“Nostalgia in reverse: the longing for yet another strange land.”
I have had people stare, even gawk open-mouthed when they see me, but I have never had people run away in fright like they are right now.
After a treacherous, three-hour bumpy bus ride on the precarious rocky path that winds up and over the Himalayan foothills, I have arrived in a small village in Far Western Nepal.
The village is comprised of a handful of mud houses scattered along the hillside, and not much else. I sit down, making myself less threatening, and see a few more heads peek out cautiously behind the trees below.
I see a child stirring an enormous steaming pot of liquid with a stick, while another half dozen children look on. I am curious and want to see what they are making, but the children and even teenagers are obviously still wary of me.
A women appears behind me, laughing a deep heartfelt laugh. She signals that I should continue down the path, and with her blessing, I approach the group around the large steaming cauldron.
“Basnu,” (sit down) she says, as I am handed a leaf wrapped around a warm, malleable hunk of brown sugar. It is delicious, sweet yet flavorful, and I realize that they are making this tasty brown sugar out of the boiling sugarcane syrup to my right.
Most of the children have scattered into the surrounding fields and sit perched atop enormous piles of discarded sugarcane branches. From these lookout points, they can alternate between practicing flips and watching me.
After a while a man appears and calls the children down so they can enjoy their own leaf-full of this sugarcane delicacy. Though they continue to watch me suspiciously, the temptation of sugar is enough to draw them near, and a few of the giggling girls even come to sit next to me. I knew it was only a matter of time before I won them over.
Once they’ve finished eating, they quickly set up a game, sort of like dodge ball, whcih draws an increasing number of children from the surrounding hills. They laugh and run like children everywhere, using a makeshift ball they constructed out of an old shirt.
After the game, as the children begin to peel away and return to their own houses, I am invited by the couple back to theirs, and readily agree to join them and their two children for the night.
Their house is small, a one room mud house with nothing but a few blankets on the ground and a pile of wood in the corner which serves as their stove.
There is corn hanging from every inch of the ceiling, drying before being made into the flour we will use to make dinner. The house is filled with dense smoke, there is no ventilation for the fire they are cooking over, but the smoke seems to swirl around the hut unnoticed.
Though there is no electricity, light shines in through the wooden door creating a comfortable, homey feel.
We all squat around the fire as the mother and father work together to make dinner, a simple meal of roti that we dip in a bit of spices. They have no money and no processions except their cows and chickens, but they seem content to be living freely off of their land.
The forested hillside is scattered with mud–huts, none of which have electricity, and the darkness signals that it is time to sleep. Once night falls it is completely dark all around.
I crawl under the blanket with the two children who have warmed to me, already calling me “didi” (sister), and fall into a peaceful sleep surrounded by nature and good-hearted people.
This post is part of a 4-part series on Far Western Nepal.
For Part 1, click here.
For Part 2, click here.
Shirine Taylor is a 20-year old solo female traveler cycling around the world, and a regular contributor to The Happy Passport. Follow her journey at awanderingphoto.wordpress.com.
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