Return to Rasuwa
Sitting atop the bus to Rasuwa, I was full of emotions. It had been 18 months since I was there before volunteering in the children’s transition home, Ganesh Himal, in Syaphrubesi. The home had since closed and all of its’ occupants returned to their families in surrounding villages. Of course I was excited to see the children again, but also nervous to see how well they had adapted to their rural family life. Not to mention I was fearing for my life on the roof rack of the bus, sandwiched between a sack of potatoes and an old woman, crossing landsides, waterfalls and police checkpoints at speeds that would better suit Formula1 racing!
After 13hours of buses, trucks and hikes we finally reached the village of Gatlang. At this point the sun had set long ago, but a beautiful array of stars and a luminescent moon lit the way down to the homestay. It was truly breathtaking scenery – this peaceful little village, nestled in the hills against the dramatic backdrop of the Langtang mountain range. We were greeted by Rajesh, the homestay owner, with a tray of hot tea and chapati. Needless to say, this was devoured in moments as we were ravenous and really feeling the cold up at 2220m. He cooked us a delicious dal bhat while explaining about Tamang culture and healing powers of mountainous frogs.
The next morning, we went for a walk through the village. We were only 2 minutes gone when I saw a familiar face – Monika. She was playing with her little brother Himal, her neighbours and a kitten. I called to her and she instantly replied ‘Sister!’ and invited all 8 of us into her home! Her mother and father gave us a warm welcome and didn’t hesitate to put on the tea. I was worried about communicating with her parents but Monika was a very able translator – she seemed completely fluent in tamang after just 18 months! We chatted, reminisced and laughed, laughed, laughed. All the volunteers left with bellies full of tea and an invite for dal bhat later on. I left with a much more than that. For me, seeing Monika in her home, surrounded by family, speaking her language, carrying so many of the isms of her mother and being a veritable ‘part of the furniture’ left me full to the brim not only with tea, but with happiness and pride. Happy to see the success of the re-integration project firsthand and proud to be part of what Umbrella had accomplished. The missing pieces of the jigsaw were returned – the family complete
We had chapati tarkari (flat bread and curried vegetables) for breakfast and headed off to visit the school. We were joined by Rabin and Rajan, two of the older boys from the transition home. Both boys are now in Class 9 and Rabin was telling me how he would be going on his first trek as an assistant guide during the Dashain holidays. They have both grown up so fast, I still cant believe it!
The school was a good size with some decent facilities, including a computer lab. Umbrella have already helped this school by providing the school with 2 extra teachers and donating school supplies. However, there is still plenty to be done. There was a big problem with the flooring and classroom furniture. Some of the classrooms looked like construction sites. Adeline and Victor, returning french volunteers will be living there for 2 months to support and improve life in the community by working in the health post and improving school resources. In particular, Victor is hoping to begin changing one of these ‘construction sites’ into a library. They have a lot of work ahead of them. With limited funding for this project, they will be relying on the goodwill of the locals and Umbrellas kind donors for support. If you would like to donate to the Gatlang school project, you can do so here:
We then walked to Parbati Gunda – a lake where buddhists can worship, which is also said to have medicinal purposes. It reminded me of ‘The Secret Garden’ – a private little oasis tucked away in the Himalayas. After cooling off our feet in the refreshing water, we continued on to take tea and biscuits and sampled some local radishes. We huffed and puffed up one last hill to visit a local Yak cheese factory and tasted their produce – delicious!
At 2720m, we surveyed our surroundings while nibbling on cubes of cheese. Above us, snow-capped peaks and rolling hills speckled with yak grazing lazily on the grass. Below us, teams of children carrying enormous loads of hay on their heads, women working the land and men praying at the Gumba. And all around us, the real ambience of a community, people working together to harvest the vegetables, tend to the animals and families living together, supporting and learning from one another.
We began our descent back down the mountain to the village and stopped by a Buddhist Temple. What an incredible location to build a place of worship – heavenly. Again, we were warmly welcomed inside and invited to take some local Raksi as part of a special ceremony to celebrate the full moon. By this time it was getting late and the cold had settled in, so the raksi was a welcome belly warmer! Finally, we reached Gatlang village after all of our exploring and adventures of the day. We enjoyed a beautiful dal bhat prepared by Monika’s mother and took second helpings to convince her that her food was indeed ‘mito’ (tasty)! After much chatting and of course, an obligatory round of raksi, we toddled back up to the homestay and slept.
After a 2 hour hike to the bus the next morning, we clambered up on to the roof and settled in for the long journey home. Exhausted after all the activity of the past 2 days, we had a rather subdued journey home back to Kathmandu with plenty of time to reflect on the picture perfect example of rural Nepal we had been so lucky to see.
– Éadaoin (Returned volunteer)