Safely back from Pokhara to the rural mountain villages of the Ramja Deurali area, David has written an account of his day in an email.
‘My day started as usual at around 06.00. It’s broad daylight by then at this time of the year. This is the view from the top of the Health Post building where I have been staying.
Shortly after I got up, a troupe of Rhesus monkeys passed through the community forest area behind the health post where Binod and I are staying. They were all very healthy, as is the forest, with a number of mums and their babies in arms. One wide-eyed youngster stared at me through the window.
During my time here, Binod and I have frequented the local tea shop for breakfast and to get a better chance at internet and to download photos. This rather serious young man is Prem who often wanders by while I’m there, taking an interest in my photos and in my camera. I’ve shown Prem how to use my camera and found him to be a good student.
Yours truly… a photo taken by Prem.
We’ve given the name of ‘Gani Babu’ to another young village boy who has befriended me. That name translates as ‘wise and knowledgeable boy’. I wonder what his future holds.
When the weather’s clear, this is the view of the nearby mountains… fantastic.
Today (Sun 21 Aug) is another Nepalese festival day, this time a celebration of departed relatives. On this day, a senior person in a household gives female relatives a gift of money. Perhaps this is insurance so that they get a worthy send off themselves?!
My little friend Gani babu, on this occasion, was also given money…. Rp250 by his maternal uncle… no doubt a fortune for this little fellow.
While we were having our tea, a funeral procession passed the tea shop. It was lead by some male family members carrying a long white banner. This indicates to everybody that the procession is in fact a funeral procession. Other family members followed including the senior male who had his head shaven and wears only unstitched cloth as a wrapping around his body. The dead body was covered with an orange cloth and carried on a stretcher-like frame on the shoulders of two younger men. It was going to take the procession around 4 hours to reach the confluence of the Kali Gandaki and Modi Kholi Rivers where the cremation would take place.
We’d planned to meet three of the data collection girls at the tea shop. They have been working with Binod on his maternal health awareness programme. We wanted to record them to add to the video presentation that I’m developing for Binod. They arrived ‘on time’ at 11.45 and that footage will, one day, be part of the final video of the program which has been such a success here in the villages.
So much so, that we are being fated by the locals in an unbelievable way here at the moment. They are all so grateful for the intervention program that Binod has brought to their community. It has become even more pronounced now that we have a departure date (Tue 23 Aug) to leave the village to return to Pokhara on our way back to Australia.
An example or two of the hospitality we are receiving:
Last night we went up to a local village (Thanti) which is about half a km above the tea shop. We went there for me to be measured for a waist coat that Binod insists I need to go with my Dhoti and Kuta! We left the tea shop about 18.00.
When we got to the village there was an invitation to have some buffalo milk produced by a cow which gave birth 3 days ago. And when you are an honoured guest, you can’t say no! The milk is still very rich and is prepared by slowly heating with a little added sugar. It’s a bit like spongy crumbled feta cheese, is eaten with a spoon and is delicious. I was served far too much but there is not much I could do except accept and consume graciously. It filled me up! The guy (Kaki) who owns the buffalo often frequents our tea shop and continually apologised to Binod for not being able to offer us milk because of his buffalo’s pregnancy.
Thats all changed now that the baby calf has been born, so we had to promise that we would go back to his house (above) each day, until we leave, to have a glass of his milk.
The next ‘obligatory’ call was just up the street to a tea house which is owned by our friend Hari’s older brother, Baburam. One of his two delightful boys is my little friend “Gani babu” (learned, wise person). I wanted to buy him a tea shirt at the material shop, but he was so embarrassed he didn’t want to accept it. I MADE him choose the one he liked best as I was determined to get him a shirt that he liked, even if he didn’t want to accept it. He said he didn’t deserve it and that it cost too much. It cost me AUD4.20! I guess that is a fortune for a 11 year old Nepali boy.
A chicken was killed for dinner and cooked beautifully in the Nepali way, tossed in a mix of spices before being fried. It was accompanied by a wonderful array of side dishes that just kept on coming. Now, remember I was already full of buffalo milk… all this food was making my stomach tighter by the second. A plate would be finished and cleared away and another one brought. The last was a plate with a small serving, by Nepali standards, of Mustang grown five-fingered millet. This is highly prized and is used to make the finest raksi and also a very thick ‘porridge’ with the consistency of grainy putty. When one is already overfull, this porridge concoction is very difficult to swallow and if it hadn’t been for the luke warm beer, I’m not sure I could have done it any justice at all. I left the table feeling very uncomfortable.
By the way, Raksi is a traditional distilled alcoholic beverage, often distilled at home. It’s clear like gin and vodka, very strong and it tastes a bit like Sake. Nepalese drink Raksi to celebrate festivals, religious rituals and social events.
After that huge meal at Baburam’s house, there was the customary hand washing, watched over by Gani babu, his youngest son.
We arrived back at the health post at 21.30. Another programme member (Dandapani) had been invited to dinner as well. Binod and I had walked up to his place a few nights earlier for dinner and had to walk back in the rain in the dark. However, Dandapani wouldn’t walk back home after dinner as he feared being attacked by a tiger. It was OK for us but not for him! So he stayed the night… Binod has two beds in his room, being the one Roger and Annie used. We didn’t really mind. We all slept very well, and heavily.
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