Building a Home in Nepal – Very Tough Lessons Learned

In March of 2016 I planned to build a home for Nisha, Manish and their little girl that live at Hidden Paradise in Pokhara, Nepal. In August of 2016 the process of building that home had began and continued until we ran out of funds that Nisha could drum up, I contributed personally, and that friends of mine had donated.

We left our story in October of 2016 during Deshain, a month long celebration very similar to our Thanksgiving and Christmas. With the workers taking the entire month off to spend with their families, Nisha and I used that time to get the shop up and running and to come up with a solution to fund the remainder of the home.

During the course of the next couple months I had to come up with a plan to get Nisha and Manish the money they needed, but not directly through me. I suggested to Nisha that they get a loan from the bank, and we would find a way for them to pay the loan payment each month.

In November Nisha and Manish applied for the loan, which was a several week process. Nisha and I anxiously awaited the approval and continued work on painting the shop and getting things ready for opening. I had just 3 weeks left on my visa and was leaving for the US again and we were running out of time. The shop could open with a few items, but we were limited due to the speed in which we committed and I had loaned money to Manish’s older brother Laxman so that he could get more training for his paragliding tandem license. I proposed that we wait until January when I got back for our official opening, but Nisha was pushing hard to open sooner. So, in November with just a couple weeks to spare before I had to leave we opened the shop officially with no lights and a limited amount of product to sell.

My plan was to talk with Nisha about our options on paying back the loan, what the plan was for the house once the loan was approved, and managing the shop properly by using the money earned to buy more things. Unfortunately all of that didn’t happen and I am regretting not having those conversations before I left.

During my time in the US for our major holidays I focused primarily on family and didn’t talk much with Nisha. The home, I assumed, was coming along now that the loan was approved for the 15 lack ($15,000) and they could finish with a really nice 2 bedroom (possibly 4) home with a separate kitchen and landscaping completed that we had repeatedly discussed.

A close friend, and confidant, advises me often to set boundaries and to say “no” more with the people I encounter. He was concerned with my giving the money to Nisha and just opening the hop without any means to recoup y money. He suggested I tell Nisha and Manish that the money is all a loan, and they find a way to pay me back as well as either wok off their half of the shop or find a way to pay me for it. I am a giver with no expectations whatsoever. I never expect a loan to be paid back and when I pick up a tab I don’t expect the person to pick it up next time. It’s just not how I was raised.

My plan for Nisha was to keep the $2,000 I had invested in the home. All I ask is that I could stay with the family at no cost when I was in Pokhara, Nepal. I did, however, come up with a way for her to work off her half of the shop and earn a way to pay the loan payments. I was receiving a small amount each month from a client that could cover the shop’s rent of $100 and a small salary for Nisha of $150 each month. That was 500 rupees a day, more than some of the best Nepali professionals make, which is more than fair as a salary. I wanted half of that to go towards paying me back the $5,000 in time, so she would be taking home $75 each month to put towards her loan payment.

In January I made the grueling trip back to Nepal via a cheap airline ticket costing me $800. I say grueling because it took me 4 days with two long layovers. One in San Franciso for 12 hours overnight and another in Singapore for 24 hours. I slept in both airports, during which time Laxman at Hidden Paradise got angry with me for telling people that he and I had a relationship. I had mentioned it to a couple of close friends, and somehow he got wind of it. I was so good about not anything that there is no mention in my past blog posts here. But alas, things got ugly, and are continuing to get uglier as he and Nisha fail at their efforts to manipulate. As a result of his anger I was not allowed to stay at Hidden Paradise any longer. Nisha sent me a message saying that even though we wouldn’t be close in proximity that we would still be friends and sisters.

I arrived in Pokhara the day before my Birthday. I quickly found a hotel and slept a very long time. The next day Shree took me paragliding and Nisha had a cake for me at the shop. She later told me that she was going to stay at Hidden Paradise to finish up the home since I was now there to watch the shop. Nisha told me she had to make payments for the loan now which were $280 each month. She and I quickly discussed her salary. I had given the $75 more thought and decided to just gift her half of the shop and give her the full $150. She was going to have to find a way to make up the difference on the loan, perhaps her Husband could make it when he was finished with his paragliding training.

One week passed and during that time many people told me that the shop was often closed, or Nisha was not there and our neighbor was watching the shop for her. I noticed items were sold or missing but the shop didn’t have the money to show for it. I was starting to have trouble with my health and needed time to find an apartment and work on my clients stuff from my consulting job, so I told Nisha she needed to find a way to work at the shop because I couldn’t do it all day. She was angry, which made me more angry, and we exchanged some heated words. I told her this is not a partnership since she did not put up any money and hadn’t earned enough sweat equity yet, but Nisha working in the shop as I pay her salary. She responded that if that is the case she does not want to work there. I told her to think about it. As we talked I described what compromise is to her. She needed to stay at Hidden Paradise and work on the home and I could not work a full day at the shop. She needed to come up with a solution that worked for both of us. He solution was to send her sister Manisha who is a scholarship recipient from our program and who was off from her time at school for a few weeks.

A few days after I stayed with Nisha in her room at Hidden Paradise. I couldn’t rent a room at the hotel, but there wasn’t anything stopping me from visiting my friend for a night. A friend from Seattle was arriving in town that day with a large group of people, and it was great to get to see them all. That afternoon Nisha and I walked up to the house with some of the guests and it was amazing. This beautiful 6 bedroom home with a high quality siding was under works. She had plumbing ready for each room to have their own toilet and shower. I now call it the “Million Dollar Home”, and there is further reason why. I was near tears at how proud I was of her and what she had accomplished. She had come such a long way from the original conversation when she told me “not possible”. Not only was it possible, but it was overwhelming.

That evening in her room, Nisha confided in me that there was no more money. The loan was spent and she also owed some of the businesses money for materials (about $3k worth). I was immediately disappointed with her. “Nisha, you build a home that is more than what we discussed and now you can’t finish?”… “Aaaa” she responds with (Nepali for “yes”). I told her I have the money, that I could now finish the home for her, but it wasn’t fair that my hard earned money goes to pay for her mistake. This was her home and she needed to find a way to resolve the problem.

Shortly after I contracted Guardia, a nasty parasite that took me several weeks to recover from. Manisha was doing a great job at the shop, and things were running as well as could be expected. She was open all day every day and when she sold something she put the money in the coin purse we had reserved. Over the course of the month following I managed to buy more product for the shop, install lights, and sell to the US bringing in a profit for the shop that was unheard of.

The day after I visited the hospital for my Guardia Nisha told me she hadn’t paid her daughter’s school for three months. I was furious, but didn’t want her daughter’s education to suffer at the hands of her Mother’s stupidity. I told her I would pay it, but she needed to pay it back because it was coming from our shop. The money was allocated to buy more things and without it we cannot sell now and make more. She understood and accepted this arrangement. At the same time I sent a text to a friend in the US and asked him if he would like to donate to pay for a young girl’s education. He later responded with a “yes” and Nisha was now off the hook. I told Nisha I would bring her the money to Hidden Paradise and leave before Laxman showed up to avoid any further drama with him. She and I talked about the school, the mistakes she was making out of desperation for money and went through everything she needed to complete the home room by room. In order for the first room to be completed we calculated each item that was needed.
Window 25000 npr ($250)
Door 25000 npr ($250)
Toilet 60000 all npr ($600)
Plumbing
Toilet
Plaster
Tile
Sink 10000 npr ($100)
Electric 7000 npr ($70)
Ceiling fan 3000 npr ($30)

Total – 130000 npr ($1300)

It certainly isn’t anything she had to be able to finish, but was fairly doable.

He daughter’s next tuition payment was on the 14th of April for $80 so I wanted her to plan ahead for that as well. We also discussed other money she might owe. Her husband Manish was finishing up his paragliding training that Laxman paid for and needed money to buy a tandem wing and gear to start working. This could total another $2-$3,000. At this time she mentioned that the Japanese woman who took my place with Laxman offered Nisha to help her with a new shop in Lakeside where she could sell “Nepali things” as she put it. I told her to think it over, as this meant that she was no longer a partner with the shop.

As the month came to an end it was time to pay rent for the shop and Manisha’s salary. Nisha asked me to pay her salary as well, which sparked another argument. Nisha had not bee at the shop the entire month since I arrived and did not earn her salary. She brought up the new shop the Japanese woman offered again and I told her that it was best that she take the offer.

At this point Nisha was no longer a part of the shop. Her sister worked for me and was doing well. She had to stop working on the home because there is no money… and now Laxman had kicked Manisha out of Hidden Paradise as long as she worked at my shop (and that story is reserved for another blog post).

I am no longer involved with the home and refuse to help Nisha any further. We still talk occasionally as the two of us are working on getting school supplies to the children in the village school where  her parents live as well as the water system for the school. Her younger sister Manisha now lives with me and works in the shop, and I am still very close with their parents.

I will most likely never recoup my money, and do not expect to, even though many of my friends tell me I should demand a loan repayment. I take this as another lesson learned. Between the home with Nisha and the things that Laxman scammed me out of (I promise that blog post soon) I no longer trust the Nepali. I have been friended by two Nepali that are totally unrelated to the family who eventually asked me for help and I refused. I told them I understand how life can be difficult. I raised two children on my own and worked very hard to support them. If I could do it, then they could make it on their own without my support.