Saturday, May 19, 2012

FarmVille.... not the Facebook kind :)


Nope, this one's the real deal! I’ve been in Nepal for a little over a week, staying in a little village community at a old farm house, complete with their own cows, corn fields and a sweet, tiny Nepali mother who cooks all day :).   I found this place via the website Workaway.info. Have I mentioned it’s awesomeness before? ;)  By rules, you’re supposed to work 4-6 hours everyday in exchange for free room and board.   This particular place asked for $5/day.  Not too shabby... especially when I’ve only been working 1-2 hrs a day, have been pampered with tours/introductions/ fun, and.. for someone like myself that can eat eat eat...they feed me so much I literally everyday am asking my host to pleaseeee tell his mother not to make me so much (it’s rude not to finish your plate).

My main Ama (Nepali word for mother). She's like 4'-6" and adorable :)

Farmville!

Another Ama (they are all called ama, which is nice since it's hard to remember names!).
She's dekernaling corn to feel the cows :)

Typical morning scene! We brought the wagon over via the buffalos, let them eat while we fill it with corn stalks.  There hasn't been rain for a long while, so all the crops are dying. This family in particular doesn't sell their corn, so it's not catastrophic, but for many it is.  Not a good year :( 

It’s nice here. Birds chirping, fresh veggies, sunny, flowers, smiley people.  Overall I’m a fan of a cracker-barrel life... but I think it’s more about the reality of working hard, being grateful, and enjoying the simple things than it is actually about being a farm-hand! I could use a bit more mental challenge a few less blisters! Certain things that to us seem a necessity deserve far more credit than they get....  Namely AC and bug free! It’s real real real simple life here.  There are small bouts of electricity throughout the days, 2 times of maybe 3-4 hours, but it’s always different times.  It’s the BEST when it coincides with when Im trying to fall asleep- the fan being a critical factor in that happening! No refrigeration, so on these crazy hot days, I’ve never craved a cold drink so much.  Yesterday was the first day I got one, I bought a sprite from a little vendor stall. Heeeeeeaven! :).  Luckily I have a mosquito net over my bed, because once again there’s the ubiquitous monster spiders... and no one telling me they are harmless like in AUS. They make me real nervous, especially when I have to go to the bathroom at night.  No one wears shoes in the house (although technically no one has told me not to so I sneak mine sometimes), and with no electricity, I have to take my little headlamp and crawl barefooted thru the little hole in the wall that leads to the bathroom. The spiders giant reflective eyes are glimmering away, I swear watching my every move.  Dang my small bladder ;)  There’s the cockroachs too, but they are less of a concern for me because I only fear for their nastiness, not for my life :). One night though, I felt a lil crunch under my foot when I had no light.  I cringed and hoped it was only a piece of corn.... nope.  Morning light proved I had squashed one w/ my barefoot... yuuuuuuck!

My room! Blue and blue, perfect!! :) 

Ackk! See how it's eye is glowing?!?!?!  Night time double scary!
These concerns are fundamentally trivial. Not enjoyable, but not the end of the world.  The thing I'm having the most difficulty adjusting to is the bathroom. I can spend all day out in the mud and be happy, but unsanitary in a place I associate with getting clean, not so much. I think it has to do with the fact that when I purposely get dirty, I know I can go to the washroom after to change that.  It's really hard to feel hygenic in this one, especially my hands and feet!  Imagine an abandoned bathroom that no one has been in for 20 years: cobwebs, spiders, old pipes, rust, broken tiles, paint peeling walls. That’s what it feels like even though it's used daily!  I don’t touch the buckets cuz they are really oobery looking, and there’s no shower head, so I just kindof wiggle and splash my way around under the 4’ high spout. And there’s nowhere to put your stuff! The whole floor is wet, no toilet seat cover (it’s Indian style, hole in floor type) and the only little shelf is barely big enough for a towel, not to mention not wanting to put it there! (Since then Bishnu has added some nail hooks for me thank goodness). My ten weeks in India weren’t exactly the picture of perfect hygienic, but they weren't like this. I feel like I'm in a scary movie... and if you know me you know I loathhhhh scary movies!  I do like simple living, but clean simple! I feel a little guilty to describe it here, as it’s not that the people don’t care. They are kind and friendly and very accommodating, it’s just the norm. The conditions don’t really allow for anything to be spotless, “airtight” is a far off dream in their construction methods, and its kind of hard to keep bugs out while needing to let fresh air in. This farmhouse in particular is one of the more established, but around town most of the houses ARE dirt. The floors, the wall, everything. When a working man’s full day wage is less that one subway sandwich, priorities change:(.  It’s simply my (our, really) American conditioning to live at a different standard.  When we no longer have to concentrate on mere survival, we start nitpicking about inconveniences, and lose all prospective about our blessings (great insight from my momma:).  In reality it's fine, it's mostly my arachnophobia that is the issue. I just need to keep bucking up!  My best defense is just to enjoy the overall experience, everyone else here uses this room too and the spiders haven’t eaten them yet ;) 




The infamous bathroom...
...scary cobwebby, spidery corners....

....and the opening we crawl thru to get there! 


Every morning we have tea and biscuits at 6:30am.  Then we do our ‘work’:  Weeding the garden, whacking down corn for the animals, gathering leaves for compost (which we drove a water buffalo drawn wagon to get!).  Then we come back in for breakfast at 9:30.  Breakfast and dinner are interchangeable words, both consisting of white rice and dal (lentils) always, then either a potato, cucumber or pumpkin side (this one my fav!). Everyday, twice a day.  I love to watch the women cook in their peculiar kitchens.  This home and the neighboring ones are Brahmin families, so typically more well off, but they still cook on the ground with little gas stoves or better yet real wood fires! I offer to help, but because these are the Brahmin kitchens, I can’t enter. I cut up veggies outside instead.  

Bishnu's got the corn stalks, me the weeds.   These are our two most common jobs. I like carrying
the goods this way,  makes me feel authentic :) 

Compost! 

Neighbor Ama making me rice pudding! 

My ama serving up my breakfast plate!

Local Nepali cuisine!  Pretty yummy! 


We also have tea and biscuits mid day :)  At first I was nervous I’d get hungry since the two meals are 10 hours apart, but it’s been quite the opposite. They are stuffing me like a pig and it hurts!  People are super kind and loooove to share food... all of them and all the time! The fact that its usually super filling rice or potatoes doesn’t help. I have to accept (it’s rude not to), although every instinct in me is like stopppp eating!  If I had more communication skills I might plead my case a bit more... Im working on it :). One night the neighbor Ama (her name is Santi, but you call older women Ama for respect) invited me over for rice pudding (yummy) but she made instead a whole meal! I literally though I was going to puke (and thats saying a lot for me)! We do our own dishes always just after, at the hand pump well. I don’t mind this (I kind of like doing dishes)... but the splashing of the feet I’m still grinning and bearing.  If you need water for anything here, you get it from the well (dishes, laundry, animals, to drink, wash up, give yourself a cool down). Thing is, it splashes all over feet/lower legs in the process! I’ve always had this funny peeve about being splashed. I’d really rather be one of the extremes: dry or soaked- no middle man.  Being splattered is a bit irksome... especially when there is dirt all around so pretty much you’re going to get mucky! There are no towels, so it’s get wet, dirty, air dry, repeat all day!  Ackkk hahhh!  That’s okay though, Ill survive because of the awesome stuff that happens the other 16 hrs of each waking day:

Bishnu doing some dishes..
..at the notorious well :) 

First off there’s looooottts of sitting around and ‘chatting’.  I say chatting but it’s really them chatting and me watching :)  Sometimes it happens around me, when Im already doing something... or nothing. My iphone, camera and laptop are big entertainers, unabashedly explored by anyone that comes by. If I’m on the computer, rest assured someone comes and ‘reads’ over my shoulder, whether it’s easy to get there or not (like leaning up against a wall)!! I love this!, It's that same frankness that I experienced in India!! Luckily I know they cant read it ;)  They want to see pics of America. I don’t really have any though! :( Pics of family?  That I do :).  The one of my dad, step mom and step grandparents causes big chats over his “2nd” wife, that means divorce. Ohhhhh... this is not the case here!!!  Ive had multiple discussions about this cultural difference:  There’s no dating, just get married directly, whether arranged, or you just like someone. Divorce or bastard children are extremely frowned upon, and as such, rare. Once married you stay married. Bishnu’s (my host)  mother and father have been married 50 years. Ama is only 59 years old. Yep, she was married at age 9!  Whoa. Also big news? That I’m thirty and not married! hah! If I was insecure at all this might bother me, but we turn it into a cultural conversation.  Unscrupulously searching thru my phone, one day they found a pic of my ex’s sexy chest/abs/arms. Where’s the face? They ask. Yeahh, about that ...no head!  Luckily they found my answer funny, and everyone was giggling. Just then, I remembered “photo booth”, the Mac program that distorts your face in all sorts of hilarious ways! OMG soooo funny! We were all in stitches laughing! I only got a few good ones, but just imagine a bunch of local Nepali people, who rarely ever see a picture, and all the sudden seeing ridiculous distortions of all our faces.  Great moment ;)
Typical backyard scene at our place!


HAHHAHAH! 


My first 3 days in Nepal were actually at the border town, stuck there because of a strike and no transportation.  It wasn’t bad at all though, I split a room w/ a Chinese girl and wrote lots! One night even watched a great Indian movie (“1947”, about the most horrendous relocating of people in history during the partition of India) w/ a super nice French/Argentinian couple.  Good movie if you're looking for a reco!

 French, Argentinian, Chinese & American watching an Indian movie :) 

The ATM’s weren’t working either, but my hotel guy wasn’t worried at all. I promised I’d send the money once I found a working ATM, but luckily it came on just in time. Wow, that amazed me. The third afternoon the buses spontaneously arrived, and I was on one headed to Naryanghat 5 minutes later!  I am met there by Bishnu, who has been acting as my personal host this whole time.  This was a bit of a surprise as I was cooresponding w/ his wife entirely before arrival. Although he’s very nice, and has been more than generous w/ my duties and entertainment alike, since its mostly just the two of us it feels a little awkward at times. It's a lot of time to spend with a new person, and I find myself becoming insidiously impatient.  I vow to be more compassionate my last week here, as he has been totally with me. I can do it! :) 






He, his wife and their 2 kids live in Kathmandu, but 2 months ago he decided to come back to his childhood home for a new venture. We travel 1.5 hrs by bus to his parents farm in Meghauli (at the edge of Chitwan National Forest!).

To say the buses were packed is a gross understatement! First day they are running after the strike and everyone needs to get somewhere! Our 1.5 hour ride not only looked like this, but have FIVE guys hanging/holding out the door!

Bishnu is very loyally Nepali, and has a quite noble plan to start an agricultural education center here. Complete w/ historic housing, temples, learning centers, community hall, etc.  Bishnu’s afternoon schedule for me includes “idea/design time” for part of my volunteer work. He’s a business man above all else, and when he saw I was an architect on the website, it’s quite obvious his brain started churning! That’s working out pretty nicely for me, cuz, yaaaaa it’s really hot here!  We’ve come up with a master plan thats pretty sweet I think :). Also as part of my “work”, he takes me around in the late afternoons, introducing me to people, taking tours of their homes  (who are always overly accomodating, even spur of the moment)... I think it earns him clout to have an american architect here to work on his project.  Initial advertising you see :)  Fine by me! 

Future Eco-Village
One day I need to do laundry... Nepali style!  3 buckets of water, a bar of soap and scrubby brush, and a butt stool!  When you’re not in a rush (took me two hours!), this was quite enjoyable actually, sitting in the shade, looking over the corn fields, practicing my nepali squat :)  

Probably won't adopt this style, but it's was amusing :) 

The next day I decide I need to make exercising more of a priority (Waaay too much food, not so much activity, and an 18 day trek coming up soon!) despite the strange looks I know I’ll get. Running isn’t an option (bumpy is a vast understatement for the roads and fields) so I make up a lil crossfit routine.  There are two teenage boys around and I ask if they want to join me.  45 minutes and a crowd of 12 later we were massively pooped!!  They had no clue what they were getting into :)  I’m drenched in sweat (typical), them just barely!  If someone could bottle up and sell those dry genes I would pay a lot for them!!!   
 I love Plank! They hate plank ;) 
Two young girls were there as part of the crowd, waiting for me. They had asked me to come to their house the day before and had come to fetch me :).  I “shower” quick and we head across the corn fields for an afternoon of nail painting, makeup, hair braids, and lots of photos! I taught them the hand untangle game, and they taught me a Nepali version of tag (6 kids and they went for me evvveeeerrry time;).  I played chess with the eldest boy, 16, and he whooped me!  Deepa, the eldest girl at 19, made me porridge and showed me how to make “pickle” (not the pickle we know at all, it’s a potato, cucumber, onion mix) a super common dish here. Yum :).  


The boys took over the camera most of the day so I have about a million of these type shots ;) 

The girls kept speaking to him in Nepali.... no helping!!

Deepa making me "pickle" :) 


And then today!!!!! Today was reaaaaaallllly momentus. Not only did I get to see a rare one-horned rhino from about ten feet away (on my second “lucky chance” safari encounter, recall the scarcely seen tiger on my bday!) but I also got to take a bath with an elephant!!! This was suchhhh a neat experience!!!! Ranks up there with my starfish mecca encounter!  Her name was Sijanna Kalla, 32 years old, so we’re practially sisters :)  I show her that I have Ganesha (the elephant God, given to me by Vicky in Rishikesh) around my neck, trying to bond you know ;).  And..since she weighs 10 tons so I also give a quick prayer that she doesn’t accidently squash me!  She splashes, rolls, blows bubbles. I cling, try to hold on, fall off, jump off, climb up her trunk, even do an elephant plank :).  Super super super loved this :)  Her trainer, Mahendra is quite gentle with her, which is a big plus since Ive heard they can be brutal :(.  During the safari she stops and knocks over young trees for a little bite, and blows a little snot on me... a sure sign of affection dont you think? :) 

Heyyyy One-horned Rhino!!!!
Nice Ass :) 

Heyyyy look at me, "Im on an elephant"!

My far from graceful attempt to climb up her trunk! 

Elephant hat!

Me and Sijanna Kalli! 

When Elephants fly :) 
Besides my bathroom phobia, childish peeve of water splashing, and the ginormous burn I got from absentmindedly kissing my calf against the motorcycle exhaust, all is quite swell :) 
The people, always the people, are great.  Its so interesting to me to see how pheromones or intuition or natural connections work, being that I can’t talk to any of the adults (except Bishnu), but certain people you still bond with.  I’m so glad Im a touchy smiley person... you draw other touchy smiley people to you :)  My fav lady is the Ama a couple houses away.  B’s dad is a priest, so people congregate here a lot just to sit.  Her name is Soba, she’s 41, with 5 kids (only two left at home) and has been described to me multiple times as the one that talks and laughs a lot, no wonder I like her :). Sometimes if the electricity is off, it’s better to just stay outside until you get sleepy.  Last night she motioned me to join her on the bigger bench and we laid together silently and looked at the stars :). Im learning more and more that words are overrated (I doubt that slows down my chatter any, but still ;)  


I love this. Soba came to check out what I was doing and decided to take a nap right there :)
I love the bike rides because every few seconds someone is waving or yelling helloooooo!!  I get the occasional kiss blow from kids who watch too much tv ;).   I feel some sympathy for celebrities.  Im getting maybe a 1/100th of what they get, but it can be overwhelming, trying to give a good impression for all westerners!  Sometimes my cheeks get realllly tired from smiling at everyone! hhah. I thought I’d have lots of time to write, but if Im outside it’s conversation/ game/ photo time! Considering the heat of the house when the fans are off, I can only last an hour or so :). A lot of the kids speak english, and they loooove to practice.  That day described above with the kids? I think every one of them asked me to come back the next day :). Deepa even told me I can sleep there, “Im family now”. Awwwww :)

3 comments:

  1. All of your posts are awesome, Becky, but this one is my favorite so far!! I am in awe of your positive and go-with-the-flow attitude. You are a perfect ambassador. :)

    ~Erin R.

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  2. what erin said.....jim

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  3. You are amazing! Love the pics on the elephant! The kids all love it and think you are so cool and lucky! You are gaining this amazing perspective through your adventure, how grateful and thankful you will be (and we all should be) for everything we take for granted every day like toilets, running water and electricity. Oh and lack of spiders :( Love and hugs to you, Mandy

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