You are looking at posts that were written in the month of October in the year 2009.
Posted on October 26th, 2009 by Miranda.
Ways to know Nepal loves you:
- My sightsinging prof had told me months ago that I should be in touch with an artist friend of hers who had worked in Nepal. Somehow we never got in touch. Last Friday, after going to two very interesting lectures with Dr. L, he told me that he was headed afterwards to a talk by an artist that looked interesting – and guess who it was.
- I was going on a UNESCO education policy/best practices reading binge this morning, before heading out to a meeting at an NGO that, it turns out, works with UNESCO on mother tongue issues, when Dr. L called to say that he needed to go to UNESCO today to drop off a paper and offered to bring me with him. (It turned out the person he needed to see wasn’t at UNESCO today, so instead I ended up proofreading educational displays for the Sagarmatha National Park entrance and the Kyarok Gompa in Thamiteng, but it was pretty cool for a moment there)
Ways to know Nepal hates you:
- E and I were both working in the living room earlier this evening, and it was just getting dark enough to turn on the light. I turned on the light, sat back down, and the power went out immediately afterward.
Walked with this trekker in the morning – did it in three hours with no stops on the way, which is how long it takes locals. He kept going past Namche, hoping to make it to Jorsale where there’s apparently a lodge that makes good pizza (as opposed to the naan – yak cheese things everyone else calls pizzas).
Had lunch with the family at Pumori, which was lovely, then took a break before heading up to talk to the other KD (there’s a limited number of Sherpa names…) at her family’s lodge. She’s the English teacher at the Namche school, which I think is the only English-medium private school in Khumbu, and one of the five with Sherpa language classes. She had interesting things to say about the school system, and some harsh words (as far as I can tell, totally deserved) about the management of government schools around here.
Hung out in the kitchen with the family and the guides. One of them asked my age and if I was married, which are totally standard early-conversation questions, and Chhing Doma completely told him off, explaining that those are rude questions in western culture and that it’s awkward for a single girl like me to be asked them. It was nice to see someone get told off for asking if I was married! A nice change from most of those conversations, where it goes from those to asking whether I want to marry a Sherpa boy, and then implying (or flat out saying) that they would be an option… Of course, Chhing Doma still feels free to tease me about marrying a Sherpa boy, but that’s different.
The lodge is totally full tonight with a Danish camping group, which means they stay in the lodge but cook their own food. Their loss! I’m staying in Chhiring’s room, though, and the poor guy has to sleep in the dining room.
It’s cold tonight – at one point during dinner Chhing Doma told me she was cold just looking at me and threw a blanket over my legs.
The last time I was here, there was a one-year memorial puja going on across town for a woman who died last year, so I woke up and fell asleep to the sound of the horns at the puja. That one’s over now, but an old woman right downhill from Pumori died shortly after I left for Thame, so they’re in the middle of her puja now. More horns every morning and night.
Politics conversation over dinner – one of the guides says that for now Bahun-Chettris are ahead, but we’ll see what happens in the coming years… the others seem skeptical that anything’s really going to change in the order of things.
This might be getting boring, but I’m back in Namche again. Thame was, again, pretty great – I got a chance to talk to most of the parents and teachers involved in the Sherpa language program, and even some of the kids – though since many of them don’t speak great Nepali yet, it was hard if I didn’t have someone with me to translate.
I’ll be in Namche for a couple days now, and then it’s a one-day walk back to Lukla, an overnight there, and then back to Kathmandu.
The problem with taking yesterday as a rest day is that today is Saturday, which is market day in Namche. So everyone’s at the market in Namche instead of being around Thame. Luckily, it turns out that Dawa Phuti, the daughter of the lodge owners here, is so bored during her month-long Dashain/Tihar break from high school in Kathmandu that it’s more interesting to help me find people to talk to than to sit around the lodge all day. She took me over to KD’s uncle’s house to talk to him, since he has kids at the Thame School, and then over to talk to a mother of two little kids. I sat in the potato field with her and some older women afterward, commenting on the trekkers walking past. But mostly another reading/writing day. Starting to feel like it’s time to head down.
KD went with me in the afternoon to find parents in Thamiteng – and for once we could find people! We managed to find a couple groups of parents taking tea breaks while they harvest potatoes, so there were some group conversations in the potato fields, and then went to a couple of people’s houses. KD was super helpful, also giving me background on people I met. We even grabbed a couple of kids on their way home from school to talk to.
I’m headed to Namche tomorrow – and after failing to find any local people going to Namche tomorrow, a trekker showed up at the lodge who’s going that way in the morning, so that’s good. This guy trekked from Jiri (the nearest road, several days below the Lukla airstrip) up to base camp, over most of the passes, and just came down from Gokyo, so I’m a little worried I won’t be able to keep up with him…
The snow is definitely getting lower on the hills. It’s still cold and rainy.
Lindsay’s reading Sherry Ortner’s Sherpas Through Their Rituals and there’s a photo labeled ‘A Khumbu village’ that’s basically of the view out the window here in Thame. I like that Ortner calls her field site village Zemu (beautiful, in Sherpa) – and I like that I already knew that word!
Went to school today to sit in on four periods of Sherpa language class. The teacher is fantastic! The students are engaged and respectful, and seem interested. The Class 5 students in particular were asking questions that seemed to show they were thinking about patterns in writing the language. Sambhota script is pretty well represented in the materials around the classrooms.
Some things from Sherpas Through Their Rituals
p. 28 – schools are bringing Nepali, but some Sherpa propose teaching Sherpa language in the schools
p. 29 – “All Sherpas are bilingual in their own language and Nepali.” Based on fieldwork in 1966-68. This seems impossible to me, and she just tosses this off as an aside with nothing to support it – maybe things are different in Solu, where she worked? Or maybe things were different then and changed? But this seems like it can’t be right.
Woke up to a clear morning -way more snow on the hills. Beautiful, though! Finally made friends with Ramila, the 3-year-old (?) daughter of a woman who works at Valley View. Rami started speaking about a year ago and talks plenty in Nepali. She doesn’t speak Rai (her mother’s language) or Sherpa (the language she hears around her all day) yet, though I think she at least understands Sherpa. While we’re playing (amazing how much fun you can have kicking and throwing little rocks around a potato field…), she addresses me as timi, the somewhat informal you, when she really should be using tapaai since I’m so much older than she is. It makes me wonder about how children acquire different levels of formality – she’s not going to be addressed in the tapaai form for years, and she probably doesn’t hear it much around the house either.
Today is a rest/reading/writing day. Tomorrow I’ll try to hunt down parents and students, then the headmaster said he’d talk on Sunday. Then probably back to Namche.
This time Thame is cold and rainy. The hills are changing color, the potatoes are almost all harvested so the fields are brown instead of green, and the snow seems lower on the hills below the ridge. AT claims it will snow in Thamiteng sometime soon. There aren’t that many trekkers, but there does seem to be a steady stream.
Went this morning with L and KD to the Kyarok Gompa for L’s interview with the Kyarok Lama. It was nice to see Thamiteng again and see some familiar faces. We had tea at KD’s house, then headed up to the gompa. Took some time to look at the results of the 1985 glof – almost 25 years ago now and it still looks raw and shocking. And there are still landslides just waiting to happen as the riverbank recovers – the path over to Thamiteng from Thame has been adjusted fairly recently because of a landslide and it looks like the rest of that edge of the ridge will go eventually, too. Hopefully no one will be there when it does. There’s also a precariously placed rock above Thamiteng, but it’s been there for hundreds of years. Still, it looks like all it needs is a bit of a tremor and between the rock and the river, the whole village will be flattened.
The Kyarok Gompa is pretty unobtrusive and not ornate compared to some of the others. Maybe because it’s pretty well hidden in a birch forest. Birch! At this altitude! Crazy, but also quite lovely. The lama seemed all alone in the gompa, and it was a little odd to be in his house instead of meeting in more official gompa-y areas – his house was so Sherpa-traditional.
It was interesting to see L do an interview, since I’ve been struggling somewhat with mine. For one thing, if only I spoke Sherpa! And understood how to behave in this culture better.
Then from Kyarok to KD’s house for riggikor (potato pancakes). The method: grate potatoes with a grater so fine the potatoes turn into mush. Add a ladle of flour to make a batter the consistency of apple sauce. For the scallion achar, crush some scallions, add salt and chili, then boiling water to make the right consistency. Heat a griddle, oil lightly, and spread enough potato mush to make a riggikor-sized circle. After a bit, loosen the edges & flip once it’s golden brown. Then flip back once or twice until it’s done. With the achar and fresh nak butter from KD’s family’s animals, it was pretty great. L even cooked the last one herself.
Back to Thame to meet up with AT to go to the school. It’s a tiny little school, only up to class 5, and the Sherpa classes all happen in the morning. So I talked to the headmaster for a moment, who told me to come visit the classes whenever I want and that he’d talk to me when it was sunnier – he didn’t feel like it when it was cold and rainy.
Then over to the handicraft didi’s house, where the nun-teacher and some monks were hanging out. The handicraft didi makes really good chiyaa – it tastes like she caramelizes the sugar slightly before adding it to the tea.
It was sad to leave Pumori! A last pile of tea and food, went out to check email, then more tea before walking to Thame with L, KD and AT. The walk to Thame was much, much easier this time around – amazing what being acclimatized will do. It was also fun to walk with that group – lots of laughing. It was cold, rainy and cloudy, so no views, but the trail still goes past enough nice forest and the like to be pleasant. Lunch in Thamo wasn’t the best dal-bhaat ever, but was at the lodge of KD’s uncle who has the second-most Everest summits. And then from Thamo we did the hard uphill very slowly while digesting. The only bad part of the walk to Thame is that the hard part comes at the very end when you think you’re practically done.
So I’m back at Valley View – after Pumori it seems quiet and boring. Though since I’ve come back and people almost never do that, people are friendly. One of the guides I talked to last night was Gurung, from Gorkha district, who seemed positive about the idea of mother tongue classes, and complained about how he forgets his language when he’s been away from his village for too long. His Nepali was a pain to understand, though, since he and was speaking with a bit of a French accent after speaking French with his French trekker all day.
The blog/short story title of the day is ‘Have you seen my dzopkyo?’ [more on that later]
I’m heading from Namche back to Thame again tomorrow. I’ve had a great time in Namche – a day of vacation/reading, a day with an interminable but fascinating meeting, a day of vacation/participating in the Namche youth group trail cleanup, and today sat in on a class at the Khumjung school and talked to some teachers there. I’ll be a little sad to leave Namche now that I’ve gotten to know some people here, but I think Thame will be a better place to work – Namche is getting crazy with tourist season. Thame has no internet and my phone doesn’t get reception anywhere except from the gomba, though I do think I’ll go up there to talk to the lamas since they’re a recognized educational institution and they teach in sherpa and tibetan.
Up, breakfast in the Pumori lazy fashion, then off to Khumjung w/L, KD, and AT. L and KD are interviewing someone from Khumjung, and AT wants to talk to the Khumjung School’s headmaster about something. KD and AT also both went to the Khumjung School, so they get to go back and visit their teachers.
The walk to Khumjung is not fun – straight uphill for quite a while. I don’t envy the kids who do it every day. It was cloudy, too, so there wasn’t any view, though at least the clouds didn’t seriously start rolling in until later. There are lots of rhododendrons when you start going back down to Khumjung, and something that looks like Spanish moss hanging from the trees.
Khumjung starts with the school when you come from that direction. Maybe I haven’t been in enough government schools yet, but the facilities weren’t as exciting as I’d been led to believe – though they were certainly fine. We sat around the teachers’ offices a while, then talked to the Nepali teacher at the school since the headmaster had gone to Khunde that morning. Then we headed to the gompa, which is nice if not very exciting, and saw the yeti skull there.
Then we had a long lunch at the lodge right next to the big square outside of the school. L and I ended up in a long conversation about names, which must have been pretty odd to KD and AT, coming from a culture where your first name is the day of the week you were born on and your middle name is often given by a lama.
Then to the Sherpa language class at the Khumjung school, and then back to Pumori, where Chhing Doma managed to get me to drink more arak than I really needed. I’m just not good enough at escaping Sherpa hospitality. And then a nice long talk with L about interview techniques and research goals and trying to work with Nepalis.