12 March 2016

Roads Less Trod

I am beaten and bruised and bedraggled.
I am battered.
I am content though.
Very content.
For six hours I have endured a bone rattling drive up through the Kathmandu valley to the village of Arubot.
Arubot is in the Kavrepalanchok district of Nepal. It is the home village of my dear and old friend Kumar Lama. Both the district and the village took a hammering in last year’s earthquakes with nearly a thousand killed, fifteen thousand injured and up to one hundred thousand villagers displaced. Many buildings were destroyed.
The road to the village was only constructed ten years ago and it is drivable only a few months each year. During the monsoons it is mostly washed away. The only way in and out of Arubot before the road was built and during the monsoon months is by walking.
Steep walking.
The road is rutted and pitted and it is only one vehicle wide. It cuts and snakes its way up mountains and through valleys with thousand feet precipices and drop offs for most of the way.
I learned long ago that the best destinations are reached through the hardest of journeys.
Hakuna Matata.
I have come to Arubot to commence the rebuilding of the Sunkoshoi Lower School and to deposit the boyfriend of my daughter here. The BOMD has come to Nepal on a journey of discovery of self and a search for the meaning of life and he expressed a desire to help how he could in a remote village.
So here we are.
It is spectacularly beautiful here in the village.
I am writing this sitting beneath a Bodhi tree, which is adjacent to my home for a couple of nights and the BOMD’s home for a few months. The sun is setting a pale orange and I all around me is the Himalayan mountains.
I am on the roof of the world.
The village home that the BOMD and I are staying in belongs to one of the teacher’s family members and chickens and goats meander around the neat stone terrace. The terrace looks down the steep valley into which are carved tiers for the growing of rice and lentils. Crops have been grown this way for nearly 2000 years.
I envy that the BOMD is staying here for so long.
My daughter is flying here to joining him for a couple of weeks and my brother will also be here soon. My wayward son comes here when he can and he loves the country and the people.
I love that my family loves Nepal.
I really do.
It is written that the Lord Buddha sat beneath a Bodhi tree and for 3 months he ate nothing but a drop of water and a grain of rice as he meditated.
He nearly died.
He claims that this discovery of his own mortality was an essential part of his learning on the path of enlightenment.
There are Bodhi trees scattered across the mountains and most have small Buddhist shrines beneath them. The thick boughs provide great shade and they are an excellent place to just sit and contemplate.
Or to write stuff down.
Clickety clack.
There are eighty students at the Sunkoshi School and it accommodates little ‘uns up until year eight. Like most mountain villages, kids generally have to then walk long distances to study beyond year eight or to go to a boarding school in Kathmandu.
For the Arubot kids they have to endure a six-hour trek each day – six days a week - to finish the final four years of their secondary schooling.
The resilience, perseverance and endurance of the Nepalese never ceases to amaze me.
The BOMD and I have attended a number of local festivals although in Kathmandu I mostly left him to his own devices.
I do not want to get in the way of his search for self.
It’s getting cool now and there is just a hint of sun now on the horizon.
The mountains look as if they have been dipped in gold.
After a few days in Nepal and still then in Kathmandu - the BOMD went to a local barber and had his shoulder length locks shorn from his head in his first haircut in several years. The event was quite a spectacle for an excited audience.
Here we are at the Boudenath temple:
Chill out Mum.
We have not been shot in the forehead.
They are Tilakas.
Sorry I haven’t written in a while too.
Same excuse.

None really.
A Tilaka is a ceremonial mark placed upon the forehead by many people of the Hindu faith.
Worshippers of Shiva call the marking a Tripundra and rather than being a blob on the forehead it is three horizontal lines with a circle in the middle.
The Tilaka are made from ash or clay paste mixed with sandalwood and most are orange or red.
Bindis are a jeweled version of the Tilaka that is only worn by women. A Bindi may be worn to signify that a woman is married or purely as a decorative item but a Tilaka is only applied as a welcoming or during religious festivals.
In Australia a Bindi is a sharp seed thing that sticks into your bare feet in Summer time.
Bindi is a native Australian aboriginal word that means ‘little spear’.
The BOMD has not asked for my thoughts on the meaning of life or self.
For this I am grateful.
For I have not a single clue.
I long ago ceased my search for self and I am content with who I am.
I think though that he will quickly discover a sense of perspective here in the mountains and living with the Nepalese they will teach him the value of kindness and goodness and consideration.
He will learn the importance of decency and empathy.
He will see for himself the significance of family and how true communities really look after the frailest and most vulnerable.
The BOMD has already told me that he misses his mobile phone and his Facebook account as much as he misses his hair.
Which is not at all.
He told me that he misses my baby girl though.
So too do I.
I like the BOMD a lot.
I can see that Kumar has arrived back at the house with his two brothers. Cousins and aunties and uncles are arriving from neighboring villages and we will sip on local beer and laugh and chat while we eat a delicious cauliflower curry.
Later we will sing and dance.
It doesn’t really get much better than this.

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