(Disclaimer: While I wish I could claim all of these pictures as my very own, they are, quite simply, far too good. =) But DO be sure to click each of them for more “Faces of Nepal” collections – taken by talented photographers from around the globe. More photos of life in Tansen to come soon…)
Nepal is an extraordinarily diverse nation, with more than 80 ethno-linguistically distinct people groups crammed into a country slightly bigger than Tennessee. And to quote my wise friend Caroline, “Wherever you go in the world, there are people from somewhere else – adventurers, outcasts, seekers, escape artists…” So very true.
Thus far, I’ve hesitated to write in detail about the people here for two reasons. I don’t, on the one hand, care to paint with overly broad strokes – strokes highlighting the ignorance of a newcomer to this land and people. On the other hand, keeping in mind friends whom I have come to know, it feels like a breach of confidence to write with any degree of specificity, at least in this broadly-public forum. That said, I’ll take a shot at it – doing my best to sidestep either of these errors.
I appreciate, for starters, the honest sincerity of my Nepali neighbors. It’s evident in the many young children who love to try out their English on us bideshi’s (foreigners), as they run alongside shouting
WHAT’S YOUR NAME!?!?
(Often more a statement than a question. Occasionally irritating, but usually pretty cute.)
Older women pass by, their beautiful, furrow-wrinkled faces adorned with ornate nose rings, a fresh tikka on the forehead and a faded red sindoor in the hair’s part. They cheerfully return my “Namaste, Didi!,” pressing palms together at their chest in the familiar Nepali gesture (even when carrying impossibly huge loads on their backs). There is an unflinching endurance about them, an air of longsuffering, of solidness.
Just recently, I came across this great image in the book “Second Suns” by David Oliver Relin:
“We crossed the Trishuli [river], where another brightly colored Tata bus was parked in the shallows, the slow moving current brushing its axles. The crew, stripped to their undershorts, flung buckets of tea-colored water against the dusty sides of the vehicle, washing it, while the passengers looked languidly out the windows or squatted on the the metal roof, clutching their bundles with a patience I found heartbreaking, a patience I cold never quite muster, no matter how often I found myself in places where it was required.”
Back in October, when a small group of us did our Helambu trek, we had the privilege of spending our last night with a Sherpa family on our last night. I can still see so clearly the welcoming, honest expressions on our hosts’ faces. The wife skillfully cooked our meal before us on a wood-burning stove, as we huddled on blankets around their hearth and chatted about all things Nepali. They did whatever they could to make us feel welcomed & comfortable, eager to incorporate us into their world of food, tea, conversation, and thought. While there, I even got to try a Sherpa trademark: the salty “yak-butter-tea,” which I’ve been looking forward to tasting for a long time. (It packs an interesting flavor, and is actually rather tasty once you get used to it!)
For more photos of life here (specifically, my old daily commute to language classes in Kathmandu), check out this blog post by my friends, the Riggsbees (also here in Tansen).
In closing, I’ll leave you with this charming conversation snippet one of my American friends had with a Nepali man recently. While walking along a hilly trail path north of Kathmandu one afternoon, he met an elderly, topi-wearing Nepali gentleman coming the other way, and while they were talking, he asked my friend, almost disbelievingly:
“They say it’s dark in America now… Is that true? Incredible. Could it really be night-time there? Well, that’s what people sometimes say…”