds. So we walked around to some neighboring houses to try to find a place to sleep-- no room anywhere... and in the end just ended up passing out on the floor. It was quite an event... and pretty funny.
Us with our new bauju. Your eyes do not deceive you. Suresh is at least in his late twenties. Our new bauju just started 10th grade.

May 27, 2009
I've been in a kayak in the Phewa Tal (a big lake in Pokhara) all day learning different rolls, paddle strokes, and braces (but mainly inhaling alot of water). Tomorrow morning Jessie and I depart on the Sankosi river, which we will be traveling down for the next three days before I head back to Kathmandu to pick Alan up at the airport. woohoo! Back to the blog.

Here is our GC vice president speaking at a cluster meeting with the Green Clubs from Sankosh, Nilkantha, Sunula Bazaar, and Murali Banjang. The students decided to form an inter-green club committee, and chose representatives from each club to attend cluster meetings every couple months. We are proud of them and hope they can support each other and keep up the good work now that we're gone.

Bathing in the jungle is always fun.
Those are our lungis... or bathing dress thingies.
Arpit = Bill Waterson's "Calvin"
Silpa and Uma in the office at school.
Ah, Pashupati Secondary. Perhaps it's a good thing that none of the students can actually read this.
The school bell. Banged with a mallet every 45 minutes Sunday-Friday. The reason I will be deaf by age 50.
This is one of our neighboring villagers, Raut Bubaa (aka "Granpa Raut"). I cannot express in words my love for this man.
And that's Aamaa Raut. They were like my Grandparents.
Some of our neighbors.
view from near Parwati's house.
Students dancing during a cultural program at school. I think Smartt would die and Bolden would kill to have some of these talented students audition for any of their theatrical productions. Really, the talent of these kids blew me away. They'll all grow up to be farmers.
After many days of begging to take a picture with them, my host family finally consented... but then Suresh, Bikash, and Ramesh bailed at the last minute. But this is my host father and host mother anyways. They look friendly don't they? We love them.
This is the mother of one of our green club students, Kobita, and her sister, Kapila, who was green club president a year ago. They live next to the school and right next door to dai and bauju, and they did alot to help us.
Here we are with the members of the Green Club and teachers at school.
All the teachers... well at least the ones that showed up to school on the day the photo was taken.
Us with Dai and Baauju in their brand new kitchen. I just recently found out that the reason they don't live with us is because Aamaa was really mean to Baauju so ultimately Bauju's parents were able to give enough money for dai and bauju to have their own little place... a tea shop next to the school. But the shop was just pieces of scrap tin and wood. About a month ago they tore it all down and built a real mud kitchen with a good smokeless stove. It was exciting. Bauju is a really good cook by the way. I will miss her chiyaa (tea) every day at 2:00 PM for the rest of my life.
Baauju and me!
Sanramaya didi and her husband--residents of our village and also members of the Raut family/caste-- enjoying cell roti and tarkari for khajaa (afternoon snack).
Saying goodbye to all of our didis and bahinis from Kirakhor village. These women did so much to help and support us, and the day before we left they did this whole big goodbye ceremony for us, giving us gifts and lots of tika. I was so overwhelmed, but it was a beautiful goodbye.
This was during our goodbye ceremony at school. The students gave me an authentic Nepali outfit... complete with petticoat, sari, wastecloth, shawl, blouse, bangles, and hair piece... which I wore for the ceremony. Here I'm giving a little speech in Nepali and telling the kids about Palmer (Thank you to Janelle Ellis for sending the balls).
"Thank you, Palmer!"
The kids were so excited about the three new soccer balls. All they had at school is one busted volleyball and three jump ropes that Uma, Silpa, and I gave as prizes for a sporting event a few months ago. I can assure all of you that Palmer's soccer balls will get alot of loving wear and tear.
Saying goodbye...
And finally leaving home the next morning. I held it together pretty well but now I'm getting emotional looking at the pictures. Aamaa is distributing tika.
So is Raut Bubaa.
These are my people.
It was so surreal descending through Sankosh with all of our bags that final morning, stopping at the homes of our loved ones to receive tika and blessings along the way. These people rock. I will carry them and everything they've taught me with me always.
This picture is kind of out of place, but as we were leaving, I wanted to snap a picture of someone carrying a doko (basket strapped to the head) so that I could show all of you. In the hills, this is how everything gets transported on a daily basis, whether it be grass for the animals, water, chickens, soil, manure, building supplies, crops... you name it... it can be carried in a doko.

A final meal in Kathmandu with all of the (remaining) international volunteers before going our separate ways. This place is called "Mike's Breakfast," and it was our haven in Kathmandu.

It's easy for me to put pictures up here and just write about what I've been doing. It's much more difficult for me to put into words all that I've been thinking, feeling, and learning about in the past months... especially while staring at a computer screen.

I've just deleted multiple attempts to describe what is happening in my heart, and no success thus far. God is changing me. I am beginning to see that there is another way to live my life, another way to go. I want to follow Jesus. It scares the crap out of me, but I have so much joy, because I have faith in a God who is strong when I am weak and who can give me the strength I need to do what is impossible for E. Wray. God is going to teach me to love.

Please pray for me.

Much love,