Friday, 22 April 2016

Stuff going on

View of the Himalayas from our window
Life here in Saping goes on and we continue to assimilate into the local ways. We are generally asleep by 8.30pm having had an evening meal about 7.00pm. Which, as often as not, is by torch light due to electrical power shedding. We are awoken by the first sounds of the village about 6.00am. Sometimes a cockerel, sometimes a cacophony of goats, cockerels, cows, villagers, insects etc. We breakfast on the same fare as that of the evening meal which is cooked afresh  daily by Pabritra (Uttam’s neice). We now use the toilet native style. For those of you who have wondered about the mysteries of shitting without using toilet paper. Here’s the drill.

1. Place feet either side of the toilet bowl with the waste hole behind you.
2. Squat down.  Whilst trying not to pitch forward or fall backwards.
3. Shit.
4. Assuming you are right handed one then shuffles the left knee forward to increase the space between the legs.
5. Using the right hand dip the small jug into the bucket or receptacle of water.
6. Bring the left hand around the back to your bum hole and start pouring the water onto this hand whilst wiping and probing until it feels clean.
7. Stand and pull up underwear.
8. Take the small jug (again using the right hand) and give a courtesy sloosh in the toilet bowl to remove any remaining poo.
9. Go to sink / tap etc and wash hands….thoroughly
The process is OK once you stop thinking about it too much.  Although one does get left with a wet bum.
Our drinking has reduced to only an occasional tipple of local hooch (mainly through bullying of friendly Nepali’s). And, we have gone veggie due to the quality of the meat and the dubious body parts that it consists of. We wash clothes in a bucket, drink copious amounts of black tea and are gradually building a tolerance to the incessant BUZZING OF THOSE F***ING FLIES! (Calming down) around our heads and food. Although, having said that, we try to escape to the relatively fly free environs of the nearby forest.

So most of the wood cutting has been completed (although the lumberjacks seem to have disappeared leaving one large log still to dissect) and somewhat unavoidably I did get involved with chopping, sawing, pruning and stacking till my hands  and legs were a swathe of blisters and scratches. All the wood was cut in the nearby forest about 1k away and, at the time, the only option to get it back to the school was to carry it up lots of steep rocky paths. Since Uttam was, at the time, unable to resolve the problem. I carried up huge, heavy floorboards (about 6ft long and weighing 30kg) on my back 6 times looking like Jesus (minus a crown of thorns) on the way to Golgotha.

Unloading the lorry that was eventually
procured to move the wood
It’s very difficult to deal with the ‘Nepali Way’ of doing things. Essentially one puts off to next month what could have been done yesterday. This is achieved by the men doing a bit of work then gathering around in groups and talking/arguing and then going off to find some local brew to drink. This often means that the women are left to carry on working and, of course, the diligent volunteers. I am frequently told to slow down and take a rest (about every 10 minutes). It's a little demotivating but inside I feel good that I am sweating and, after all, it's a good workout! More on this when the craftsmen arrive.

We have ripped down a lean-to shack in preparation for an eating area and new kitchen that is planned and I have subsequently measured, considered and put designs to paper ready for the carpenters when they arrive. The buildings are due for an overhaul but some bits are structurally ok so Rachel and I have painted cartoon animals to brighten them up – Large gheckos, shere khan, Kaa, butterflies, monkeys etc.. We have decorated the classrooms with flashcards to help promote conversation between the kids. We have painted the blackboards and started on the window frames that are still serviceable.

Us painting the murals on the school
Rachels’s bit - We have been lucky enough to be invited to a wedding, one of the teachers at the school, but I went into panic mode about what to wear. We are in the middle of nowhere, I have one old faded pair of black jeans, one pair of leggings and a pair of badly fitting lounge pants. These ladies all look delightful in their brightly coloured Khuthra and Shuruwal (tunics and trousers) so I asked for their help and they promptly took me and Heena, the other volunteer here at the moment, to find a tailor. Sounds all very glam, a day out shopping with the girls….urm, we had to hike to another village for about an hour and a half scrambling up and down little rocky tracks, sometimes slippery from fallen pine needles and leaves, balance on narrow ridges around terraced fields and walking on rutted, dusty tracks that made our feet and shoes orange with the clay dust. We thought we would never arrive until suddenly, there it was, another village. This one had 3 shops, 2 with fridges though no power so a bit pointless, and a fabric shop and 2 tailors!! This was a huge metropolis compared to Saping 1. We found fabric that a rather rotund, well by Nepali standards, man unraveled whilst looking us up and down, literally sizing us up before cutting a length of the fabric. We paid and then headed to the ladies tailor up the street. A small workshop where she took our fabric, held it up to various body parts and put little snips in the material which I hope meant something to her. There was no luxurious flicking through patterns whilst supping an ice cold glass of wine.

The ladies and Rachel
I have yet to collect the outfit and it cost the princely sum of  $7.50 so I’m reserving judgement. But we did meet a rather delightful lady who had a shop along the street who insisted we come along for a cup of tea. Rude not to. So we sat in her dark little store drinking the best Masala Chai I have tasted and ate biscuits whilst we tried to converse about families, the earthquake and our Nepal experience. She then handed us a carton of Mango juice for the journey back. Its at this point I would quite gladly have paid for a taxi so questioned if there might be a bus. Oh yeah, one goes to Dulolghat and can take us part way home but only one a day and it leaves at 9 tomorrow morning! So in the fading light we stumbled our way home to our dinner of Dhal Bhaat.

When we arrived the school was finishing exams and then on holidays so we organized a sports day. The day before they made some rosettes for the race winners, it was a great fun day. Amazingly no one was injured during the running backwards race or the sack race. The kids really wanted to win and put their all into it including launching themselves at the finishing line onto the rock hard clay floor! Thanks to Ujjwal and Salik Ram for loads of help getting kids in the right places.

Sports days

There was an end of term gathering with exam results and gifts of pens and pencils and notebooks for the highest achievers. The 5th grade all graduated and where given a rucksack to start life at their new Junior High School. A Graduation ceremony with orange juice, sweets and tikkas for everyone.

Graduation day
And, to finish this off we should mention that the previous volunteer has gone. In truth she was a bit of a washout and was exactly the type of volunteer that should not be encouraged as she was definitely more of an encumbrance and drain on resources when compared to the benefits she brought with her. Anyway, not really wanting to see bitchy I have to mention the newest volunteer. A fabulous woman called Heena who is a mishmash of Indian, Canadian, Fujian and American. She has taken a year out from being a high flying NGO accountant type to travel the world. She brings with her laughter and a fixation on eating. Rachel and her have probably set a world record for talking for the longest time without pausing for breath and it currently stands at 8 days.

Heena and Sardev
Final thoughts for this blog are that there is so much poverty and destruction here that it is shocking how some of these people are managing to live. And yet they do with dignity, good humour and generosity that is both heartwarming and inspiring. Sure there are worse places and worse conditions in the world but i haven't seen them so cannot comment. This is the poorest lifestyle i have lived amidst and i am humbled by how these people get by. With temperatures soaring into the nineties, low level tin shacks that seem more like sweat boxes than homes, erratic electricity supply, water shortages and dust it is hard to see how they can smile, laugh and look colourful and bright. I guess i judge from an essentially western viewpoint when I write these blogs in order to keep our experiences in perspective with one another. We have come to realise, however, that we are pretty resilient - me and Rachel - so actually living here is not as difficult for us as it would be if one was dropped in the middle of it all fresh from a life of privilege. And keep in perspective people. For all its faults being in England and being an English person is a privilege that should be daily appreciated.


Oh one final thing. I finished the floor in one of the classrooms by getting piles of cow shit, mixing in water and then spreading and smoothing it out by hand on the floor to harden in uniform way. I wonder if IKEA do a range of tongue and groove poo would be so much easier

Friday, 8 April 2016

A day in the life.....

We’re settling in to the whole life-in-a-Nepalese-village-in-the-middle-of-nowhere vibe. Woke early today and were greeted by the calm weak rays of the sun lighting the sky. Birds and cockerels are calling out and there is murmuring from the few farm buildings/homes nearby. I can smell that someone has started a fire and elsewhere there are the sounds of breakfast skillets being knocked against grates. It's a magical time and promises to be a lovely day.

Dirty foot hippy
Breakfast today is …… Yup, you guessed…Dhal Bhaat and preceeded with a peppery masala chai which we take outside – trying out using our hands as cutlery. It's a messy affair and something I don’t think we will adopt as it effectively stops one from using the right hand for anything else. As we sit there we are treated to our first glimpses of the Himalayas, which have been hidden behind a distant cloud bank the whole time we are here. Three soaring peaks of over 7,000m show their tops for 30 minutes before vanishing again.  It inspires us to speak to Uttam about going trekking when we finish here. Turns out that he is a registered guide and it is now fixed that he will take us on the Poon Hill Trek which will take about 6 days and is over 200km. More about that in a month or so.

There is another volunteer here for a few days called Kat. A nice American woman who has hit it off with Rachel and they both chat constantly. Nice for Rachel to get a decent conversation from someone for a change.  

Shortly after the mountain sighting we give a one hour fun, holiday class to children from nearby homes where Rachel and I teach phonics, sing songs, make origami frogs and race them. We chill for a while until Uttam arrives back from some errand or other and we get on with some repair work for the school.  For a few hours I am cutting into a clay bank at the rear of the school buildings using a hoe (dirty women are so versatile here) and a spade (1970’s black people are so versatile here). I then carry the clay in a makeshift wheelbarrow that is really just a stretcher affair made of two pieces of wood and a rice bag. 

We are fashioning a new floor in the little clay constructed building that is the grade three classroom. Once there I have to break down the clay into small particles, remove the stones and then spread over the existing rutted floor, pound it and level it in preparation for adding water and smoothing it  (when we can get enough waste water, that is). Graham Watts aka ‘’The Cynical Civil Engineer’ would enjoy seeing this.

Hard labour
The money we have raised has meant that the builders have arrived. For 15 days two guys will be preparing wood for building. This involves cutting down a 25m/30m fir tree that has a 600mm wide trunk. This has to be sectioned into 3m and 4m logs and then sawn into floorboards and rafters. To do this they have constructed a sawing station, which is a two metre high platform beside the edge of a terrace in the forest.  Here, these two guys saw everything by hand – one standing on the platform the other beneath and between them a large toothed saw is worked up and down (BY HAND!) for about 11 hours a day. For this they are paid $10 a day plus food and bed.  This still works out about the same for Uttam as buying prepared wood in the city and having it transported . Admittedly the end results are a little bit more rustic but, as Uttam says, it helps employ people in the village. Which is very commendable.

Easy work if you can get it
Anyway, back to today. Rachel, Uttam and I dropped some lunch off for the builders – I had a go at sawing – F**K that for a game of soldiers! More importantly though was having to help to move one of the 4 metre long logs from the felling point to a sawing station about 30 metres away. Half of which was up hill. It took about 30 minutes of  heaving, shoving and straining with big levers made of branches to get it into place. Fantastic – I’m a lumberjack in Nepal.

The Saping Bootlegger
We then head off down more steep bits of hillside to a little shack from where a lovely woman sells home made hooch. Roxy (a spirit) is distilled from millet and tastes like Sake and Chan (a sort of beer) which is brewed using rice and also tastes a little like Sake, although not as sharp. The shack is low, dark and made of corrugated iron. There is another open sided shack which forms the kitchen and a third small bunker that is the sleeping area. Beside this lays the partially demolished ruins of her former home for which she is still waiting to receive $2000  as a government contribution to rebuild (this is money from a relief fund collected worldwide and is still not being effectively passed out to the people – disgraceful). She has very little, she lives in a hovel, but still she plys us with cups of Roxy and makes us eat peanuts that she grows on the land around her home. We laugh, communicate both through Uttam and horseplay and leave with a warm fuzzy feeling and a few bottles of alcohol.

The lumberjacks (Note Ray Liotta on the left)

Returning home we spend another couple of hours working on the clay floor before finishing off the evening sitting on the school benches from the class on the terrace outside the building.. Our meal is rice flakes and goat (killed that day), Dhal Bhatt and the alcohol we had got earlier. It's a jolly affair, Uttam and his father, his brother and two sons, Rachel, Kat and me and the builders. The evening is warm (it was in the 30’s today) the crickets sounds of the night are just starting  and the skies are clear and filled with stars, laughter and the grunts of arm wrestling competitions.

Monday, 4 April 2016

Nepal life

Terraced fields in Saping
A surprisingly easy upload so second blog arrives early…

Saping. Saping is a village set 1500m up but is not a village in the traditional sense that it has a village square, hall, bus stop or anything like that. It is a disparate collection of houses that are scattered around the sides of the valley. In total there are 942 homes in various condition and they cover an area of some 6 miles or so. Some are tumbled down so families are living under tarps or corrugated iron strung over the remains of the walls of their houses. Others in partially cracked homes made with a collection of clay and rock and others in brick built constructions often with livestock below.

typical homestead
Many of the buildings have windows but virtually none have glass in them and it is unimaginable how cold they must get in the winter months.

There are no roads and not terribly recognizable footpaths – rather a collection of routes that meander here and there following the edges of paddy fields or plots planted with corn. Others are scrambling routes up steep hills, others still follow dried streams. There are no cars, motorcycles, bicycles or mechanical means to carry people or perform tasks. There is nowhere to drive them. Farming is done using an ox for ploughing (a simple wooden spike with handlebars angled into the dirt and dragged behind a yoke. Planting is done by hand and is usually performed by a woman scattering the seed behind the men who steer the oxen.

The Latest Massey Ferguson Oxen
Goats and chickens wander near to the houses, whilst tethered cows ruminate and consider the universe. The fields are all long strips of land of different widths depending on gradient that are cut as innumerable terraces running down the valley sides. Life is slow and carried out from day to day. Electricity is rationed, as there is not enough for everyone in the country so every day the electricity is off for several hours at a time.  When we arrived there was none for 4 days. Water is another issue and in high demand. 

View of the school perched on the terraced land
The two tanks sited in the school are fed by a meagre spring that wells up just under a kilometre away. Unfortunately this spring is but a trickle as the hot season is entered and the tanks are all but empty and daily everyone prays for rain. Today as we were out walking in the hills and were accompanied some small children ranging between 12 and 5 who had been sent to wash their clothes in a little pool by a well tap. We joined in with soaping and rubbing the clothes on rocks and after rinsing in left them out to dry. The children gradually divesting themselves of the clothes they were wearing since a fully stocked wardrobe is not that high on the agenda here.

The launderette
Food is basic and consists of Dhal Bhat, Dhal Bhat and Dhal Bhat (Beans, peas, cauliflower and potatoes in a curry sauce, A spicy chutney, a pile of white rice and the Dhal (lentil) soup). This is both breakfast and dinner and is served at 9.45am and 6.30pm. Since it gets dark about 6.45 and there are the electricity problems were often eat by torch light.

Last night we were asked to go to Uttam’s fathers house. A place shared with his elder brother and family.  To get to the house we have to scale down four  1.5m drops that form the edge of each terrace and balance along bits of wood or stone over various gaps. The house is two storey affair with the barn forming the lower quarters. We enter the hall but it is pitch black until someone lights our way with a powerful torch. The stairs up to the living area are packed mud with a group of chickens asleep on a couple of the steps. The upper hall has a store room on the right and a 1 metre high door on the left that leads into the sitting room/kitchen. This is a room filled with smoke from the open cooking fire in the corner. The room, about 4m square, has two support poles for the blackened corrugated roof above and a single day bed on which Uttam’s father lounges. His brother is laying out snacks on plates on the floor and his sister in law is cooking rice flakes and (a real treat) chicken for us.

We eat with our hands, scooping up rice and mushing in the sauce and we drink a local hooch, still warm from manufacture and not unlike Saki. How lovely to be asked to someones home and share food and company. Uttam and his nephew translate the difficult stuff and we mime or gesticulate the rest. Laughter and a sense of Bon Homie fills the room and we leave with Rachel and I feeling a little mellow from the drink but Uttam, who had considerably more, being very giggly and lovely. We mountain climb our way back to the school and after we eat dinner we sit around playing Uno with Uttam, his son and nephew and continue laughing and joking. The main source of laughter for Uttam is confusing a nickname his son gave me meaning ‘Prayer of God’ to ‘Man with eternal hard-on’….. You had to be there to appreciate the moment but will hopefully identify with how inclusive it felt have Utam and his son both hopeless with laughter one sprawled over my legs the hugging my chest.

Yesterday we started planning fun lessons, a treasure hunt and sports day for the school holiday and got down to some proper work – namely pulling down a tin shack that had served as a temporary kitchen just after the quake and constructing a partitioned area in another building for a further volunteer to sleep in. Uttam repairing some cracks with clay mud.

Chris removing last bits of a shack with
Sardev (a student) on the only toy in the
school - a pair of stilts
There terraces cover much of the valley but just 5 minutes away is the start of a pine forest that extends many miles eastward and, reputedly, are home to clouded leopards which have been known to seize goats and dogs. These forests are lovely, cool and carpeted with pine needles. Most importantly is that they are fly free which is a welcome relief since the village houses are plagued with them. We are constantly swatting them away.

This afternoon, however, as we sat there reading our kindles we were surrounded by 3 children who excitedly pointed out that there were 4 huge Macaque monkeys  nearby. We have seen monkeys a plenty around the world but these seemed a bit scary because of the surprising location and their size – bigger than the ten year old boy who chased them away whilst  hurling stones and shouting.

It all sounds a bit bleak and in truth it's the most trying living conditions we have encountered so far but here’s the thing. And I speak whilst still fresh from civilization and wearing rose coloured glasses but it's 'some kinda wonderful'. The air is clean and scented with wood smoke. The views although misty are quite lovely, the society is warm, welcoming, tactile and generous spirited and there is a togetherness (brought through need as much as desire) that is inspirational. For us to have the chance to actually do something for these people in the form of bettering the conditions of the school and hopefully, increasing their knowledge of English, is something we consider an honour. And something we are approaching with humility and consideration rather than acting like new style missionaries spreading the words and materialism of the west.

Saturday, 2 April 2016

First impressions of Nepal

We have arrived in Nepal. 36 hours from Hiroshima to Kathmandu via buses, trains, planes, stop-overs and delays. Uttam, the principal of the charity school where we are headed, waits with a sign to welcome us.

Cutting through the normal predatory babble of taxi drivers looking for fresh meat to fleece, we were taken to the car and driven through the manic streets of Kathmandu out towards Dhulikhel. Craziness abounds once more. No longer the regimented, automaton behavior we have become used to. Now we are surrounded with manic horn blowing notifying everyone of one’s presence or displeasure . Cars carving up bikes and bikes on pavements and everyone squeezing through impossible gaps or passing on corners. Dust is everywhere, building work is everywhere and exhaust fumes fill the air. Not sure that this is my sort of town but will pass judgment on it when we come back to explore more fully in the future.
What I will say is its great to be back amongst gritty life.

The town of Dhulikhel is old and Innate Guest House (where we are staying for a couple of days), like everything, is perched on a hill. This particular one being on the outskirts of the town and a short dusty walk down a road with numerous small shops and groups of locals who stand and chat, seemingly, for hours. These are generally friendly and we have to “Namaste” someone or other every few minutes on our way to the town. As towns go this one ain't all that until you suddenly find yourself lost in the old town. 

A myriad of little lanes and old buildings, many cracked, and many more bedecked with corrugated iron roofs or propped with wooden struts. The architecture is a refreshing change from that of Japan with many buildings being ornate, run down and hugely photographic. 

We take every opportunity to talk to people and get permissions to take pictures where appropriate - olds ladies, cute kids, groups of men etc. many of the faces are worn and tired but light up when they smile.

After browsing through the old town for a few hours wer head off to the supposed highlight of the place which is the view point from the old temple at the top of the ‘The thousand steps’. Urmmmm. The thousand steps actually number 558 and the temple is a bit of shit hole. The way up is littered with rubbish and the view was obscured with mist. Even so it stretched out our legs after the long flight and was still fun to do - as is everything with Rachel.

Just a little bit about why we are in Nepal. We are here to work as volunteers in a charity run schools for poor kids and especially poor girls (who are encouraged not to get an education) in a little village called Saping. The school was set up by Uttam Raj Giree, a local man with a vision for his village. He is a charming character who decided that there were far too many uneducated and socially trapped people in his little village and some 15 years ago decided to do something for them. The school has grown from humble beginnings to 63 students and receives some funding from a Japanese organization to cover the basics and from whatever sponsor money can be raised elsewhere. We have managed to raise about 4000 dollars through friends and the Hiroshima YMCA and will be spending 6 weeks here teaching kids English, maths and science and will be helping with repairs of earthquake damage and development work at the school.

The bus ride from Dhulikhel to Dulolghat is pretty much what you would picture a bus ride in a third world economy country to be like. The Bus is dilapidated with faded paintwork that is pitted with rust in various places, repaired with filler in others and dented liberally all about. We wait beside a stall selling oranges, grapes and strung up dusty packets of snacks and warm water in a rutted square of baked mud which serves as the bus terminal. Eventually our particular bus rolls to a stop in cloud of red dust and diesel fumes. Westerners are not such a rare sight in these parts although we have only seen three other white faces in 2 days and so warrant more than just idle curiosity. We clamber aboard the already full bus and stumble along the walkway clutching our reduced in size, but still heavy packs. The central aisle is already scattered with other passenger’s parcels atop a carpet of full rice sacks which are lain end to end along the bus. And the only spare seats (2) are at the rear of the bus. I sit down on the back row which also kindly shuffles into sardine formation to allow Rachel to fit in as well. Uttam, his friend Nani and her nephew occupy another single seat a short way off and after rearrangements of bodies and bags and bits and pieces the bus trundles off. The occupants of the bus chatter, doze and hang on as we fly down the roads that are too poorly constructed, too narrow and too busy for the amount of traffic on them. The man in front has a box of chicks beside him that he is trying to keep cool. There is considerable noise and a faint smell of ammonia from these creatures whom he occasionally feeds by scattering feed on them. Apart from that the bus does not yet have that heavy rancor of travel sweat and perfumes and soap smells still rule supreme. The journey is one of two or three hours and gradually the charm of it all wears thinner as more and more people embark both inside and on the roof. The smell of a leaking petrol container gets stronger and the roads get worse. 

There is a short stop for roadside noodles and warm coke in Dulolghat before we leave the tarmac roads for rutted dirt roads that wind up the side of steep valley. With lurching, jolting movements the bus, now enveloped in a dust cloud, zig zags its way up the side of the valley with the precipitous drop only a foot or two away from the crumbling edges of the road. Luggage tumbles off the roof or the bus every now and then and the bus stops whilst it’s retrieved. Eventually we arrive at a junction in the road where, amidst some effort, we extricate ourselves and are left with final blasts from the horn and spray of dust to take stock of our surrounds.  We now have a 60 minute walk to the village which involves following a footpath that requires additionally clambering over rocks, balancing on the raised edges of dry paddy fields, tramping through dry stream beds and dusty tracks through pine forests. 

The whole time the views of the surrounding hills with cultivated slopes being worked by water buffalo and brightly clothed women, and endless terraces of rice fields gladden our hearts. We make a short break in the walk to Saping to have tea and delicious homemade yoghurt with sugar and rice flakes at Nani’s mothers house. All is quite and slightly misty.

When we arrive at the school we are greeted by small boys, wandering cows and grumbling skies that threaten rain. What a setting. The school sits on a narrow ledge some 10m wide that is cut into the hillside to accommodate the buildings. Both two story buildings (about 30m x 4m) overlook the south facing valley. One has classrooms below and an open hall above whilst the other has classrooms below, our bedroom and a library above.  The Buildings are rustic, roughly constructed with no doors or windows although there are wooden shutters on the upper windows  (thank goodness its coming up for summer here). The floors downstairs are packed mud and upstairs, rough hewn floor boards. The kitchen is perched above another little building and consists of a two ring burner, a shelf and little work area about 300m square. Below is a lean to affair with squat toilet, shower and sink.

I don’t want to say to much just yet on the place and what it will be like living here but I think it will be ok. At the moment it strikes us as fantastic and exactly what we wanted after the excesses and comforts of Japan but…Lets see huh?

OK just to finish off this first impressions blog. Since we have arrived in Nepal we have, in two days, had a beautiful sunny day where we got a little burnt. It then became cloudy and very windy with rain, and even a little hail.  Today our journey here has given us sun, thunder and lightning. The winds from the previous day were stronger here so the power lines are down and there is no electricity for a few days. Whilst we ate our first meal of Dhal Bhat last night there was a small earth tremor that sent the dogs off barking and children running to and fro shouting “Earthquake”. It was a only a minor tremor though and passed without note. Finally just as it was getting to dusk the earth seemed to spit up a swarm of flying ants (flying termites we think) from holes in the agitated mud. The sky was filled with flying insects and the ground was covered with thousands of termites (all probably shouting “earthquake” to one another). We quickly closed the shutters and Uttam lit fires over the main holes to smoke them out completely whilst we ate in near darkness. Talk about a biblical welcome! As I write this on our first morning here. The sun is rising, goats bleat, thousands of birds chirrup, cockerels crow, villages are working in the fields, Rachel snores and Uttam is outside sweeping up the debris of his genocidal act against the termite nation.

This will probably be the last post for awhile as it has taken two days to up load most of this one.