Daily routine, food and one month gone already

It’s now Tuesday 11th September and I left for Nepal on 13th August, so almost a month has past already. Everything’s settling down a bit more now, and we’ve got much more into a routine. We found out yesterday that this week is holiday (holiday never seems set - we always ask and the teachers’ say they don’t know, then suddenly we have a week off). The reason for this holiday is Teej, which is a Hindu festival celebrated by women to bring an end to the monsoon season. Goddess Parvati and Lord Shiva are worshipped at this festival (I did have to look this information up online but I wanted to find out more). Ashvi and I bought clothes on Saturday when we went to Burtibang at the weekend, so tomorrow we will wearing our saris. We got our blouses tailored at the tailors in Devisthan, so hopefully we will get those too before tomorrow.

I still haven’t quite managed the Nepali daily routine of getting up early and going to bed early. Sun rises at about 6am here, so to maximise daylight hours in order to cut grass (corn), work on the farm, make food and get everything done, the people here tend to get up early. Also, the rain and bad weather tends to come once it gets dark, so it’s better to get everything done before then. We’re managing to wake up and get up fairly early, but after a tiring day at school sometimes it’s hard to then get up and make food too. For the first week I kept thinking we had a light above our door when I woke up because there’s a gap between the door and the door frame which lets lots of light in in the mornings. Even on holiday I get up much earlier now (it’s 10am now and I’ve already made some tea, eaten biscuits and had some leftovers from yesterday) - usually at home I would still be lying in bed at this time feeling hungry, but too cosy to move.

I’m really enjoying cooking food every day, especially since it’s so easy to be vegan here. Most people in the village only eat meat and dairy on special occasions, so I only have to say no to meat and milk on festivals. We are given fresh vegetables from the people in the village. We are also given rice, lentils, onions, oil, sugar, salt and spices by the school in return for the teaching at the school. This makes the living costs here so cheap; the only things we are buying are biscuits, noodles (here everyone eats these dry and straight from the packet) and also soap and things for cleaning. Packets of biscuits are only 10 rupees each (the conversion is 140 rupees to a pound so very cheap) and the same with the noodles. We have tried to buy fruit in the bigger towns (Devisthan and Burtibang), but both times we’ve bought bananas they’ve gotten really bruised on the walk back up to Harpe. Also, whenever we buy apples we eat them really quickly (maybe four apples each in a day), so I’m beginning to feel like it’s not really worth it anymore. Also, because the bananas have been so bruised we’ve had to eat a big bunch all in one go, which both times resulted in burnt pans. One time we tried to fry them, one time I had the idea of making some banana pancakes (which I later discovered work much better in the UK where you can measure out ingredients and you don’t feel the need to use all your bananas in one go). As a result, we have now decided that vegetable curry and daal bhat (sometimes roti) is much more preferable.

Ashvi and I have become much more proficient at cooking food (probably because being hungry and eating noodles or pancakes is never as good as a curry and rice). The first few days in Harpe we got really hungry in the evenings and because we were so tired and we knew cooking would take us a really long time we would wander around the village hoping we would get some food offers. At training we heard lots about being invited round for food so we hoped we could do the same. This worked for a few days, until we were told we shouldn’t be walking after 5pm because of the landslides and tigers. Also, one day, a lady invited us round for food but told us that we had to sleep at her house because it was too dangerous to walk back in the heavy rain and darkness. This was fun, but then we had to wake up for school the next day, and we hadn’t really packed our bags or planned any lessons so it became more stressful than we had first thought. She did ask us to take a photo of her and show our families so I will put the photo at the end of this post. In the first week we also didn’t have many vegetables or ingredients (this has now completely changed - we have too many potatoes, a massive pumpkin and a daunting amount of other vegetables to get through).

I love how the majority of food here comes from the ground and from farms that people work on; if it’s pumpkin season there’ll be lots of pumpkin but you eat what is in season in the village at the time. I feel so grateful to be part of this great network of friendly people and friendly families, who work together cutting corn and emptying bean pods together. The other day we were in a house in Devisthan with our friend Bishnu and we watched television whilst shelling beans from their pods. That was when I really felt such a sense of warmth here in Nepal; the people here are so, so lovely. Bishnu’s brother’s wife (the person who runs the house) also makes amazing tea with cinnamon which tastes so good. I used to actively dislike tea, but here everyone puts so much sugar in it that it tastes amazing. I think I like sugar a bit too much, so in favour of my teeth I’m going to try not to have too much whilst I’m here (one night I was eating sugar straight from the sugar tub). In terms of unusual food, there are some really bitter vegetables that are meant to be good for your blood pressure but they really don’t taste nice. Also, people here eat whole limes by themselves (even the skins). We keep getting offered lime peel or skin to eat straight. The only food that has really surprised me here has been fried frog; I was shelling some beans when I looked up and saw Bishnu eating a fried frog with its legs still on! Ashvi wishes she’d tried it now (she pretends that she didn’t eat it for my benefit, but it didn’t look very appetising I won’t lie - I think the legs were off-putting).

Note: This is a very long blog post, but this is the longest amount of time I’ve had in a while to get some writing done, and I’m really enjoying writing at the moment. I’ll write some more about teaching and how that’s going  and also about the festival when I next have some time. Ashvi has a DSLR camera that she has taken some really great photos on, which I will post when we next get some WiFi and there are also some videos of us dancing last Friday at school for Teej. We’re going to make some daal bhat and vegetable curry now. If any of my friends are reading this, good luck at university! Hope it goes well!

Side-note: Today and whilst I was writing this the following things happened that I wanted to put in but I couldn’t really place them anywhere:

- My favourite image in my head from today is a man walking past the tap with a line of ducks waddling along after him (I smiled and said namaste).
- A man came round to our house and asked if we wanted to come round to dinner this evening which is lovely; he asked if we liked goat meat - Ashvi said yes, I said no.
- There were some girls outside that were pretending to cry because they wanted us to show them our saris. We kept saying pachi which means later but they stayed outside for quite a while - even when Ashvi came inside and closed the door (they’ve now gone and Ashvi has continued writing letters to her friends whilst sitting on the doorstep).

This blog is a personal blog written by Orla Fawcett, therefore the views expressed in this blog are those of Orla Fawcett and NOT those of Project Trust.


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