Kathmandu is now behind us for a few weeks as we immerse ourselves fully in language training and hopefully become more in tune with cultural norms and expectations. The learning centre, Chetana Kendra in Budol is around 1.5 hours drive from Kathmandu, along the Arniko Highway, which is the main trade route into China. There is significant building work going on alongside the highway, which allied to the fact that the entire road appears to be being resurfaced, makes for a dusty and less than smooth ride. The compensation for this is the fact that behind what is essentially ribbon development, buildings are beginning to give way to agricultural land. Terraced fields are given over to a variety of crops, and despite the consistently high temperatures, (average daytime temperatures of around 85F), everywhere is remarkably green, with every available piece of land seemingly turned over to something.
The language centre is some 10 minutes walk through the fields to Banepa and its been a real joy to wake up to birdsong rather than the Kathmandu chorus!! (Rest assured however that Banepa and Budol have their fair share of dogs too). Its also meant that a small number of us, (3 to be precise) have been running daily since we got here. A good way both to find out what’s in the area, and to strike up brief conversational exchanges with villagers as we pass through. Already we are being recognised and acknowledged, which will undoubtedly bring added benefits as this is the area in which I will be living after my language training has finished. Its remarkable how much activity there is in the villages and fields at 6 am.
I haven’t really had time to look around Banepa yet, other than a shopping exercise where we were sent off to find particular items and then purchase them from the local traders. There is an expectation that for certain goods, where the prices are not fixed by the state, that you will barter for a “good price”. Items where prices are fixed include such things as salt, sugar, spices and rice. Fruit and vegetables are “fair game” for negotiation….
Any of you planning to visit Nepal in the next few months can travel here safe in the knowledge that I can competently buy black peppercorns and beaten rice in small quantities, (both of which are commodities with a fixed price), as well as negotiate a reduction in the price of 200grams of grapes!!
Oh, and 14 April was the start of the Nepalese New Year, so happy New Year to you all, or as the title of this blog entry says….
Nayaa barsha ko shubhakaamana