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.
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.