One month has already passed…and I have six more weeks to go. The Tihar festival has come and gone…and ‘the boys’ did not disappoint. They arrived with their boom box and proceeded to dance and sing like crazy. It was truly a joyous thing to watch. They pulled me into the center and danced a circle around me. It was a riot! The last night the entire community gathered on the road by Grandmother’s home and danced. It was so much fun to watch…grandmothers, little children, mothers and fathers, toddlers and teenagers. Everyone is still talking about it. The most moving part of the night for me was when Sangita danced. She and another girl and two boys performed an old, traditional Magar partner dance that was so elegant. All that watched did so knowing that a year ago, this would not have been possible. I looked at the faces around me and we all had tears in our eyes. Afterwards Bel approached me with his hand on his heart and spoke words of deep gratitude for his daughter’s recovery.
With the passing of Tihar, I am settling back into my routine of traveling to the Tibetan camp. I made my way to Pau Rhichoe’s home and we began the arrangements to build him a new toilet…with a ‘pot’. His wife has been sick, so she is staying at her daughter’s home. On my way to and from Rhichoe’s, I stop in to say hello. We had a man come to give us the bid on how much it would cost to repair the old toilet…it needs a new floor, tiles, door, roof and we want to put in the ‘pot’. After much discussion and estimates, a final bid of $350 was given, which we accepted. We are also interested in adding a bathroom, but that will be next year’s project. On my way to Pau Nyima’s the next morning, I dropped off the money for the toilet and by the time I was heading back Lakeside, they were already starting construction.
At Nyima’s home, I was able to deliver good news to the family. First, I gave them the money for the two daughter’s education. They attend a boarding school in the Kathmandu valley, so are rarely home when I am there. I did get the chance to see the two of them during their Dasain holiday, but they came and went during the Tihar festival when I was at Bel’s, so I missed the chance to see them again. The other good news I had for the family is that I have found a source for an artificial limb for Nyima’s brother. I did an internet search for limbs in Nepal and came across an NGO from New Zealand called MEND. They provide for free or at low cost, limbs to poor people. I emailed the man in charge and he replied with three options…one of which is here in Pokhara. He gave names and phone numbers for all three choices. One day, Nyima’s wife Tashi, Migmar and I will go to the local place and talk to the man who works in the shop. The brother will not be ready for the new limb for another 3 months, but this way, when he is ready, the people who provide the limb will already have met Tashi through me and it will make it easier for her to get the limb. Her other job is to find a place that does hearing testing. Nyima has reached the point where he doesn’t hear much of the conversations that are going on around him. If she can find a place that does testing and provides hearing aids, we will get that set in place also.
I have started making my home visits to the families whose daughters we are helping to educate. These are needs assessment visits to see what the ‘joining’ fees and monthly tuition fees are. Each visit requires that I drink some raksi and eat something…which can be a dangerous thing gastro intestinally speaking. I tease the men that they can only spend the money on their daughter’s education…and not use it to go to a casino or buy raksi. I do this half teasing and half in earnest…because in some households, that is a real possibility. By saying it out loud in a teasing form and having them laughingly agree to only use it for education…in front of all those who are present…insures the money will be used properly and helps the men save face. Indigenous Lenses is now educating 11 girls and two boys from a low caste family. They range in grade from third to Bachelors level…with two of the girls waiting for their Bachelors Degree exit exam results. If successful, they will start their Master’s Degree program next year. This year, we were able to add two more girls to the education program. Fees have gone up, so now to provide money to educate a girl for one year is $175. It doesn’t sound like much, but if you are only making $300 annually, the education fees are out of reach.
On a recent visit to Wangchuk’s son Trinley, he informed me that he was constructing a small shop in the open area at the front of the Tibetan camp. I was so thrilled! For years, he has constantly tried to educate himself so that he could provide for his family. But being a Tibetan in Nepal means that no jobs are available. He took cooking classes and electrician classes and studied for years at the monastery, so he is literate. Another Tibetan man, who used to have a souvenir shop Lakeside, decided to build a shop in the open area. Next to his shop, there was a small parcel of land available. The man was willing to give the land to Trinley…and let Trinley attach his shop to his so that Trinley only had to build three walls. When I asked how much his total cost would be, I was told $400. So I happily and willingly provided that money to Trinley. Right now, his mother receives a monthly stipend from Indigenous Lenses…but once she passes, all of the money coming in from outside would cease….so I felt it was important to support him in his attempt to become self sufficient. His shop will offer electrical repairing and sell things like Tibetan prayer flags, candles and katas (Tibetan greeting scarves). I don’t know if can do justice to how thrilled I am about this whole situation. I am just so proud of Trinley.
I have a new job at Bel’s. I share the roof with his bee hive. It is made out of a hollow log, with both ends sealed with pieces of wood. There is a folded piece of metal on top that acts like a roof. Two holes were drilled in the side of the log for the bees to enter and exit. It is surprising at how many things try to catch the bees and eat them. Dragon flies perch on the wires above the hive. Lizards sit on the metal brackets the hive sits upon. Larger wasps and large black bee like creatures hover in the air above hoping to snatch a bee from the air. And spiders weave their webs in the path the bees take as they go and come with the pollen. So my new job each morning is to take a stick and knock down any spider web that was created during the night. In the middle of the afternoon, the queen leaves the hive to…as Bel says…’do her letting’…aka go to the bathroom. When this happens, all the bees leave the hive and the roof becomes a sea of humming bees. If I sit quietly, they leave me alone…which is a good thing, because I am allergic to them. The first year, I was afraid to be up there when they exploded from the hive. These days, we share the roof in a peaceful manner, with me trying to watch their backs.
My sense of time is out of joint. I keep thinking my time is quickly running out. Usually, the Dasain and Tihar festivals are just now getting started…so by the time they have ended, it’s time for me to leave. I have to keep reminding myself that I still have more than half my time remaining. Yahoo!