The flight from Kathmandu
Our aircraft was twin engined, with about twenty, seats I don’t know if I’m justified in this but I feel a lot safer in the smaller planes than I do in the inter-continental airliners. I mentioned this to an English chap, a fellow passenger, who was in Nepal on holiday. I told him that I’m still a nervous flyer and he trotted out the old cliché that statistics prove you’re safer “up there” than in a car. To this I gave my stock reply, “in a car I’m in charge and I fancy most car accidents are caused by ‘Petrol – heads’, drinkers’ or 20 year olds trying to impress a girl and or a car full of merry mates”.
On the flight to Pokhara I was sitting next to a Nepalese girl with a tiny baby. The baby was crying and mum didn’t seem to be able to comfort her. I was concerned that the baby, it was a little girl, was too hot as she had quite a chunky “onesy” on and I tentatively suggested “maybe baby is tato”, (tato is Nepalese for hot). Her mum unzipped the tunic only to reveal that the little treasure had, what was obviously a surgical dressing about 3 or 4 inches long, on her neck, presumably covering hospital surgery. Indicating the wound I said “hospital”. Mum nodded, then she indicated that she wanted me to hold baby whilst she fetched something from her bag. It turned out to be a bottle of milk. I held the little girl. She looked up at me and I like to think she smiled. What a silly old codger, I felt quite emotional. Mum wont’ remember the incident and nor will the baby, but I will.
The scenery below our aeroplane was amazing. Nepal is either dead flat, the Terrai bordering India, or seriously lumpy, the “hillyside”, as Nepali people say, or the foothills, as English speakers would term them. When I say foothills you mustn’t mistake them for the rolling type of hills you might see in the Chilterns or the Kentish Downs, these are irregularly shaped and often craggy with large outcrops of rock. Many of the hills form long ridges and people favour building their villages and towns strung out along them. Below the shops, workshops and residential areas, where the gentler gradients allow, farmers carve terraces ten or fifteen feet wide to grow rice, the width and length of the terraces depends upon the slope and the contours of the hill in that location. They are generally irrigated if there is water at hand, or are constructed, level and with raised edges, so any rain that falls is captured and held. When speaking of the scenery I must of course mention the Himalayan Mountains, they totally dominate the scene. Snow covered peaks all along the skyline. The house where I’m a guest in Pokhara has the most stupendous views of them, which view includes several of the highest peaks in the world I’m told. Just fancy waking up to that every morning! I go out onto my balcony to reach the wet room where I have my cold shower and I pause, turning slowly, to look all along the horizon. I sigh, and shake my head. I suppose you would get used to the magical sight eventually but I’m sure it would be a long time before I would not at least glance upward for a few seconds.
I met a very interesting gentleman a couple of days ago. I won’t give his name as he’s not keen to publicise himself and frowns on the idea of exposing your personal details to all and sundry, on the social media as is the fashion with many young people nowadays. He prefers to live in Nepal now, but as a young lad and before the Second World War, joined the army to become an officer, as was popular with young Englishmen of a particular social strata. He progressed through the ranks to become a senior officer and served many years with the Indian army in peace and in war. He is the author of several books and speaks half a dozen languages fluently. We were discussing the Nepali language and I mentioned that I regularly caused amusement with blunders of pronunciation which gave a meaning other than that intended, this due mainly to the subtleties of of words beginning with b’s, t’s and d’s. He told me that as an officer he studied hard, determined speak the language of his troops with absolute precision as lives depended on it! We talked for a couple of hours and the time flew by. I wish I could manage such quiet dignity and I’d love to be as sharp as he is when I’m in my nineties, in fact, come to think of it I’d like to be that sharp now!
If I’m to be successful in my little adventure, there are a whole variety of subjects I have to study.
There’s communication, I must learn to speak basic Nepali, as my hosts in Dada Pangma don’t speak English, then, less obviously there’s body language, a shake of the head, in a specific fashion, actually means “yes”. (Bhawana showed me an amusing You Tube video on body language in the Indian subcontinent. I’ll get the title and post it in a later blog). There are the practicalities of adjusting to the Nepali culture, here for instance are a few lessons I’ve already learnt; don’t try to return your used dinner plate to the kitchen, a female member of your host’s team will spar with you for possession of it! If you agree to a second helping when you are prompted be ready to crouch over the plate to prevent a much larger helping being delivered than you can manage. If your host offers you a /another drink of some spirit try to gain possession of the bottle or you’ll end up with three or four standard shots.in your glass. In short expect super generous hospitality from almost everyone! I am reading like mad but I still have to gain practical experience of the husbandry of Apis cerana, using the “box-pile” and the Newton hives and it will have to be several of each as I hope to make a fair comparison of the two types. This morning I bought a Newton hive and the carpenter whose workshop is on Rom’s property has been kind enough to say he’ll make a set of “top-bars” to replace the frames already installed in the brood chamber. Then as a result of past laziness /reliance on the grandchildren, I have to learn to operate my Facebook page and blog on my own, Bijay has kindly given me some instruction in “facebooking” and Bhawana wrote out three A4 pages of instructions on how to operate the blog. I’m afraid only a little of the information has stuck, so far. Another vital set of skills concerns everyday ablutions. On my last visit to Nepal with a friend, Colin Mann, our host in Madi Mulkharka organised a shower for us that comprised a ½ inch plastic pipe propped up at head height and continuously gushing ice cold water. Under normal circumstances in the hillyside you would simply have a large bowl or bucket of said ice cold water this you splash over yourself, then you soap and cleanse and then lastly slosh the cold water over yourself to rinse. Believe me it’s not as simple as it sounds especially if you observe some measure of propriety. Here the lavatories are even more of a challenge there are very few WC’s, there’s usually a ceramic slab with foot prints astride a 6 inch hole and I’ve never come across toilet paper! The user crouches down elbows on knees, and for accuracy getting as close to the hole as possible. In the interests of delicacy I’ll skip the actual technique required suffice to say use the left hand for contact after a good sloshing with water from the right hand. It’s surprising how hygienic the process can be and how quickly your underwear dries.
Rom, Goma, Manita, Bijay, Ajay, Yo Yo Ayus and Ayusa, have been my hosts since I arrived in Pokhara. Rom who is slightly younger than me is the father of my good friend Narendra who lived in my house in the UK several years ago. Goma and Manita are the ladies of the house their cooking is superb and their hospitality is second to non. My stay has been instructive ; Bijay, Ajay and Yo Yo Ayus have been my tutors in Nepali and Yo Yo Ayus has taught me the basic (very basic) skills of “keepy upy”. Bijay and Ajay have carried me around as a pillion passenger on their motorcycles. (I’ll come to what I understand are the completely informal rules of the road in a later blog). Ayusa who is ten years old sings and dances beautifully and is a born performer. Yo Yo Ayus had a birthday on the second to last day of my stay, the cake, a “white Forest” was out of this world and Ayusa and Yo Yo Ayus danced and sang for he guests. I tried to upload the movies of football, singing and dancing starring Ayusa and Yo Yo Ayus, which I directed, but the “blog” wouldn’t let me, I’ll try again in another blog.