19.03.2016 - 24.03.2016 23 °C
In keeping with my temporary new, simple life, I've decided to just continue with this same blog rather than start a new one. To set the scene, here's a bit about where I'm staying.
The wider Pumdibhumdi area is just beginning to get into the homestay scene, with a few local families in various stages of preparedness for western guests. I’m lucky to be staying with Prakash Gurung and his family (his wife and his unmarried sister) at House #3 in Kalabang village, in between Bhumdi and Pumdi.
Prakash is the only one who speaks English in this household, but his English is generally excellent, and he is quite particular about being corrected, whether it be his pronunciation or choice of word. He’s a 61yo retired gent who seems to have a finger in just about every village pie. Apart from being the Chairman of the School Committee for Shree Bhagawati Primary School (my school), he is also a member or adviser on a number of other committees that are so important for the day-to-day functioning and future improvement of the Pumdibhumdi community, spread out over the hills behind Pokhara. I’ll write more about that separately.
My room is comfortable. It is a separate building (perhaps a converted stable or storeroom?) to the side of the main house. I have a warm, snuggly bed, a low table and a chair, a flyscreen door to keep the insects out, and both the floor and ceiling are lined. At night, if the electricity is available, there is a light and a socket so that I can recharge my bits and pieces, and at other times I can use the other, solar-powered light. It’s dimmer than the electric one, but bright enough for anything I need to do. At night I wear earplugs to sleep, because the goats are next door, and between them and the nearby sheep, the bleating would keep me awake. Also, when I can’t hear the mice running across the roof, they don’t bother me! So far I’ve only seen one murine visitor inside my room and that was on the first night – it didn’t stay long once it realised that I move around.
This house has a fairly reasonable bathroom. There is a spotlessly clean squat toilet – to be replaced by the commode temporarily stored in my room, as soon as they can entice a plumber from Pokhara – a full-sized handbasin, a cold-water shower and a solar light. Each morning I’m invited to take a bath, which involves heating water over the open fire (I mean my hosts do this for me – I’m not expected to do it myself), and filling two large buckets. These are placed in the bathroom for me, with a large plastic tub to stand in, and a jug to scoop the water and pour it over myself. It doesn’t beat a real shower, but it’s surprisingly satisfying.
The meals I take at the house are eaten on the verandah, giving me a good view of the village comings and goings, as well as the women of the house going industriously about their chores. Directly in front of where I sit is the main outdoor ‘workstation’ on the forecourt – the cold water supply diverted from the village tap nearby, and the outdoor open fire. It seems that the water is in use almost constantly, whether for washing dishes, washing clothes, preparing food for the animals, heating water for my bath etc. From early in the morning until bedtime, you can hear the trickle and slosh of water. Luckily I seem to have become mostly immune to the sound.
Off the verandah are the huge earth-floored kitchen, a storeroom where there is a fridge, and the family’s bedrooms. The bathroom is located between the fridge room and the sheep pens, accessed from the forecourt.
Apart from the flock of sheep and the goats, there are also a couple of buffalo down on the next terrace, a few tiny little chickens (mature, but a small breed) and a dog. It’s not clear to me whether the dog has a name, but I think of him as Jekyll&Hyde because he’s fiercely protective when people and other animals approach the house outside of daylight hours, but the rest of the time he’s happy and practically silent. He seems to have accepted me as part of the household right from my first appearance, because he has never once barked at me. Sometimes he guards the door of my room when I am not inside.
Intricate narrow footpaths connect all the houses in the village. People either walk past below the terraced fields in front of the house, or if they actually want to stop and say Namaste, they climb the short stairway and walk across the forecourt.