Time for Chitwan stories! In the spirit of real blogging (aka not novels but somewhat shortish excerpts), I’m going to break this into two posts. Sorry that this is nearly a week after I returned home. It’s my last week of work with Prerana and I’ve been busy with the creation of a fundraising guidelines manual. That and I’ve been having delicious, late dinners with co-workers, travellers etc. which leaves me too exhausted to blog in the evening!
You all know what sort of state I was in when I arrived, so we won’t relive those painful moments.
After getting some rest I ventured out for a ‘cultural’ walk with my guide for the weekend, Raja. The Terai district of Nepal is unbelievably different from the Kathmandu valley – it’s dry, rural, and hot hot hot! Not that Kath isn’t hot, but this heat was dry and much more intense (37-43 C in the afternoon). So even at 4:00 pm I got my sweat on just from walking out the front door of my hotel room.
We wandered around a traditional Tharu village for over an hour.
Fact: Tharu’s are the only people who have survived in the Terai district for millennia. Since the region they inhabit was malaria-infested (until the WHO came in with DDT and solved that problem), no other ethnic groups survived the terrain. They’ve built up a genetic resistance to malaria and have had minimal problems with the disease that would ruthlessly wipe out thousands of other groups.
This was a quaint photo-op I stumbled upon…
The village was interesting but also disheartening. These people continue to live so primitively, while we westerners seem to have access to everything at our fingertips. I admire the simplicity of their lives and the emphasis on family, but life seemed just all-around hard for everyone. They live in humble thatched huts made from mud and lattice – with limited access to running water and electricity.
And women were working so hard, cutting jungle grass, sifting flour, weaving sun hats, herding water buffalo, collecting wheat. You name it, they were constantly busy doing it.
Men appeared to be sitting around quite a bit…honestly! Either that or they were digging trenches to keep the rhino’s away from the village and crops. There were cows, buffalo, chickens, dogs, and goats running around everywhere. And loads of children were sleeping outside of the huts, on only thin-weaved mats.
I’ll tell you one thing, Nepali kids are freakin’ adorable. They just have that ‘something’ in the soul of their eyes. It’s vulnerable and soo honest.
I discovered this little babe, relaxing in his crib…
During the hot walk, I was still struggling with my stomach, but didn’t really want to admit it. It reared its ugly head anyways when I had to pull over into some bushes. Sigh.
Raja immediately asked me, “poops?” I laughed and said, “no, pukes.” He could see the pain on my face and promptly wandered into the forest for a few minutes.
I waited, since he didn’t tell me to follow.
He came back with an odd-looking leafy plant and shoved it in my face. “Eat it, Jamie. I swear you’ll feel not only better, but good in less than 20 minutes.”
I weighed my options – nothing could really make me sicker at this point and he didn’t seem interested in kidnapping me into the jungle…I ate the plant. It really didn’t have any flavour and the texture was similar to spinach.
Away we went. And away my stomach problems went too. He’s a smart man, that Raja.
After the village wander, we plunked down beside the Rapti river and watched the sunset over the jungle – just the two of us and a couple of water buffalos grazing. Raja told me stories of Bengal Tiger and One-Horned Rhino encounters, while he pointed out the different species of birds flying around. It was spectacular.
I got a little nervous when the buffalo came too close.
Raja: “Forget them. They don’t care about us. They are hungry for grass.”
Me: “I think that one is giving me the evil eyes. Are they supposed to stamp their foot like that?”
Raja casually turns around, clearly only to humour my fears.
Raja:” Yes. Yes you are right. That one doesn’t like you. Get up. NOW.”
Me: “Expletives” and a serious mad dash to get over the nearby fence.
Throughout the entire weekend this same situation happened another three times! Raja suspected it might be my blue eyes that pissed em off. We’ll never know for sure, but I do know how to spot the ‘evil-eyed buffalo’ out of the crowd!