This is from an email sent out on November 23:
My time in Nepal is quickly coming to an end…bringing with it a mix of emotions that can be quite overwhelming. On one level, I’m ready to leave this third world country where I brace against all of the challenges that it brings to stay safe and healthy. But on another level, the thought of leaving my ‘family’ brings great sadness to my heart. When I sit with Rhichoe, in particular, I study his face as if to soak him in. Like Wangchuk before him, I wonder if I will have the chance to see him again next year. There are definite signs that age is catching up with him. The weather here has turned. It is cold. We sleep under piles of blankets each night because there is no indoor heating of any kind.
Shelly has headed stateside. I truly enjoyed introducing her to my world over here. It prompted me to return to people and places that I had not been since I first started coming over. On Monday, we dropped her off at the airport before heading out to the Tibetan camp. Trinley (Wangchuk’s son) had taken a cooking course several years before that had been paid for by Trek Aid…a humanitarian group out of England who does a lot of work in the Tibetan camps in the Pokhara area. They started offering to pay for vocational courses for the younger generation of Tibetans to try and help them learn a skill that would help them to enter the work force. Trinley learned how to cook. On a previous visit he had pulled out the course syllabus and offered to cook anything listed…so I went through the menu and picked a spaghetti dish. It was delicious! We arrived at his home to find that he had done all of the prep and only needed to finish the dish. This required electricity…which was out (of course). As soon as the power came back on, he completed the food and served it. Yum! He was quite excited to be able to try cooking again. No one in his family would eat this kind of food, so he had not practiced since his class ended. I was excited that it really was quite tasty…because I would have had to eaten it and pretend to enjoy it no matter what so that I did not hurt his feelings. Again…yum!
On my recent visit to Rhichoe, I was pleasantly surprised to find his son Singe visiting. He runs a tea house on a trekking route that leads tourists towards the Dhauligiri Mountain. It’s quite far away, so he rarely checks in with his mother and father. Rhichoe had encouraged him to try and come to see me…so he made the special trip. I really quite enjoy him and had worried I would not have a chance to chat with him this year and get caught up. I know that Rhichoe speaks frequently of his wish to have his son nearby so that he can help to take care of them as they age…but there is no work in the area so it sends Singe out to earn a living.
Wednesday found me back at Bel’s home for a Magar puja (ceremony) honoring the Magar deities known as Baja/Baje (Grandfather/Grandmother). This puja happens once a year and requires the sacrifice of a black pig and many chickens. Somendra was the Pujari (man in charge of the puja). On a rice field nestled above the community, under a tree, are two stones that represent Grandfather and Grandmother. They cleared the area and decorated it with colored powders, strips of cloth of many colors, food and incense. As each person arrived, they checked in with Sangita so that she could record their name and where they lived. They then handed their plastic bag to me, which contained rice, millet, incense, ginger, money, strips of colored fabric and eggs. I sorted them into piles that were then added to the altar. At the appointed time, the black pig was sacrificed and the head put on the altar. Then each person lined up with their chicken and approached the altar. They would make a wish and the chicken would also be sacrificed. The head would be put on the altar and the person would take the rest of the chicken home to cook. This went on for quite a long time. The community then gathered at another person’s home and began the process of butchering the pig and distributing the meet in equal amounts for the number of people whose names Sangita had recorded. A portion was also cooked and that was also added to the bags. That evening there was a lot of singing and dancing. They always talk about this particular festival…but this was the first time it happened while I was in the country…so I was very excited to witness the festivities. One old man used to be the Pujari, but he’s become too old to do the fast required the day before…so the responsibility has fallen to Somendra.
The garage and compound that is being built at Bel’s is progressing slowly but surely. I kept telling them that they needed to do the garage portion first. I made this request for several reasons….logistics of where it is located, to remove Tikka’s motorcycle from the sitting room and my cycle from the puja room, so that the small ramp out front can be removed and for financial reasons. I told them that I could only help pay for the garage portion and had no money to help with the outside gate. But instead of making the inside gate first, the man made the outside gate. I again insisted for all of the above reasons that the inside gate needed to be made first, but they continued to build walls and had the outside gate delivered. When I returned on Wednesday, the outside gate was resting on the side of the house, the walls they had built had been torn down and they were installing the inside gate. They told me that I had been right about the sequence…that the man who brought the inside gate needed to complete that portion before the rest could be installed. I itch to pitch in and help. At home, I love doing these kinds of projects, so to just sit and watch drives me crazy. I don’t think it will be completed by the time I leave so the cycle will have to wait until next year to sit in its new home.
Another project that will not be completed before I leave is the path that is being built down to the river. It’s a horrible path that is severely eroded. It’s reached the point that some of the older folks can no longer make that walk down to where they wash their clothes and bathe. Indigenous Lenses donated $1000 towards the building of a new path using stones. The stones have been delivered and set along the path. As soon as the men are done making the compound, they will make the path for the village.
I am now entering my week of ‘one more visit’. I went back to my driver’s home yesterday so say good-bye to his family. Then I will make one more visit to each family in the Tibetan camp and one more visit with Bel’s family. It will be a week of many tears.
This time next week I’ll be flying to Kathmandu. Sigh! And then back to the states. Thai Air, after going through all of their gymnastics to change the type of plane they fly, was refused permission by Japan to land in Osaka to refuel, so they had to go back to the big plane and reschedule all passengers once again to their original flight plans. What a pain in the ass! So, now I’m back to leaving Kathmandu on December 4, will connect immediately in Bangkok to the non-stop flight to Los Angeles where I will overnight before catching a place home the next day. I’ll regain the day I lost to the International Dateline while on the way here, so will arrive in Los Angeles on the same day I left Bangkok. Talk about disorienting!
One more message to come from this side of the world!