October 10, 2010

October 10, 2010



            The monsoon rains are coming to an end…which means it is hot, humid and dusty.  Despite the beauty of the Annapurna range of the Himalayan Mountains looming in the distance, Nepal is a horribly filthy place.  There is trash everywhere and everything is coated with a layer of dust.  The air smells of kerosene, diesel and wood fires.  Nepalis take great delight in spitting, so you have to watch where you step and be ready to jump out of the way of someone starts hacking up some tar.  You also have to be careful where you step due to the deposits left by buffalos, goats, dogs, cows, horses and chickens. 

            Last Sunday, I made my way to the camp again to spend the morning with Pau Rhichoe.  He had been in Kathmandu on pilgrimage with his sister.  This is the year of the tiger in the Tibetan calendar, and the most auspicious place to visit is Nama Buddha…right outside of the Kathmandu valley.  He warmly greeted me with tight hugs and kisses on my cheeks.  We had so much catching up to do that the time seemed to fly by.  Sunday was also the day that Tibetans around the world voted in primary elections for a new Prime Minister and members of Parliament…so we made our way to the community hall so that he could vote.  Sadly, the Chinese government put pressure on the Nepali government to confiscate the ballot boxes and disrupt the elections…and Nepali police did that in three locations in the Kathmandu Valley  (http://www.savetibet.org/media-center/ict-news-reports/nepalese-police-seize-ballot-boxes-tibetan-exile-election).  The Tibetans in the camp are now worried that their ballots will also be confiscated as they make their way to India to be counted.  It seems as though China is being more and more strident…and putting more and more pressure on Nepal to take a more stringent stance on its treatment of the refugees.  The irony is that the US has offered to emigrate all of the Tibetans in Nepal to our country…but China has also told Nepal they are not allowed to let them leave. 

            As Pau Rhichoe, Migmar and I were making our way back to his home, we passed the part of the camp where tables are set up to sell souvenirs to tourists.  It is on the path that leads to the monastery.  As we were walking down the line, Nyima’s brother Tsedup came out from behind one of the tables to say hello.  Each year, anyone who is interested in having a spot ‘throws tender’, and Tsedup submitted his name.  He was granted a spot in the middle, and had all of his goodies displayed.  What a difference one year makes.  Last year, he had just had his leg amputated, was immobile, and feeling sick.  This year, his health has been restored and he navigates the camp on his artificial leg without even a limp.  I’ll have to return to his table and ‘do a little business’.  Before leaving Pau Rhichoe’s home, I asked if his son Singe would be interested in helping me purchase new vinyl flooring for two of my elders.  I always try to find ways to give the Pau’s sons work so they can earn a bit of spending money.  He agreed to do this project so on our way out of the camp, we stopped at Tsamchoe and Dechen’s home and told them he would be coming by to measure the two rooms. 

On Monday, Singe made his way to the bazaar and located the shop with the best quality vinyl floorings, picked out a color and did some bargaining on the price.  He then made his way back to camp.  I was at the camp visiting Pau Nyima, so we made a plan to meet Singe at the open space at the front of the camp and travel together back to the shop so I could see his choice and pay for it.  He had chosen a beautiful pattern with browns and golds.  After completing the transaction, he headed back to the camp with the vinyl and Migmar and I returned Lakeside.  Tsamchoe and Dechen requested that the flooring be put in on Wednesday.  They had consulted the Tibetan astrological calendar and saw that Tuesday was not an auspicious day for this kind of work…which worked great for me because Wednesday was the day I was to return to the camp to deliver the food and shelter stipends to the olds ones.  When Migmar and I arrived on Wednesday morning, all of Tsamchoe and Dechen’s belongings were outside the house and Singe and two of his friends were putting down the vinyl.  I took a couple of photos and said we’d be back to see the finished product.  When we returned after delivering the other stipends, it was all done and the furniture was back in place.  It was beautiful!  The color Singe picked matched the color on their walls.  The two old ladies had made special bread and were feeding the guys.  Singe noticed that their water tap was leaking outside…and that the drain was plugged, so he offered to fix this also and his friend went and brought back a metal pipe and they unplugged the drain.  I paid Singe and thanked him from the bottom of my heart.  His next project is to arrange for a shower room to be created for his father, with a solar panel on top for hot water.  Last year a sit down toilet, this year a new, hot shower.                

This week we also delivered two new stoves…one to Jamyang and her brothers; and one to Tsedo and her two husbands.  We had dropped them off earlier in the week, and when we arrived on Wednesday with the stipends the stoves were all set up and functioning.  They kept expressing deep gratitude for such a basic need.  They served Tibetan butter tea, which I’ve come to really love.  It’s thick and salty and made out of tea, milk, butter and salt that they churn in a tall bamboo container.  You take a sip of the tea, and they quickly refill your cup.  To not allow them to refill your cup at least two times goes against their customs.  And despite my request that they not bother to make food for me, there is always bread, pancakes and hard boiled eggs.  I left with a very full bladder.

I had a quest this week to find a friend of my Fathers who was in the area on a Habitat for Humanity project.  I had met Ralph years ago here in Nepal, when he had come to the country to volunteer in a hospital in Kathmandu.  He is a retired physician.  At that time, he had heard from my Father that I was in Pokhara and had come to find me and see if I was alright.  We have kept in touch over the years and he emailed during the summer that he, his daughter and her husband would be in Pokhara October 1-10.  The talk of all of the area is of this project.  Five hundred foreigners from many countries have come to build 40 bamboo houses in the Leknath area.  Friday morning, Laxman picked up Bel and I at 7:15 AM and we headed to that area.  It turns out, this is Laxman’s village.  He seemed to know everyone we passed on the steep winding road.  We asked everyone we passed if they knew where Ralph was…and wandered up and down the road to where the different houses were…but had no luck.  Laxman had me write down Ralph’s name and he was going to work his taxi driver network.  Sadly, I never made contact…so Ralph…if you are reading this…I tried to find you.

Babita has arrived with Baby Izane to stay with us now that her chicken pox are gone.  And her husband Dhan Bahadur has arrived from his army training in Kathamndu.  This means the wedding ceremony is on!                         




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