Wednesday, 18 May 2016

Goodbye to Saping. Hello to the rest of Nepal

Three storey pagoda from the five storey pagoda
For 6 weeks  I have lifted, carried, pushed, sawn and reveling in my strength and stamina. Then all of a sudden two days after the last bit of manual work I get up and my back that has had me hobbling about like a 90 year old for four days. Consequently, the last days of Saping were a little bit muted from what I had hoped. Our successors arrived and are a fantastic, committed and lively Canadian father and daughter who will, no doubt, carry forward the torch.

It has rained a bit over the last couple of days and at one point for about an hour, there was an incredible downpour of marble sized hail that rattled on the roof with such ferocity that even shouting at the top of our voices we could not be heard. The area in front of the school was awash with ice and stripped leaves whilst in the fields the new shoots of maize looked decidedly battered and may not survive the onslaught – which would be disastrous.  You would think that such extreme weather would alleviate the water situation but even after the rain the streams and wells have not recovered. The dry ground just soaked it up and the under ground reserves have been disrupted because of the earthquake. The village is having an emergency meeting to come up with some sort of plan – Good luck with that…I suspect more gossip, Roxy drinking and procrastination than solid decision making.

Holy Hailstones
So our last day we woke to the business of the surrounding houses going on as usual but everyone feeling the inevitable hour was upon us. We have become very close with Uttam's family and the kids in the school over the six weeks. We have shared much, witnessed much and contributed much both emotionally and physically. We have been told we were the hardest working, funniest and most willing volunteers to date. I hope that's true. We have tried to be respectful, pro-active and useful. We have tried to find things to do rather than be asked. And, above all, we have tried to understand and embrace our situation. 6 weeks doesn't seem so long when you look back but I bet this 6 weeks will have ramifications for our futures that we don't appreciate fully just yet.

Honeycomb with Silo
So we had our last meal and were served fresh honeycomb that Uttams father had scooped from the wild bee hive in the wall of their house. Its a big event and only  happens once a year so it was a great gift to have our leaving marked in this generous way. Tears fell all around and then we had to go. Salikram walked us to the road (uphill with fully laden backpacks this time) and we caught the frightening bus ride down to Dhulikhel once more. Emma (the volunteer coordinator for the school) is here with us. An entertaining and interesting woman with a penchant for doing good and we are due to have big talks with her and Uttam in the next day or so and come up with plans for the future of Medaka. Something we are honoured to have a part in.

We have a full length mirror and scales and are able to see the ravages (a little strong) of our time in Saping for the first time . We have both lost 8 kilo’s!  8 KILO’S!!!!  We thought our new weights were something we would never see again.

Indreshwor Mahadev Temple
Yesterday we went to the town of Panauti and wandered about the old town. The day was a perfect temperature with lots of shade provided by the closely built, antiquated buildings. There is a Fantastically rustic temple – The Indreshwor Mahadev Temple – which has intricate wooden carvings and filigree work around its four sides. In a small shrine to the side we found two priests smearing blood, from the head of a freshly slaughtered goat on an alter decorated with small stone deities and inflated intestines.  The sacrifice was part of the Bel Bibaha celebrations that were happening that very hour in which girls of around seven are married to a Bel fruit (a representation of the god Vishnu). There is a later ceremony where girls undergo a second marriage to the Sun and then, when they are of age, a third marriage to a man either chosen for or by her.

Bel Bibaha Brides
The ceremony was a joy to see with many little girls bedecked in beautiful red and gold saris, their hair braided, curled, twirled and pinned in ornate designs, their little bodies festooned with jewelry and complex and striking make up covering their faces.  We chatted and greeted and smiled our ways about the crowd whilst background music provided by drums and pipes wafted on the incense scented air.

Nepal like so many underdeveloped countries  gives one  access to such complex feelings. Feelings of frustration, joy, sadness, concern, hope, respect and anger to name but a few. They all mingle and squirm around in your gut and the emotions that come out of that melting pot of complexity is often highly charged. We had seen beauty and care in the ceremony just witnessed and yet, as we three sauntered out of the temple, we are met with the accumulated plastic detritus of modern living in a land of inadequate infrastructure and poor social education. The river being damned by old rags, bags and lonely sandals and the banks strewn with festering piles of rubbish that quietly attracts the flies.

People pass, some in rags, some in silks, crumbling buildings are seen to be both derelict and decorative, the life style both hard and yet lazy. Everything is juxtaopposed but still our hearts soar. Something is in the air beside the gentle smell of hot wood and baked brickwork. Maybe it’s the charm of ancient, slowly decaying buildings; the warmth of greetings or simply that our lives have led us to this place. I dunno. All I can say is that I felt like a glass of overspilling Perrier water.

Leaving Uttam was pretty sad. We had a lovely last meal and said stuff straight from the heart. Moist eyes, stiff upper lips, warm embraces and hopes of seeing one another again. In case you ever read this Uttam… You are a good man. It’s been inspirational meeting you and we wish you nothing but happiness and success in all you wish to achieve. Thank you.

Next stop – Bhaktapur….Wow. What a city. We have stayed a couple of nights in the old town area. It’s all a Unesco site and you have to fork out $15 each to get in but, when you do, you can quickly see why you have to pay. The place is just rammed full of lovely! Lovely buildings, lovely temples, lovely shrines, lovely roads and alleyways. Oh, and behind the scenes, completely shitty reminders of the earthquake. Lets start with the lovelies…The roads in the old city are all paved in worn red brick which immediately give the place great character.

Beautiful streets

The centre is a litter free zone and people take care of their patches and the place is peopled by some of the most elegantly dressed and attractive road sweepers I have ever seen. There are several delightful squares and each is adorned with an ornate temple complete with big statues guarding the steps up or the doors in. Rustic brickwork, sun bleached wood, highly decorated doors  and amazing carvings can be seen in every direction (especially on Shiva’s temple in Durbar Square where the wood carvings all pretty raunchy).


These temples and the stupas, palaces and other fabulous have stood for hundreds of years. However, the evidence of last years big wobbling event have reduced some to ruins. Large picture boards show how they looked before the quake and hopefully when reconstruction work is finished all will once again look beautiful. In the main, however, they survived and the city hustles and bustles and sustains itself with innumerable stalls and shops selling local (obviously nothing mad in China) wares.

Not so beautiful streets
Scratch the surface of this tourist dream and there is another side of Bhaktapur that you see once you have travelled down the little mazes of alleys and come away from the centre. Here there are parts of the town which are just rubble. Shells of buildings, piles of rubbish, stacked wood and brick ready for resale and people living in hovels. Here you see yet more evidence of how slow recovery is and can’t help but wonder how many years it will take before things get back to how they were. If, indeed, they ever will.

1 comment:

  1. Excellent post you have managed to express and impart the true feelings that you have had on this obviously wonderful experience. Well done you two.
    HO HO.