Thursday, November 14, 2013

Life in a rural village of Nepal

My boss offered me the opportunity to spend four days in a remote village nearby the Tibetan border. At first I felt excited, then terribly uncertain and full of doubts, then excited again. A kind of emotional roller coaster. What a jump into the unknown ! In the end, I decided not to have any expectations. I packed the minimum required, and « went with the flow » (which, for a control freak of my specie, is a hard thing to do).
We drove quite a while, and stopped in the middle of nowhere. Then the challenge was to climb up a mountain, apparently the village was up there. First surprise… How can anyone live so far away from the civilization ? How can you climb up a mountain each time you need to go to buy tooth paste or toilet paper? By the way, where is the grocery store ? Yes, I must confess that I got challenged by many good old Westerner/consumer reflexes. I’m not proud of it. But obviously, when you live in this kind of remote village, each time you need something « from the outside world », you must really ask yourself if you DO really need it.

We finally arrived at the top and got welcomed by a wonderful ceremony, with kata (the white scarf put around the neck), flowers necklaces and tika. People were playing music, clapping, singing… As if we were Christopher Columbus who just discovered the new world. I suddenly got so moved, because my only merit was to have reached the top of the mountain. But for these people, it seemed like our arrival meant so much more…

After a delicious local dinner, we danced. I noticed that grandpas are the kings of the dance floor in this place. We had so much fun ! I am still trying to put my own grandpa in the same context, but somehow it doesn’t fit.

Then came the moment to get introduced to the family we would stay at. And to discover their home sweet home ! Well, it was a very simple place. I got to share a bed for three nights with a German teacher, and the bed in itself was very small and hard. The toilets were outside, next to the goats. There was no shower or any facility of that kind, but if you wanted to brush your teeth, there was « water from the river station », common to several houses, a bit further. As the house was not that big and several generations lived here, according to the Nepali tradition, all the children of the family slept on the floor of the living room. The grandpa slept outside, on the balcony, to « protect the baby goats from the fox ».

The days kept going smoothly. We visited several villages, all so remote from the Nepali civilization I am used to ! Each time, we got a huge welcoming ceremony, re-activating the Christopher Columbus syndrome. Each time, the people were living a very simple life, the kind of life you see in movies like Les Misérables. But they were surely not miserable. Just happy, deeply. And it was what really moved me. In the end, we Westerners have everything we need and much more. But we still complain that « we have nothing to wear » or « we would be much happier if we had a Lamborghini ». Having a shower is the most normal and routine thing to do, while here it is a luxery you can offer yourself once a week, at the fountain of the village. But here they are happy, while we keep running after an invisible and supposedly better fox. Slap in my western face. And it feels good. Because I got to put everything into perspective and to relativize my « big problems ».
Other fact which moved me : those people are absolutely convinced that our life on the Western part of the globe is great and that we are right. Whatever we do or say is considered as if an angel speaks. Our responsibility towards them is huge : they trust us, simply. But if they could see how paradoxical we are, how superficial we are, how many mistakes we do at home… They might not admire us the same way. We are not Christopher Columbus, we are not God or any kind of success story to take inspiration from. We live far away from our roots, destroy the nature because its « bankable », live together but don’t talk to each other. Our properties are carefully « protected » by a fence, our elderly are stored in an elderly home. So I hope, really, that the people of this cute remote village will never become like us !

The landscapes from up there are magnificent. Days are going slowly, and we finally drop the watch and take the time to watch the daily routine of sunrise and sunset. Everywhere around us, rice fields are plunging into the valley. Waterfalls provide water to the villages and then heavily fall into the Bhote Kosi, the river raging at the bottom of the valley. People work hard here, and then take time to relax in the evening, sitting in the straw and chatting about the weather, the monsoon, the harvest. Children are playing around, jumping in the straw, singing songs. We can’t hear any car or anything like that. It’s just nature living in harmony with humans.

After four days in this village, I feel rejuvenate and peaceful, closer to what life should be : simple, soft, and human. Taking some days in a rural village of Nepal is a huge lesson of wisdom, a lesson about life. And if we are Christopher Columbus, they definitely are Gandhi, or Nelson Mandela, or the Dalai Lama… Or all of the above at the same time.

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