We spent the evening before we left for the mountains with our Brazilian friends, Thiago and Otavio, both practicing Buddhists. Rosti was our Thanksgiving feast. Later, we were joined by Thuy Ngo (Tweedy, for short), a dentist from Arizona, who emigrated from Vietnam in 1982 and has expressed the desire to go with me to Mongolia this summer. Hooray! She was part of a group of dentists, mostly retired, who come to Nepal every year to volunteer in a clinic, Global Dental Relief (GDR). They work for two weeks, seven days a week. A strenuous schedule. The Shechen Guest House is home to many foreign volunteers who come to donate their services. As you can imagine, there has been an increase this year as a result of the earthquake.
Early the next morning, after fortifying ourselves with another amazing cappuccino, we took the unpaved road, or high shortcut, which defies description, over the mountain from Kathmandu to the Melamchi Valley, passing numerous destroyed houses and buildings. Rebuilding has been slow due to very little government funding. This was the beginning of our immersion in the area most damaged by the April earthquake. We stopped at the small shop in the village where we had milk tea and cookies last year. The building on one side had been destroyed, but our shop was still standing. I’ve shown this area in detail in previous posts.
Four hours later we arrived at our starting place, a small town above Lower Melamchi.
After climbing for three hours on steep switchbacks, we reached Palchowk, a cluster of houses along the road in the midst of fields and millet terraces. Their guesthouse had been destroyed, but they put us up in a room next to the kitchen, probably a family bedroom, with tin siding for walls and a fortified tarp for a roof. Needless to say, we were very grateful to find shelter! There were bags of rice in the room and quantities of tarps under the beds. A mat has been thrown over the clay floor.
Before settling in we explored the countryside. As always happens, the children crowd around us, asking our names and wanting their pictures taken. We are forever a curiosity.
Dinner was being prepared over a typical wood fire where sticks are pushed into the flame. As we sat on our beds and smelled the redolent odors from the cooking next door, Cary said, “Well, Mom, we are now experiencing first hand how thousands of Nepali families are living after the earthquake.” Except we had sleeping bags and extra mats.
What’s left of the former guesthouse seems to be a social center. People come, drink tea, talk loudly, laugh, and have a good time. There is a small convenience store consisting of one counter and a glass cupboard. The door looks pre-earthquake. There is a tin-corrugated wall and another entrance to a kitchen/bedroom. The floors are packed red clay. A roof covers what is left of the porch, on which sit two long tables with benches. The roof is covered with tin and tarps held up by large bamboo poles.
It started to rain and everyone went scurrying to cover the harvested millet with the tarps from under our bed! Meanwhile, a beautiful dog was brought in to keep dry. In a matter of minutes he gulped down a huge plate of white rice. I never knew dogs ate rice.
We enjoyed a sumptuous dinner…after which everyone had the traditional dal, rice, and chicken pieces. The beautiful young daughter-in-law gathered up the dishes and washed them under the main waterspout in the front courtyard…in the rain.
The goats and buffalo were tethered out front. Tonight was my first taste of buffalo milk and it was wonderful…and sweet.
The smoke from the wood fire flowed into our attached room making sleep difficult. But I was too tired to worry about it for long. Tomorrow would be a long day.