Analysis

Dell Rapids resident fulfills ‘bucket list’ trek to Nepal

Tom Savage

Marli

In April of 2015, a massive earthquake hit the country of Nepal, killing nearly 9,000 and injuring another 22,000. Four years later, a Dell Rapids native is helping the country and its residents pick up the pieces.

Marli Erickson left South Dakota for Kathmandu, the capital city of Nepal, in December as part of a Habitat for Humanity trip to aid those still impacted by the earthquake.

Erickson, 64, works as a financial counselor for National Guard and Military Reserve units in South Dakota. She’s been at that position for two years and used three weeks late last year to make the trip to Nepal in what she called her “bucket list” trip of a lifetime.

She’s been all over the world and says she has an interest in Christian outreach. This 21-hour trip to Kathmandu served a similar purpose. She flew from Sioux Falls to Chicago; Chicago to Doha, Qatar; and from Doha to Kathmandu.

Once in Kathmandu, she met up with other Habitat for Humanity team members from Pennsylvania, Wisconsin, Illinois and California. The group met for several days before heading into the village of Panchkhal, where they helped build shelters in the devastated community from the earthquake.

One of the orphans from the massive Nepal earthquake accompanied Marli Erickson and her group to street vendors in Kathmandu for a local delicacy, MoMo.
One of the orphans from the massive Nepal earthquake accompanied Marli Erickson and her group to street vendors in Kathmandu for a local delicacy, MoMo. (Photo: Submitted)

Erickson’s days in Kathmandu leading up to her Habitat for Humanity work were memorable, with damage from the earthquake still quite visible in the city of 3 million. Outside the city, residents were still digging through bricks to see what they could salvage.

“I met a lot of people who lost loved ones,” said Erickson. “They’re absolutely still trying to recover.”

She met with a Christian church in the city and asked what she could do to help. The pastor at the church started an orphanage for many of the children who were orphaned on the day of the earthquake.

“I’m a see-the-world kind of person, and I wanted to connect with people after the earthquake in a society that is completely different,” said Erickson. “Nobody thinks about picking up and going to Nepal.”

She brought with her 100 pounds of clothing to donate to the orphanage, but her giving didn’t end there. Upon arrival in Kathmandu, she and other members from the church took a group of orphans to street vendors, where they shared an edible treat called MoMo.

“That’s like our kids getting a McDonald’s Happy Meal,” said Erickson. “We took 21 kids to the vendors and had MoMo’s together. That was a memorable day.”

She said she had one of the best days of her life in Kathmandu, and it all came at the roll of the dice.

She met an art student on the street who lived in poverty. He was out of school for the day, and he and three of his cousins showed Erickson around their portion of Kathmandu.

“We went to the market and bought a chicken and cut it up and ate it out in the open with three bricks and piece of cement that was left over from the earthquake, and they made me a delicious meal,” she said. “I took a risk, and it was one of the most fascinating days of my life. This was the bottom rung of people in that society who didn’t know where their next meal was going to come from, and they shared their evening meal with me.”

They later escorted her to a taxi and bartered with the driver on the fare. She said they even borrowed a cell phone and asked her to text them back, making sure she got to her hotel safely.

“I’ll always think of the warmth and peacefulness of the people,” she said. “Having traveled the world in my career, I would say it’s the safest country I’ve been to in the world.”

Following the Habitat for Humanity rebuild part of the trip in Panchkhal, Erickson made it to Pokhara, the second largest city in Nepal and one that Erickson said she “fell in love with.” From there, she hiked in the southern Himalaya mountains before eventually making the long trek home to Dell Rapids.

“I have all intentions of going back to Nepal,” she said. “It was the bucket list trip of my lifetime, and we did good work.”

Originally published on argusleader.com on 3 February 2019

Published on Lokantar on 4 February 2019

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