Kathmandu and Nanglibadi

A couple of weeks ago when I was in Nepal, I remember how excited I was to come home. I remember just itching to be on the plane. I remember all I wanted was a shower, a grilled cheese sandwich and to sleep in my very own bed. At this point, 14 days later, I can’t believe I ever thought that. 
Nepal was a perfect way to end off the trip. I remember on the ride from the airport to our guest house thinking that it was a mixture between Thailand and India, but shortly after I realized that it was really just something of its own. 
Kathmandu was great of course, just like every single place. Even though we were only there for a few short days, it stored many adventures for us. It was here that I proved to all the shop keepers that I meant business, that Katherine and I learned just how successful we can be with our packing, and how indifferent I could be about where I slept.
Our first night in Kathmandu Katherine and I ate dinner in the rooftop restaurant of our hotel and then ordered tea to have in our room while we cuddled up in bed and chatted. Of course this didn’t last for too long before Kathleen, Gio, Phelan, Kajsa, Dan and Joel came in to join cuddling with us. The more the merrier, right!?

The next day Katherine and I took a rickshaw ride to the Monkey Temple (Yes, a beautiful temple with… monkeys!) And the man who was taking us there put on quite the show for us. He was ‘honking’ by making the most ridiculous noises with his mouth and was going so fast that we nearly fell out!!! All we could do was laugh, even though we did nearly lose a limb or two.

The two of us also did ridiculous amounts of shopping, Kathleen and I too. Everything in each little shop was so incredibly beautiful. I picked up many beautiful scarves, wood (or yak bone?) carvings, and quite a bit of jewellery. We all had fun haggling with the shop owners who tried to take advantage of us because we were clearly not from around there. We all had to use the ‘we’ve been over here long enough to know that that is NOT worth even close to what you’re asking for it.’ I do indeed think I did some of my best bargaining here! Even if I did get a little too into it and looked a bit crazy.

The next day we met up with Jeevan, the coordinator for our very last homestay. On our way to the village of Nanglibadi he took us to see a few popular places. 

The first was the Pushupatinath Temple – one of the most significant Hindu temples of the Lord Shiva in the world. The thing that makes this temple so popular is the open air cremations that happen there every single day. The day that we were there, the cremations that were happening were of children. It felt bizzar that we were allowed there with hundreds of other tourists. I mean, would you want strangers watching your family members being burned to ashes? Taking videos and photos? As wrong as it felt to be there intruding on something that seemed to me to be so personal, it was so beautiful. I saw many different ceremonies at many different stages. There were families praying over the bodies as they were prepared for the cremation, there were blessings during the cleansing of the cremation site, there were chants and ceremonial gestures. It went on and on until finally I saw a small, frail body carried between men to the bed of logs prepared for her. This body was then picked up and circled around this bed multiple times while things foreign to me were being said. The sheet was lifted from her lifeless body, revealing her serene face for a final blessing of water, tika and flowers. I couldn’t believe what I was seeing. It didn’t seem real. I couldn’t take my eyes away from any of this. It was hauntingly beautiful.

Nanglibadi. This is a place that I hold dearly to my heart. Anna and I stayed together with an incredible family of 5. There was this incredibly ancient grandpa (everyone was jealous that we got to stay with him!), a father who disappeared the next day (to attend classes in Kathmandu I think?), a mother (the most incredible woman I’ve ever met) and their two sons. We could not have been placed with a better family. Their house was a mud house (similar to the one in Jhadol) but 3 stories! When we were first taken to the house we were shown to our room on the second floor where the father plugged in this small TV and turned it to BBC. We both just looked at each other and laughed because that was the most unexpected and ridiculous thing that could have happened! We ended up sharing the room with the youngest son who LOVED to watch the TV, while Anna and I chatted with each other. 
When our Ama (our mother) came home from working in the fields, she ran upstairs and burst into our room with the biggest smile in the world on her face! She couldn’t speak any english at all, but it was very evident that she was ecstatic that we were there staying in her home. She hugged us (which surprised me incredibly, given the fact that affection wasn’t really something that seemed to happen in Asia) and stood there grinning at us for a few minutes. 
A few nights into our stay, we were able to have one of the English speaking boys from the village come in and translate for us. Between Jeevan and him, we were told the story of our Ama: She had an arranged marriage which happened when she was 8 years old. She moved in with her husbands family, and here began the abuse from her mother-in-law. We were not told all the specifics, but we were told that she was made to do ridiculous amounts of work, was not treated well by her and basically was living in hell up until 2 years ago when her mother-in-law passed away. She never had the chance to go to school, so she could not read or write. She grew up working in the fields.
One morning I went into the field to pick millet with my ama. She took me down the dirt road and up a path into the field. She wore a basket on her head, supported by a band around her forehead and worked with a metal hook-shaped instrument to snip the ends off and throw the millet behind her into the basket. She taught me how to do it, and for a couple of hours we spend our morning making our way through the crops. She kept looking over to me to see that I was okay, and occasionally she would hug me and kiss my cheeks. At one point she even said ‘I love you’. The only sentence that she could say. The only sentence that mattered. 
I thought I had gotten the hang of gathering the millet and got a little bit too confident with my hook, I ended up cutting myself and bleeding a fair amount. I tried to hide it from her because I didn’t want to have to stop helping her, but she saw it. She immediately grabbed my hand and alternated between squeezing my open wound and blowing on it. The concern in her eyes was boundless.
She kept showing me her hands, I wasn’t sure why, but at one point I took a picture of it. You can see my blood on her left palm..
This lady has made her way deep into my heart, I will forever look back on her strength, wisdom and love. 
The nights that she tucked me into bed, the times I’ve sat beside her and held her hand, the multiple embraces that she’s pulled me into and the kisses she’s planted on my face will not be forgotten.
Her youngest son was 12, and he was just the cutest thing. He made every meal for us and I really thought that it was odd that he was the one cooking. Later on in the week though, we were told that he cooks because he loves it! It’s something that he’s really very passionate about, and very good too! I would talk to him (in english of course) and he would look at me like I was crazy… and blush. I think he liked the attention. At one point I took a picture with him and hugged him afterwards and he turned beet red and shied away from me. He had such a kind heart. 
The volunteer work that we did here was re-painting the school and painting murals on the outside and in the classrooms for the children. It was very obvious that we were extremely appreciated here. We all had so much fun with it, and had the ability to choose what we wanted to paint. Between all our painting we spent time with the kids of the school laughing, trying to converse, and playing. And of course I spent tons of time taking photographs. The school looked incredible when we were done. 
“Faces so similar to the ones that I hated a few weeks back,
now seem so beautiful.
Their eyes, not filled with loneliness or sadness,
but curiosity and mystery.
Their skin, probably dirtier and dustier than the last,
doesn’t seem revolting at all,
just a day away from their next shower.
Their snot covered faces don’t seem to be a result of neglect
but rather indifference to their runny noses.
These curious little people don’t feel like nuisances,
instead like friends.
These two villages [Nanglibadi and Jhadol) really aren’t too different,
Why do I see it as beautiful this time?”
-November 25, 2012, Nanglibadi

Both the home-stay and the volunteer project was an incredible way to end off this portion of the trip. There was a speech given to us on the last day from one of the students. It was very broken English of course, but what he had to say was incredible. One thing that really touched me was when he said to us that our affection and love to each other [within the youth international group] was so inspiring. It felt amazing to know that we could bring that into their community, that our friendships had become so strong that other people could learn that from us.
 I already miss so much the kisses from my ama, making my little brother shy, laughing at the cows and goats (my new favorite animal, by the way) and even eating dal bhat for every meal. 

Funny/Cool Things That Happened This Week:

  • Anna blew her nose and her contact popped out of her eye
  • Ama cleans the ‘kitchen’ floor (the are around the fire pit where we ate)  cow dung, water and mud. Apparently it kills the germs
  • A 16 year old Nepali boy told me that he liked me and asked me to be his girlfriend
  • I painted a huge tree in a classroom. It’s the best tree I’ve ever made! It goes up between two windows, over the windows and up onto the ceiling
  • I woke up one morning in my sleeping bag that I had somehow turned inside out during the night.
  • I was gathering millet when I almost gathered a huge blue/black spider with red eyes and fangs and hairs!!! It was too scary.


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