Wednesday, October 21, 2015

Parting blessings

By the fifth day of work we were running out of things to do. The next step involved placing the wire gabions in the trenches, tying them with rebar (Mingma’s home was the first ever in Phortse to use rebar), then filling the cages with carefully arranged stones. But the process of weaving the gabions from spools of wire was going slowly, only producing six in the course of three days. So we placed those cages and supervised the crew as they integrated the rebar both laterally and vertically, then knocked off early. 

We talked about the remaining days as we ate lunch back at our camp. Having trained the local crew on what to do with the gabions, it seemed senseless to linger in Phortse for four more days as the cages were slowly produced, so we decided to break camp on the 16th and pull a long deep loop into the magical villages of Pangboche, Dingboche, and Tengboche. 

Phortse's RN with Dave Mauro

The costs associated with building Mingma’s home had become much clearer since arriving in Phortse and I determined that OSH carried a modest surplus of cash. The group discussed ideas for using these funds and agreed we should make donations to Phortse’s clinic and school. We visited the modest one-room clinic the next morning and presented the attending RN with $500, a truly substantial sum for a health care facility serving people so poor they most often can not afford to pay anything for their care. The Vice Chairman of the school board was summoned by Dawa and we likewise presented $500 to him. He was greatly appreciative. 

We placed several more gabions the next day and spent a good bit of time going over the building plans with Mingma, Dawa, the Mason, and the Contractor. Though polite nodding almost certainly stood in the place of true understanding at times, there was enough dialogue between us to convey their grasp of what needed to be done. Then Mingma and his wife presented each of us with a ceremonial khata, a cream-colored silk scarf gifted in Buddhist culture as an act of thanks. Mingma’s wife gave me a full formal ensemble of sherpa clothing for Lin, a colorful layering of hand-sewn skirt, blouse, apron and headwear. It is too rare that a person gets to connect with a foreign culture the way our away team did in Phortse. We all felt grateful and proud.  

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