After breakfast and a shower, I head up to the roof to check that my clothes are dry. The roof has not been converted into any kind of 'leisure' area - it is literally the roof. There are a few clothes lines which the visiting laundry lady uses to hang the sheets on, but clothes have to be laid out on the hot tile roof. I have to remember to dry my clothes inside out as otherwise they end up covered in roof dust. The sun has come early today and I'm so glad my clothes are already dry - I have been wearing the same pair of lightweight trousers now for 3 days. Yuck. I've had to wear two pairs of leggings underneath to try and keep warm.
Dal has gone off for the day, Shova is at school but naughty Sunita decided she wasn't ready to return to boarding school today. I'm surprised to see her sitting in the sunshine 'studying' and ask whether her father would be terribly annoyed if I took her to the river with me later. She assures me that Dal had in fact already told her that if she was refusing to go to school today, then she should keep me company instead. We spend the morning chatting in the sun while she puts a few braids in the front of my hair. When we are ready to leave at lunchtime, I am about to take the braids out but she stops me and says "oh but they look nice!". I know they don't but I can't very well tell her that so I'm stuck with them for the time being. We take a back way down to the river and pass lots of Tharu style houses and Buddha shrines. The back streets of the villages are bursting with colour and activity and I want to capture everything on my camera but I gather from the inquisitive stares as we pass by that it would probably be quite rude for me to produce my camera. I make a mental note of everything though and remind myself how lucky I am to be here in Nepal seeing these beautiful communities first hand. When we reach the river, we wander around looking at the cafes/restaurants (there are about 8 or so down here) and choose one which is set on stilts overlooking the river. We both order chicken burgers and some fried momo. Gotta say - hands down best chicken burger in the world. It has been minced, had ginger mixed into it, and then put back together to shape a burger. Yum! We chat about her school and, like most 16 year olds, she absolutely hates it and would have me believe that all her teachers are pure evil and out to get her and there is too much homework. Typical.
After lunch, we buy butterscotch ice cream and walk along the riverbank trying to finish it as it runs down our wrists. I take some pictures of birds and Sunita proudly tells me that her father can name every single bird in Nepal - perhaps the world. More so, he doesn't need a map to take people trekking because apparently he knows every single path there is to know about. She is beaming. Awwww.
On the way home I buy my sister a present and spot some traditional tribal knifes (with leather sheaths and gold points) which I reckon my son would like. The shops around here are full of so many beautiful things (and really inexpensive) that I could probably fill a whole extra suitcase with gifts for my family and friends. It's almost impossible to decide what to buy really. I wish I had come more prepared with a bigger bag as I would quite like to kit my whole house out in these wonderful Nepalese ornaments and artwork.
Back at the guesthouse, I share some peanuts with Ram (everyone is - excuse the pun - nuts about nuts here) and Sunita sets up Dal's laptop. She has recently discovered You Tube and is now spending at least an hour a day watching "cat stuck in fan" or "Charlie bit me" ... on a loop. My mom telephones me again and I speak to her and my son (finally!!) for over an hour. It is sooooo good to hear their voices and also a relief to be able to vent about what has happened with the Project. I'm standing outside the front of the guesthouse when Puja the heffalump wanders past with her mahout. I picture my son sitting in the kitchen at home on the phone to me and wish desperately that he was here to see this for himself. He would love it!
The electricity goes off - the government turns it off at random times during the day - and it is not scheduled to be back on until about 9:00pm. Dal asked me earlier if I minded that he didn't turn the generator on today. I agree that it is pointless to use all that petrol for just one guest and besides, it's still light out. I do need electricity however for the internet so I head into the village to the net cafe. They have their generator going full tilt so I sit down to update my Blog. It takes me three hours in the end as I am still fuming about the Project but trying to word my Blog post sensibly so that it doesn't sound like emotional gibberish. At 8:45pm, I finally finish and head back home. I buy a Snickers bar on the way back for Shova as she didn't get treated to an ice cream today. There is still no electricity when I get back so I eat some soup on the veranda by candlelight and then tuck myself into my sleeping bag with my book and a headtorch. Night night!
I wake up extra early to see the girls off to boarding school. Shova does come some evenings as she is only 13, but Sunita is a full-time boarder and I may or may not see her again before I leave. She thanks me for being her "friend" and hops onto the back of Dal's motorbike, blowing me kisses. Such a sweetie.
Now that I'm on my own budget and not protected by the Project, I have to be super careful with my remaining money. I have been having two eggs, fried potatoes and toast with honey for breakfast but at nearly 2 quid, I can't do that anymore. I opt instead for porridge - with bananas and honey - which costs just 80p. It's actually really nice and I am surprised as I normally hate porridge. I am pretty sure it won't be long before I cave and need to fork out for some eggs again though. Eggs for brekkie - nothing beats it in my book!
Today Dal is taking me to a market in Narayangarh (near Chitwan) as he wants to buy some fish for this evening and I want to try and find a bargain Pashmina. After breakfast and a shower, we ride on his motorbike for just over half an hour to where the market is held. We drive around, through backstreets, looking for life. All the shops seem to be shut. The only things openly being sold on the streets or anywhere are fruits and vegetables. Dal remembers that it's the first Monday of the month for the Nepali people and so shops (and markets) tend to be closed. Bummer. No Pashmina for me today then.
The gas station in Chitwan where I was dropped off after the 7 hr bus ride from Kathmandu - but in the dark!!!
The back of a rickshaw - some of them are so beautiful
Boy wheeling peanuts through the street to sell. Told you they're nuts about nuts here! Every few hundred yards you will see a 'trolley' loaded with nuts like this
Crossing the river, leaving Chitwan
Locals doing their laundry by the river - they have to come here daily so they have even set up clothes lines!
Young boy selling coconut pieces to workers on a construction site
Lady washing her hair under a water pump
Dal suggests lunch at a restaurant where he usually takes Annie and the girls when they are over this way. We jump back on the bike, head over a river and come to quite a grand looking restaurant. There are marble floors, gold light fittings dripping with jewels and the waiters are wearing black trousers and waistcoats. I feel a little underdressed in my jeans and trekking shoes, ha ha. Dal asks if we should make the most of the sun and sit on the roof terrace. I think this sounds quite nice so the waiter shows us up about four flights of stairs. I can't help but laugh when we reach the 'terrace'. The roof is large and flat with a small 2 ft wall running around it. Surrounded by various air conditioning coolers and electricity wiring are some plastic garden tables and chairs. Ah well, the view of the river is nice :-) I order Paneer Butter Masala and chicken momo (am totally addicted to momo now) and it is reeeeeally nice. Man, I need to attend some Nepalese cooking classes quick. I'm going to miss this stuff when I'm back home. After our meal, the waiter brings over a silver dish split into two sides - one side has some small green looking seeds (which taste like liquorice and I have to spit it out which cracks Dal up) and the other side has what Dal tells me are 'beetle nuts'. I put one in my mouth and try to chew. It's literally like biting on a stone. Dal - having only just recovered from my previous shock - starts laughing again and tells me that you are just meant to roll it around with your tongue in your mouth, not bite it and break your teeth! He is really laughing now as I spit it out and ask "And the point of the beetle nut is??" ... he shrugs and - between laughs - says it's just something to "play with" after dinner. Nepalese "after dinner mints" sure are weird!
Our "after dinner mints"
We head off to the fish market (which thankfully is open) and Dal selects a prime cut of 'river fish'. While he's negotiating the price, I notice a puppy standing on top of a cage full of chickens, pondering how to get inside with them. He's so cute and I have to go over and take a few pics. He plays up to the camera for me for a while before getting bored and decides he would quite like to bite my thumbs off. He's only playing though and so I let him chew lightly on my fist and pat me with his paws. I wish I could take him home for my son! Poor thing is probably going to end up like the other mange ridden strays - and maybe with rabies to boot. Sad times.
"If only I had thumbs ... "
Tonight's dinner (the fish, not the guy!)
A side street barbershop
Some less fortunate locals. I can't imagine what they go through in these freezing temperatures
Beautiful mustard fields on the drive back to Sauraha village
The road back to our guesthouse
Dal and I jump back on the motorbike and travel the half an hour back to the guesthouse. I am seriously loving all these motorbikes experiences - first Africa and now Nepal. When I'm retired and a bit daft and senile, I'm definitely going to travel around the world by motorbike. I am absolutely sold on this bohemian wind-in-your-hair lifestyle now!
Just as we round the corner to the guesthouse, I spot Ali over in the stables and he waves to me. I had bought some chocolate biscuits this morning so I go to my room to get them and then head over to the stables to give them to him. He is making koochie and I sit with him for a few minutes and help him make a few. Sundur Kali is not here so I don't think I'm breaking any rules. He can see I'm sad and he says to me that I should come and visit Saki when he's back on Thursday. I loosely hug his shoulders and say that I definitely will. Happy happy, joy joy.
It is only early afternoon so I decide to go into the village and have a 'browse'. I pass by the man that runs the women's group. He tells me that they are all back from working at the festival now and would I like to come and start teaching English soon? I confirm that I am free whenever he is and so we arrange to meet on this corner at 12:30pm tomorrow. He tells me that the women are really looking forward to having a "real England person" to talk to :-) I wonder if I should tell him that I'm also a 'celebrity'? Ha ha!!!
In the village, I stumble across a shop called Happy House. It is a souvenier shop (larger than most) and is run by a group of women who have divorced their husbands, usually as a result of extreme violence. Regardless of their reasons, if you divorce your husband here, you are pretty much cast out and totally shunned. The women have had to flee from their homes, with nothing but their children and what clothes they could bring. They now make paper using elephant dung, paint in traditional methods, make jewellery and also create wonderful baskets and pots using recycled foils and papers. I spend well over an hour looking at all the different items and can't believe that such beautiful things can be made from what other people consider 'rubbish'. I could spend an absolute fortune in here but instead I just buy my son his knife (would rather these women have my money than any of the other souvenier shops) and some traditional art which has been handpainted on postcards. I think I will be back though as I spot lots more treats on my way out! I'm going to need a bigger bag to take all this stuff back home ...
A Nepalese 'shopping bag' - inside this rolled up newspaper is a top that I bought. Everything comes wrapped in paper here.
I drop my shopping back at the guesthouse and then do an about turn and head back into the village to use the internet. And here I am! It's now 7:00pm and I'm quite pleased that - for once - I am bang up to date with my Blog. Hoorah! I doubt I'll be able to keep this up though as I have my teaching starting from tomorrow (12:30pm to 3:00pm), and then from Friday I hope that Saki will let me come back to be with Sundur Kali for a couple of hours a day. Fingers crossed for me everyone!!! :-)