After clinic one day I had the opportunity to experience a wonderful delve into the down country culture of the local folks I've befriended over the last couple weeks. Gunaraj, one of our interpreters, invited me to his house in the village just north of town, and so I joined him on his walk home, along with his cousin Sita who is also our receptionist, and our clinic manager Ritesh.
It was about a half hour walk through the sunshine and the agricultural terraces blooming with the springtime harvest; cauliflower, pumpkin, leafy greens, potato... and peas for days! The white flowers on the shoots looked as sweet as I know their fruits will taste, and it was so tempting to snap a pod from a stalk; however I was reminded to stay respectful of the land in which I was invited to cross. The air becomes cleaner as we climb higher and higher through the fields, taking the 'short cut' paths used by so many as the way to get their heavy loads to where they need to go.
We arrive at Gunaraj’s house and are greeted by various family members. All but myself are bantering in their native tongue, although it doesn't make me uncomfortable or give off the feeling of being an outsider. Everyone is warm and welcoming and it’s almost like I’m one of the crew, not just a foreign visitor in a strange land.
Gunaraj brings out a ground apple, a native fruit of the area, and peels and slices it for us all to share, while his older brother brews us a nice spiced tea which when ready, arrives in their finest glassware, stickers still on, must be brand new. We chat and hang out in the yard on a log bench under the pumpkin trees, until the tea is done and it gets to be time to move on. We depart and head further into the hills, the trail leading us through more terraced fields and then up a steep pathway towards Sita’s house. It is the first hot day of spring and we are all sweating by the time we arrive to find a nice spot in the grass. We pop a squat and rest for a moment in the shade, long enough for Sita’s youngest brother to come by and join us for the rest of the walk to the farm.
The weather was perfect, the people were great, I got to be the semi-silent observer of the normal way of life for the younger generations in Nepal. It was completely due to the company and the positive vibes, here I was happy. We arrived at Sita's in time to see her other brother, who I had been treating in the clinic, coming up the path with fresh greens for the goats who are all tethered to posts in the yard, the two babies running energetically and acrobatically free. We sat outside in the early evening air, just a touch of chill to it, and chatted some more, while we watched the kids run about, and took selfies (as is the new age custom for the nepali millennials and real millennials all around the world).
Gunaraj brings out a white rabbit and plops it on my lap. I bite my tongue on my Watership Down feelings towards these communist creatures and pet its soft pelt, thinking of Blacks, my cat back home, and wishing it was her I was holding. I was relieved to give up the rabbit when Sita invited us inside for fresh popped corn her sister had prepared at the hearth in the corner of the big open room.
There was no where else I'd have rather been at that moment in time; these folks were my new found friends and even if I didn’t have a lot to add to the foreign conversation that surrounded me, I felt perfectly at home. I realized that no matter what the language, a laugh can be shared by anyone with it's simple meaning shining through in perfect understanding. Time is of no essence in a place like this, hardly a need for urgency, and work seems to get done in a way that keeps things stress free, aside of course, from the back-breaking labor of farming, with little else than the means of one's own body power. We depart as dusk gets closer and walk home through a steep forest trail that reminded me of walks in the canyon near my home. Everywhere you go you can find little bits of familiarity that balance out the peculiarities of being a stranger in a foreign land. “Aaja malai dherai kushi lagyo” –Today, I am very happy. ---Kyndl Mueller