Saturday morning brought bright sunshine but it was a noisy start. The ladies, including my host Janaki, gather to clean and sweep the path leading up to our group of houses. They do a great job as well as chatting very loudly at 6 a.m.! I admire the community spirit but wish it wasn’t so loud and so early.
I spent the day working at home and in the office with a lunch time visit to Nanglo West, a restaurant which is the haunt of the few foreigners in Tansen, and better off Nepali families. Guilty pleasure of French fries, pizza and a great lassi (not all together) – a welcome break from dhal baht.
Visited Janaki’s brother, Hari, in the early evening, he’s a Maths teacher and was involved in a motor bike accident. It’s a common occurrence here but fortunately he wasn’t seriously injured. I was at his wedding last year and now he and his wife are expecting a baby, she’s also finishing her Master’s degree.
My birthday (24th), can’t believe I’m in Nepal aged 63! Opened the cards I brought from the UK and celebrated with a gin and lots of tonic at lunchtime. Decided on the imported variety as I’ve had Nepali gin before and it was little better tasting than the local rocksi. Sunday is a working day here so had to go easy especially as Saran and I had a lot to prepare for the head teachers’ meeting the following day.
Great surprise in the evening when I was called up to the balcony for a birthday surprise – a great cake, presents and red wine (Spanish). I had a lovely evening with the family and the young Japanese volunteer who stays in the attached flat. Ikue volunteers with the Japanese organisation JAICA, it’s like the American Peace Corps, and she has been here for over a year working on rural and women’s development. She speaks very good Nepali as she had intensive lessons in Japan and in Kathmandu. Thanks to whats app, I had lots of chats and messages later. But missed being with my husband, Geoff, a sacrifice for us both.
We had a very successful head teachers’ meeting in the Red Cross building, lively discussion and good ideas but a ‘nag’ about doing more library activities. Good to hear of progress e.g. improved exam results in in one school, permission to have more classes in one school which will lead to lower secondary status in the future. Have promised to visit all – hope I’ll have time.
Returned to the homestay to find Janaki with her arm in a sling and a lot of medication. She had damaged a muscle over-zealously washing blankets and clothes. As her son Abhi says “She treats clothes like the enemy!” She’s in a lot of pain and upset so I have her sniff the lavender oil I always have with me. Despite the effort of having to hand wash everything, I don’t think I’ll ever hurt myself, a quick dunk to freshen things up and that’s me. Washing machines are such a luxury here and despite lots of rain at times, the water supply is very poor.
In our coordinator Saran’s village, his wife and twenty others have signed up to ask for the government to help with funding for a reserve tank. With the extra water that they could grow a variety of vegetables, currently they are restricted to maize and mustard seed that don’t require a great deal of water. With more water, they could grow potatoes, carrots etc.
Tuesday was a catch up on paper work and social day. I went to see Dan’s wife and had a long chat about her visit to the UK which she really enjoyed. I also met several old friends and acquaintances as I went around town.
After working in the morning, Ikue and I set off for Saran’s village for a wedding taking the local bud to the bottom of the track to Chaap then going on the back of a motorbike, far more comfortable than in the crammed jeeps we usually have to take. We didn’t know the couple but many people were invited. Lots of food, rocksi and dancing, the latter mainly involving the younger generation but I joined in a few times – not easy on a rocky surface and to Nepali pop. Also there was Eric (Nepali name – Prem), the US Peace Corps volunteer, who was having a great time. It was extremely hot so we left with Saran’s wife, Santi, at 8.30 leaving Saran to the rocky dancefloor.
The bride was from Chaap village, she only seemed about 20, and the groom …
7 a. m. wake up and after a lovely breakfast, Ikue and I took a walk around the village bumping into people I know and visiting the Singh family in their ‘new’ home. Mr Singh retired as head teacher from the village school (Shree Bhagwati) and his home was seriously damaged in the earthquake. The government provided only one third of the cost and the family had to provide the rest. They have a kitchen / living area and three bedrooms to accommodate 6 adults and 4 children, the eldest of whom is 18. Not easy.
Whilst we were around the village, Saran was doing his community duty – helping to slaughter 3 pigs for the festival – and his family weren’t even going to eat any! They were going to eat barbecued goat.
Back in Tansen, struggling with IT again, I finally managed to finish the blog for week one and do some other paperwork.
Dasain is the main Nepali festival, tens of thousands go back to their family homes in the village – special tikka is put on foreheads and children are given new bank notes (the queues at the bank seem endless) and eat special food. Saran and his family aren’t really celebrating Dasain this year as a relative recently died, aged 56, leaving his second wife a widow with a one year old son.
Saran’s parents are going to the village for the holiday so I go with them. The back of the jeep is loaded with potato seed, bags of beaten rice, empty plastic bottles to fill with locally made rocksi to be sold in Tansen and lots more. We are in a jeep and at first I think it’s just us but a young Indian man gets in with a very young car mechanic. His car, with his family, has broken down about 6 miles out of Tansen, so we drop them off. Just as we are going off the ‘black’ road (tarmac), the driver shouts Chaap and a swarm of people appear loaded with bags. Yes … they all pile in. I count 15 in the small jeep with 4 on the top and the driver’s assistant hanging off the side. Just the usual.
We spend a pleasant time with repeated thunder in the night but little rain. Everybody but me is up at 6 next day, I prefer reading my book in bed but feel guilty so get up at 7. But they won’t let me help so I do some Manisha work then play with Sohan and his friend, Astibi,