A photos update on my way out to Bali

April 26 (Happy BDay Mom!)

It’s been four months since I last wrote or posted on this page. Do you ever go a few days without replying to an eloquent email from a friend, only to realize that now that you’ve procrastinated your reply you’ll really have to make the reply as articulate and worthwhile as possible to justify the time you’ve made them wait? That happens to me with this page, and in the end it’s slightly egotistical since the purpose of a blog (or this one, at least) is really just to share news.

And of news, there is plenty! I’m writing this on a text file titled “Blog, March 6” when I did a brainstorm of news I could share, though I never actually got around to posting anything.

The first bit of news would be that we have the walls of three classrooms up and standing proud. There are some frustrating aesthetic inconsistencies that suspend a question mark above each classroom, given they may or may not be reparable. But… the point is, we have (walls on) three classrooms! So let’s do a bit of math, here. I’ve now been here for (gulp) almost three years. We’re planning sixteen classrooms, so at this rate I’ll be forty when all the classrooms are finished.

Ha. But actually, I’m really striving for a Christmas 2017 finish, here. The tendency I mentioned in the opening paragraph about procrastinating an email applies to my experience here. There’s been no procrastination, but the delayed delivery of a school campus creates this self-imposed expectation that it simply must be extraordinary to justify the time I’ve spent. [It is, after all, almost fucking May of fucking 2016. But at a certain point, you have to accept that in order to grow corn in the desert, someone needs to have come before you to cultivate soil and establish a water cycle. Otherwise, be content being the one cultivating soil and bringing water to a dry place.]

Last October, we had a film crew from Holland at Kopila Valley filming Maggie, the kids, and the many projects of the organization. The crew was from a show whose weekly episodes cover people that voluntarily choose to live “far from home, doing extraordinary things.” I’d say Maggie qualifies well for that. The episode is mostly in Dutch, but it’s fantastic, and everyone wants to see stunning imagery of Nepal and where I live, take a look: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GhbQHQtqqSo

Ravi was still alive during this filming. Hearing him babble and begin to form words both warms and crushes my heart. It’s like when you smell some scent coming from a kitchen and it wrenches you back to an old memory. God, I miss him. We all miss him.

Jamie and I planted a sacred bar tree down by Ravi’s grave. It dried and wilted, turning into a bare stick in the ground after we transplanted it. We kept watering it, though, and a month ago it once again sprouted leaves and the beginning of branches. We also have a (soon-to-be) married couple of bar and pipal saplings at the entrance of our vocational campus. In a blunder, Jamie and I spread chicken manure on them. The priest from our local temple saw this and shook his head with shock. He came back the next day and I spent 2 hours doing cleansing ceremonies for each tree. This involved me bowing to the tree, spreading tikka on its leaves, tying colorful cloth onto it’s stalk, chanting various gods’ names, and walking five times around the tree holding a flame. I must have messed up on the bar tree, because since that day the pipal tree has absolutely exploded with a rate of growth I’ve never encountered in a tree.

Eventually, the two trees will be tied together with a string in a marriage ceremony. We’ll have to do this once they age enough that the string won’t block the main gate. The marriage is complete once the string breaks on its own accord – whether by sun-wear, a strong gust of wind, or divine decree.

——

May 2

I wrote everything above over a week ago, intending to attach photos of the campus’ progress and other updates from the Children’s Home: we have passionfruit growing on our roof! I measured the kids again (every April) and they continue to grow like crazy! We had a drone here recently and go some amazing footage of the site from the sky! Nena is leaving! 😦 😦 We got in trouble with Nepali police for flying a drone without permission (oops) 😦

Just so so much. I wouldn’t say I’m burned out but I’m definitely ready to leave for a mini vacation – I’m headed out in just a few minutes with Nena, Maggie, Patty, Christen, Chris, Autumn, and Jeremy to Bali for 10 days. Our direct flight from Surkhet to Kathmandu got canceled one hour before it was scheduled to take off (because c’est la vie içi), so now we’re taking a longer route through Nepalgunj. Either way – ready for some time away!

I’m making a promise to myself that I’ll post some photos and more detailed updates when I’m back. I left my blog sitting on the post about Ravi’s death for a long time. Life has continued – this place is still beautiful, the work is still inspiring (and all too often frustrating). More to come…

 

Ravi

Ravi’s death, two days ago, has shaken me to my absolute core. The furious whirlwind of emotions – heartbreak, fury, guilt, denial – has had me feeling a confusing combination of tension and exhaustion. Ravi had become the warm, beating heart of our Kopila family and something of a mascot. After all, he had survived so much since coming to Maggie as a 4 pound skeleton on the verge of death a year and a half ago. He had grown into a plump toddler absolutely bursting with life and love of life. And, more than that, his surviving self was a testament to the power of nurturing, motherly love.

I loved him completely. Anyone who spent a minute with him was instantly infatuated. Anyone who ever held him and danced around as the kids went off to school or helped him eat at the dinner table or heard him say “uh oh” before doing something naughty, they were drawn to his undeniable charm and glow.

Disaster has been no foreign thing to me and to Kopila Valley – even just since I’ve been there, the country has seen a terrible earthquake, disastrous flooding, a petrol crisis – but nothing could ever be worse than this. From all the followers on Facebook or Instagram to our family in Nepal and Maggie especially, I do not see how a child could have been loved more genuinely or completely. All of us have lost greatly here. But what I in particular struggle to make sense of is how or why this could happen to Maggie, who has given her life and every ounce of herself to helping those around her. It is cruel, and only cruel, that she should be forced to experience this, to bury her child.

I will never make sense of it. None of us will. All I can do is ask myself, How can I change? How can I live a life that is worthy of Ravi, in a way that in some small way reacts to his death by working harder to make this wide world, and my narrow world, happier and healthier places? I have no answer for this, not now. And until I return to Nepal and grieve properly, I won’t find an answer. I can only attempt to come to terms with this new reality without diminishing the gravity of Ravi’s death or distancing myself from it emotionally. I can never allow myself to forget how much I loved that child and how much he meant to me.

But for now and like everyone else, I just wish I could have had more time with him.

September 068.JPG

Pushing Paper and Babies

I’m in an interesting state of mind. Lately, it feels like all I’ve been doing is “pushing paper,” as Chris calls it. There’s been so much emailing and document writing, I feel oddly productive without anything to show for it. And really, I’m going home for Christmas in 3 weeks and once again, I’ll likely have nothing to show for all the work and time I’ve put into the work here. I’m not frustrated, but I was really hoping I’d have pictures of a completed classroom or at least some walls to show my family and friends during my month at home. Oh well. Jindagi estai cha. Life is like this.

The contract for our contractor has taken a lot of work and time, and I’ve been the guy writing it (gulp). I’ve looked through sample contracts from the US and moved content from that into a standard Nepali contract. I’ve certainly learned a lot from making the contract, but could I possibly say that I’ve learned enough to do it again? I’m not sure. The more I work on the boring/procedural work, the more I think I may need to someday go back to school. Not so I can avoid doing it in the future, but so that I have a firmer grasp of how that work needs to be done.

Hand in hand with the contract are rammed earth specifications that dictate the standards we’ll hold our contractor to with our structural walls. I feel slightly more qualified to work on this – and actually just finished the 6-page document a few days ago – given the last two years of research and field work with RE. It’s a bit more enjoyable – I’ve downloaded the New Zealand standards for RE and read through them, and also read cover-to-cover the standards adopted by 27 countries in Africa. It actually feels quite relevant to creating opportunities in the future.

Unfortunately, though, there are things that our team here simply can’t do. We don’t have a certified Nepali engineer to do bill verification or change orders during construction, nor do we have someone who can sign off on key structural components. For this, we’ve reached out to multiple consultancy firms in Kathmandu about assisting out team in project management. We’ll also need them to review the sloppy jobs done on our Bill of Quantities and structural drawings before we can actually proceed with work or even finalize our contract. This is really the first domino that needs to fall. During a busy few days in Kathmandu a week ago, Chris and I met with four different consultancy firms and extracted service proposals from each. One was clearly the most professional, and we’re in the process of hiring them.

The Early Childhood Village workshop that I mentioned in my last blog post went relatively well. I say relatively well because we did not return to Surkhet with a strong image of what the ECV would actually look like, but we were able to visit multiple schools and have a productive discussion of all our programmatic needs. Jaddon was certainly the MVP of the two-day workshop – organizing two separate tours and giving a thorough presentation of everything he thought we needed to consider and include in our design discussions.

 

Powerless on the first night of the Charette in Kathmandu.

Powerless on the first night of the Charette in Kathmandu.

The second day of our charette - getting into design ideas.

The second day of our charette – getting into design ideas.

The old ECV design.

The old ECV design.

The new ECV design.

The new ECV design.

The new ECV design, seen from the road.

The new ECV design, seen from the road.

The Aquaponics system has continued to be a semi-distracting sideshow that has taken far too long but that I’ve abstained from putting much of my time into. All three members of that team are leaving in two weeks, so we’ve gotten them to commit to a schedule that has them finish up within seven days. I’m dubious it’ll happen, but maybe I’ve gotten too pessimistic during my time here.

The one part of that sideshow I’ve enjoyed is building two square-shaped, underground tanks. We dug for the tanks anticipating that we’d be placing plastic tanks imported from India. With the border blockade, the delivery company said “It will come in one week” for six straight weeks, until finally the Aquaponics team requested their money back and we decided to go with a different route. Unfortunately, we had dug round, sloppily shaped holes in the ground. We had to retrofit these, by digging out straighter sides and using a mud plaster, to have clean, smooth walls against which we could apply our ferrocement wire mesh and mortar. The tanks look great – almost like swimming pools – and I’ll find out tomorrow whether that actually hold water. One of them is 7 feet deep – that’s a lot of pressure on the bottom!

The fish tank of the Aquaponics system.

The fish tank of the Aquaponics system.

Finally, the last piece of news is the arrival of three new adorable baby goats on the land. I had been really worried about their old mother, who we affectionately call Baje Bakri (Grandma Goat), and her ability to survive the birth. During our charette in Kathmandu, though, the caretakers on the land hired a vet to come and manually remove the babies. All three – Lady Bolt, Jonesy, and Nappy – are doing great. Lady Bolt had a bad limp for her first few days, so Baje Bakri rejected her. We’ve been feeding her with a bottle and cow’s milk, and she’s growing just as fast as the other two.

A patient mama.

A patient mama.

We also have baby bunnies and ducklings on the way – all from our own animals. We’re not 100% sure about either, but the mother bunny is getting bigger by the day and has begun to shed some of her fur (apparently a sign she’ll make a fur bed to keep her babies warm). Two of the mother ducks have been sitting on their eggs all day and night, so we’re trusting their judgement that at least some of the 20 eggs they’ve stored up are fertilized.

Two of our Muscovy (dinosaur style) ducks.

Two of our Muscovy (dinosaur style) ducks.

The husband bunny.

The husband bunny.

Lastly, we had a kitten with us until this very morning. She was named Mugatu by Nena, and we got her two weeks ago when she was just 2-3 weeks old from a neighbor who had found her abandoned by her mother. She was a beautiful kitten that nearly resembled a tiger. Whether she died of infection, cold, or malnutrition, I’m not sure. We did everything we could, without making it a full time job, to bring her back up to health, but it just wasn’t enough. I tried to take her to a vet yesterday, but vets here rarely see any animals but livestock, so there wasn’t much help to be found. I woke up in the darkness early this morning from a strange dream, and reached down from my bed. I wasn’t surprised that she had died – it looked like she had made up her mind several days ago, but it was a bit heartbreaking nonetheless. We could have done more. You can always do more. We buried her today under a lemon tree.

 

The late Mugatu. RIP

The late Mugatu. RIP

Mugatu's lemon tree.

Mugatu’s lemon tree.

 

An update from afar.

A quick update, from the last month:

Our bid process is finally over, and we’ve selected Hemendra as our contractor. In order to qualify financially for our project, he had to team up with another company as part of a joint venture. The next two weeks are dedicated to writing a good, comprehensive contract. I have absolutely zero experience in this, so I’ll be going back and forth with SP, a governance consultant we’ve hired from Kathmandu.

The gathering of contractors and Kopila representatives for Bid Opening.

The gathering of contractors and Kopila representatives for Bid Opening.

After the Bid Opening was finished, all the bids (9 of them, each containing ~250 pages) needed to be locked away in a secure room.

After the Bid Opening was finished, all the bids (9 of them, each containing ~250 pages) needed to be locked away in a secure room.

At the end of this week, I’m traveling with Chris and Jamie to Kathmandu to 1) meet with Hemendra and our consultant to hammer out details of the contract and 2) to interview consulting firms that can provide us with a site engineer and project manager and, last, 3) to attend a 2-day design workshop I’m organizing with the three of us and Nripal (our architect) and Jaddon (Kopila’s educational consultant) and Naim (Kopila’s principal).

Organizing the dates and schedule of the itinerary has been excessively challenging, largely because Nripal is still doing a lot of earthquake relief work and I’ve been so busy with the bid process. Also, coordinating between seven people is a lot harder than I would have realized. There is still a very serious petrol shortage in this country, due to India’s undeclared border blockade, and travel logistics are nightmare throughout the country. I’m hoping that we come away from the workshop with a strong sense of what the Early Childhood Village is going to look like, how much it will cost, who is building it, and how long it will take.

The itinerary for our "charrette" next week. A charrette is a design workshop involving all the stakeholders - architects, engineers, educators, landscapers.

The itinerary for our “charrette” next week. A charrette is a design workshop involving all the stakeholders – architects, engineers, educators, landscapers.

The Aquaponics side show is still happening. There are no plastic tanks available in the entire country (again, due to the blockade), so we’ll be experimenting with ferrocement work and making a couple of underground tanks. I’ve never done ferrocement work before, nor have my workers, so all I have to rely on for information is my friend Google.

It’s slightly unfortunate, though I do love learning new building techniques, because my real focus right now needs to be developing the ECV plan and getting a contract finished for Hemendra’s firm. I can be nice having a side project, but Cal, who is the expert in Aquaponics, is leaving in about a month, so time could potentially become an issue. I’ll post photos of the system when we have it up and running (hopefully in about 2 weeks).

Lastly, I thought I’d post on here my last dozen or so Instagram photos, since I’m far better at keeping my Instagram updated than this blog.

Back.

Back.

Man Kumari has a successful harvest from our land of Bogate fruit, which tastes a lot like grapefruit but is a fair amount larger.

Man Kumari has a successful harvest from our land of Bogate fruit, which tastes a lot like grapefruit but is a fair amount larger.

Rammed earth fence looking good and completely unaffected by the monsoon rains!

Rammed earth fence looking good and completely unaffected by the monsoon rains!

got hay?

got hay?

Laxmin smoothing some of the edge on our new Aquaponics structure..!

Laxmin smoothing some of the edge on our new Aquaponics structure..!

Adding to my collection of amazing Nepali moths…

Adding to my collection of amazing Nepali moths…

A golden treat inside.

A golden treat inside.

This morning’s chartered flight to Pokhara.

This morning’s chartered flight to Pokhara.

My newest Nepali moth. Groton colors!

My newest Nepali moth. Groton colors!

Entrance to the pizza temple.

Entrance to the pizza temple.

The entrance to our vocational campus, lit up at night by multi-color LED stripping.

The entrance to our vocational campus, lit up at night by multi-color LED stripping.

The office to-do list.

The office to-do list.

Our grandmother goat is pregnant from an encounter this summer. Some of our staff brought down a billy goat from the mountains while I was gone in the US this summer and he did the deed. She’s way too old and weak from giving birth just 7 months ago, so I’m pretty worried she’s not going to survive. Healthy pregnancies make a goat look wide, whereas Baje Bakri’s chest is just sagging. I’m doing what I can - feeding her special leaves and grains - but we’ll just have to hope she can tough it out.

Our grandmother goat is pregnant from an encounter this summer. Some of our staff brought down a billy goat from the mountains while I was gone in the US this summer and he did the deed. She’s way too old and weak from giving birth just 7 months ago, so I’m pretty worried she’s not going to survive. Healthy pregnancies make a goat look wide, whereas Baje Bakri’s chest is just sagging. I’m doing what I can – feeding her special leaves and grains – but we’ll just have to hope she can tough it out.

We now have 4 ducks and 2 rabbits, one of which is pregnant. They are sharing this new but temporary split level house that my workers put up (with absolutely no direction from me). The ducks are downstairs, and the rabbits are upstairs. There’s a pond out front for the ducks to bathe in, and the rabbits have a little door to exit out the back.

We now have 4 ducks and 2 rabbits, one of which is pregnant. They are sharing this new but temporary split level house that my workers put up (with absolutely no direction from me). The ducks are downstairs, and the rabbits are upstairs. There’s a pond out front for the ducks to bathe in, and the rabbits have a little door to exit out the back.

Happy Tihar from Nepal!

Happy Tihar from Nepal!

Office!

Well, it’s done. I’m writing this post from the new office, on a Wifi system powered by a solar system we installed ourselves that also powers our internet antenna, battery charging, and a few outlets. Our furniture finally came, and I bought four plants for decor. Miriam, a new volunteer, walked into and asked “Wow, you guys have A/C?” In reality, no, but it really does feel like it sometimes. The 18 inch thick walls on these old house work wonders with the temperature, just like rammed earth.

I’ve never had an office, and this is a fine first one to have. Carpet on the floors, clay painted walls, and solar powered electrics, including internet. Woowee!

As a recap, to make this space we:

  1. Tore out the old, 5″ thick clay floor and sticks that comprised the subfloor. Before we did this, I was too tall for the space.
  2. Put down our own plywood subfloor, customizing the old joist system to fit the boards correctly.
  3. Brewed our own special clay paint and painted the walls. Ingredients included flour, chalk, and cow poop. Yum.
  4. Covered the floors with soft red carpet (bare feet, yay!).
  5. Ordered furniture (1 desk, 1 bookshelf, 1 table, 4 chairs) from the market.
  6. Installed a solar PV array on our roof. Installed a internet antenna 5 meters off the roof.
  7. Wired the room with conduit and separate DC and AC circuits (DC is 22% more efficient and comes straight from the battery).
  8. Bought four plants and installed lighting for finishing touches.
  9. Wrote this blog.

Pictures:

The house where it now all happens. The structure is all stone and is 40-60 years old. It almost certainly used to have a stone roof.

The house where it now all happens. The structure is all stone and is 40-60 years old. It almost certainly used to have a stone roof.

The view looking out from the porch. You can see the rammed earth main columns and sliding gate on the right side.

The view looking out from the porch. You can see the rammed earth main columns and sliding gate on the right side.

Looking out towards the entrance. There's an opening above the desk that leads to a loft up above, where we're planning to put a bed or two.

Looking out towards the entrance. There’s an opening above the desk that leads to a loft up above, where we’re planning to put a bed or two.

Recently-arrived Miriam at work in our new office.

Recently-arrived Miriam at work in our new office.

India: Nepal’s bully.

Nepal is a country still coping with division from a decade long civil war, a century of poverty, and recent floods and – maybe you’ve heard – a decent sized earthquake. The country, after almost a decade of pontificating, corruption, and incompetence, was finally able to write a new constitution. The Madhesis, an ethnic group along the Indian border, felt that they were under-represented in the Nepali Parliament, and India seemed to agree (a good portion of Madhesis are recently immigrated from India). Rather than congratulate their “friend” Nepal and accept its admittedly imperfect constitution (and recognize that future amendments are always possible) India has decided to cut off all petrol deliveries to the landlocked Nepal. So, for the last 5 days, the entire country has been without any fuel. Humanitarian aid to earthquake victims has surely been effected, and an already weak economy has been crippled by Nepal’s big bully brother. Modern imperialism.

Resurrection

I think the title of this blog is a fitting one: I haven’t posted an update to this site in over 6 months. I had been away for much of that time, yes, but writing entries on here is a great way to organize my thoughts and share progress or lack thereof. But the resumption of this blog coincides with another resurrection of sorts: after March of last year, I became a relatively miserable and burnt-out wreck working 60-70 hours weeks and obsessing over every small detail of my work here and every factor I could not control. It took me two months at home, relaxing with my family/friends and eating food I genuinely love, for me to again feel like myself.

And now, an actual update:

The main campus remains in a horribly frustrating stall. When we began the construction process, we already knew we wanted Hemendra to build the campus. He’s intelligent and trustworthy, and he is among 3-4 people in the country who have extensive experience in rammed earth. His story is remarkable, and perhaps one for another blog post: he grew up in a tiny, remote village and did so well on his regional standardized test in 6th grade that he was sent to study in Kathmandu. From there, he did so well that he ended up going on to get a B.S. in Environmental Engineering from Harvard.

Front page of our bid document. yay!

Front page of our bid document. yay!

Regardless, none of our team has ever done something like this before, and because we already knew Hemendra was “the guy,” we neglected to go through a proper bidding process. Having caught our mistake over the summer, we retroactively began the process, but it is lengthy and filled with hundreds of pages of documents and consultations with lawyers and engineers. Even with a proper bid process, there’s no guarantee that anyone, even Hemendra, will “qualify.” Until we are able to properly select a qualified Rammed Earth, Nepali contractor, we cannot legally resume construction. To put it mildly, Nepal is a difficult country to work in. At best, we’ll restart the work and start ramming walls on the main campus in January.

Fortunately, this doesn’t effect our work on the Early Childhood Village or Vocational campus.

On the vocational campus, we now have 4 cows, 10 chickens/1 rooster/15 chicks, and my beloved baby goats have all doubled in size! It’s hard to believe I was carrying them down a mountain just half a year ago. There’s a big cow barn, surprisingly well built, next to the chicken house I bought last year. The solid and liquid waste from the cows drains neatly into a trough, and Jamie is planning on running this into a biogas system to supply all the cooking needs on campus. That work should be starting next week.

Also, I’m building an office. I can’t believe it’s taken me this long to realize we needed a clean space with tables, WiFi, and good lighting. Perhaps I’ve been a Luddite, preferring instead to keep my backpack on the ground and lean against a tree as I work on my computer. No longer! I had my guys pull out the old and uneven clay floor from a room in the house on campus and fill in the space with plywood boards. Today, we began painting the walls with an all-natural clay paint that we’re making from flour, clay, and chalk powder. I also arranged to get a WiFi antenna installed, and I’m going to set up a dedicated solar PV system and LED tape for a good ambience.

Jamie sitting in our newly carpeted office.

Jamie sitting in our newly carpeted office.

My other current project is working with a group that came here to install an “Aquaponics” system. Right now, we’re building the structure (a substantial 26’ x 34’) to house the system, which is a closed water circuit feeding both fish and plants. Beginning in a 1,500 gallon tank housing approximately 150 carp and their waste output, water flows by gravity into hanging columns of greens, which filter the compost from the water like a bioswale. The water then drains into grow beds built into the ground, and from there into a large cistern underground. From here, the water is pumped back up into the fish tank, where the cycle begins again. So, for the price of fish food, we get fresh fish (up to 250 kg/year) and rapidly growing greens. The whole system is meant to run on solar, but I’m having doubts about the power usage of the pump. The group is exceedingly knowledgeable about the system itself, but less so about power and solar usage and building construction, so it’s turned into a fruitful and fun collaboration.

Artistic depiction of an aquaponics system. (Photo courtesy of Carla Smith)

Artistic depiction of an aquaponics system. (Photo courtesy of Carla Smith)

When I was in Kathmandu, I had the following nightmare (written at 3 am in a sweaty, putrid hotel room):

I’ve been away from Kopila for almost four months now, due to a stay at home that was twice extended. During that time it has rained buckets and buckets, as Nepal and India are prone to do during their monsoon seasons when the Himalayas block the passage of moisture sweeping up from the warm Indian Ocean.

I dreamt I arrived at the land, as I’ll do later today, and found it utterly unchanged, my rammed earth fence included. As I walked closer though, I realized that my Nepali counterparts had painted my rammed earth blue out of fear it would erode in the rain! Shocked and offended, I looked closer, only to notice that they had been right, and that the columns, and my water repellent coating, were in fact damaged – they had cracked in spots from settling, and rainwater had crept along their bases, undercutting the rammed earth, the first sign of damage. Perhaps I had made a huge mistake not building with cement, solely to prove my misguided belief that no cement was needed.

Then, inspecting even closer, I saw that other columns had entire chunks the size of my hand missing, and when I pressed my thumb again the soil it was soft and muddy, like a dirty road. The whole time, a curious group of Nepali boys was following me, watching and observing me like a show. I wanted to lie down and ponder this disaster I had created, but they began to say, in Nepali, that I looked sad and beaten. In truth though, I was absorbing the shock and thinking of solutions: we could plaster the holes with more rammed earth, coat all the columns with a lime render, or simply fill any damaged areas with cement.

I stood up, remembering the three columns that Laxmin had made that were too dry, and ran down to see how they had withstood the monsoon deluge.

They had been utterly decimated, split into pieces, melted into the ground, or simply missing. This after just 4 months. Now I was truly beaten and I fell to the ground with dismay. I remember thinking “This CANNOT be real. Please have this be a dream, please be a dream.” I tried and tried, but I couldn’t escape, so I slowly realized that this unmitigated disaster was in fact reality, and I was the architect.

There were two of Kopila’s students there, and they asked me if I wanted to play soccer. I relented believing it may be a dream and simply kicked around with them until I finally did emerge into my Kathmandu hotel room, desperately relieved.

Not only did the fence survive, but at close inspection I haven’t found a single sign of wear. This is HUGE, and completely validates my belief in rammed earth as a viable building material for this country. A typical home has 3 or 4 foot overhangs, my fence has 6 inch overhangs. Of course, it remains to seen how the fence will fare after 30 or 40 monsoon seasons, but I feel like I’ve proven something significant already, that even without any cement, rammed earth is not only beautiful, but durable.

The rammed earth fence, alive and well.

The rammed earth fence, alive and well.