It is exactly one week since we took the first Moving Mountain School Bags to 2 schools in Sindupalchowk. The second visit to Thakani was even tougher than the first and our hired vehicle got stuck in soft sandy road on a hairpin bend still a 200 meter vertical climb to the village above. Children played at the edge of the cliff like goats - watching us trying to get out of the deep rut the tires had made and up the hill. In the end the driver gave up and managed only to turn the truck around facing down the steep incline.
We abandoned the vehicle - telephoned for help and the village sent porters down to get the bags. We met them on the way up the mountain and stopped briefly to talk as they came into view and picked fresh berries - bright yellow-orange raspberry looking fruit - hanging from the bushes before continuing on up.
Just getting the bags to the villages was proving to be an effort. These remote villages are the last to receive aid of any kind - they know that further down the hills the aid filters into the larger settlements and little or nothing comes this far. Here at least we knew they had food and the constant sound of hammers confirmed that shelters were being made all around the hills.
Each of these communities have their own unique character - you can feel it when you step over the rubble of their houses and broken stone walls. Here as I came into view they clasped their hands together and sang ‘Namaste' as if they haven’t got a worry in the world - all smiles sitting in the bright green grass of the school yard with their parents. I’m the real curiosity here in my grey hair and taking pictures. They all want to have a look - to see themselves on the screen and tug at my arm to show them. Its hard to ignore their curiosity and continue shooting.
The school house had chunks of walls missing - exposed wooden tie beams hanging loosely in the air. The sunlight streamed through the gaping holes onto smashed tables and scattered notebooks - what was an office looking like a derelict house that had been abandoned years ago instead of weeks ago. The doors were jammed half shut and I thought what an unimaginable blessing it was that this happened on the only day of the week the children have off - Saturday.
After the bags were distributed the children sang their national anthem - chirpy voices. I remember as a child in Canada singing the national anthem in school - proud of my country though I didn’t know why. I thought - for these children who have lost so much - their nation is one thing they can hold on to when everything else is broken.
On the way down we saw more broken houses, entered the village and bought water for the journey home. A man in a red tea shirt stood in the doorway of a home with hammer in hand - salvaging the wood from the frames and roof before demolishing what was left of the stone structure.
Further down and nestled into two plastic chairs - seat facing seat - and forming a makeshift crib - a young child lay asleep wrapped in blankets in the cool shade of the shelter. The child will probably have only a vague memory of the moving mountain - something like Rewati's - when an earthquake struck her village when she was just 5.