2009 – Week 9

Good Morning!
The end is now fast approaching, which makes me very sad. I only have two more weeks of visits to the camp before I head back to Kathmandu. Bel and Bishnu will travel with me by plane and we will explore the holy sites of that valley. Now that the evenings have cooled off substantially, the night air is filled with the scent of night blooming jasmine. It is sublime! I sit in Bel’s home and pick it out from the other delicious smells that are coming from the kitchen.

It seems like we have entered a time of constant ‘bhandas’. The word
means to close…and the various political groups will call for one at the drop of a hat. This usually means either shops must stay closed…or the mini buses cannot drive…or the taxis must not run…or the large buses cannot go…etc.

There was a threat to close the international airport…but that was,
thankfully, rejected as not a good idea because it would affect the
international travelers. A year ago my travels home were complicated by the closing of the Bangkok airport due to protests…which required a lot of tension when it was time for me to go as I tried to secure a seat on another airline. At the last minute, I was able to get a seat on Etihad airlines and transited through Abu Dhabi. I do not want to have to go through that whole scenario again (although Abu Dhabi International was fascinating)! This past Sunday, there was a threat of a bhanda because two boys were killed while riding their motorcycle. It appears that they were driving recklessly and crashed into a truck. The area where they lived was close to Bel’s neighborhood and the nearest intersection was closed by the boy’s angry families and friends. Any vehicle trying to move through that area was attacked with stones. Bishnu and Sangita had returned to the eye hospital for a check-up and had to navigate the intersection on foot. The police tried to arrange safe passage for all trying to navigate the intersection and once on the other side, were able to hop on a mini bus. On Monday, when my driver arrived to pick me up, he expressed concern because negotiations were going on between the boy’s families and the trucking company…with the boys families demanding money (even though it was their son’s fault). If an agreement wasn’t reached, they would shut down all vehicles again. Monday was the day to visit Trinley, so we knew it would be a short visit. We decided we would head out to the camp and the driver would wait there while we quickly did our visit. He constantly called his other taxi driver friends around town to see what was happening and was always reassured that vehicles were still moving. He safely delivered me back to Bel’s and called later to say all was resolved and we wouldn’t have anymore difficulties at this time. Tuesday there was a bhanda in Kathmandu and all transportation was closed. This meant that tourists trying to return by bus to the capital were turned away…so much for not doing anything that would affect tourists!

Sangita has been studying very hard to take her exit exams for her Bachelor’s Degree. She sat for her exams a week ago Friday and again this past Monday. She thinks she did okay…but will not know for many months. Her sister Babita took her exams last July and still hasn’t learned of her results.

If successful, both will start working on their Master’s degrees. An interesting thing happened out at the Tibetan camp last spring that has me thinking of another humanitarian project to add to what Indigenous Lenses is already providing. A leopard had come out of the mountains and entered the camp at first light. It centered its attention of the old folk’s home, entering and exiting the facility. It attacked several of the camp…a young girl out running got bit on her Achilles heel…it leapt over a man, pushing off of his chest and knocking him down. This left claw marks on his body and he hit his head with such force when he fell that he was hospitalized for quite a while. They finally were able to coral it into a room in the old folks home and placed a bed frame across the opening. Rita’s husband (a Nepali woman who has a small tea shop in the front of the camp) was the one who called the police to come and help. At the exact time that the police shot the leopard dead, Rita’s husband dropped dead. The camp believes this happened because he was the one who called and ultimately caused the leopard’s death. Some people believe that the deities of the camp are very unhappy…there is constant misfortune … a landslide that occurred two years ago and knocked out the camp’s source of water…and that has not been properly repaired so there is no water in the camp…people are dying at such an increased rate that when one 49 day funeral ceremony concludes another one starts. Synge, Rhichoe’s son believes that part of the reason the leopard focused on the old folks home was that at the time of one of the old one’s death, the proper death rites are not conducted due to lack of funds. The most basic of the rites are performed, but in a very simple way. Migmar talked to a lama at the monastery to see what would be the most important rite of the 49 day ceremony to be performed and he told her ‘jangpar’…the burning of the person’s photo or name. So…I’m thinking of offering the option for folks to donate money for this particular cause. Then, when Migmar gets word that an old one has passed, she would go to the monastery and make an offering for jangpar to be done. This would be considered ge wa (sp?)… this means the earning of good merit…for the person who died, for Indigenous Lenses, for the person who donated the money and for me. Something to definitely explore!

When we were in the village last weekend, I got to witness an old Magar custom of showing respect. Bel had brought with him packets of cigarettes and a lighter. Where ever we went, when he came across an elder, he offered him or her a cigarette and lighted it for them. He also carried a bag of candy and would give a piece or two to every child we came across. This custom is also a part of their marriage ceremonies…in that at the time of putting tikka on the forehead of the bride and groom, you offer them each a cigarette. Hmmm! I wonder how such a thing came about.

And speaking of marriage…an old woman who is a matchmaker arrived at the house on Monday. She gave me the willies!!! She is the woman who arranged Babita’s marriage. Sangita says that she is constantly teasing her… telling her she is next. She likes to sit very close to people and stare at them … which wouldn’t be so bad except that she had an awful cough and her burps were quite foul smelling. I took to holding my shawl over my face. A year ago she suffered a stroke, so has partial paralysis in her left hand and leg. She walks with a heavy cane that she loudly pounds the floor with. In the middle of the night, I could hear her roaming about the house. She would talk non-stop for long periods of time. When I asked what she was saying, everyone said that what she says never makes sense so they just nod but pay her no attention. She kept poking me and making gestures that I did not understand. Maybe she wants to arrange a marriage for me? Yikes!

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