Trash, Sewage, and Free Food Experiences

Now that our first course on Field Methods is complete we get to move on to the next course, Earth and Human Systems, which is more in line with my passions. The first project for this class will be completed as we embark on our return trek down the Kali Gandaki Valley. There are two main portion of the project which are very different.

One, we have to observe and map geomorphic features, such as different types of landslides and river terraces, as we walk down, and also identify them in stereoscopic air photos.

I have to say, learning how to use the stereoscope photographs was rough. For those of you who don’t know, stereoscopic photography involves taking
multiple photographs of an area which, when viewed with special lenses, make a 3D image. With these, you can see the mountains and their features in exaggerated 3D, which should help you identify different landslides and other features.

The other portion of the project was a short independent group research
project for which I was paired with Sabin and Jack. The goal was to choose and analyze a topic that involved the intersection of human and earth systems as we trekked through the villages. Ultimately we decided to research waste management. In each village we took at least two interviews with Sabin asking questions in Nepali about how they dispose of trash and liquid waste, what changes have been made in recent years, and who facilitates the system.

What we found was that generally there were very structured, if still unsustainable, procedures of waste management in all the villages. Water and plastic waste was burned, metals were sold to be reused, and bottles were buried. Almost all people had toilets in their homes connected to sewage tanks, but the tanks themselves either leaked into the ground or were pumped into the field or river when full. Most towns had schedules of monthly and weekly street cleans and dustbins attached to poles on the streets. Usually these were funded by the Annapurna Conservation Area Project and organized and facilitated by the local Women’s or Mother’s Group.

Overall, people were incredible generous and welcoming whenever we approached them. Generally in the US I’d say that most people don’t talk to the random people who show up on their doorstep asking questions, but out of our 30 or so interviews we only once got turned away. Furthermore, some people were incredibly enthusiastic, talking to us and taking us to see locations for over an hour, and offering and giving us food. In total we had free tea, rice pudding, apples, and apricots, and were offered a full dal-bhat lunch.

Of course, once we finished our trek down, we drove to Pokhara and had another frantic write-up day. This time we had a geomorphic map and table to create and a 15 minute PowerPoint presentation to prep for. But everyone’s presentations actually went very well! And when someone jokingly said “and we all get A’s,” our academic director smiled and said that for the first time that was actually true.

To celebrate the completion of our trek, we all went out to a fancy restaurant in Pokhara and were granted two full days off, during which we did actual laundry, swam in Fewa Lake, and finally relaxed.

All is well,

Gigi

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