I met my family and instantly fell in love. I had my daai, the father of the family with a sweet and loving face, as ex-cook and an incredible man. My mami was a school teacher, determined and tough, but gentle on the inside. My bahini was complete innocent sweetest at 15, so very thrilled to have a white person staying in her home. And my baboo a little 2 year old boy right in the throws of terrible twos with ear splitting temper tantrums, and heart splitting laughs and hugs. The time I spent with them was not nearly enough.
Our days were full. Life in the village moves slow, as there is not much entertainment, but there is so much to do to keep life running. Our mornings were filled with Nepali language class outside, as we tried to stuff the last useful bits of language into our brains. And our afternoons were filled with other assignments, such as maps, interviews, and family trees. However, I spent a lot of my time just exploring. It started with the apple orchards behind my house, where I would run around, picking fresh crisp apples from the trees and eating until my stomach hurt, walking down by the river, and reading against little stone walls. And then it moved on to the other side of the river, where the fields lay. Everyone worked in the early afternoon so I would adventure over, and watch as people did the only work there was in this purely agricultural village. I watched woman with babies on their backs picking beans, and even little ones following their mothers, digging into the ground and pulling out potatoes. And every time I looked up, there staring me in the face again where endless beautiful white peaks.
At night we huddled inside. It was extremely cold up there. I would put on my hat and sit in the kitchen around their little wood stove. They had a nice house, showers, a full kitchen with 2 gas burners, wooden stove, a water spout in the courtyard. They had clean clothes, and enough to eat, and cooked me some of the most delicious food of their distinctive mountain flare. And yet this was the first time I really saw what life was like, in the village.
All day long woman were washing clothes in the public water wells. Babies were sleeping in doorways on blankets while parents chatted in the streets. Men were husking corn, and shelling beans on the street corner, young girls and boys had babies strapped to their backs as they were out to play. It took the people there awhile to accept us. Being on a big trekking circuit they have a lot of people coming through, but we worked hard to distinguish ourselves. Not before long they realized we were something different. Styaing for a week was unheard of and we had to be more than just another set of tourists. And then the began to obsess with us, and flocks on children would follow us as we worked, asking us questions, giving us apples, and loving to hear us speak.
On Saturday, the bidaa day for Nepalis, my family and I decided to make momos which are the delicious little dumplings stuffed with veggies here in Nepal. They are without a doubt my all time favorite Nepali food. And they are not easy to make. I watched my family make a few rounds of momos, attempting myself to copy their movements as they pinched the dough around the veggies. But after two attempts where the momos completely fell apart, my mami just looked at me, told me to sit down, and said that she would take care of it from here. So I did, and then I stuffed myself with momos for dinner. When I couldn’t eat another bite my mami just looked at me and said don’t worry we can eat more tomorrow morning. And sure enough I woke up to a plate of steaming hot deep fried momos. Nothing like curry in the morning.
One day I went to work on the farm with my family. After we harvest 8 massive bags of beans, we were ready to head home. They started to lift the woven baskets so they could slip the strap over their forehead, that holding up the load dangling on their backs. I asked if I could try one. They laughed and said why not, and then laid the basket on my head. I said it felt just fine, and they broke out into more fits of laughter, but then insisted on taking my picture. I told them I was confident I could walk all the way home with the basket on my head. So I did, and all along the way I got chants of “nepali keta justai, nepali keta justai” from my family. I did look just like a Nepali girl.
We left the village with much sadness. I did not want to leave the place where the view from my bedroom was 3 of the top ten tallest mountains in the world. Where I played with apple trees, where I wandered the streets, where life was simple, where babies were silly, and where the people were so kind and so rich which culture. But we had to, and so we said our bittersweet farewells, our families presenting us with traditional Buddhist scarves to say farewell, and begging for us to come again, and soon. I waved my goodbyes from the bus and fought back the urge to cry.