Wednesday, January 24, 2018

Lama Gau
A camping trip in Nuwakot
by Utkrishta Mulmi

Tea in the morning, after the sunrise views.

Off we go! NO NO, where are the tents and the clothes and ALL that!

Another camping trip delayed because of my tonsils. That is until Friday 29 December 2017.

We checked everybody’s bags to see if they had under packed. And we found out that everybody had under packed. I had to call my mother to bring mooooore clothes and another bag to pack. She also got us some snacks for the road.

Early morning sun as we head out. Anita? Shila? Utu? Whooooo took this photo?

We had tested our tents and found that one of the tents had to be used as a supply tent because it was more of a summer tent. The next tent, mine that is, was big but very very netty. And another tent the blue had a broken pole. So suddenly, we looked like we were going to needs more tents. Pallav sir went to seek some and came back with one and many more if we needed from a chap in the Nepal Scouts who had 100+ tents. So that was our tent problem solved, however, the solution did not come of much use because we decided it was already toooooo late to go get more tents. We would make do with the 5 we had.

Down, hiking to the campsite and the farm. This one is by Anita Bhattarai the great.

We checked what we had packed for the trip against a list of camping essentials for two nights, three days:

Essentials: Tent; Sleeping bag; Pots, plate, mug, spoon, fork; Knife; Rope; Shoes 2 pairs as one could get damaged and you cannot walk barefoot; Caps 2 winter woolly and fleece, baseball cap for the summer; Slippers; Torch light and batteries; Lighter and a little bit of diesel or fuel to help with the fire; Swim wear for the summer; Fishing line and hooks; Marshmallows if they don’t cost a cow.

Our 4 year old campers find a rato mato painting earth mine.

Sanitary items: Sanitary napkins for the girls (can’t go looking for those in the jungles or mountains); Tooth brush; Community tooth paste because we don’t want to carry 9 tubes, all leaking in our bags; Community soap which everyone would want at the same time; Toilet paper (plenty in case someone or everyone gets the runs)

Medical kit needs to cover: Headaches/ fever; Tummy aches; Antihistamines for allergies; Antiseptic cream for scratches and scrapes and cuts (to be avoided); Anti vomiting; Rehydration packs (salt and sugar); Cotton, iodine, bandages, band aids; (Generally acetaminophen, pantoprazole, metformin, cetirizine, flexion, antibiotic cream, bandages…)

Himal Chuli pallo patti, hiu pareko thiyo!

Wearables: Warm full thermo cot for each night; High neck wear 2, fleece, Scarf for the neck to protect my tonsils (I ended up taking 3); Thick jackets 2; 1 underwear for every night and 1 extra; 2 T-shirts for every 24 hours during summer and 1 extra; Night clothes, t-shirt, trousers, 2 pairs of socks (1 thin cotton, 1 thick woolly), 1 fleece hoody, 1 pair of fleece trousers

We repacked all our supplies that we would need for the camping trip together making sure everyone had enough. Since we were not carrying the stuff, we could afford to take moooore than we needed. If we were carrying all this stuff now, our kit would be a lot lighter. We had a looooot of stuff that we had to cram in but we managed.

Heeeey, where are YOU off to with the sirak and all?

Blankets and even siraks we had! How did we get all of this into the van? It had not roof carrier so all of it had to go in and there was limited space. Well, here is where we get creative. We spread 3 layers of blankets as on the van seats making our seats cushier than ever! All our tents went under our seats, all of the bags, our sleeping mats and our other supplies went into the back of the van. It took a lot of time but we got everything together. Then we watched a movie and went to sleep.

OFF we go! YES YES. Bumps a daisy!

Vidheha the biiiiig. At 4 years old, both Bishesh and Vidheha help us carry stuff.

The next day the driver came and took apart all the stuff we had packed saying that he had to take out the bag at the bottom! I felt like he was just kidding and making us work more and more. When we got everything packed we headed out. We were on the van for 2 hours I took like 10 naps until we were at a shop far-far away in the mountains. There were three houses and an outhouse/bathroom.

Innovation at work. A fan blows into the fire.
There was also some bunnies and chickens and buffalos and goats. We had some biscuits and pakodas. We played with the bunnies and goats and buffalos that I called cows because I didn’t know the difference :P. 

We got a bit of exercise getting out of the van and nibbling on this and that. But I was so comfy in the van that I did not want to come out. Since I would get a bit hungry I had to come out too!

Once we gobbled and played we went on to Kakani and the mountains were so beautiful. Then we would head on to Ranipauwa where we got off and moved our stuff to a truck. We all went in the back with the truck with the stuff and we did not think it would be sooooooo bumpy. We held on to the railing and were jumping and shaking and dancing, even those that were sitting down.

Someone's found a bunnniiee.

The FARM: pigs to cuddle, dogs to chase, buffalo to chase us and ducks a quacking and chickens a cooking!

We got to Elvis uncle’s farm (Elvis uncle is Pallav sir’s friend from school) where the first animals we saw were 7 or 8 dogs. I did not know why he needed so many dogs but then he told me that he sold dogs, bred them. At first I thought why would you sell dogs then I realized that one male Labrador fetched like 15 thousand rupees and since his Labrador just got 8 puppies he was going to be rich by selling them. But the catch is that he had to get people to buy the dogs in order to get the money.

But there was a problem. He also had 1200 ducks that laid only 60 eggs in a day because of the cold! So I was thinking all the money he would make from the pups would go into feeding them. That is a big loss of money! But Elvis uncle said that he was looking to sell the ducks.

The 1 dalmatian and the 1 buffalo are both kids and they like playing!

The 1200 ducks at the farm.

He also had about 20 pigs, lots of vegetables, a young buffalo too, goats in the shed that I did not count and about 40 local chicken running around. Some dogs were up front at the gate tied to their chain and some were near the actual house. His farm’s area was very big his house was pretty small though. 

We went to his house and sat down on a bench and had some peanuts. Everyone was asking when are we pitching our tent, I guess that they were excited to sleep in a tent so we had lunch and we head off from the back door to the village behind his farm. We saw some fields but we also saw a big angry oxen so we definitely were not going to sleep where he could come and take down the tents and us. So we went back to the climb where Pallav sir we would camp originally which Bhawati maam and Sabita didi did not want to do. It was next to the burial grounds. The place was great for the tents buuut… we did not want people to see the tents and try to steal our stuff when we were at the farm or hiking off somewhere. Now we it was 3 o’clock and we thought that we were going to have to pitch our tents tomorrow and sleep in Elvis uncle’s house.

Ganesh Himal range.

But Pallav sir did not want that so we went up a cliff into a jungle that ended quickly and saw lots of grassy terraces and sloped clearings and a fallen tree that was cut. This was part of the farm so the tree could be used for firewood in the night by us. Sabita didi started cutting some parts of the trunk.

The Campsite: A Graveyard and A Dumpsite: AMAZING mountain views though!

We went up the hill and got to the graveyard and a great field. The first light of the morning and the last light of the evening would be there with us and hopefully no strong winds to carry us off to the beautiful amazing Himachuli, Ganesh Himal, and Dorje Lakpa peaks that we could see from there.

Utu and Shila pitch tents.

Elvis uncle had placed a giant dump there, but even if there was a graveyard and a dump, we decided to that it was the most amazing place to stay. So half of us started clearing the area and half of us including me went to get the fire wood that Sabita didi was cutting down with a khurpa. It took 2 hours but everything was ready except for the tents and our bags and sleeping materials

Group photomarch.

So we got to pitch our tents and got them ready by 6 o’clock and we told Elvis uncle to get all our stuff that was still in our van up there. Our stuff came and we packed everything inside our tents. So now it was 7 ‘ clock and everything was ready so we got into our sleeping clothes and went back to the farm for dinner.

Anita kills some trees, she buuuuurns them. Bad girl. And she is SMILING!

At the farm, we had noticed all the pumpkins on the roofs (if you store pumpkins in a dark and moist place it will start to rot so they land up in the roofs of Nepal). Vidheha thought that we should make jack-o-lanterns even though Halloween had passed a few months ago so we would carve a pumpkin and put it in the night sky to glow.

Saili also loves camp fires.

We played the flute but my flute was missing but I did not tell anyone because I thought I would get in trouble. Pallav sir later found the flute and since I had put it where the puppies could access them, they had taken it to the goat shed and eaten it! So I got into trouble anyways and everyone gave me the LOOK! And including ANITA who would later drop her flute as she climbed and step on it breaking it into many shards. She got into trouble TOO. Maybe I should also have given her the LOOOK but I didn’t because I am a good boy.

Fire at the campsite to keep away visitors from the graveyard right there.

Later we drank some Nepali raksi heated in the fire with ghee butter and methi fenugreek fried in it. We, the kids, didn’t like it too much but it was already very cold and it could be very cold in the night so it helped warm us a little. Then we ate dinner and had our drinks. The dinner was rice, dal, chicken and spinach.

We went back up to our camp, got a huge campfire going. The sparks from the wood fire was flying all over and we thought they would reach and burn our tent but nothing weird happened. We went to sleep.

WHAT?!!! Awake at 4:30 in the MORNING?

The next day we got woken up by Pallav sir at like 4 o’clock and he told us to come out of our tents, so we did and we saw a very black sky. We had to sit and watch as it turned light, then a litttttle red and then very red and orange sky and the clouds spread out. We got to watch the morning star. Oooo, I forgot to tell you about the astronomy class that we had with our heads stuck out of tents. We watched the moon, the stars, the constellations, and guessed which were the planets.

Back to the morning. The sky got redder and redder till the sun came out. The morning star, or Venus was very bright and I just got to learn that the plants are bright because they reflect the light of the sun!

While the sky was still red, Sabita didi made us tea and I got my snacks out for everyone to eat. After we finished our morning tea we headed down to the farm and I realized that walking to the farm was longer and harder coming up on a van. When we got to the farm and heard a thousand barks we found out that Elvis uncle and Kaplana ma’am went to Kathmandu to sell animals or buy animal foods at 4, just before we awoke.

We had instructions to cook dal and the vegetables and the chicken and we made rice after they came at 11 and had a great lunch. We played with the dogs and the puppies a lot. Elvis uncle was teasing me that if I kissed a piglet, she would turn into a princess! No, I did not want that! No pig princesses for me.

While the sky was still red Sabita didi made tea and I got my snacks. After we finished our morning tea we headed down to the farm. We were greeted by a thousand barks. I found out that Elvis uncle and Kalpana ma’am had gone to Kathmandu to bring feed for the animals at 4 in the morning. Boy they wake up early around here: I later learned he sometimes goes to the city at 2 in the morning. Wow! That is… very early. I hardly have the words to express my feelings.

What? You woke us UP for a SUN RISE?

The dog ATE my flute!

I could not find my flute. Pretty soon, Pallav sir would say, “Play the flute.” And I would be in trouble. I had realized that my flute was gone in the night when he asked us to play before dinner, I made an excuse and said I had left it at the campsite. I was glad when he did not ask us to play by the campfire.

Now where was the flute? I was looking hither and thither. And Sabita didi gave me the flute from under the bench. I found out what had happened. I had left my flute outside and the puppies had gotten it and used it as their chew toy. It was all chewed up and unplayable. It was my new flute and by now I had broken or lost 4 flutes and each of them cost Rs. 1000.

So I got scolded and later heard about Urvi and Vidheha who have had their flutes for years and years without destroying them from Dhana sir too.

I was surprised actually as I definitely do not remember taking my flute out of the flute box.

That's the flute she killed. She stomped on it.

Misery loves company. I have a partner in crime. 

Since we needed a place to sit without having to go in and out of the tent a million times, Anita, I and Shila were told to bring 3 light plastic chairs up to the campsite. It was very difficult at first but we found a comfortable way to hold the chairs carrying them on the head like helmets. For some reason Anita decided to bring her flute along and also got the idea of racing even though there was like 5 inches of dust on the road and it was hard enough to walk uphill to the campsite.

The idea backfired as she ran. She dropped her flute and stepped on it cracking it pretty badly. HOORAY! I went (NOT aloud!). I’m not the only one who broke his flute on the camping trip. Not she would get a scolding and the eyes too and I had a partner in misery. We reached the campsite and we left the chairs and went down. Anita, of course, didn’t bring her flute along. She thought Pallav sir wouldn’t notice the missing flute but... he found out soon enough and Anita, too, got a scolding.

Utu and Anita make some cute friends. 

The vets and everything I forgot

After that, I wanted to play with the puppies again so Pallav sir told us to go to take them to the clearing outside of the compound where there was a small settlement of about four houses. I, Shila and Anita also made artwork of the mountains and portraits of each other other because the mountains were difficult to draw.

We played with them until we got called for our soon to be chicken dinner. Elvis uncle cut the chicken and we held the dead chicken as Pallav sir cut the meat. We have a system of cutting chicken where we make sure we do not chop the bones and cut the meat at the joints leaving no sharp fragments. We separate the meat into curry or fried lot and the soup lot. That way, the curry or fried meat is really good and the bones and the odds and ends make great soup.

The dalmatian fell off a roof and broke her leg. She came malnourished and dying. Elvis save her!

After we were done, we gave the meat to Kaplana mam to cook. Elvis sir was already there and so were some vets. They were there to vaccinate the pups! He gave shots to the Japanese Spitz puppies. Anita and Vidheha held the puppies each. I got to hold the German Shepherd pup as it was pretty heavy. The Labrador pups were too young (just two days old) to be vaccinated.

Pallav sir also told me and Anita to go and interview the veterinarians. Well… we did interview them and we learned a lot but we did not have our notebooks and I have not learned to record the interviews on my phone, so we ended up forgetting everything. Oopsies!

The happy family.

Next time, I will take my mobile phone and record the interviews. Pallav sir says its much easier to make notes though because usually people say much much more than what is needed for an article and listening to them 3 times on tape is just too time consuming. He prefers the pen and paper. I think I would prefer just recording and figuring things out later. I have trouble writing down what people are saying and perhaps I need to improve my interviewing skills are not so good right now.

Vidheha is brave and holds Maili while she is being vaccinated. Utu held the buzz buzzy German Shepard baby.

The beautiful river in the valley

Then we decided to explore more and went on the pickup truck as soon as we ate. We went down lower and lower on the road. It was a bumpy ride and we thought that it took forever. It was very very dusty as well. And everyone looked like they had turned into vampires. When Pallav sir told us that we had been in the pick up for only half an hour, I thought he was bluffing.

Well, we did not get to the river after all! It was too far away and the sun had almost set. We got off, we saw banana trees, a poster for president, more roads and a shop. We had our mayonnaise and jam sandwiches. They were a weird mix but a tasty one. I also bought some snacky snacks for the rest of the trip. After our little snack break we decided to look around and climb a hill. Pallav sir, Elvis uncle and I went up a hill and found lots of red earth a vegetable garden and a hut with an old man living in it. We then went down the hill and called everyone and went up the hill again but on another path.

The generous old man

We came around and went up and down and Pallav sir brought us to the same hut and the old man. Though it was getting very late, the old man told us to stay for a bit and talk to him. He asked us “What some city people are doing in a tiny village like this?” We told him that we had come camping from Jawalakhel and were exploring around this road.

I was glad Pallav sir decided to give some time to the old man. He showed us immense hospitality and gave us cups full of fresh milk and ripe bananas from his trees. He insisted that we should stay overnight but we needed to go back to our camp so that we could make dinner and sleep. So we bid him good bye. And he taught me a few things about being generous. Pallav sir said there were many people like him in Nepal when he trekked across the country. He was sad that people have changed a lot now and we have to be more careful of them than the animals and nature.

The old man is sooooo kind. He gives all of us dozens of fresh bananas straight from the grove and fresh fresh milk.

Back to the farm with some stupid people

We got in the truck and looked at the time to see if Pallav sir was lying when he said we took half an hour to reach here. While on the van something weird happened. People started climbing on our truck and jumping off just for fun. Because the ride was very dusty and very very steep, the truck was going very slow, like 10 kilometers an hour, I think people walk at the speed of 15 or 18 kilometers an hour so you can imagine how slow we were. When a lot of people including 7 year olds did this I felt scared. I did not want them to fall and break their heads on rocks or for them to fall under our wheels and get run over. It was clearly very stupid what they were doing and I screamed at them to get off.

Elvis uncle stopped the truck and that made them go away except one who hung on like a monkey who tried to climb right up to the roof and jumped off when we reached the farm.

The Jack-o-Lantern

That's the Jack-o-Lantern we made!

We finally reached the farm and we found out that it takes an hour to get back to the farm. We also remembered the pumpkin and when Pallav sir asked for a knife to carve it, we found out that we had taken the knife to the campsite and left it there. So he got a nail cutter to carve the pumpkin. Hahaha but we only used it because there was no other sharp and pointy knives that would be good for carving pumpkins.

Ya know, the tummy of the pumpkin felt a bit like human innards! Or, rather, Utu and Vidheha take out Jack's brains.

We made a pretty nice Jack-o-Lantern. Vidheha and I were charged with removing the seeds and the innards! It was sticky and a little yucky. After we took some pictures of the Jack-o-Lantern in the dark with a light source (a candle that we broke in two) in it and then we ate dinner and went up to our tents to sleep.

We made a pretty good campfire before going to sleep though.

Jack grins a lot even though his brains are all removed by ours truly. He's cute, not scary!

The next day

Now we were on the 3rd day of our camping trip and we were able to stay in our sleeping bags late. No sun rises for us today as we had done it before. Vidheha reeeeaaaallly did not want to go back home and leave the puppies Maili and Saili on the farm. She even asked if we could buy them. Indeed the Japanese Spitz were a ball of white warm fluff and very playful. The Dalmatian was full of energy and the German Shepard pup was not all that people friendly and wanted to just run and play in the farm, disappearing more than half the time.

But before we went back to our homes we went to the farm for some last activities. We went out into the village again and took the puppies with us and played with them. Kanchi and the pups went into a stalky jungle and we were worried they would get lost and we tried to lure them out of the jungle. We found that the best way to get them out was actually to not give them any attention.

Tea time again!

When all of them came out we decided to take them back to the farm. Saili was getting stuck all the time and I helped her (a little fearful that Kanchi would think I was trying to steal her pup and bite me).

Packing up! and heading home

Anita and Utu have a fight over water bottles and are NOT helping each other.

After that Anita, I and Bhagwati ma’am went up to our campsite where we packed everything up. We started by taking everything out of the tents and piled them up in the centre. I threw some water at the ashes of the fire just to be sure that there wouldn’t be a forest fire.

Then we started to dismantle our tents and MAN! It was not EASY! We should have helped each other but I and Anita were fighting over water bottles and were mad at each other. I turned into a smelly sweaty monster by the time we were done.

Wippie, Yippie, Wup!

After all the tents were packed up Bhagwati ma’am went to the farm to bring the truck so that we could load everything and head out. But it took a while and by a while I mean literally 1 hour: not kidding. We were getting bored and decided to race.

Sabita didi is our best camping companion.

After the van fiiinaaally came, we we packed everything up and off we went stopping by to eat at a mo:mo: shop. The people there were very smart: they used a pasta maker to prepare the dough. The people here were pretty smart: first the fan to light the fire now the pasta maker to make mo:mo:.

Utu sulking, that is Myyyyyyy Water Bottle. Shhhheeeeeee tooooook it!

The mo:mo: there was delicious and we had a plate each. Then we headed back on track and I took a nap and got covered by Nepali powder (dust) as Pallav sir says. I was sleeping with my mouth open for a bit and now I know the taste of dust! It was crunchy sandy and you too might want to taste it someday. We saw monkeys on the way Ooooing and Eeeing. We got off the van when we reached Balaju and transferred everything and everyone to our van except Pallav sir and Sabita didi who went on Elvis uncle’s van so they could drop Sabita didi off in Kirtipur.

Mo:mo: mania.

Anita inspecting her mo:mo:s like it is going to run away.

Monday, January 8, 2018

I am making peanut butter
told by Vidheha Ranjan
4 January 2018

Peanut butter is among Vidheha's favorite food. Sometimes she eats peanut butter on bread and sometimes she just wants a spoonful of peanut butter. We had made different types of jam. We had made mayonnaise. Now we wanted to make peanut butter. 

First we went to the shop and bought peanuts. We went in the evening to buy peanuts. We made peanut butter the next day. Everybody sat around. 

It was Anita didi’s birthday. We were making birthday cards when Baba called me and my friends. We sat around. The electric oven was brought to the big room. We watched video on how to make peanut butter. 

All the peanut that we had bought was brought inside. The peanut was roasted in the electric oven. The oven was white. The tray was black.

Baba and Maiju and I and Anita didi and all of us roasted the peanut. Then we readied everything. Peanuts, cake, candy, sugar, salt and oil was ready. Utu dada had made Anita didi’s face cake on the poster. Eena didi, Megshya didi and others had helped. 

Sabita didi brought the grinder and peanuts were put in the grinder. The peanut became creamy and it was put in the jar. We did this four times. Then the grinder broke. However, the peanut butter was ready.

The next day we ate the peanut butter on bread. I like peanut butter. We all ate peanut butter. I like to eat peanut butter off the spoon.

I liked the taste.

- 0 -

Wednesday, January 3, 2018

Muna Madan: a Synopsis
by Eena Shrestha
21 December 2017, Thursday

Over a month, we sang through Muna Madan at school. The Nepali version as well as the version translated into English by Pallav sir. This section contains a synopsis of the story. We will visit our emotional responses, our literary responses and our learning over the weeks as the plan is to reread the book again. 

Muna Madan is a Nepali story that is about a newly wedded couple who were poor. They couldn’t afford milk for Madan’s mother, pretty bangles for Muna’s wrists and Madan left for Lhasa to earn the money. Muna pleaded him not to go, “What will we do with gold?” she asked him, “I don’t need pretty bangles. We can grow, harvest and eat food right here, we have shelter. All we need is right here, but if you leave not everything will be here anymore.”

“Muna, I want to see pretty bangles on your wrists, I want finish my mother’s dream to build a shelter for travellers, a drinking tap for others to drink water from,” Madan says with determination, “Don’t put a barrier of tears on my way, don’t cry, I promise I’ll be back in 20 days.”

Madan leaves, he travels to Lhasa, but he doesn’t return in 20 days, he forgets about his 20 days on the road. He stays in Lhasa for months not thinking about home and his promises to Muna.

Back home, Muna and Madan’s mother await, to see him again, to hug him and to talk to him. Time passes and they are still waiting for his arrival, Madan then awakes and remembers Muna, his mother, his promise, and home.

He starts heading home with some friends that he made in Lhasa that are from where his city. On the way back he gets sick with cholera so his friends abandon him there in the forest.

A Tibetan sees Madan and carries Madan back to his home. The Tibetan cures Madan, Madan is sad and wants to head home. Seeing the Tibetan’s children play and laugh together makes him very happy so he was very, very  sad to leave. He offers the Tibetan half the gold he has, but the Tibetan declines and asks him “What will I do with gold? My children can’t wear it for warmth. We can’t plant it and eat it.”

“What can I give you in return for curing me?” Madan asks.

“It was just chance, you can’t give me anything.” the Tibetan says, “You can only promise me that you will tell your friends and family about me.”

“I will tell everyone about you and how you saved my life!” Madan shouts and waves goodbye to them as he leaves the Tibetan’s house.

Back home Madan’s mother is on the edge of death and news of Madan’s death has reached home, but little did they know that Madan was alright and coming home. Muna has already left the surface of earth and gone above the clouds.

Madan journeys back home eventually with two bags of gold and finds that his mother is dying in her bed and Muna isn’t there. Madan places the two bags of gold at the end of his mother's bed and says, “I’ve brought the gold where do you want to build shelter and a water tap for homeless point where and we will build it there.”

His mother points in a direction just before she passes away. At her funeral Madan asks his sister where Muna had gone. His sister said “Muna was upon this earth, at her parents’ home. She blinked with the stars, laughed with the flowers, cried with the dew, and spoke with the blackbird.”

“Sister tell me that she is only at her parents’ home and not dead.” Madan says meaningfully.

“She is in the city above the clouds in the city that is filled with light, she is picking flowers of happiness up there.” His sister tells him.

“Muna, my love I will come see you!” Madan calls to the clouds.

“Brother of mine don’t worry we will all go there someday.” His sister assures him.

“Fulfill our mother’s dream for me and her.” He asks her.

Madan’s sister finds Madan’s body in his bed.