Makalu-Barun, part IV: Return to Khandbari
Trip Start Mar 21, 2005
351Trip End Ongoing
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On the first day of November, Maila and I began our three day trip back to Khandbari. At that point I'd be out of money, but at least I'd be better off than the lizard that lived in the squat toilet hole of Tashigaon. "Life is shit," said the lizard.
I promised Maila that today was the big day to break out the old "Nepali spoon." Until today, I had eaten dal bhat with a spoon while Maila ate with his right hand, which he called the "Nepali spoon." For dinner, I ate with my Nepali spoon, to the delight of our host family and Maila. "Nepali spoon, ha ha...mmmmh" he smiled.
On the trail to Chichura, we passed flocks of Red-bellied Leiothrix, Whiskered Yuhina, Green-backed Tit, and many warbler species. They congregated in thickets full of ripened fruits, caterpillars, and other insects, making a racket on the way. Many of these forest birds only live in the Himalayas, an endemic hotspot. It makes sense: the Himalayas form a massive boundary for forest birds wanting to fly north and, to the south, the Gangetic Plain forests are completely different habitats.
We returned to Khadbari on the third day. Sandy had already left after being sick when she returned--not fun. For three days I stayed at Maila and Surya's shack, which was a temporary home as Surya went to school and Maila worked at the school as caretaker. On the way back, we met Tejanath, the director of the scholarship program that administered Surya's tuition. He had 7000 rupees for me, as a loan: Sandy and I knew that we were short on money, so had planned this, luckily--a big "thank you" to Sandy and Tejanath for all their help.
From this, Maila got his well-deserved pay. Also because we didn't eat dal bhat for a week, he had saved much more. You could tell he was happy. That night, he returned from the market with a rooster, broke its neck, defeathered it, and prepared it with a dal bhat meal. He had also bought newly-brewed millet chang from the neighbors, which we drank from his bamboo mugs called thungba.
We toasted together. "A great trip," I said. "Mmmmm," said Maila, putting the thungba straw to his lips. I knew what he meant as it captured all we went through and all he had come back to.
Surya and I also had a few days to talk about life in Khandbari, life in America, his progress with the pull-up bar he built from bamboo, and school. Mainly we stayed in their yard hanging out with the neighbors, who liked to come visit and sit around.
One day, I volunteered at Khandbari Secondary School, teaching English in two classes, class nine and class six. The teachers wanted me to talk about America. Seeing one class was studying about food, I talked for a while with them about barbeque and how enjoyable barbeques are. I drew a picture of a bed of hot coals cooking meat on a grill. "You invite your friends over, listen to your favorite music, and eat outside." If that isn't American, I don't know what is.
I left early on the morning of the full moon, waking up to the moonset over the Himalayas. Surya's Ama had prepared a flower garland for me, as had their neighbor. Surya had made a rudraksha necklace for me. All amazing farewell gifts.
"Thank you so much...this is very meaningful," I said. "I hope we will meet again, someday, somewhere."
We will always remember you, goodbye," said Surya as I left up the hill with Maila. Maila walked with me until I left Khandbari, heading down the hill towards Tumlingtar airport to fly back to Kathmandu on Sita Air.