Today has been a very busy day. It started off with us going to the Wheelchair club where these disabled people founded a little shop to manufacture wheelchairs themselves. All the parts come from different (used) bicycle parts, and all the people manufacturing them are disabled. We met the president of the club who told us his story. He suffered from polio as a child and has no legs currently, but is doing this as a side thing along with advocacy work to make Nepali buildings (airports, hotels, government buildings, etc) more accessible for disabled people (like getting ramps installed, etc)
It takes about 1300 rupees (81 rupees for every dollar) to make one local wheelchair. So I think that may be part of the fund raising campaign we may do when we come back to Bellevue. I was really impressed with these people on so many levels, because one of the guys came riding in on a scooter/motorbike. He had modified it so that his wheelchair would fold and fit on it. Then he parked his motorbike and took off his helmet and hopped onto his wheelchair. He’s an engineer by profession and has spent the last few months in Japan working on similar disability design projects, which he plans on developing the same infrastructures in Nepal (which is going to be a lot of work)
Many of the people here speak broken hindi, but it is easier to communicate with them in English. Later on in the afternoon we visited a hostel where deaf children live from the valley. The whole experience was really moving and I really had a blast hanging out with all these cute little children. They only knew sign language, and since none of us knew sign language, we basically communicated with each other in smiles and gestures.
At first everybody was just staring at us because we were filming them and looking at their facility. After a few moments, one of the guys (David) picked up 3 rocks and started juggling them. The children one by one started doing the same thing and tried juggling them. I then got a pen out and started twirling them between my fingers. And one-by-one the children would take turns and mimic my actions (with the same pen). It was something so simple, and really boring to be honest, but they were having so much fun doing it that I kept it going with other objects (quarters, rocks, etc)
Finally someone brought out a soccerball and we had a lot of fun playing with that. I taught them how to play volleyball as well. The kids are very smart, one of the little girls was fascinated by everyones cameras and started taking pictures and learned the menu and the buttons very quickly.
We then went to lunch and I got to have a really nice masala dosa. This entire restaurant staff was deaf and it was a really different experience ordering things using gestures and signs instead of words.
Afterwards, we went to Durbar square which is one of the UNESCO world heritage sites. They have a lot of old buildings and small stalls with all sorts of handi-craft things to buy. In Nepal, people selling things aren’t as pushy as some of the people in India. We hardly had anybody approach our group asking us to give money or buy their things.
We kinda feel like movie stars walking around being followed with a camera and mic boom. Everywhere we go we have a huge crowd following us and people give us special attention. The traffic here is horrendous. And because we travel in a big microbus we always get stuck while 30 motorcycles whizz past us.
At the home there are many other volunteers from around the world staying here doing different projects. There is a couple and the wife went to UC Davis for medical school and is now applying for Pediatric residencies in the Bay Area. She also applied to Highland hospital. They are here for what is called a Medical Trek. They backpack into remote areas and then visit small clinics set up by NGOs to treat the villagers for a few days before heading back to Kathmandu. She told me some of the stories and they are very inspirational. I’m motivated to work hard when I come back this semester so that I can do something like her after I become a doctor, hopefully.
Well, I’m off to bed. Tomorrow we are going to be staying the night with a Nepali host family in Pakkhora, which is where many people go trekking