Thursday, May 29, 2014

My Nepali Time Machine

I love the communal nature of life here, especially in rural Nepal. When electricity is limited and unpredictable, sunlight is not wasted, so in the villages, the day begins as the sky lightens at 4:45am. Lazy Westerner that I am, I stayed abed until 5:30am, when morning tea is served. I continually had flashes to the farm life imagined from the Little House on the Prairie books I loved so much, minus wagon trains and hoop skirts and locust plagues. 

Morning work, plus chickens hoping for some spillage
By 6am, the stream of visitors begins, whether it's a hilarious 14-year-old kid on his way to school stopping by to deliver milk and ever impressing me with his knowledge of English slang, a neighbor who comes by for an early morning chat, or a band of curious little girls dying to meet the foreigner. They show up unannounced, stay a while, and treat the place like home...so much so that it took me five days to sort out who actually lives in the house where I stayed. Every time I thought I had it down, someone else would walk in like they owned the place and I'd get all confused again. 

He stopped by every morning to crack me up. Champion.
It didn't seem to matter if it was the middle of meal time...they'd simply share whatever we were having. A lot of times I'd find women who'd stopped by doing dishes in the yard, though they hadn't eaten with us...so presumably they were just helping out for a moment, doing whatever needs to be done. And it was the same in every home we visited. I was usually hard pressed to tell who the hostess actually was because everyone was involved in welcoming, helping, serving, doing. Visitors were always welcome, and there was no pressure to have a "perfect" house to be "ready" in some special way. It was truly lovely. 

Having a visit over some dishwashing
 Though it wasn't all just work work work. There was also time for visiting, for rest. Work is integrated throughout the day, and the rhythms of the day just felt very natural. If you're tired, go take a rest, even if you're in the middle of visiting...I took a nap on a neighbor's porch, just wiped out from the heat of the day, and I wasn't the only one...and it was totally fine! If it's hot, sit and find shade. And the work all seems to get done, and in a very laidback way. As stressful as it can sometimes be to my Western mindset to NOT stress about things (how messed up is that?? But it's totally TRUE), I do so envy the very relaxed attitude about things that all Nepalis seem to have. 


Time out for a photobomb!
There was even an open door for me everywhere we went, which as very much a stranger I so appreciated. When we walked through the villages, most homes we passed offered an invitation for us to come in and visit. It was hard to get used to being treated like the guest of honor, since most of the time I felt like a big awkward lump, having little idea of local customs and wary of making some unintentional gaffe. I was always touched at how immediately I was offered a straw mat in the best shade and that they'd go out of their way to find me a safe beverage, sometimes undertaking a long walk to a shop to buy me a soda. Then I'd do my best to cross the language barrier and fascinate them with my heat-reddened face, my blistered feet, or my personal favorite: videos of my beautiful nephew laughing like the international superstar he is. Who doesn't love a laughing baby, I ask you. NO ONE. So we'd sit a while, visit, then be on our way. 
This baby definitely appreciated her fellow baby.
And for the record, my only gaffe was not realizing that when they asked me if I needed to go to the bathroom the "long way" or the "short way" that this was a number 1 vs 2 question. I thought it was simply about whether I wanted to hike down to the outhouse or pop a squat around the corner or wherever. I'm just not accustomed to being quizzed about my bathroom intentions! Plus with constant fear of curious witnesses, I was a no-go for the "open toilet" and always opted for the outhouse...even if I now realize that always going for the "long way" must've meant to them that I had some serious intestinal instability going on. Which may or may not have been spot on the truth anyway... 

Limiting public humiliation is worth a hike of any length, am I right??
I digress!! People wander in, wander out. Always welcome. Helping out. It is a beautifully undistracted, easygoing, neighborly way of life. Multiple generations just sit together and talk. No TVs, no phones, no internet, just each other's company. Until dark, when we'd all head off to bed. 

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