November 8, 2009: Madi

There is a early morning phone call that wakes us up but since today we have a Board of Directors meeting we assume it is people phoning in to confirm the meeting time and place. It will be held at the standard meeting place which is nearby – a few hundred metres above Megh’s  house. Tineke, Gyanendra and I show up at around 8AM and most of the members are there already. We wait a few minutes and then once everyone has arrived, Megh starts the meeting.

After introductions I speak and congratulate the Board for the fact that only 6 months after discussing the idea of a child care center they now have one up and running, have hired two teachers, have purchased a beautiful site, have a design for the building and have started to gather the basic building materials (stones for the structure and timber for the roof beams, doors and windows).  Board members ask us about the way the money we already have provided can be spent. Originally we suggested 50% be used for the building materials and 50% for preparing the land etc. The 50% is insufficient for the task so we approve that they can spend 100% of the funds on the building  For additional funding we ask that they prepare an estimate and submit that to us but we are open to an increase to get the center launched. Then I ask about the legal status of the land purchase (underway) and then start to talk about sustainability of the center after the three years we will support. We suggest adding an additional floor to the building to make the building now a multipurpose community center. Also we can house tourists/guests on the upper floor and this will provide additional funding. Once we begin to bring tourists into the region it opens the possibility of other sources of income such as guides and porters, “fooding”, sale of handicrafts and perhaps a cultural show. The Board has already talked themselves about the value of a second floor so they agree and we look at a potential design of the building with this in mind. Several of the Board Members get heavily engaged in discussing how the construction can be done.

Tineke than talks about the school program, the over-expectations of parents for “results” from children 3 or 4 years old and the need for teacher training. She mentions how pleased we are with the teacher selection after having seen them in action several times. The Board has looked into the training available from Seto Guras in Baglung. They agree that the teachers will be trained according to the Seto Guras schedule. There are a few questions about the state of the toilet and access to drinking water at the existing temporary building. The Board agrees to all the necessary repairs and the meeting closes.

Later that morning Tineke, Gyanendra and I go to the school and Tineke and Gyanendra do an exercise with the felt board and the children jump right in. This is an amazingly versatile media; cheap and portable and endlessly extensible to whatever the teachers want to discuss. Tineke and Gyanendra do this for about 1 hour and maintain the children’s concentration throughout.

Later that evening we are reminded about the veil of misfortune which seems to hang over these small villages. The phone call that woke us up was to inform Megh’s  neighbour that his son had died as a result of an industrial accident in Dubai. Megh has one of the few phones and among his unassigned duties is to bring bad news to local families who have relatives abroad. Later the father of the victim shows up looking completely drained in order to talk to Megh about funeral arrangements. The phone rings all evening as the word spreads. In the Spring when we were here a local woman was electrocuted in a storm and the year before Megh’s  daughter (the mother of the beautiful Susmita) died of complications after childbirth. All this in one small village. Of course no one mentioned any of this tragedy at the Board Meeting earlier this morning including the uncle of the victim who is a Board Member. Life is hard but it goes on.

Megh joins us for a long chat that evening that covers religion, politics, philosophy and the value of humility is daily affairs. He tells us about cleaning the toilets at the high school and sounds almost Ghandian. We have watched him doing field work and there is no question he is at home with an ashi cutting rice in the field as he is as head Master or representing the region in the ongoing constitutional talks.

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