On Being Lost and Found - Nepal
Added: (Fri Sep 10 2004)
Pressbox (Press Release) -
After two months of monsoon, I was preparing for a short break with some of the other volunteers; a few hours of kicking back and recharging for the next round of volunteering were in order. I took the bus from my placement to Narayangot, a quaint, growing town, made interesting by its complete lack of any redeeming qualities, then started the search for the elusive buses to Pakaudi. One driver nodded and waved me up to the roof, where I was promptly joined by Jack Johnson via headphones and 437 curious Nepali boys and men. The curiosity, friendliness and openness with which these visitors greeted was only slightly marred about 40 minutes later by their shouting over each other to be the first to tell me that I had boarded the wrong bus. I had been unable to distinguish the difference between Pakaudi and Meghauli over the roar of trucks, buses, tuk-tuks and cows making whatever sounds cows generally make.
Faced with the option of turning around and going back, or visiting yet another unpronounceable Nepali village, I naturally opted for the latter, and promptly found myself in Vijay’s house, a Coca-Cola salesman of 17, whom I gathered was my new best friend. After the requisite chiya and hobnobbing, he offered to ride me to Pakaudi on his ca. 1422 model bicycle. I assented; after all, how far can 7 km really be? I can drive that in a little over 5 minutes in Europe. Now, for those readers unfamiliar with the shape of the “back seat” of Nepali bicycles, they are roughly similar to the surface of a grill, but less comfortable. The designers also never remotely considered the possibility that someone 6’3” would ever sit on one. The journey began.
To say it was a comfortable, relaxing passage would be akin to saying that flowers find it fun to be plucked, but I still enjoyed myself immensely until it started pouring and my dampened spirits and I had to seek shelter in a tea shop. My mood was considerably improved by discovering that this tea shop actually came complete with tea and I entertained the owner and fellow refugees with my versions of Nepali songs, which must sound like Kurt Cobain singing Frank Sinatra.
After tea, I felt ambitious enough to seize the reins and promptly discovered the results of 2 months of insufficient physical activity. The one gear on the bicycle was the equivalent of 27th gear on Lance Armstrong’s bicycle, the gear with the disclaimer saying, “Warning: Do not use this gear unless falling off a cliff, as your legs will fall off from the strain.” This, of course, promptly happened, and I was once again relegated to the shotgun seat as a 17-year-old a fraction of my size chauffeured me along the winding back roads. There was, of course, the breathtaking beauty of the rice fields and villages along the way, but these details are somewhat blurred in my memory.
Two hours and massive posterior reconstruction later, we arrived at my original destination, Pakaudi. There are plenty of overused, trite, but accurate clichés which spring to mind, “The journey is more important than the goal” among them, but I hope the message is imparted. I have experienced challenges, successes and failures along the way in my now 4 months in Nepal, but it’s snapshot memories like this that lend flavor to the journey and make it an experience I will cherish forever.
Loki Jhonk - INFO Nepal