We left one week ago from Nashville’s airport. A 14 hour flight between Chicago and Abu Dhabi, and a subsequent 18 hour layover in the Arabian international hub made our arrival into Kathmandu both welcomed and exhausted. It was the exact trajectory I took two years ago with two exceptions: Andrew and downloaded Parks & Recreation. Those two things made the interminable Abu Dhabi layover very bearable.
Coming from the opulence of the United Arab Emirates makes the entrance into Nepal that much more contrasted. The longer we waited for our bags the more probable it seemed that they were back in the desert or somewhere over the Himalayas. But Etihad Airlines pulled through and the only hiccup on our way to our hotel was the flat tire that kept us waiting on the side of the road. Actually, our sweet taxi driver stopped all of a sudden to pump up a leak only to make it explode..no joke. Welcome to Nepal, Andrew.
Even though our jet lag was already causing strife, there was nothing better than having a lazy day in Kathmandu before we left for the hot jungle of Harka. With sweat already dripping from our brows, we left the loud, uncomfortable bus with our packs balanced on our backs. Naturally, the welcome, smiles, kisses and hugs from the kids were enough of an absolute joy to offset the midday sun. Two years ago, I struggled through the oppressive heat in July; now, it’s only May but we have heard that it got warmer a good month early. Oh sweet something. The biggest difference, however, is that the nights and mornings are cool in nature and bring us great relief after a full day of staring-out-in-space-hotness. And Andrew was a genius with his powdered Gatorade idea.
It seems that most weeks out of a Nepali year are filled with either holidays or strikes, and now is no exception. Four years ago, Britta and I witnessed the Nepali people democratically vote in a new government for the first time in their country’s history. There has been a ‘set’ government since then, but a constitution did not come along with such a process. Therefore, one is due soon–soon being the key term. Supposedly, the deadline has been delayed for months, and according to our sources (conversations and a few web searches), it is centered around the bulk of folks wanting to officially and constitutionally demolish the caste system. Having it written in some official way is a heck of a first step in my Western mind.
With this strike, however, means no school or market or much of anything else. Against all odds, the long-standing internet cafe is open and has a concrete ceiling to cool us during the 11am hour. No school means that Harka is a baptism-by-fire experience. The heat and all-day energy of the kids has been an adjustment; another factor in the staring-out-space moments of a day. However, in the evening time when the sun is setting, the light sabers come out with arguments on who holds the red or blue (are you Jedi or Sith?), Sirjana breads my hair in the field, Soniya cuddles, and Tulie acts just as crazy as she’s always been. These children are a precious gift in my life, and they immediately took to Andrew for his strong muscles and radical birth mark. That birth mark has been quite the conversation piece for the kids, neighbors, and absolute strangers. Random folks will stare at his left upper arm and look bewildered. We’ve decided to move away from trying to explain what a birthmark is to chalking it up to a tattoo–it’s far more scandalous that way.
Laxmi and the older girls are talking through the plans for our Nepali wedding that will occur in several weeks when we get back from our trekking in Pokhara. It appears that we will go get fitted for some outfits (!) once the market reopens. No doubt, this whole experience will be hilarious. Until our Pokhara departure sometime next week, Sirjana will turn a sweet 16, the younger kids will perform Justin Bieber’s “Baby” at a dance recital, and Andrew and I will go to Sauhara, Chitwan’s National Park where we will delight in some air conditioning and elephants.