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

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