Yesterday, Andrew and I arrived in Pokhara. This strike has turned everything upside down: shops closed, supplies depleted, transportation put on hold. Of course, they allow the tourists to somewhat do their thing. In actuality, the number of tourist buses allowed to travel within Nepal was reduced significantly meaning it was by the skin of our teeth that we were able to hitch a ride down the street from Harka. And when I say skin of our teeth, I mean the driver said that we had a seat on the roof of the bus or in the aisle. I could see that Andrew only thought of imminent death when the man mentioned roof of the bus, so we quite literally threw our bags and selves in the middle of the aisle. I remember doing this in middle school when my school or youth group trips would grow long and you wanted to stretch out a bit, but this wasn’t exactly a middle school cool factor moment. Although we were allowed to lay down, the flooring imitated the 1980s welcome mats with course green ‘grass’ and a plastic flower in the upper left corner. Not to mention that hair not our own would tickle our cheek if we dared to make the artificial grass our resting place. Gross factors aside, we made it to Pokhara with more tales of Nepali transportation.
Our purpose for such a destination is primarily trekking, but Pokhara adds allures such as cooler weather, sunsets over a mountain-bordered lake, great food, and an apparent pilgrimage for all Western hippies. The latter is more of a reality than an allure, but it does provide entertaining people watching opportunities as we drink banana milkshakes and eat a variety of Asian food.
At this point in the trip, the cooler weather is the most inviting of changes. It’s terribly difficult to try and explain to all the kids that a honeymoon means that Andrew and I need a wee bit of time to ourselves, and that the 150 degrees that is the 10am to 4pm part of a day in Bharatpur takes just about everything we have not to sweat all our meat and flesh off. But those faces. When I told Ashish that we were going trekking his response was, “you come back tomorrow?” Oh sheesh.
Hopefully after our two weeks in the mountains, the constitution will be resolved, the strike lifted, and markets will go back to normal hours. We will then be able to be fitted for wedding gear and decorate all 13 kiddos with something fabulous. If you’ve kept up with my previous two trips to Harka you may think that 13 is a lower number. In fact, both of the older boys that I absolutely loved, Manish and Buddi have moved on with a brother and uncle, respectively, to India for work. It makes Bishal the oldest male at 12 years old. He has taken on the responsibilities with much discipline and little complaint, and the fact that he is the main translator with the volunteers makes him the obvious go-to guy..and yet he’s not even a teenager yet. The three teenagers are the ever-lovely and hilarious Soniya, Sima, Sirjana. Nothing has changed. Soniya still has her sarcastic but good as gold nature that makes her the natural mother. Since they have been on an interminable break from school, however, Soniya has spent more days than not with a sweet friend of hers. Apparently Laxmi likes this friend and her family enough to encourage sleepovers. I can’t imagine how much Soniya loves this change of scenery, but I miss the mess out of her..I may just snag her up if this keeps up. Sima is still the tomboy that would easily be a jock if organized sports were at her disposal. It’s also growing more apparent that most of the kids have gravitated to Sima as the older sister/brother wrapped up in one–her eternal child-like spark is entirely infectious and inviting to them. Sirjana is just what she became, a sixteen year old. She has taken on increasingly more responsibility as Harka is in the midst of changing houseparents, but does it with her own flare. She leads the time-consuming efforts of gathering grass for the water buffalo and cow both in the morning and evening. But just before she leaves for her late afternoon jaunt into the heat-suffered jungle, she gets all dolled up. Not the order I would do things, but I’m also not a 16 year old whose only moments to hang with friends during a strike is in the late afternoon jungle cutting grass. With Soniya’s absence, Sirjana has become more cuddly than before with me which is a much-welcomed intimacy.
I will highlight the younger studs in future posts. Andrew has said that Tulie and Suman can come home with us. He has since seen what Tulie’s insane amount of energy is capable of and second guessed his original intent, but I know she still has his heart. Each have their joyous and annoying quirks just like every child in the world, but oh Shishir. I have coined him ‘punk gold’…he can be a snot, but after four years that kid still melts my heart.
But before we go back to kids and heat waves, we have base camps to conquer and long days ahead. Our journey will last anywhere from 10-14 days depending on our sense of adventure and the strength of our bodies. Tomorrow is our first and one of the longest days..we’re planning on stopping every ten minutes. We are admittedly out of shape, but open for good stories. There is a small chance we will have an inkling of Internet within the next two weeks, but most likely nada. So stay tuned for photos and more writings..perhaps I can wrangle Andrew into saying a few words. We will leave with a photo that serves as our motivation and destination: Annapurna Base Camp.