A day in the life of Danny Escola. Danny shared his 10-day experience with his friends and family on Facebook and we wanted to share it with you. Enjoy!
Nepal - Day 1
I’m back in Nepal helping Conscious Impact improve the lives of a community where 97% of their homes were destroyed by an earthquake. I’ll be living in a tent on a camp in the Himalayas for 10 days working alongside other volunteers and the local Nepali people to help improve this community. Some of my primary duties will be making pressed bricks out of sustainable materials, helping to build a home for a deaf/mute couple and their family, and experimenting with agriculture techniques and crops to help the local farmers. I’ll also get opportunities for community visits to places like the local orphanage to play games with the kids and help them practice their English. It’s gonna be a fun adventure and I’m excited to be back!
On this first day, I’ll be going on a 5 hour (and terrifying) bus ride from Kathmandu to camp. Look for pics tomorrow.
Nepal - Day 2
Today I’m waking up in my tent all bundled up in every layer I have....it’s really cold here at night! Yesterday was an incredible adventure over the Himalaya foothills to arrive at the Conscious Impact camp which is at about 4,500 feet above sea level. The drive included 5 hours of incredible vistas of the Himalaya peaks and a stop in the town of Melamchi for Dal Bhat (a traditional lunch of rice and lentils). The bus ride itself was the bumpiest, dustiest, and uncomfortable ride you can imagine with other buses passing us on a dirt road not much wider than the width of one bus. The maneuvering these drivers do to allow the other vehicles to pass without us tumbling down the hillside makes me a believer they have got to be some of the most talented drivers in the world.
After arriving at camp, we received an orientation, had the chance to set up our tents, and a little downtime before “gratitude” where all 25 of us campers went one by one in a circle to say what we were grateful for today. I was grateful for meeting old and new friends, for seeing the high Himalayas, and for being back in such a warm community. Gratitude is such an amazing way to end a day and It would be great to incorporate this into my life back home on a more regular basis. After gratitude and a delicious camp-cooked meal, I was ready for an early night.
Today I’ll be working with a team moving bricks that were built by Conscious Impact. These bricks are made up of a mixture of local soil, local sand from the river, and a little bit of concrete and water and then pressed using a manual machine. What I find so cool about these bricks is that they are not only sustainable and earthquake resistance, but by using a pressed method instead of a firing method, the air pollution related to brick making is eliminated (unfortunately, over half of the hair pollution in Kathmandu is attributable to the firing of bricks). Also, Conscious Impact is training the locals how to make these pressed (non-fired) bricks and the intention is to hand the facility over to them to create a local economy. ❤️❤️❤️
Here are some pics from my day yesterday traveling to camp, setting up my tent, and settling in.
Nepal - Day 3
Waking up refreshed (and cold) after a long day of work yesterday. The mornings here are quiet and beautiful and we start at 6:30 am with chanting/meditation/singing/dream reflection by the fire in the Conscious Impact tepee. It’s a wonderful way to welcome a new day and prepare for another hard day of work.
Yesterday I spent about 30 minutes after breakfast to sort trash and stuff plastic bottles with plastic wrappers and other smaller plastic waste. In Nepal, there is litter everywhere and they don’t have the same kinds of waste management you would find in western countries. Conscious Impact is very mindful of the trash it produces and tries to reuse or compost everything it can. When it comes to plastic, they have found that if you ram smaller pieces of plastic into plastic bottles, the bottle becomes extremely hard and can be used as a building material. Many of the structures at camp use these plastic bottles as part of the structure....what a great way to reuse!
After my trash duties, I spent the morning moving bricks in a human chain passing one brick at a time from person to person. The bricks were being moved from the place where they had been dried to the staging location for delivery to the various households that will use these earth-conscious and earthquake-resistant bricks. We must have moved a few thousand bricks! I wasn’t as careful as I should have been and got some minor cuts on my arm. No worries tho, they will heal soon. I also got my turn using the brick-pressing machine. Like I said in my post yesterday, these bricks are pressed instead of fired which means there is no air pollution associated with the process.
In the afternoon I helped cut and sew earthbags for a house Conscious Impact is making for a deaf/mute couple and their children. Earthbags are filled with compacted soil and stacked like bricks and then covered with plaster and can be used as an inexpensive construction method...an entire quality home can be built for just a few thousand dollars. Conscious Impact is providing the labor and the materials to help this family rebuild from the devastating earthquake.
Nepal - Day 4
I’m midway through my 4th day here at camp and wanted to keep going on using Facebook as a journal to reflect on my 10 days here while I work with Conscious Impact to help rebuild this community in Nepal as they recover from a 2015 earthquake that left about 97% of the surrounding buildings and homes in rubble.
Yesterday I woke up early at 6:30 am to sit in the tepee and learn a Hindu chant to the god Ganesha. From what I learned, in Hinduism, Ganesha is the remover of obstacles. I’m sure we can all agree that as humans we all have obstacles (usually that negative voice in our head telling us that we can’t, that we aren’t a good person, that we aren’t deserving of love....a sense that somehow we aren’t enough). Even though I didn’t know the exact the meaning of the words I was saying while chanting, it was cool to offer my transition from sleep to wakefulness to a removal of obstacles both small and large. And also to remind myself that everyone has these obstacles and it’s important to remember this fact as we interact with each other as human beings and offer whatever compassion our hearts can muster.
After breakfast, a group of us made our way about 20 minutes down a very steep hill to the house that Conscious Impact is currently building for a deaf/mute couple and their children. Conscious Impact only has the manpower and resources to build one house at a time and in order to avoid picking favorites on which family to build for, Conscious Impact has asked the entire village to decide who we should build for next. The community decided that the deaf/mute couple and their children were the most in need and so Conscious Impact has been providing the labor and materials to build this home. When I was here in October I was involved in digging the ditches for the foundation and it was exciting to see the walls are now going up. Conscious Impact is building this home out of earthbags which are just bags filled with soil and then stacked like bricks. The bags are compacted and are as strong as concrete for a fraction of the cost. Once the structure is in place, the walls are plastered and will look just like any other homemade from concrete....pretty cool. I spent the morning filling bags with soil and stacking them in place! I was working with one of the dead/mute couple’s teenage kids who has been helping out and he was such a sweet person and a hard worker. It was really rewarding!
After a nice lunch back at camp, I went with a group on a community visit to visit a local family. We sat outside, drank some tea, and learned about their experience with the earthquake, got to meet their 1-month-old child, and talk about their family and all kinds of topics. It was nice and relaxing afternoon.
I was assigned to the dinner team in the evening and had fun working with a crew of 5 of us making a delicious Indian bean/vegetable stew, a green salad, and rotis. The camp is 100% vegetarian out of respect to the locals but I got to say vegetarian does not mean it lacks deliciousness! Our meal was so so good. 🙂
After dinner, it was time to crawl into my tent and rest up for another day of work.
Nepal - Day 5
Woke up early again on Thursday to go to the tepee at 6:30. This time we were led through a 30-minute meditation. I’m really enjoying starting my days with a calm, reflective, and mindful practice to help me stay present and prepare myself for the day ahead.
In the morning after breakfast, I again headed down to the earthbag house to work. This time I started off laying down the barbed wire which holds the earthbag layers together. I got a few snags in my pants and my gloves basically got destroyed by the wire, but hey, it’s construction work so I shouldn’t expect anything less. It was fun to again work with the deaf/mute couple’s oldest son...he is such a hard worker and has a great positive attitude. After laying down the barbed wire we filled earthbags and stacked them as we had done the day before.
In the afternoon, I joined an agricultural team to pay a visit to a beautiful farm about a 15-minute walk from camp. This farmer had all kinds of plants from aloe to lemon trees to tomatoes to coffee just to name a few. The property was spacious and stunningly beautiful. After our tour, we got to sit and chat over tea and even got to feed the goats which were really fun.
Before dinner, I got some time to start a book called Jumla - a true story about a Nepali nurse who lived and worked in an impoverished city in western Nepal during the Maoist conflict. She later went on to win the N-Peace Award for her humanitarian efforts....truly a remarkable woman. It’s always inspiring to me to read stories of real people who have done incredible things.
In the evening after dinner, some of the Conscious Impact leaders did I presentation on natural building. In addition to the obvious sustainability benefit, it was interesting to learn how durable natural buildings can be. Homes made from earthbags, for example, can last 500 years! They also are much more insulated than concrete or wood homes and therefore do not require nearly as many resources or money to heat and cool these buildings. Earthbag homes can be built with sophisticated electrical, plumbing, and heating/cooling systems too. Another thing I’ve been getting out of my experience here when it comes to homes is a good reminder that we really don’t need to build large houses to prove our wealth or importance. We can get by simply and comfortably with a small space to call our own.
Nepal - Days 6-8
Skipped a few days of updates on my experience here but hey I’ve been pretty busy!
The schedule is packed here with some sort of spiritual practice at 6:30 am around a fire in the tepee, breakfast at 7 am, morning chores from about 7:40 to 8. Then the morning work projects run from 8:30 to noon. Lunch at noon. Afternoon projects from 1:30 pm to 4:30 pm. Dinner at 6, then usually some sort of evening activity. And everyone is assigned to a major chore almost every day whether it be the breakfast cook team, the breakfast dishes team, the dinner cook team, or the dinner dishes team. For lunch, Conscious Impact hires two lovely Nepali ladies to make it for us so we don’t have to interrupt our work projects to cook lunch. I never thought to be part of a camp community could be so rewarding but here I am and truly loving every minute of it. Honestly, I don’t remember the last time I was this happy! It’s been such a beautiful experience surrounded by amazing, beautiful, well-intentioned volunteers from all over the world. We have volunteers here from Germany, the US, Canada, Nepal, India, Vietnam, Mexico, and the UK. There are even 3 of us from Connecticut...so random!
It’s not all work here. Conscious Impact is very much work hard/play hard. Fridays and Saturdays are “off” days which means there aren’t any work projects, but plenty of other activities such as hikes, workshops, pizza making, baking, sunset walks, a “roll-in” breakfast on Saturdays complete with pancakes, fried eggs, and hash browns. On Saturday we also visited the local orphanage and continued work on an earth-bag bench for them! The kids helped as we stomped on cow poop to make the cob that goes around the exterior of the bench. It was delightfully fun! We also had a “trade circle” on Saturday where all us campers could trade possessions/skills we have for things other campers have. I traded away my trader joe’s peanut butter cups for a great new moose hat, I traded away a work shirt for a 45-minute massage, and I traded away some chocolate for a bag of raisins. It was hysterical watching all the trades taking place...so fun.
It was back to work on Sunday and Monday. Sunday I spent the morning moving big stones and moving soil in preparation for a new permanent structure here on the camp for a new kitchen and common space. Currently, the kitchen and the common space are in open air structures made out of bamboo. They are wonderful spaces but eventually, the untreated bamboo weakens and has to be replaced. So, CConsciousImpact has decided to make these spaces permanent structures.
Sunday afternoon I went back to the orphanage to continue to work on the bench for the kids. We had such a blast being silly in the cow poop.
Sunday evening we had quite the dance party after dinner in the common space complete with house music, strobe lights, and complete silliness. No alcohol/drugs allowed at camp, but we were high on life and kicking it in the Himalayas!
Today (Monday) in the morning I worked on the team sewing earth-bags for the earth-bag house and in the afternoon I went down to the earth-bag house and laid barbed wire as I had done previously. I was on the dinner cook team today and we made awesome veggie burgers, French fries, and a green salad. Was quite the hit!
Nepal - Day 9
Today was my last full day at camp and my feelings are all over the place.I feel happy to come home and see my amazing boyfriend, my family, my friends and everyone else back home but also my heart is sad. I’ve met so many open-hearted beautiful people at this place. People who dedicate their entire lives or a portion of their lives to service and human connection.
Conscious Impact has really been about personal growth for me. Every day I was confronted, asked to do something I had never done before, asked to do something that my first instinct would be to reject. But somehow, you do it...you cook a meal for 25 people in an outdoor kitchen, you live in a cramped, dirty tent for 9 nights in the shivering cold, you take an outdoor shower with freezing cold water, you walk up and down steep hillsides after hard physical labor, you poop in a hole and cover what you did with sawdust, you hand wash your laundry, you get up before dawn and sit upright on a dusty floor and meditate even when all you want to do is sleep in, you pitch in where you can, you wrestle with cell service that rarely works at all, you move heavy bricks, you shovel soil, you lay down barbed wire, you stack earth bags, and you work side by side with people you’ve never met. But at the end of the day, you sit in a group and you say what about the day you were grateful for. You take that moment to reflect on all the joyful moments you had during the day. The wonderful conversations you had, noticing the remarkable capability of our bodies, the nourishing food we ate, the acts of kindness someone did for us, the warmth of the sun, the goodness we felt to work as a team, or just remembering a silly moment that filled your heart up. And in this gratitude, a shift begins. Little by little we learn to love, to grow, to share, to recognize the wonderful gift we have been given to be human and to live a life of vulnerability and compassion. We begin to recognize that our world is completely transformed when we give love.
I can’t say enough good things about this place and I really hope any of your reading will consider a trip here.
Oh this last day here, I worked in the morning with the agriculture team making a border around garden beds that spell out C.I. and then the shape of the Nepal flag. It was a wonderful last project with lots of laughs and we even played a prank on the earthbag sewing team by switching off their power so their sewing machine wouldn’t work. We had a good laugh with them and then we all got back to work.
In the afternoon I cleaned up my space to get ready for my departure and then walked around camp and took some more pictures of this beautiful space I’ve called home for the last 9 days. I’m attaching some pictures of camp here.
I hope to be back soon and maybe bring some friends too!
If you haven’t donated yet and if you are able to, please do so. I promise you that Conscious Impact uses every dollar to help this little sliver of Nepal in their efforts to rebuild after a devastating earthquake. 🇳🇵 🇳🇵❤️❤️