Saturday, 11 January 2014

Community party

I've just returned from a few days away, visiting one of the farthest schools in the group of 12 that I’m working with. It feels as if I have been away for much longer than three days, due to the mass of different experiences and sights I have had.

The bus left Besisahar at 1pm but we did not arrive at the village until 8pm that night. (The bus experience needs its own blog page, so watch out for that soon!)  It was almost pitch black when the bus stopped and we, (me and the two Nepalis who were accompanying me) alighted. We were met from the bus by the English teacher and led into a fire lit room, where we were given mugs of hot rakshi, the local firewater. Then we walked along narrow paths, to the house where we were staying.  A meal was ready for us, cooked by the smiling lady of the house, and we ate our daal bhat (rice and lentils) with vegetable curry, in the warm kitchen. It was insisted that we drank more rakshi, this was the welcome hospitality of the region we were told! 

Early the next morning, not long after the cockerel had finished crowing, I crept out to an astonishing vista.  Across the valley to the north and east, the rising sun was just catching the highest peaks of the Annapurna mountains, turning them sparking white.  The view was awesome; about 180 degrees of the panorama had snow-capped mountain peaks appearing above the closer hills.

School started with assembly in the playground. The pupils, smartly dressed in brightly coloured tracksuits according to their team, did a few exercises, sang the National Anthem, said the school prayer and then quietly marched into their classrooms.  

In the staffroom a Welcome Ceremony was held for us, where we were presented with red tikka (on the forehead), katta (silk scarf) and flower garlands or loose flowers from all the staff. I had 5 flower garlands, mostly made from marigold flowers, but the special one from the Head teacher made from purple Bougainvillea.  

Later in the afternoon we were taken as guests to join a local community party in the village. On a flat piece of land on the valley side, straw mats had been laid out and already many people of all ages, sitting cross-legged, were being served food and drink by an army of helpers, whilst others were busy cooking. 

A continuous stream of people arrived, were greeted and seated then served food on metal platters. There were young babies, toddlers, teenagers and elderly people, all joining in this community celebration.

We all sat there eating and talking as the sun went down.  (Actually I wasn’t talking, as my Nepali doesn’t yet run to holding a conversation with anyone, I just listened and watched and occasionally replied to simple questions.) Across the valley to the north and east the sun turned the mountain peaks golden, whilst to the west we were treated to a spectacular sunset. 

What a beautiful place and how honoured I feel to have been invited to their local community party.  I look forward to my return visits to this village.

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