Barbara Lawlor, Nepal. Jill Dreves and Resham Gurung arrived in Nepal not knowing what to expect. The Nederland residents were on a mission to deliver $14,000 to the small village of Ghormu. The money had been donated by Nederland groups and residents after an earthquake wiped out most of the homes in the village, as well as much of the Kathmandu area. The money was going to buy an ambulance for the small town that Resham grew up in.
There had been much trepidation about the trip. Resham was worried about her mother, who is in hospice in Boulder. She worried about being away from her business, the Kathmandu Restaurant, and especially worried about her son, Beshal. They had never been separated for so long.
Jill, the executive director of Wild Bear Center for Nature Study, was nervous, hoping everything would go smoothly in the delivery of the money and she would be able to handle being among people who did not speak English. She knew there would be many pieces in the paperwork puzzle to order an ambulance for the isolated town.
On the day the two women were supposed to take off from DIA, Resham dragged her feet, saying she wasn’t going to go. They were supposed to leave at 2 p.m.
“I was panicked,” says Jill. “And then she called and said she was going so we took off. Everything went smoothly. We were excellent travelers together. She leaned on me all the way over there and I leaned on her the way back.”
Once they arrived, they were met by Resham’s relatives and residents who came to greet them.
“They know how to celebrate. Wow!” says Jill, who explains that a group of people, about 15, stood in a row and presented Jill and Resham necklaces made of marigolds. “They took crushed rice and mixed it with red flowers and put it on your forehead and gave a little prayer. Some fed me yogurt. They then adorned us with scarves and marigold necklaces. It was so moving.”
Resham has not returned to her Nepal home since the earthquake and at first, she didn’t recognize her home country. There were more houses that had been built. She immediately visited people she knew. “They told me they cooked dinner all day long for me and treated me like I was famous. They told me they thought I was lucky. I felt good. I felt happy.”
The people she talked to told her they wanted to come to the United States, that it would be a better life.
Jill says she did not talk to a single American for the entire two weeks of the trip. Resham translated for her during the ambulance negotiations and during the greeting ceremonies.
“I had no idea what I was in for,” says Jill. “The people wrapped us in scarves at the airport and then we got in a taxi. There are no rules for driving. No speed limits, no lights, no stop signs. And yet, no one gets angry. They are a delightful people, swept up in family.”
After a few days, Jill learned that Nepalese people don’t sleep much. They eat a lot and have high metabolisms. There were meals in many people’s homes and Jill felt like she was queen of the universe even as she tried to keep up with Resham.
Sleeping in local houses, Jill said there was no coffee when she got up awakened by the lights being turned on, not much transition between sleep and being awake. She ate a lot of rice. There were no grocery stores, no buses, no restaurants, no alcohol. Mostly rice, spinach and lentils.
After being met by the Nepali Red Cross, a group of men joined the ambulance meeting, setting up a board of directors.
They had hired a lawyer to make sure everything was legal as they formed a non-profit agency to guide the ambulance committee. It was not a quick process, says Jill, who has been through the non-profit process many times.
Ghormu is a small village about 160 miles from Kathmandu. It took 17 hours for nine people in an eight-passenger four-wheel drive vehicle to make the trip.
It was about 70 degrees outside and Jill said there were many traffic jams on the dirt road which was often filled with sacred cows and frequent other surprises.
She did, however, have time to recover and eat many meals before she presented the ambulance council with the money; bills stacked on a tray.
A video of the presentation shows the men thanking people from Nederland, saying that every single penny they donated would be put to a good purpose.
“All the people will benefit. Thank you to Nederland.”
The trip back to Nederland was uneventful. Resham says she was ready to come home, happy that her mother was okay, that her son and husband were fine and that the business survived without her.
Jill looked back on the trip and said, “The people were so kind, they are happy and beautiful. Most people live and work in their homes, sewing, fixing shoes, gardening and butchering animals. I didn’t see that many children. While there, Resham gave money to many of the villagers. People don’t have money to bank and there aren’t any lending facilities. No one was ever angry and the police don’t carry guns. Now they will have an ambulance. What we did as a community for them is huge.”
(Originally published in the December 7, 2017 print edition of The Mountain-Ear.)