Oct 15, 2013

Nepal 2013 Week 1 - Digging and Tanks

Week 1 volunteers set main tank farm and dig filtration trenches

Category:Nepal 2013 
Posted by: Rome

Wow, oh wow - what a start to a project!

Ann, Kyle and I arrived in Astam to find our volunteer quarters to be fully furnished and outfitted to receive our whole team of volunteers.  Tables, chairs, kitchen equipment, refrigerator, generator, food and bottled water for a full week and more.

It was a complete treat to have so much preparation done by Doug and Rayene.  The two of them are true godsends to this project!

We began the week by dividing ourselves into 3 teams: the trench team, the culvert team and the concrete slab team.  Each day, at least 12 Nepali volunteers joined us on the various tasks, along with a translator, whom we kept very busy.

While we were getting muddy and sweaty and blistered, Dawn and Rayene were chopping and seasoning and roasting meals to die for, from 5:30am until 7:30pm.

We even had home made chocolate birthday cake!

Knowing that at the end of the 10-minute walk from the work site back up the hill to our quarters there waited a delicious meal is quite a motivator.  Between the great meals and the fabulous view of the Annapurnas, the work seems a small price to pay.

Meanwhile, on the culvert team, Kyle and Rosemary tackled installing a temporary diversion pipe to take the water flow away from the existing culvert that crossed the road.  The culvert was totally plugged with mud and debris, causing the road to be a muddy mess.  After successfully diverting all the water flow, the gross job of cleaning out the 24” diameter culvert began. In the end, we convinced the locals that the top of the culvert should be cut off and a steel grate installed over it.  So Doug is headed to Pokhara to have one fabricated that will allow us to make the culvert part of our total filtration system.

The filtration trench building team of Ann and Kyle (multi-tasking as always) and I began building the first 40’ of the permanent system that will connect to the storage tanks.  We had quite an audience of locals interested in how this was all going to work.  First dig a 12” by 12” trough, put sand in the bottom, then line it with heavy black plastic, then more sand, then small round rock, then bigger gravel, then filter fabric, then local rocks to bring it to grade.  I can’t wait until we are ready to take out the diverter pipe and have them see how clean the water is at the end of the system.

The team of Shannon, Briggs, Matt, Karlyn and Nathaniel dubbed themselves the Pit of Despair team.  They had the tough task of digging a flat spot into a hilly section so we could pour a 15’ by 21’ slab where the 6 huge water storage tanks will sit.  They moved a hill of dirt and rocks, bent rebar and were ready for ‘the big pour’ in 2 days of work.

Saturday was pour day.  Every single one of us and all the Nepali volunteers mixed concrete in wheelbarrows all day.  The Mothers Group of local volunteers carried the sand and rocks down the hill to the slab in baskets on their backs.  Our biggest problem was trying to get them to make the loads SMALLER so the formula for the concrete mix would stay consistent!

They carry the baskets on their backs with a strap that goes around the basket and across their foreheads….truly amazing to see.

We got the footings and 25% of the slab poured on Saturday and finished it on Sunday.  Drains great!

I only know that it drains great, because on Monday we got totally rained out.  Imagine a room of 12 Type A personalities, chomping at the bit to get out and get something done, having to sit around and play games and relax…..sheeeesh!

Fortunately, Monday was also the biggest holiday of the year for Nepali, so at least the local volunteers weren’t working anyway.

We awoke on Tuesday to find it pouring rain still.  We just couldn’t be cooped up another day, so we braved the rain and the leeches, put on ill-fitting rubber boots and gathered the locals (who thought we were crazy).  We cut down 2 long bamboo stalks, which Doug tied together to form a stretcher with which we used to carry the 6 tanks that needed to go about 2 blocks down the hill onto the new slab.

Now imagine a huge 10’ tall by 6’- 6”diameter tank being carried down a muddy, rocky, slippery, rutty road by tall Americans in the front and short Nepali in the back.



Quite a sight to see and a huge physical struggle for everyone.  But after 4 hours, all 6 tanks sat proudly in place and we looked like drowned rats heading back up the hill to our den mothers who made it all better.

Dang global warming anyway,