Jan 21, 2007 – Volunteer Life in Bistachhap

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Life in Bistachap!

Oh, it is a very beautiful valley and life is idyllic here. Cows and goats grazing everywhere, rice fields, vegetable gardens, kids playing jungi,(a kind of hackisack) or marbles or soccer. Women washing clothes and themselves at the local tap and chatting and laughing together. Men sitting around watching women work.(same as Canada, right?)Jiskeko(it means just kidding).

It is quiet and peaceful and we are loving having the opportunity to experience life in this typical Nepalese community. Despite some of the lack of conveniences that I mentioned in the last email, Bistachhap is one of the richer communities in the valley and there is always enough food and shelter for everyone.

So you wanna know what a typical day in the life of a volunteer looks like? Here it is.

5:30am We usually wake up about 5:30am to the sound of Hindu music coming from the local temple but it is just way to chilly to even think about getting up yet. So we snuggle under the heavy blankets and try to catch a few more winks. In the morning it is usually between 6 and 8 degrees C in our room as there is no inhouse heating system. Outside temps hover around 0 in the early hours making the trip out to the charpi (outhouse) a rather quick adventure.

7:00am to 7:15am We crawl out from under the blanket and put on some clothes and saunter over to the kitchen where either Ranjanna or Jaguu have started a little fire and have water boiling on the hot plate for Chiya! Chiya is delicious, it is a tea that is made with fresh milk (5 minutes from cow to pot) and some spices and I think some sugar too, to make it taste similar to our Chai tea. But we all think that it is much better and love starting the day this way.

After Chiya, Tor and I make our way to the orphange to see how all the kids have faired through the night and if everyone is okay. I have been trying to jog there, to get warmed up as well as get a bit of exercise and Torin being a teenager (haha) is not quite awake yet, so chooses to walk instead.

Ger doesn’t start work until 10:00am so he has been going for a morning walk or hike and enjoying some time to himself. We think that he has a very lax schedule and that we work way harder then him but he doesn’t agree. Can’t imagine why?

8:00am to 9:00am As we approach the orphangage we are greeted by all the kids, shouting: ” Hi, Didi Mary” “Hi, Torin Dhaai”. Didi means older sister and Dhaai means older brother. So these are the polite ways for them to address us. It so fun!

I spend a good chunk of this time doing physiotherapy with one of the girls that has some mild form of cerebral palsy. It is very boring as we have to do the same exercises every day. So Suanita and I count to ten in about 5 different languages and then we count backwards and then we invite two other girls to join in and we play tickle games inbetween and sometimes we include some music. I am sure a true physiotherapist might be having a fit about our exercise routine but the way I figure it, you gotta have a little fun while your stretching and strengthening.

Tor just hangs out and plays ball or badminton and is quite ready by 9:00am to return home for Daahl Baht. Cause up till this point we have not eaten a stitch and you know how big of a breakfast eater he is!!!

9:15am Now it is Daahl Baht time and we are all so hungry and so looking forward to eating, that sitting on the floor crosslegged and eating with our right hand are only minor cultural adjustments. Daahl Baht in the morning consists of a huge helping of rice, (baht) and some fried eggs and sauteed vegies, which usually include potatoes and beans or cauliflower or spinach. The Daahl is a soup like mixture with a small amount of lentils in it and we pour this over the rice and then we mix all the food together with our hand and sop it up to our salivating mouths.

We all love Daahl Baht and are so relieved to be enjoying the food as much as we are. We had envisioned some way less and not nearly as tasty.

After Daahl Baht we leave the kitchen and sit around in the sun for a bit chatting and / or organizing our back pack for the day.

10:00am Ger leaves for work and makes his way over to the newly formed dirt soccer field, where he is helping to create a retaining wall so that when the rainy season comes the soccer field won’t be washed away. He gets very very dusty and dirty with this job but we think that he is acquiring muscle mass (this is a good thing) as he shovels dirt into about 25 huge bags a day. He works along side Martin (a 22 year old from Belgium) who is the only other volunteer in the village. We’ve had a great time getting to know him and hiking together in the surrounding moutains.

10:30 to 11:00am Tor and I make our way back to the orphanage in and around this time and since the kids have been on winter holidays, we have been spending time doing various activities with them . We have done some English classes, played some games, created skits, played tons and tons of soccer and and helped wash clothes, assisted the kids with showers, and our most favorite activity was climbing up this steep forested hill to collect firewood. More about the kids and their names in the next entry.

2:00pm – This is when Ger finishes work, yes is day is only 4 hours long. Not fair, our day is about 6 to 8 hours long. I keep buggin him that he is wimpy but he says he exerts just as much or more energy than us. Hmmm, not sure about that one. Martin and Ger usually make their way to the local chiya pasal (tea shop) and have a glass of tea to gain back some of the calories lost to the sandbags.

Whereas Torin and I eagerly go back to our host family for Kaahje( this is like an afternoon snack). For afternoon snack we might have Chiya and biscuits or we might have this mixture of dried rice flakes with beans and some kind of salty crunchy chip like mixture that we mix in with the dried rice flakes. This snack warrants a spoon, which we are happy for. It also is very tasty and quite filling and we feel pretty healthy to boot.

4:00pm -Since Ger is so dirty from digging , he spends time getting cleaned up and reading or doing other hikes around the village and/or spends time with Suda and Egge, who are so adorable.

Tor and I make our way back to the orphanage and hang out with the kids continuing to do the some more of the above activites.

6:00pm – It is by now very dark outside and when Jaguu, who is our host father but also the manager of the orphanage comes to watch and be with the kids, we leave to go home. Since the sun is gone, it is quite chilly and we put on some gloves and our touque and headlamps to find our way back home.

6:00 – 7:30pm During this time we sit huddled in the kitchen around the fire and play with Suda and Egge, teaching them English, learning Nepali, playing hand games, singing songs, just having fun. Ranjana in the meantime is busy cooking Daahl Baht for dinner over two open fires. It is very cozy and family like and we really love this part of our day.

7:30pm – 8:00pm Somewhere in this time frame we eat and finish off our meal with a cup of fresh milk from the cow that our family owns. The cow is a very important animal in the Hindu religion, so Ranjana and Jaguu spend a fair bit of their day ensuring that the cow gets good food. Jaguu cuts the hay by hand into very small pieces, while Ranjana cooks up a stew like mixture with flour, water and hay that because it is cold outside will hopefully warm up the cow and enable her to produce better milk. We all feel that if indeed reincarnation was something you believed in, we would all want to come back in our next life as a cow in Nepal. Hahahahaha!!! We also during this time enjoy speaking with Jaguu and learning about Nepalese culture and life. We are ever so grateful that he is fluent in English. It makes life here considerably easier.

8:30pm. It is sooo dark and cold outside and since our host family lives about a 10 minutue walk from the main village, (not that there is anything to do in the main village but you might choose to visit someone else then, I guess) we usually opt to go to our rooms, put on some fleece pants and crawl into bed to read before we fall asleep. Sometimes Ger and I will go for a short walk which also helps to warm up before we go to bed.

There are of course so many more things to tell you about, but since we will be here for a few more weeks, I will save it for the next entry.

Namaste, Mary