Trip to the Terai: September, 2007

Hello.  I was much better at writing regularly in India than I have been here.  I’m so much busier here.  So often out and about talking with people, laughing, wandering, working.  It’s wonderful.  Smile.  We got back from Chitwaan National park yesterday at  10:30 am.  It was early because we left Chitwaan at 4:00 am to avoid the strike that would close the roads in the Chitwaan District from 6:00 in the morning.  We made it, so that is good. I don’t know how much many of you know about politics here in Nepal, but they’re crazy.  Right now there’s an interim government that the Maoist party just stepped out of and there are supposed to be constituent assembly elections on November 22nd and some people say they won’t happen, other people say they’ll happen but late, and some people are convinced that they MUST happen.  There’s violence down in the Terai (the southern strip of the country that’s the lowest lying in terms of elevation) and lines for petrol that wrap around entire city blocks.  The police are out to prevent riots at the petrol pumps but their efficiency has been shown to be rather defunct by the happenings in the Terai.  So….  We shall see what happens.

I am good.  So happy.  somewhere between looking to seminary in the future while at the same time toying with the idea of just staying here.  I mean just making the decision to make it work to live in Nepal.  I guess that’s pretty huge for me who tends to be a dandelion seed blowing on the wind, settling, putting in root, blooming, seeding and being blown somewhere else.  We’ll see.  It’s all still very early.

Anyway, the trip to Chitwaan.   You take this winding road up and out of the valley.  We looked back down at the cloud shrouded city and then passed on out.   You climb through hills cut by blades of flowing white (or at this time of year red with soil) streams of water falling down the sides of hills that can only be described as living breathing green.  Red brick houses perch on terraced hills of rice paddies.   Eventually we started winding our way  down and down and all of a sudden the road is straight and flat. Cyclists crowd the wider roads and ox carts plod alongside them.

We stayed in a beautiful lodge with bathrooms that had flush toilets and hot water showers.  The air was hot and sticky, so the hot water did not get much use.  Smile.  I don’t even know where to start talking about our activities.  A highlight was definitely the Tharu village dinner.  One evening all the staff and students (all 21 of us) walked about 25 minutes to a nearby cluster of homes belonging to a Tharu (the indigenous ethnic group of the region) family where we would have dinner.  We were greeted by many many faces, as curious to see and observe us as we were to meet the people there.  The welcome began with each of us washing our feet and then our hands.  After that we brushed our teeth with some sort of green stick that tasted tangy and stickish.  We were then each offered a sip of  homebrewed liquor from a communal jug.  Then came the bidis and cigarettes (which I passed on) . The family then served us dinner in their home –  a house with low ceilings made of bamboo posts and mud, thick walled and well-insulated against the heat.  We sat on the floor and were served on banana leaves (which reminded me so much of Pannai and south India). Along with daal bhaat (rice and lentils) , saag (green leafy veggies), spicy potatoes and chicken the specialty was snails.  I’m a vegetarian, but I could not resist trying the snails.  There were two varieties, and the small kind was really delicious, but a challenge to eat.   You had to slurp the snail meat out of the shell  – so much harder than it sounds.  Then the big ones were really quite slimy and you were on ly supposed to eat the head. Anyway, the evening ended with everyone riding home in horse buggies that raced to get us back to our hotel the fastest.

This whole experience was really fun, but it’s also hard knowing that we are just tourists being entertained by a culture that is rich linguistically and  historically.  We cannot get even the slightest sense of the culture’s depth by having a dinner with a family.  but I guess it’s good that we were able to communicate.  And the area is desperate for tourists, so I guess being able to provide that family wiht some income is also really good.

There’s so much else I could talk about – the elephant ride through the park, or the boat ride down the river, spotting the rhinos from less than 100 feet away, being munched on by numerous mosquitoes, starting up conversations with hotel workers and shop owners, sitting on the bus with Anjiring aamaa (Anjiring’s mother, who is Tendi daai’s wife) and staying up late to talk  with her – a time when she talked about her family and some of her own experiences.  Bird watching in the early mornings.  It was a good trip.  I’m glad to be back in Kathmandu and my own hard bed (the hotel ones were really soft!) for a week and a half.  Then we head to Pokhara if all things political are okay.

This is getting long.  And there is always so much more to say.

I hope that all of you are well.  sending love and peace,
Thandiwe

(The below photos are of Bandipur and Pokhara)

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About Thandiwe

Hopeful cynic, creative, seriously silly, lover of people and places, hypocrite, third-culture kid, queer, life-long learner, white woman, Christ follower, outdoor enthusiast: I am a seeker of justice and truth who has re-found my spiritual home in progressive Christianity. I serve as the Associate Pastor at a small Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) congregation near the mountains of Colorado where I live with my beloved.
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