I sit at a place of unimaginable beauty.
Marigolds line terrace edges, growing there spontaneously. (Occasionally they are pulled up to feed the cow and buffalo and make pest-repellant tea.)
I’m not quite at the top of the “hill” (“mountain” is reserved for snow-capped Himalayas)— but it sure felt like we were making a steep ascent on the climb from the highway.
I can’t complain. All I had to haul up was my butt, two bad knees and a day pack. I offered to unload some of the suitcase and carry my part, but Shyam insisted on carrying it, full and heavy. He had promised me by email that it would be no problem but I’m sure he didn’t think I’d be bringing so much stuff for this 9 day home-stay. I’m sorry!
He did sweat and stop to rest on the way up. It was all I could do to not topple off the slippery stone “steps!” Finally he called his wife, Sabita. She arrived with Nepali know-how — the strap that goes on the forehead to help with heavy loads. Here he is! Not with trekkers’ packs or fodder for the cows, but with my suitcase!
He warned me on the way that “My home is simple.”
That’s fine. I’m used to camping. And at Sangam’s Organic Farm I slept in the Earthquake House — tarp top and floor and a few rodent droppings. Here my sleeping quarters is to be a shed with mud-daubed walls, a hanging light-bulb, an outlet that doesn’t work, a zinc roof and hard dirt floor.
It does seem a little odd to have to take shoes off and then walk with clean socks on a dirt floor, but that’s the custom. I find out later that this was an Earthquake House too, with the roof donated by Shyam’s employer. Now it is a “home-stay” abode. I’m OK with the basics.
What is better than basic, what is perfect, is the view high above any pollution or dust!
The distant mountains, snow topped Himalayas above the clouds.
Terraced fields. Vegetables everywhere. Randomly placed houses, which constitute a village, even though there are no roads up here. And the sounds — birds I have never heard before. Even the bus horns way below are melodic, playing tunes that are banned in Kathmandu. Animals moo and bleat and knock their goat heads against metal feed bowls. Shyam’s wife quietly feeds the live-stock with the enormous basket-full of fodder she harvested from some field or terace wall.
And silently falling leaves, announcing fall.
And the feeling? Of spaciousness. So much clean air! Marigold scent when I brush against the golden blossoms.
I complained at the last place that I was living in a “barn-yard.”
I did not want to repeat that experience! Well, I have and I haven’t. The livestock of cow, buffalo and goats is tethered right below my shed.
Two small goats actually frolic and poo freely right in front of the bench where we eat our noodle snack. It is the barn-yard! But it’s a happy barn-yard.
Shyam loves his work and is committed to teaching the Nepalese farmer organic farming and tree planting at the teaching/growing site “Everything Organic Farm.” It was established by the American Judish and her late husband who were well schooled in organic gardening in California.
Shyam’s lovely wife calmly and continuously works. Loving her 22 month daughter, Unnati, chasing her with kisses and clothing her warmly as the temperature chills in the late afternoon. Feeding the live-stock. Bringing me warm milk from the cow. Cooking me noodle soup with just picked garden greens and insisting I sit on a cushion, not on the floor like everyone else. And when snack time is over, washing the dishes outside by a hose which brings water down the mountain.
I watch carefully how she squats and washes them. Placing dishes on the stones. Gathering ash from under the outdoor fire-place. Adding a shake of powdered soap. Rinsing dishes and putting them back on (dirty?) stones. Scrubbing them and rinsing and putting back on less dirty stones. In the kitchen they look gleaming clean but the water is not filtered. Am I risking something eating from them? We shall discover.
I’ve also begged a pan for peeing inside my shed at night rather than risk walking down the slippery stones in the dark to an unlit toilet shed. So, I have arrived and am settled.
That’s it for now. It’s getting chill.
Sabita is picking marigolds for a mala for her brother who is going to Australia to study and work. One can’t get a work visa there so study is necessary with an extended family pooling money to get him there.
And before Shyam descends to the kitchen, leaving me perched by the view, he confides his ambitions. He is 26. At 11 he was sent to the city to be a servant. He went to school maybe 1 hour a day. Yet, after a few years of English exposure he is speaking remarkably well, He wants to open a home-stay place on his own land, not on this his Father’s home. But he has no money. I remind him of all he’s accomplished in 6 years of working the Everything Organic Farm and teaching. “But,” he insists, “ My hard-working years are over at 40. After that I’ll get weak…”
I wish them well and hope it all works out, somehow. Hoping that he can offer his daughter more than his parents could offer him.
It’s getting colder. Time to put on warm clothes and hope I can charge my electronics inside their house.
I have arrived!