Caught in Passing

A patchwork of small farms cling to the hillsides in Lamatar on the edge of the Kathmandu valley. Life can be pretty dusty, hectic and noisy in Kathmandu, but three busses and a half hour walk takes one into the heart of this farm country where life is slow, quiet, and green.

James (a Boston College undergrad studying here for the semester) and I headed out on Saturday to climb the hills and get a peek at Everest, which we heard can be seen from the top. Winding our way up the hillside we passed a number of farms with their small brick house/barns, trying to keep a respectful distance from people's homes. At one point, we choose a fork that looked like the main path, but took us straight into someone's yard, just as a woman was coming out of her home with water, flowers, and red and yellow paint to perform the daily blessing around the farm.

After a quick "Namaste" with hands pressed together, with James and I looking quite embarrassed about having stumbled into her front yard, I tried to save face by pointing to the top and asking which path took us there. The woman responded with a huge smile and a welcoming gesture to come sit on the front porch and stay a while. She called her mother out, who brought us some corn and offered us some tea, and her brother poked his head out the upstairs window and hurried down.

Her brother was getting ready for school, a half hour down the hillside to where the bus left us off. Like most school-children in the Kathmandu area, he seemed to speak English almost perfectly, and translated our many questions for us. As we spoke, his sister finished blessing the yard, with a sprinkling of water and flowers and red and yellow paint on each post, door of the house, and the forehead of the cow.

In the top photo, the brother is running to catch one of the baby goats to show us. On the left is this year's crop of corn, tied to a huge post in the yard to dry, and looking like an artificial Christimas tree. On the left, the mother in her fuchsia skirt is still holding her roasted corn, the breakfast she was sharing with us. James is sitting down and the sister we first met is holding another baby goat.

The farm seemed to be doing well. The house was a bit bigger and the crop a bit larger than others we had seen on the hillside, but in other ways was similar. The house is brick with a mud plaster outside. The downstairs is a kitchen and barn, the upstairs bedrooms and drying areas for the crops. They had electricity, but the water was from the stream (good supply now in the rainy season, I wonder about what it is like in the dry season).

In a moment, more neighbors showed up, some of the children passing by on their way to school, and others seeming to have heard that strangers were about, wanting to have a peek for themselves.

James and I begged our leave so that we could resume our journey to the top. It turned out that the top was shrouded in with clouds, so we could not see Everest. The real reason for our trip that day was to meet this family and partake of their hospitality, getting a glimpse into the life of a rural family in this rural country.

Not having seen Everest, we will have to go back. I hope to take the same wrong turn again, and spend some more time getting to know this family that caught us in passing.

P.S. I almost forgot to talk about the other reason for returning. Here is the view from any old farm in Lamatar. Below is the Kathmandu valley. On the far side is the snow covered Himalyas.