Saturday, 31 May 2014

Carrying the load

As many villages in the rural parts of Nepal are only reached on foot, transporting most things to these places has to be done by man-power, or often woman-power! Many of these village people are incredibly strong and carry loads I would struggle to even lift.  How far could you carry a large bag of cement?

Loads are frequently transported in a basket called a 'doko', which is carried by a strap which goes across the forehead. For the people who carry doko the muscles in the neck must develop over time to become very strong.  Some children as young as 7 or 8 years already carry lighter loads of straw or leaves for their families.  I have seen even younger children playing at carrying loads, with small bags on their backs and handles across their foreheads.

Wood is needed for cooking by many village communities and I often see people carrying doko stacked with logs, bringing them down from the hills.  (I'll never complain again about having to carry a small basket of logs into my house in UK for my wood-burning fire.) As village people fell and use the nearby trees, over time they have to travel ever greater distances to fetch the wood they need.There is concern that this wood use is not sustainable, but people need fuel for their cooking fires.

Doko are frequently used to assist with agriculture; to transport fodder for animals, seed or seedlings for planting or to take rotted manure out to the fields.  This spring I have seen many fields dotted with cone-shaped piles of manure, but  I find it hard to imagine the smell one has to endure while carrying a basket of manure! (Sadly they haven't yet invented a way of adding particular smells to a blog, have they? Shame!!)
A doko of maize

A basket of dried grass

When a house is to be built, bags of cement, sand or loads of bricks may need to be carried quite a distance to the building site, often uphill.  Frequently women carry these heavy loads, whilst the men do the actual construction.

Although doko are for sale in shops in towns, in many villages doko are made when the old ones are falling apart and new ones are needed.  The photos below show ones being made in a village.

Beautifully made and very strong too.
Besides carrying, these baskets are incredibly versatile and are put to many other uses - containers for chicks or hens and litter bins to name but two. 

Just another everyday way that the people of Nepal use their natural resources.
Pheri bheTaulaa  (see you again)
(Many thanks to Helen for the use of some of her photos.)

Saturday, 17 May 2014

Bless this house!

One morning, when I arrived at the office recently, I was surprised to see the shop below our premises had been completely transformed overnight. There was sheeting covering all the produce which had been moved to the back of the shop, and the cleared space had been turned into a place of prayer.
Lots of chairs had been arranged outside, and a tarpaulin stretched above for shade, so obviously many guests were expected.

There were offerings and flowers covering the carpeted floor and a small fire burning on the concrete. The landlord informed me they were holding a special day of prayer and celebration to bless the house and family.

The landlord's mother enjoying the celebrations

During the day, whilst we worked upstairs, we were aware of many different noises - a horn blowing at times, chanting of prayers and gradually the sound of many people.  Looking down from the balcony we could see a large crowd of relations, the women dressed in their best colourful clothes and some of the men in traditional outfits, processing around the fire which had been built outside on the side of the road. They were singing and throwing grain into the fire.

I went downstairs to watch what was happening and one of the family, who spoke good English, kindly explained to me all about the event.

Later, when work was almost over, we were all invited to join the party.  To start with we were given a plate with banana pieces and a large 'sel roti', (almost like a fried doughnut but not sweet). Large vats of food had been prepared and vegetable curry, dahl and a sort of milky, spicy rice were being served to everyone, once they had finished the starter. Delicious!
Rice, dahl and vegetable curry being served

We sat on the chairs in the road and joined in the party.

My colleagues and I enjoying the food.
I was told that the celebrations would continue into the evening with dancing, but I didn't stay for that. I had a school visit the next morning to prepare for!

What a privilege to be invited to join the family for this important festival. 'Thank you' to our landlord for inviting us.  He obviously enjoyed himself - as you can see from the photo below!

Thursday, 15 May 2014

Flowers of the high places of Nepal

Coltsfoot growing beside a rock
I have been surprised by the similarity of the flowers growing wild in the foothills of the Himalaya, to the ones found in my spring garden in UK.  In March the path on our Annapurna trek was lined with beautiful spring flowers; primulas both in pale violet and purple spherical ones, coltsfoot and winter jasmine to name just a few. Again this is a blog page comprising mainly of photographs - words not needed.  Many thanks to Helen for the use of her photos.

Purple spherical Primulas
Tiny Winter Jasmine plant

Tiny primrose type flowers

Rhododendrons grow wild up in the hills, and grow into tall trees. However, I have only seen them with red, pink and white flowers, not the wild purple ones we have as escapees from our gardens in the UK. Of course they may be growing wild in another part of Nepal where I haven't yet visited.

Some flowers are much more spectacular, like the beautiful tree and rock orchids that we saw on our trek to Annapurna Base Camp.

However one plant that I have never seen before, that was growing only near one hamlet high up in the valley was this Cobras Head plant, that looked similar to the pitcher plant family, with a bent over top resembling the head of the snake. Very special and different!