The weather here has shifted…bringing with it cloudy skies and cold temperatures. On Monday, it was so chilly that I had to break out my wool socks, long johns and fleece. We bundled ourselves in shawls and blankets. These homes are constructed out of rebar and cinder blocks. They do not have furnaces or any way to heat inside…so it is layer, layer, layer. There was not enough sun to heat the water for a shower…so I’m trying to embrace cold ones. If I wash my hair in the morning, and then bathe the rest of my body in the afternoon, there is a greater chance for tepid water. Baby goat season has arrived and the little ones are everywhere, leaping about and butting heads with each other. Anil’s goat, Nakali, will stand in the path and try to butt heads will all the little ones that come to romp. She doesn’t know her own strength, so they get knocked down and cry. She is really quite the character…and she brings me much enjoyment. I stand on the roof and call down to her ‘Oh, Nakali!’…and she comes to the door of her house and looks up at me and bleats. She loves it when I scratch her neck…and will lean into me until I lose my balance. This will be the last email from Pokhara. Next Saturday, Bel, Bishnu and I will fly to Kathmandu to spend a couple of days sightseeing before my flight on December 1st. I always head to the capital several days before my departure home date…to accommodate any bhandas the Maoists want to call.
Load shedding has arrived. I really feel quite lucky that I made it this far into my trip before we started losing our electricity. The government announced on the news the other night that 16 hours of electricity must be shed each week. They usually pick a time in the evening when everyone is trying to cook dinner. This problem with the electricity has something to do with a dispute with India over a power plant near the border that both countries share. Last year after I left the load shedding would happen for up to 15 hours a day. And water continues to be a huge problem. It comes every 10 days to Bel’s home…that is to say, it is supposed to come…but it rarely does. Such a small amount is actually sent through the pipes, that Bel’s underground tank rarely receives any. You will hear the sound of air moving through the pipes at around one o’clock in the morning. Bishnu and the girls will spend the rest of the night, trying to get the water to come by using a small engine to pull the water. The next morning, Bishnu will talk about how tired her mouth is from try to suck enough water into the hose to get the process started. They will wake every hour until either they are successful or the water stops coming.
Nepali’s live in the here and now where as I am a planner. Knowing the lights will go out; I grab my headlamp in anticipation. I mean, it goes off on the same day at the same time each week. I even will mention that I think tonight is the night the power will go off at such and such a time and the family will look at me with curiosity. Then when it goes, they all express great surprise that it has, once again gone off as I shine my light towards where they keep the candles. This living in the moment, I believe, accounts for everything starting one or two hours late. Nothing seems preplanned. If all are living in the here and now and the community wants to do a gathering, everyone must complete whatever it is they are doing before all are available to gather. And I’m not talking about spontaneous events. Even large events seem to be not decided until the last minute, leaving everyone scrambling to join. My linear driven way of functioning is always sorely tested. A recent example is that this past Friday was Indigenous Peoples Day. There was an all day festival at the community hall in the downtown market, with each ethnic group demonstrating their songs and dances. This happens every year…but they waited until this past Tuesday to ask Bel’s daughter and her cousins to represent the Magar culture in a dance. Sadly, all of the girls are in the middle of exams….so no one was available to attend.
Last year, one of the major projects that Indigenous Lenses funded was the building of a stone path to lead down to the community’s source of water for bathing and washing clothes. They were unable to complete it before I left, so I had to wait until this year before seeing the end product. News of the venture made it into the local newspaper…which Bel saved for me. Sadly, it’s written in Nepali, so I cannot read it…but they say that my name is mentioned. They also took photos of the blessing ceremony they conducted before laying the first stone. They really did a fabulous job working with large stones to create a series of steps to navigate up and down. Bel wanted to arrange a special thank you gathering, but I told him that was not necessary. If it happens, it will be another one of those let’s do it now phenomenon’s I described above.
I got good news from Migmar and Tashi when I went to the camp this week. They had traveled to Hospital Green Pastures to meet the man who was recommended to me about an artificial leg for Nyima’s brother Tsedup. Tashi had been told by their doctor who amputated the leg to expect to pay 58,000 rupees ($800). Hari, the man who runs the workshop at the hospital told them it would only cost 14,000 rupees ($200) plus the cost of a brief stay (3,000 rupees or $40) so that Tsedup can learn to use the new leg. That is quite a difference. I had told them to mentioned Rob Buchanan’s name as being the one who sent them. I found him on the internet and had exchanged emails with him about the best course of action. He runs a non-profit out of New Zealand that provides artificial limbs at low cost to poor people in Nepal. Both Migmar and Tashi were very impressed with the hospital and Hari, saying he sat with them and answered all of their questions using nice words. They looked at Tsedup’s medical records and a calendar and found the correct date for him to go for his fitting. The stump needs to heal for two or three months. I’m leaving the money with Migmar, so that at the time of the fitting, it will be available. Tashi also took Nyima to have his hearing checked. It’s reached the point where he cannot hear much of what is being said to him. They did a comprehensive hearing test and determined that he has almost no hearing in his left ear. They gave him a hearing aide to try and he was so excited… describing to me sounds that he could hear from great distances. He said he thought he heard rain falling on the roof, but it was Tashi frying food from across the way. They have measured him for a proper fitting device and I hope that he has it the next time I visit so I can take a picture. I think I’ll miss the elaborate dance Migmar and I do with him to try and get him to hear what we are saying. Sometimes what he thinks we are saying is really quite amusing.
Word started arriving this week from the girls whose education we are funding. Exam results for class eleven and above had been posted and they were all calling to let me know they had all passed. This is great news! And it warms my heart that they felt it was important to let me know they are thriving in their classes. Mandatory education is available up to class ten. At that point in time, they take the ‘send up’ exam. For many, this is the end of their education. But if they chose to continue and they pass that exam, they then find a ‘campus’ that has class eleven and twelve. From there they would join a different campus for the equivalent of a Bachelor’s Degree…which is a three year course of study. All of the girls (and the two boys from a low caste) who we are helping plan to complete a Bachelor’s Degree. School doesn’t start here until 10:00 AM and they are finished by 3:00…but they have school six days a week with only Saturday off.
I’ve made my last visit to my driver’s home to say good-bye to his family. And ventured Friday to Guru’s home to say farewell and remind him of his promise to do a puja to protect me from swine flu. He gave me a malla made and told me that he has blessed it well...that it will provide me with protection against illness and help to bring me success in all that I do. Yahoo! This coming week will be my last visits to the Tibetan camp. I’ll visit Lobsang for the last time today, Trinley, Pasang and Khando, Tsamchoe and Dechen, and Karma and Norzin for the last time Monday. Tuesday will be Jamyang and her two brothers followed by Nyima. Rhichoe will be my last visit at the camp on Wednesday. Thursday Migmar is making me momos as a farewell meal for lunch and Friday I’ll finish packing. The only good thing about leaving this time of year is I’ll be back to a place with indoor heat and hot showers! You’d be surprised (or maybe not) how old it gets to be constantly chilled.