As it usually happens when you’re on vacation, the second half of our week in the valley went by too fast. On the morning we left, I remembered back to the first few days when I annoyingly asked my parents why in the world we needed to be here for one whole week. I told myself that if I could make it until Tuesday, half way, the rest would be easy. I was right. As the days went by, I got used to seeing everyone eat with the their hands. I got pretty good at squatting to go to the bathroom. And we learned what to do during a standoff with the buffalo (which happened more than you might think).
I really enjoyed my last few days there, and cursed the close-mindedness I once had. Our Farewell Ceremony was even grander than our Welcoming Ceremony. My dad was presented with a “topi,” a Nepali-style hat that the respected men of the community wear. My mom and I received beautiful Nepali cloths to be worn as shawls. We were thanked for our visit and for our contributions to the village. We were called things like “honorable” and “distinguished”—descriptions that certainly don’t fit us. That is how the Nepali people speak. Every white person is “a wonderful personality.” But we couldn’t help feeling unworthy of all of the hoopla. We tried as best as we could to explain that they had touched us as much as we touched them.
My dad, mom and me following the Farewell Ceremony. My dad also received a “mala,” the gorgeous wreath around his neck.
Saying goodbye to Shailee and the children (Jenisa, their 4 year daughter, and Babu, which means “little boy,” their 2 year old son), was much more emotional than we had expected. For the last week, they shared their food with us and shared their lives with us. These two children touched us immensely, with their beautiful smiles and infectious laughter. When I hugged Shailee, I saw tears in her eyes and all the efforts I had made to suppress mine were futile.
My mom with Jenisa, whom we nicknamed Princess, and Babu
Nabaraj and Jenisa accompanied us to Pokhara, our next stop, because Jenisa goes to school in Pokhara where her grandparents live. She sat in the backseat with my mom, dad and me during the long car ride, and fell asleep spread across our laps. We were all secretly happy that we didn’t have to say goodbye to her until the next morning.
The ride to Pokhara was similar to our ride out to the valley from Kathmandu, except for one strange occurrence. We took a “jeep,” which is really just an old pickup truck, and when we arrived at the river to cross, the driver stopped and asked us to get out. This was the car wash. We stood to the side for 30 minutes as he splashed water into the bed and behind the wheels. Sure enough, the truck was clean.
As we drove into Pokhara, the streets were packed with people dressed head-to-toe in red, and busses drove past us with red flags. There was a Communist Convention. The Maoists took control of the government a few years ago, and were gaining support from the impoverished Nepali people. These conventions happen every once in while to ensure that their commitment doesn’t waiver. Throughout the city, hammer and sickle signs were abundant. This must have been the first time I had seen such outward support of Communism, and I was scared.
The Princess. Photo taken by my dad.