It’s a remarkable thing to me that I have been made so welcome again here in Nepal. People I haven’t seen in two years are so keen to open up their homes to me, to offer me tea and food and whatever else I might need. Nepali generosity knows no bounds.
Last week I was invited back to the village which I first called home here in Nepal; Sirutar. Not far from where I am currently staying (a 45 minute walk, I discovered), Sirutar was where I spent most of my time when I was in Nepal two years ago. I made friends there, both with my fellow volunteers and with the locals. Going back without the other volunteers was daunting, as I could always rely on them to pick up the conversation when I let it drop, but as I walked through Kausaltar, Balkot and on towards Sirutar, I felt more comfortable and at home. I recognised the way, and was glad that my sense of direction and my memory hadn’t failed me. Soon I could see the houses, shops and fields that marked the village I knew so well. As usual, I got a few questioning stares as I passed, but I marched on regardless, fixed on my goal; the Thapa family’s house, where I used to live. When I saw it, I was so pleased to note that it was just how I remembered it. I walked around to the back gate and called out to Buwa, the father of the house. He looked surprised to see me but he told me later that he had been aware that I was coming. I was greeted as a family member once again, and made to feel at home. I was so pleased to see my Nepali family again, and to catch up with them on all that had happened since I left in 2010.
Nika, the German Shepherd who I had carried in my arms as a pup on my last day here, had since grown into a beast of a dog, but still recognised me and happily wagged her tail and barked to welcome me back.
I was sad to hear of the grandmother’s passing a few months before my arrival in Nepal, as Hajuraama had been an entertaining and memorable character, and I'm sure she will be fondly remembered by all of the Platform2 volunteers who had the fortune to meet her.
My Nepali brother Suraj showed me lots of photos on his computer to help illustrate his stories of things that had happened since 2010. The most notable event was his sister Sabina’s wedding, a bright, colourful celebration which, I am told, hosted around 700 people! The house was festooned with garlands of flowers, and a marquee was set up in the adjacent field for guests to sit, eat, drink and generally enjoy the festivities. I was disappointed to have missed what was clearly a grand occasion but the photos were still a good way to understand the rituals and appreciate the day.
Suraj also showed me pictures of some of his travels in Nepal, including Pokhara, which is on my list of places to visit. It was good to see his pictures before going myself as it made me look forward to the trip a little bit more.
As some chores needed to be done around the house, I took the time to walk over to the work site where the Platform2 volunteers had been building a new school for the local children. The old school had been a disgrace, with no light, dust and dirt everywhere and holes in the floor on the upper levels, so children could put their hands through the ceiling of the class below! I walked towards the school with a heavy sense of anticipation. The last update I had heard about the building was that it was still not completed and that the children were still studying in the old school. If this had been the case, I would have been so disheartened, especially as so many people were waiting on me to send back photos to let them know of the construction’s progress. We had worked hard there for 10 weeks, and to think it was for nothing was too much to take. As I got nearer though, I could hear children’s voices, despite it being nearly 4.30pm. Some older students were still in the building as I arrived. I started to take pictures and was greeted by Basanta, a member of another host family who looked after my friends Rory and James during their stay. He explained about the building’s progress and confirmed that the other school was closed and this one was being used now, despite the fact that it had still another year or two to go before completion. I took more photos, keen to show the other volunteers at home exactly what I was seeing. I knew from experience just how frustrating it was to not have any news or pictures to update us in the UK, and was determined to make sure I captured everything I could for the folks at home.
As we walked away, I saw the old school, now in an even further state of disrepair. Thankfully it was locked up and out of use. Frankly, it wouldn’t have been fit for animals in the UK, never mind children. And speaking of animals, there had been a dog which used to stay close to us as we worked at the site two years ago. We had fallen in love with this cheeky chap, and I was so keen to see him again, but had a feeling he may not still be roaming the streets of Sirutar. I looked behind me as I left the school, and there curled up in the sunshine was the rather-inappropriately-named Poopy! I whistled to him, and he opened his eyes, wagged his tail and got up to trot over and greet me. Oh, how glad I was to see him! It was just amazing, and I realised he was a lot more resilient than we gave him credit for. Good for you, Poopy, you Cheeseball-eating hound!
After the excitement of seeing the dog alive and well, Basanta kindly invited me to his house for tea. I was grateful for the hospitality shown to me and was glad to take pictures there to show Rory and James of the changes when I had the opportunity to do so. I didn’t stay long, but it is just further proof of Nepali generosity; everyone here is so keen to invite me in and give me whatever they can offer.
I went back to the Thapas for dinner, and then was taken home to Gatthaghar on the back of Suraj’s motorbike. I went to bed that night feeling so grateful and happy to have taken the time to go back to Sirutar and spend time with the people who were so kind to me in 2010. It certainly won’t be my only visit there during this stay!