Just short of a month in Nepal now, and although there is clearly still much to learn, I’m beginning to feel that the foundations are being laid. An increasing grasp of the language begins to unlock a few more doors, both literally and metaphorically. Shops, market stalls and tea shops become a more familiar environment as the days go by, and already after two weeks in Banepa I’m something of a regular in one or two places. Being someone who likes to prioritise and ensure that essential supplies are available at all times, I have found a small back street shop that sells local beer!! On my last visit just before the weekend, the woman whose shop it is wasn’t there. However, whilst making my way back home with a couple of bottles of Everest Beer (yes it really is called that…), she passed me in the street, stopped me to say hello and we exchanged a few sentences in Nepali. I don’t think I could attend a work related meeting held entirely in Nepali just yet, but its a few weeks until my placement commences, so I’m reasonably confident of my progress….
So much for metaphorical doors being opened….a visit to a mandir (temple) courtyard in Banepa and a random conversation with a family living close by brought another unexpected moment. Myself and the other volunteer I was with were invited in to their home to have tea with them. It is truly a humbling experience when a family who self evidently exist on the margins of poverty offer you tea and biscuits. Even more so when they insist that you finish the last biscuit….
From what we could gather there are three generations living in the same property. They asked if I would mind taking their photograph. I hope that the photograph above, which was taken indoors without a flash affords them the dignity and respect that they rightfully deserve. I plan to return with a copy for them in the next week or so.
….and so to another weekend, and a chance to see more of the countryside around Banepa and Budol. (Given that my placement is going to be in Banepa, I’ve already started to look at areas that I might potentially live in). After last weekend’s somewhat extensive travel itinerary, a more sedate two hour walk to a small Newari village called Nala…
It is somewhat off the beaten track, and many of the buildings and roads appear to have experienced little ‘modernisation’. Every available water supply seems to be surrounded by women and children doing their washing. Saturday morning also appears to be bath day for every child under the age of three in the village. Outside of every few houses there is a reluctant, usually wailing infant covered liberally in soap, sitting in a small tin bath being vigorously scrubbbed by his or her mother…..
Meanwhile, agricultural work continues in the fields, with whole families seemingly engaged in the harvesting of potatoes and wheat. It is the women who appear to do the majority of carrying, their strength and fleet footedness being apparent as they wend their way through small well worn pathways snaking in between the various crops, with huge loads carried in baskets that are supported by their heads. (This is not a sight unique to farming. Amongst my first memories of clearing customs at Kathmandu airport was the sight of a group of women carrying various building materials in these baskets. Women provide a significant percentage of the building and construction labour force in Nepal, as this photograph taken earlier during my stay in Kathmandu illustrates).
Meanwhile as day to day life goes on, the constitutional impasse in Nepal looms ever larger, as the Constituent Assembly’s two-year tenure ends on May 28th, possibly without the drafting of a new statute. But more of that in another post….