“Mornings stretch out and crack their spines with the yogic impassivity of house cats. Afternoons bulge with a succulent ripeness, like fat peaches. There is time enough to do everything – write a letter, eat breakfast, read the paper, visit a shrine or two, listen to the birds, bicycle downtown, change money, buy postcards, shop for Buddhas – and arrive home in time for lunch.”
-Jeff Greenwald, Shopping for Buddhas
Jeff Greenwald was right about the nature of time in Nepal, but the days aren’t any longer on this side of the planet. When you wake up at 5 or 6 in the morning, as most Nepalese tend to do, you have more time to seize the day (I wonder if the Nepalese would understand the concept of carpe diem? It seems pretty Western to me).
I’m still adjusting to the time change here, so I wake up at about 4:45 every morning. This isn’t much of a problem, though, because the children start singing and praying at 5:30 a.m., rendering sleep impossible. At 6:30, Karuna – one of the older girls, at 12 years old – knocked on my door with chiya (a delicious spiced tea). Not a bad start to my morning.
The orphanage is a Christian home, which is interesting because Christians are a small minority in the country. Most Nepalese are Hindus. After the children finish praying, they work on schoolwork some more. I brought them an “I Spy” book, and they loved it.
Next comes brunch or lunch, which is served at the orphanage around 8 a.m. It’s kind of funny that my breakfast is considered their lunch. In a traditional Nepalese home, you never have to ask, “What’s for lunch/dinner?” The answer is always daal-bhaat. As a Westerner, it is extremely difficult to eat the same thing every day, let alone twice a day. I asked Stefano, the other volunteer living here, how he feels about daal-bhaat and he said, “At first I didn’t like it. Now I hate it.” He leaves Saturday to go back home to Italy, which means I get to take over his room, which is bigger and has a normal toilet (not a Turkish, hole-in-the-floor toilet).
My time spent with the children so far has been such a joy. They are smart, happy kids, and although they drain my energy (there are 13 of them, after all), I look forward to spending more time with them.
I introduced them to the PhotoBooth stretch effect. They were thrilled.
This morning I had some bonding time with my host mother, Maria, which I’m assuming is her Christian name. I was surprised to learn she is only five years older than me. She doesn’t speak much English, but she is so sweet. She took me shopping for clothes, and I bought some pants, a skirt and the most beautiful, periwinkle-colored sari. The saleswoman had to help me put it on, and Maria offered to show me again because it’s complicated (a lot of twisting and tucking of the fabric).
I also went grocery shopping and bought some fruit for everyone in the house (usually 19 or 20 people – Maria’s family members come and go). I bought a box of cookies, a soda, two bunches of bananas, 26 mangoes, and a package of nuts – all for $48.
Now that I’m coming down from a shopping high (my drug of choice), I’m going to take a nap before picking up the children from school.