"Namaste." She puts her hands together at her heart as we pass each other on the road. It's the same word but very different than the ending to my Portland yoga class. It's also a bit different than the word and gesture spoken in Bhimphedi, where the children clap their hands together, shout "Namaste!" and laugh. Many of the younger children are made to do this by their parents, or grandparents, when we pass by. Here, on the road to Kogate, this woman smiles sincerely, pyramiding her hands three times for each one of us. She smiles and I smile back.
I have my heavy hiking boots on but I'm only carrying a small bag with filtered water, gloves, a headlamp, my camera, a few rupees and some hand sanitizer. My bigger bag, with everything I need to stay two nights in Kogate, is atop the big bus called The Himal Tiger. Terry's bag is riding with mine, but Ritesh has the few things that he needs on his back. It takes about three and a half hours to hike up to the village and if we don't take a break, we'll beat the bus.
We start talking about kids and it turns to babies and eventually I start on the long story of my labor with Jasper. I don't forget any of the minor details: the grilled cheese sandwich I vomited, watching my favorite surfing movie, In Gods Hands, or the painter's plastic-lined cattle bathing tub that I eventually gave birth in. By the time I've finished the story, we have cleared the ridge and can see the parked bus with our bags resting on top. It beat us because we stopped to share a 65% dark chocolate bar (my last one and we still have four weeks!) and a lychee drink that Ritesh got in town.
I've heard a lot about Kogate from Tiffany, Maggie and Debbie when they returned from their service there. Each week, one of us goes up to the village with a translator/assistant. We work at the Bhimphedi clinic on Monday and then walk or ride up to Kogate after lunch. Tuesday, we work at the small clinic in Kogate and then come back down on Wednesday morning and treat patients in Bhimphedi that afternoon.
One of our translators, who is also apprenticing in acupuncture, Suman Magar, lives with his family in Kogate. They have a beautiful, two-story mud home where they share meals with us. We sleep in a second mud and rock building that has two bedrooms, a small eating area and a storage area upstairs. One of these bedrooms is Suman's, but the translators rotate with the practitioners each week and he has already come up to work. It's Ritesh who comes with us this time.
Terry and I put our things in Suman's room and each of us picks a bed. It's odd that he's down in Bhimphedi working and we are here with his family, staying in his room. The walls are covered with the Kathmandu Times, an English newspaper. Terry points to an article on one of the pages about a Nepali man drowning in a river near our home in Portland. "How weird is that?" she asks.
I find a pair of flip flops on the porch that I can wear so that I don't have to tie the laces on my heavy boots each time I go in or out of a doorway here. I sit on a bench on the porch and watch Terry and Ritesh wash their faces with cold water at the spigot across from our doorway. Suman's father comes out. "Namaste!" he says, as their two black dogs wrestle near his legs.
We are invited into their home for dinner. The floor is pressed mud and there is a small square in the corner that was shaped into the floor and wall to serve as the hearth. Suman's mother stokes a tiny fire inside and heats water over it. She sets three metal plates on the floor, each plate is sectioned into four parts. She heaps rice into the larger area and then puts saag (greens) into one section, aloo (roasted potatoes) into the second section and a cucumber pickle into the third. We are sitting together on a mat at the wall and she sets a plate in front of each of us. She returns with a small bowl of dal (lentil soup). We pour the soup over the rice and then heap each bit of vegetable on top and mix it all together. Terry and I eat ours with a spoon. The family watches us while we eat and Suman's mother brings each item over and asks if we'd like more.
"Bhayou," Terry and I say. We're finished. Ritesh motions for more saag. We finish and bring our dishes towards the door and put them in the wash bin. We don't linger or talk too much since the family is waiting for us to finish before they will start eating. We go back to our bedrooms, fill our bottles with the tato pani (hot water) that they've left for us and head off to bed.
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