The GAB joins forces with 24 IWEN volunteers


Who are the GAB?

Spanning the course of 34 years and including 7 women, the GAB as we define ourselves is a network of soul sista’s who mentor, support, love and humor one another (at times we are like the women on Wysteria Lane, other times as goofy as the women on Friends, but in real time we text, write, facetime; lunch together, bike, hike, run, and travel internationally together.  From Maui to Vegas, Mexico to Portugal and several places and ports in between, we’ve found ways and great excuses to have our passports stamped together! We mother each other, challenge each other, surprise each other – there really isn’t anything we wouldn’t do for each other.  Approximately 17 years ago I started to introduce one another to each other.  The friendship greatest in length is Lana, whom I’ve known since grade 2.  Our ages range from me being the baby at 41 to Mother Teresa at 54.  We have been there for the births of our children, we’ve celebrated graduations, grandmotherhood and we’ve stood behind life altering event -new jobs, divorces and funerals. GAB as we define ourselves is Graceful Awareness and Balance (although over the years we’ve inserted creative other words to make up that acronym!)

Our Nepal journey comprised of 4 GABber’s.  On the first day of the journey I wrote “We may think we know who we are today, but I firmly believe that the next 18 days will change our lives! I am blessed to be sharing this experience with you”.

GABber's at the Nepalese welcoming ceremony, Chainpur Nepal

GABber’s were “tika’d” at the Nepalese welcoming ceremony, Chainpur Nepal

 

Meet Lana (friends of 34+ years) – the medically knowlegable “therapist” of the group who was prepared for anything and stocked (energy bars, gels and Starbucks individual coffee’s like rationed contraband was slipped into our hands each morning!!) She readily interjected her quirky sense of humour on a bus, in a cab or under bamboo scaffolding for good measure.  Born a northern girl and a hunter’s daughter she welcomed her Lamahi family of critters in her & Teresa’s room and

Lana's silk bedding - her critter protective shell

Lana’s silk bedding – her critter protective shell

she had done her homework and sewed herself silk sheets with knowledge that most critters would not join her in her silk chrysalis. Lana was the group

Taking a break from rebar brace bending, Lana tends to a volunteer's sore back.

Taking a break from rebar brace bending, Lana tends to a volunteer’s sore back on a rice field

physiotherapist and massage therapist.  She intuitively notices people’s pain and whether it was on a rice field or back at the “hotel” she was massaging someone’s sore back, arm or neck.  When someone gashed their head, she was the medic with sterilization gloves and ointment, and lest we forget when one of us needed to go pee she was always good for a few tickets (pieces of toilet paper) and hand wipes;

Meet Sherri (friends of 25 years) – known for her glamour, grace and style, Lana and I embarked on our trip together by declothing her of some of her bling at the airport – regardless of it being faux we assured her that we’d feel safer walking with her in a far off land without the 2 carrot jewel on her ring finger.  She too packed prepared and thankfully she had extra room in her hockey bag, so after we stripped her of bling, I loaded her with 50 extra pounds of toys & supplies for the children in Nepal.  Also in her luggage were 4 sets of footwear (which I ribbed her for – but soon into the journey; a pair of running shoes which I was very grateful for!).  She insisted on bringing her Italian leather handbag and Cole Haan daypurse; she had mascara, a brush, nailfile and all things Girly-Girl!

Minimalizing the bling on our dear GAB diva before take-off

Minimalizing the bling on our dear GAB diva before take-off

Only Sherri could pull off “glam” in a remote region of a far off land! Sherri also has a tendency for minor accidents and bruising while traveling, so our collective duty was to protect her (fortunately she was unscathed this trip!). 

Sherri pausing for a photo while straightening rebar

Sherri pausing for a photo while straightening rebar

Sherri and I were roommates in Dang and with our collective stock of Tea Tree products, we laced our rooms and spritzed our sleeping bags and  bodies – needless to say that apart from seeing a ghecko in our room upon arrival, he and his family kept a safe difference thereafter;

Meet Teresa (friends of 15 years) – aka Mother Teresa & Martha Stewart in our GAB world.  Vocal and spontaneous; protective and giving.  Armed with a stack of bounce laundry sheets (which by the way she is vehemently against using) and dozen of her father’s plaid cotton and flannel hunting shirts, scissors and a large suitcase and an overloaded hockey bag full of clothes to donate Teresa was prepared to leave everything in Nepal. 

"Harvey's Angels" - the GAB clothed in Teresa's dad's hunting shirts

“Harvey’s Angels” – the GAB clothed in Teresa’s dad’s hunting shirts

True to her word, she returned to Canada with a small backpack.  The bounce sheets were used as added armour against room critters, the scissors were for altering clothing and her clothing and bedding were divided amongst many families. Teresa and I like to spend each summer bike riding together, thus it came as no surprise when she asked to stop our bus so her and I could buy bikes and ride them the last 20 minutes of the ride into work each day.  Each morning she also co-ordinated 20 lbs of oranges to be hunted & gathered for our jobsite by our young Nepalese volunteers – whom we all affectionately referred to as “our boys”.  That’s Teresa’s spirit – a true team player.  When we learned of the widow who wasn’t eligible for her widows pension because she had no toilet, it was Teresa who vocalized our desire to make it happen for her.  The next day us GABbers, shovels in hand marched down the narrow path to start digging a toilet! From babies to toddlers; youngsters to “our boys”, Teresa has a way of naturally connecting with others

Teresa googoo'ing with a daughter of a woman in a Tharu Women's group we visited.

Teresa googoo’ing with a daughter of a woman in a Tharu Women’s group we visited.

on a meaningful level. When it was apparent an older woman near our jobsite couldn’t see a camera screen, Teresa – without hesitation yanked her eyeglasses off of her own head and delicately put them on the unsuspecting woman…the next moment in time was magical – this woman could see.  And Teresa left her those glasses – perhaps the first and only pair that woman will ever own.  On the flight over to Kathmandu I was sitting next to Teresa. Our discussion was one about making a difference and we both agreed that if we could simply make a difference in one person’s life while we were in Nepal, we would feel great satisfaction.  Teresa touched the lives of many.

Known for her Martha Stewart pies, Teresa shifted gears in Nepal and passed this cement pie along the chain line leading to the footing.

Known for her Martha Stewart pies, Teresa shifted gears in Nepal and passed this cement pie along the chain line leading to the footing.

Meet L’ileah – GAB QueenPin; the masterplanner and co-ordinator and on this mission, the roving reporter.  At the airport I was grossly overweight and managed to disperse 50+lbs of toys and supplies that my son and his Global-Go-Getter school leadership committee and his Karate dojo collected, into my fellow GABber’s luggage.  I had spent many hours during my final weeks of preparation raising awareness and selling bricks in support of the build.  I set out on this journey with my ipad in my backpack and one of my goals of the journey was to share as much of it as I possibly could online with my family, friends and colleagues.  Every night while on the trip I would

Getting my cheeks pinched by a boy on the streets of Gadawa

Getting my cheeks pinched by a boy on the streets of Gadawa

find a quiet corner and type a facebook entry.  In my bags, I packed enough gastro ailments to heal a small army (for I had been extremely ill abroad twice in my life) – fortunately I did not need one dose of anything this trip.  Where the oral hydration salts took room in my backpack I was devoid of socks.  I literally wore the same pair of running shoe socks for 15 days (disclaimer I had workboot socks – so it was only in the evenings, outings and sightseeing that I wore the same pair). I also packed too warm, so needless to say my jeans were cut into shorts, long sleeve shirts into short sleeves & bandana’s.

 

The hotelier's children had never seen an iPad; let alone understood the concept of FaceTime. The nightly conversations back home were a highlight for this family as well.

The hotelier’s children had never seen an iPad; let alone understood the concept of FaceTime. The nightly conversations back home were a highlight for this family as well.

 

My days spent digging coal sludge onto a conveyor belt in a mine came in handy when digging this "loon shit".

My days spent digging coal sludge onto a conveyor belt underground in a coal mine came in handy when digging this “loon shit”.

 

These 3 GABber’s and I set out for 3 weeks together, with 15 pieces of luggage and hearts that wanted to give. If we didn’t know most things about each other prior to the trip, it certainly strengthened our bond and deepened our knowledge of each others’s strengths and quirks.  We humored, coached and comforted each other in the full range of emotions.  Sherri had to put up with me gagging every time that I brushed my teeth (to the point of me gagging in the morning merely thinking about brushing my teeth) and listen to my whiny whimpering when I “showered”. We were all eating and digesting the staple Dal Bhat (lentils and rice) on a daily basis (morning, noon and night) which made for some awkward sounds and smells in our confined quarters. Teresa’s scream when a

The GAB arrived - 15 pieces of luggage in tow; Kathmandu International Airport. Only a handful of those pieces of luggage returned to Canada - mostly

The GAB arrived – 15 pieces of luggage in tow; Kathmandu International Airport. Only a handful of those pieces of luggage returned to Canada – mostly

ghecko landed on her head will never be forgotten, nor will our childlike jealousy of the hot water treatment that Sherri arranged for her bathing. It was kinda like a “Survivor Nepal” series – especially when you add a nationwide transportation strike the week before the Nepalese federal elections – which were the day after our departure.

The best part is, we all ventured boldly with our heart on our sleeves!

Installing our bricks on the school

Installing our GAB brick on the school