One day, I finally made it into the inter sacdum of Nepali culture. I was invited in a dirty little fly covered chiyaa shop to eat instant noodles and chat about life. These are the shops were men spend their time, where real nepali is lived, the equivalent to being invited to cook with the aamaas. In this shop there was the man there with his little son, sort of a right of passive, eating chow-chow, the elder man in the corner whispering nonsense to anyone who will listen, and the 6 of us, 5 male teachers and me perched on stools in the dimly lit room. It’s the first time I was allowed in one of these chiyaa shops reserved typically strictly for males. However, being a foreigner somehow raises your status even higher and they gladly accepted me inside. I slurped instant noodles, and tried to follow the conversation about politics, the neighborhood gossip, and the latest marriages. Only catching one in ten words but still relishing in the fact that I was there, amongst those welcoming people, breathing and eating in the Nepali hillside lifestyle.
When Saturday came it was break day, which meant washing day down in the river. They asked all week long if I could wash in the river or if I wanted to wash alone up here at the house and they could heat water over the wood fire. But I protested. I would absolutely was in the river like everyone else! So I loaded up my clean clothes and set out to walk. It’s a 20 minute walk down to the stream. When we arrived my didi told me to undress. Then she dumped cool water over my head and I laughed through chattering teeth. Then I dressed myself in a second set of clothes while my did washed the ones I was wearing. Here you only need 2 sets of clothes. One to wear while the other is being washed and dried, alternated between the weeks. Simple as that.
On the way back from the river my didi stopped another woman and asked for her help. The two of them walked up to a tall skinny nearby tree, The younger woman, took off her sandals and began to climb the tree. I let out a gasp. My didi laughed and said “sakdina?” You cant do that? No I can I replied. But with simply agility she climbed to the top of the tree, maybe 20 feet high, and stripped the tree of its leaves as she went. On the ground, my didi laid out the scarf from around her neck and gathering the leaves falling around her. I came over to help and we piled leaves onto the scarf. As the pile grew bigger and bigger it didn’t seem like the scarf could contain it. So she took the worn out sweater from her back and tied it to the scarf, making a longer strap and tying up the leaves into a bundle. Then she hung the bundle off her forehead and continued the march to the house with a load of leaves twice the size of her body hanging off her back.
I am coming back to Nepal. I have already sworn to so many people that I would be back. To kids, to parents, to friends, to school teachers. And if the genuine excitement in their faces wasn’t enough, I honestly cannot stop thinking about returning back here. My thoughts of my future begin and end at how soon I can return to this country. I can see myself living here, working on education projects, speaking Nepali, doing something worthwhile, and right now in this little hillside village it’s the only thing I see in my future.