Plain living, plain dealing
Another precious month in Nepal moved on so quickly. Time goes by so fast. I must admit I've already become habituated to living with my host family, their surprising customs and some folk traditions. It's so obvious that my everyday life in Poland is easier than it is in Nepal. Anyway, I'm glad that I got the feel of Taluwa and Nishankhe. I find new beginnings occur, and they are difficult at first. I've had time to become accustomed to living without electricity and running water, eating rice and staying up late through many jumping rats and squeaking mice over my head, various weather variables as well. I surveyed some differences that had brought on a very big culture shock in the beginning. Fortunately, it disappeared after a certain time. Nepali way of life is a lot more complicated than I'd originally thought. Certainly, the perception of time is extremely different in Nepal than in Europe. Initially I had to get used to “Nepali time”... Although people wear a watch here, it happens very often that they're not able to appear in time. It was immediately apparent I had some problems... I couldn't figure out what time I should have breakfast and dinner, start my job, set an appointment etc. Several times I got the impression that Nepalese arranged some meetings at the last moment. It is just as well that I didn't get worked up over it...whatever bad thing happened to me, I always came up smiling. I needed to use the general Nepali greeting “Namaste” (Hello!) that means “I bow to the god in you” in plenty of situations. I managed to settle into my village and people who always start a conversation by asking me where I'm going (though there's the only one direction — to Nishaaaaankheeeeeee), or whether I have eaten. No doubt about it, it's better to have a monotonous food than to be famished. The meal in Nepal consists of dhal bhaht tarkahri - lentils, boiled rice (I've noticed there're several types of rice: 'bhaht' - cooked rice, 'cyurah' - beaten rice, 'cahmal' - uncooked rice, 'dhahn' - unhusked rice...) and vegetable curry, served with a fresh pickle or relish (acahr), which is very spicy (nep.: piro piro!). Actually, I consume it three times a day (my plate is refilled several times at least). A hot, sweet and milky Nepalese cup of tea is also served to drink in my house. It's very important to conform to the rules if you do not want to accidentally offend anybody during eating breakfast, lunch and dinner, therefore, when you eat, you have to use only your right hand. Moreover, you must remember that if you touch some food by hand or mouth, it becomes "jhuto" that means 'contaminated' and belongs to you; you just mustn't share food from your plate. If you enter a house, you have to remove your shoes, leaving them outside the door. If one knows what's good for one, it's better to sit on a mat on the floor with your legs crossed. As clear as day, the family in Nepal is the heart of social life, to be fair, boys are favoured over girls in this cultural context. I found that many girls work instead of going to school, I couldn't help but notice that it often happens they leave school very early. What's more, sometimes children do a job to pay for the education of their younger brothers and sisters. Many of them have responsibility to help parents out with the household, in the kitchen or on the family farm. All the same, Nepalese come across as people who are deeply rooted in their religion, a harmonious mixture of Hinduism, Buddhism and ancient Tantrism. I really appreciate their attitude...every time I turn around in a new area I'm treated as an honoured guest. They put a red dot called 'tika' on my forehead and invite me to their house for some refreshment. Agriculture is by far the most popular activity in the Okhaldhunga District. Although the members of my host family live off teaching children in schools, they wake up early in the morning (about 5:00 am), go to work in the field to harvest crops and grass (to that end, women carry a wicker basket on the back), feed some animals, carry heavy water containers to deliver it to others as well. Despite the bad weather conditions, each day they have to put distance between the farm and the mountainous place they pick up some greenstuff. There's no doubt that life in the high mountains is really tough. Yeah...definitely, from time to time the Himalayas have a tendency to remind Nepalis of the unpredictable forces of nature, to say the least. A quite extraordinary day: for the first time on Sunday the 2nd of July I experienced the earthquake firsthand... It took place at 7:43 in the morning. I decided to get up earlier than usual, actually I wasn't able to sleep longer due to the scream of some rats on the roof, their behaviour was uncommonly noisy. I was outside my cottage that time, I had gone to take some water from a small pond we always use it for having a shower. Suddenly, I felt the shaking ground under my feet and looked at the moving water in the bucket. What's going on?! I heard some barking dogs around immediately. To be honest, at the beginning I didn't know what exactly to do, I was standing for a few seconds until my brain got the information: “Go away!”. Quite frankly, I anticipated the worst at the time. I started running ahead, in front of my house I spotted members of my Nepali family and some neighbours...their faces were really sad and totally scared...we had already known what it happened. They turned on the radio and we listened to the breaking news: “There was the earthquake in Okhaldhungha, 5.1 on the Richter scale was recorded, hopefully nobody died”. I get the impression that Nepali inhabitants are accustomed to being in danger and they seem to treat the force of nature seriously all the time. It's a fact that you never know what can happen in the country on the Roof of the World...and I learnt it the hard way.