Kathmandu would be my last stop before leaving Nepal so after arriving at this capitals chaotic international airport, I took a hop, skip and jump to the equally chaotic domestic airport next door and caught a 45-minute flight to Pokhara. Pokhara is a popular tourist city and the beginning of several treks into the Annapurna and western areas of Nepal. Phewa Tal is a lake that anchors the western part of the city and provides fresh fish for the local tourist menus. I never could convince myself to try the native fish in a country where dumping all waste into the local rivers is the accepted sanitation system, but I hear it’s good.
I stayed a few days at Mahabir’s home giving me a chance to visit and interview Ommaya and his daughters Juna and Jharana. Interviewing Ommaya proved the hardest of all the interviews even with Mahabir away in Kathmandu. She is shy, my Nepali is as bad as her English and my questions proved to be a cultural hurdle. We sorted out her demographics and important dates such as when they met, were married and had their first child but esoteric questions such as; “How do you feel about Mahabir being away most of the time?” were met with puzzled looks. It was a way of life for her, it wasn’t an issue and she offered no opinion or answer, as I don’t think she had thought about it. When I asked Mahabir about it, he said, “Nepali women are used to this”, but I am still skeptical and searching for answers from other Nepalese women.
I spent the most time with Jharana, aged seven. After school she would get her homework and sit on the floor working through her math, reading and social science…all in fluent English. In the evenings she would watch me type emails and correct my spelling…when I pointed out auto correct she frowned and said, “you can’t learn that way, you must look it up!” She had little patience for my poorly pronounced Nepali and would simply shake her head, roll her eyes and repeat the word using her most exasperated schoolteachers voice. It was quickly apparent she favored her father. Juna, aged thirteen, seems more like her mother but I saw little of her because she left for school at 6 am and returned at 7 pm. She would tease Jharana in the only way a big sister can during dinner and like all teenagers she fussed with her hair before having her picture taken.
In the tradition of all Nepalese families this home shelters an extended family of sister-in-laws, brothers, cousins, children and miscellaneous former Nangi students attending college. I am always welcomed, sheltered and fed making it hard to say goodbye the morning I departed for Nangi. Next week please join me for a riot of photographs describing my trek to Nangi.