I realise I am waaaaay overdue a blog post and so here it is: a long month of school visits and another festival in Nepal.
Barbara and I were very busy in her last few weeks here, squeezing in visits to (and here I must apologise if I am spelling these incorrectly) Amrit, where we were given so many flowers we needed a bag to carry them home with, Rakama Devi, where we were pleased to see displays on the walls and a fantastic library, Okhuldunga, Bhalebas, who gave Barbara a royal send off, Kokal, where we made shape mobiles out of lollipop sticks, and Shree Kalika, a prospective new school. In Shree Kalika we gave the children in the nursery a book each to have a look at, and the children reacted as though they’d never seen books before, much less touched them, squeaking in delight and showing each other the pictures in the books they held. It was a sobering moment for me, thinking of the thousands of books I must have carelessly come across in my many schooldays.
Barbara said goodbye to us on the 26th October, and left everyone in sad spirits. It was strange to have spent all my days for the past six weeks with someone and then suddenly being left to roam the streets of Tansen alone. With the festival on the way however, we couldn’t be complacent for too long. I’ve been making Nepali resources for the schools and reading up on government policies. The whole house was repainted, inside and out, and Abhi draped the house in hundreds of lights for Tihar (or Diwali, for those like me who didn’t know what Tihar was). At night, you could look out across the town and it was lit up, every street filled with lights and candles, the ground outside the houses painted with rangoli patterns.
This week has been for me the most humbling since I have arrived here in Nepal. I have been lucky enough to go to three different villages, Saran’s, Dhani’s and Janaki’s, and have been able to see a part of Nepal that I don’t think I ever would have seen if I was just a tourist, travelling through.
We spent Tihar at Dhani’s mother’s house, and it was odd seeing how the traditional is being pushed back relentlessly by modern technology. Dhani’s 88 year old mother watched, bemused, as her children and their offspring posed for hundreds of photos and selfies on their state of the art smartphones, the men talking into handsfree devices tucked into their ears. Then everyone sat down to bless each other and eat course after course of traditional Nepali food served up on banana leaves. I was very aware that this was happening in every village across Nepal, it wasn’t for the benefit of me or the Dutch couple Dhani had invited along too. It was all for them, we were just lucky enough to be a fly on the wall.
This feeling was repeated in Janaki’s village – I sat for much of the day quite passively unaware of what was being said around me, sitting on the floor in Janaki’s sister’s kitchen watching the young boys eat, wearing their Adidas t-shirts and checking their iPhones. There seems to be a gap widening between the young and old generations of Nepal, the internet is now in every village, on every phone. Teenage boys dance to rnb and look like they’re straight out of music videos from LA or New York. Then they walk down to their mother’s rice field and cut rice in traditional methods, i.e, a scythe. I was very pleased to be invited to go and have a look at such a rice field, and spent half an hour cutting rice with them, until I became too hot and feebly cried off to go and have a drink back at the house. The others didn’t return until much later, when they had cut every last plant in the field. Puts all my ideas about gardening into perspective.
So, highlights of the week: watching Dhani and his sisters bless a cow (which included collecting cow pats for luck), reading on the porch in Janaki’s village, and a small boy picking four enormous avocados out of the tree for us. Oh, and I attended a bike rally with Saran and Sagar, and after we had driven all around the town honking and hooting in a huge procession of bikes, we played bingo in the street, a huge group of men all shouting out as Sagar pulled out the numbers. Honestly, you just couldn’t make it up.