Laid-back days, colorful nights A Lititz woman writes from Nepal
By: LAUREL ETTER Special to the Record Express, Staff Writer
This morning I woke up to the sound of buffaloes and goats stirring in the straw grass below my mud-hut loft. I looked out the window and saw a bright full moon illuminating the valley and river below me. The air was crisp and women were up milking animals and mudding their homes. Men were getting ready for the work day.
Soon after, I was greeted by my Nepali mother and handed a warm cup of fresh chai tea. I crossed my neighbor’s yard to get water and was kindly greeted with another cup of warm buffalo milk and was told to sit and drink with them. Normally I would be in a rush to get to my meeting, but I learned that the concept of time is almost non-existent here. Being 20 minutes late is being on time.
I have been in the village of Archale for about a week, about 80 kilometers northwest of Kathmandu in the Nuwakot District. It is a seven hour bus ride winding its way through majestic hillsides with visions of the Himalayas peaking through cloudy skies. In Nepal, mountains are only called "mountains" if they are snow capped. Everything else is only a hill.
Being in the village has been a wonderful experience so far. There are about 300 homes here and I am living with a loving family that has four children, buffaloes and goats. Everyone has been so welcoming, hospitable and curious about me. My attempts at speaking Nepali provide all the neighbors with entertainment, which I am happy to contribute. Encountering the language barrier has taught me that gestures, smiling, and laughing can go a long way. The lack of verbal communication hasn’t kept them from including me in daily schedules and community gatherings and I have enjoyed every part of that.
The way of life here is simple and they rely heavily on agriculture for their livelihoods. Everyone knows their role in the family and community, as it has been in place for generations. A lot of the men go to the city or abroad to work for extended amounts of time which can weaken family bonds and village demographics. This is a reason why creating a sustainability community is so important.
Saprinu emphasizes the school being at the heart of the community. Being here has shown me how this can bring such positive change to the wellness of the community as a whole. Nepalis are small but very mighty. They have abundant natural and local resources. We strive to work together with villagers to find ways to maximize these and create new systems and opportunities to generate income here.
Starting small with extra curricular classes at school will create a foundation to build upon. Getting to know the villagers and learning about what skills they have is something I look forward to exploring. This year, Saprinu is focusing on education with some exciting things lying ahead in the near future. At a meeting this morning with parents, teachers, and village elders it was encouraging to hear the increase in support and that they want their kids to get a good quality education. We are making sure to work with all parts of the community to make it as strong as possible. Through donations Saprinu is able to provide financial support for these plans; however, our main focus is on training and capacity building that comes from an equal partnership between us and Archale. We learn from them and they learn from us.
Each year we hope for the village to be able contribute more and more until they are completely self-sustaining. We want them to prosper and flourish on their own. While I’m here, I’ll spend time working with villagers trying to come up with a product to make and sell in the village using local resources. We can then export them to the U.S. and elsewhere to be sold, having money go straight back to the village.
Being here has simplified the way I perceive and do things and has given me a vivid understanding of the hopes and plans for Archale in the next few years.
As I walked past the school on my way home, Sudan, the principal, shouted to me, "Have a rangi changi night Laurel!" Rangi changi (pronounced rungi chungi) means ‘colorful.’
Turns out, I did have a colorful night.
Laurel Etter, a Warwick High School grad, is spending three months in Archale, Nepal under the auspices of Saprinu, an organization dedicated to creating long lasting, sustainable communities. She’ll be sharing her ongoing adventures with Record Express readers. She also maintains a website at saprinu.org. More NEPAL, page A5