Mission April 2017
We publish the travel diary of our friend Marco M.
Do you know if the road from Kathmandu to Lhasa is open? A simple question, which today we could ask via email, sms, whatsapp, etc., or even more simply by typing on Google, towards the end of the Eighties he struggled to find an interlocutor, but above all an adequate means. So that's when he thought of us. So, I got to know him.
At the Bank's Foreign Office, in addition to the rare Olivetti typewriters with slots for a diskette, we had the telex, an evolution of the telegraph that connected two teleprinters, transmitting signals at the today unimaginable speed of 45 bits (bit, not kb nor much less Mb) per second. Before the spread of faxes it was the main commercial communication tool between companies and for our work it was an indispensable tool. Even in less developed countries it was widespread so Vitaliano came to the office asking us the courtesy of forwarding his request.
He was a charming boy, a true commercial, storyteller like few others. He came from Emilia, he was among those who came to Verona, an emerging market for the Bank, with the idea of making a career and he had the numbers. But above all for us boys it was his passion that fascinated us: Travel!
I remember that a few years later, when he was given the first branch to manage, behind his desk he had a map of the World, studded with red dots to indicate the places where he had already been, the denser Asia seemed, perhaps that road, now I don't remember, it was open ...
It is said that due to the earthquake many artisans who were building the pagoda, which represented the Nepalese pavilion at Expo 2015, had to abandon the work in Milan to return and take care of the reconstruction at home and that therefore the workers of other countries made available to help those who remain. We entered the pavilion almost by chance, to admire the splendid inlaid woods. There for the first time I tasted Nepali Cha, spiced tea with milk. I tried several times at home to recreate the flavor, but only in Nepal did I find it again.
We are used to the Festa delle Fave, a tradition of San Giorgio di Valpolicella, called Ingannapoltron, because it seems close but in reality the road to reach it is winding. A legacy requires that every year, on the Sunday closest to San Martino, the conclusion of the agricultural year, a ladle of bean soup is distributed to each inhabitant, calling every family that comes with their pot, then broad beans. and party for all, in the parvis of the Romanesque church.
It was therefore November 2015 when I saw Francesca at the Hanuman Onlus banquet, set up precisely on the occasion of the party, she told me about their activities and I was immediately seized by curiosity first and then by growing interest. She left me with a sentence: we are waiting for you, I can already see that your eyes are sparkling.
Admission to the Master, unexpected and therefore indispensable, forced me to decline the invitation for that spring, but Francesca had sown ...
She called me to ask for information a few months ago. He remembered that last year I had been there to accept her proposal, but the onerous commitment of a Master had made me decline. The departure would actually have been a few weeks after the discussion of the thesis, I had the right time to prepare and in the meantime define the first questions for the Provincial Congress. Unlike other periods of my life, I wanted to share the journey with Claudia, who in recent months had tolerated my systematic commitment to studying, practically every evening and every weekend. She is not immediately enthusiastic like me, we had to organize a series of commitments for the daughters: the call for scholarships for stays abroad would come out shortly and with a burning deadline. Elisa had to leave for Estonia for a week-long EU project, but it was not yet known exactly when and how, in short, a series of ordinary things that would have been difficult to manage from afar.
However, things were ordering themselves and at the first sign of letting up of Claudia I forced my hand a little, convinced that, with her times, she too would have entered the journey. A few minutes was enough to book the tickets for Qatar, guided by telephone from Vitaliano, I hesitated a bit with my finger on the enter key, but then I pressed: it was done, we were off!
Day 0 - Friday 14 April
We start from Venice, which has always been the 'gateway to the east', destination Kathmandu, via Doha. The luggage, easily identifiable from the others, thanks to the orange bags, get confused making the tetris of weights difficult. Unlike usual, tolerance is minimal, we barely recover those few kilos that someone has saved, but they are not enough: we have to leave two bags of clothes in the car. The first part of the journey ... flies, the second a little less, but it gives us a splendid sunrise, which we fly to meet.
Day 1 - Saturday 15th April
We fly towards the future: according to the Nepalese calendar Bikram Sambat, yesterday was the first day of the year 2074, but already at the airport we take a dip in the past, all looking for visa forms and supported everywhere to fill it out, then payment to the bank and presentation at the desk for the issue of the stamp on the passport. Once again, the bags turn out to be precious to quickly retrieve your luggage, a quick count is enough to confirm that everything has arrived.
The warm welcome just outside the airport from our Nepalese friends makes us overcome the onslaught of taxi drivers unscathed. Before getting on the bus we are given wreaths of orange flowers and we immerse ourselves in the chaotic traffic of the capital, complicated every now and then by the cows that test the keeping of religious precepts, who want them to be sacred. Around bicycles overloaded with goods, carts, motorcycles with three or more passengers, minibuses and trucks, which contribute to making the air already full of dust unbreathable.
We reach the hotel on foot, the access road is interrupted due to works, the hotel is located in an internal street, very quiet compared to the rest, also because we are practically in Thamel, the commercial district.
In the hall we are welcomed with Nepali Cha, the spiced milk tea that will also accompany us in the following days, as a traditional drink.
A short stop in the room and then a first tour of acclimatization with Mahesh, one of our guides, who introduces us to Nepalese culture. We are overwhelmed by colors, sounds and smells, by the variety of material that is sold, from technical clothing to dried fish, from electrical material to grains.
Before dinner, to loosen the muscles still tense from the long journey, we offer a vigorous but relaxing massage, in an oasis of peace on the fourth floor of an anonymous building.
We then taste our first Dal Bhat in an off-the-beaten-path restaurant, a rich single dish based on rice, lentil soup, vegetables and a choice of meat or fish.
Day 2 - Sunday 16th April
We leave Kathmandu with eyes drunk with colors, despite the dust that accompanies us for the first part of the road, due to work in progress, with long stops and short restarts, millimeter crossings to avoid holes and bumps, skimming the stalls along the street.
A portal reminds us that since yesterday there has been a ban on honking in the city, a deafening cacophony in the background to the noise of traffic.
We follow the Prithivi Highway, the road that cuts Nepal from East to West, the most marked on the map, perhaps due to traffic, an endless line of trucks decorated and painted in the most extravagant ways, a mixture of Hindu gods and Western iconography, more popular than the others Che Guevara and Bob Marley. Among the other trinkets exhibited as trophies, the wheel covers, fixed on the roof as if they were scalps to frighten the enemies.
Along the road, dusty shacks pretend to be motorway restaurants. We stop at one similar to the others, where, however, we find surprisingly clean bathrooms. We also take the opportunity to buy fresh vegetables, chosen directly by our cook, Mohan, who will delight us with dal bhat in all versions.
We arrive in Benighat after about 3 hours. It is a village like many others along the road, masonry houses of every shape. We take the small road that climbs towards the hill, also under construction, with large piles of stones that threaten the already narrow path. Pass a few rural houses, on a curve stands Happy Home, a beautiful and large gray brick house, the family home built by Hanuman.
If Kathmandu has made our eyes drunk, the meeting with the children and young people of the Happy Home makes our heart drunk.
The gazes of the children, some already youngsters reach deep inside, their smiles touch our feelings like their little hands.
We will get to know them, we will learn their names, both the most exuberant and the most discreet ones, we will collect their stories from our friends in Hanuman, we will then share with them the satisfaction for the good scholastic results and for the girl who is now attending medicine at the university, or for Suman, who is now the director of the family home, but only as one of them, then director, father, older brother and friend.
In the afternoon, when the heat becomes a little less intense, we go down to check how the reconstruction works are progressing on the Benighat school, severely damaged by the earthquake.
Giorgio, the surveyor has the role of liaison technician between Hanuman and the local technicians from time to time in charge of the work, scrupulously checks that the work is proceeding as foreseen by the project proposed by us and approved by the Nepalese government.
As we wander between the construction site and the remains of the school devastated by the earthquake, the children attract our attention to let us peek inside a room. There are two large glass cases, partially destroyed by the collapsed roof. Inside one there is a motorcycle and a helmet, in the other a kayak, a paddle and a life jacket: they are the relics of the local hero, a national kayak champion, who died prematurely due to a motorcycle accident.
In the meantime, at the family home, our cook Mohan cooked in our honor, to enrich the dal bhat, excellent spaghetti, cooked to perfection.
After dinner we play, what could be better to get in tune with children than to become children ourselves? We therefore propose the games of our childhood. Among them, one-two-three-star and flag are the most successful. Thus we find ourselves in a pleasant evening laughing and joking, Nepali children and Italian adults, fellow citizens of a great wonderful world that today we already like a little more.
A thousand thoughts overlook my bed to say goodnight.
Day 3 - Monday 17 April 2017
We Westerners are not used to welcoming guests with a gift. It will be for this reason that we feel a strong emotion, when we are greeted by the principal, the teachers and some students of the SHREE CHANDRODAYA MULTIPLE COLLEGE, who surround our neck with orange silk scarves and offer us bunches of flowers and blades of grass, petals, accompanied by sincere Namastè.
This is the largest school supported by Hanuman, almost 800 children and over 30 teachers, led by an over seventy-year-old principal whom Francesca defines as “enlightened”. An agriculture course was added to the school this year to support the transition from the cultivation of rice to the more profitable one of vegetables, but he has imposed an "organic" line, without the use of chemistry.
The school is well maintained, but due to the 2015 earthquake, part of it is unusable and the children work shifts, starting at 5:30 in the morning. In addition to support for structural interventions, a request is also made to replace the obsolete computers donated by Hanuman.
We then move to the SHREE BUDDHI BIKASH BASIC SCHOOL, a basic school for children aged 5 to 13. We are accompanied by an English teacher ex-boy from Hanuman, who also kept the minutes of the meeting in the previous school, on which he asks that our signature be also affixed. Here we give the director notebooks and school materials, but it is at the small school RATO MATO (= red clay) that we find all the children (and their parents) to welcome us. The school is perched on the slope of a hill and can only be reached after a short but steep path. Here, too, wreaths and bunches and petals of red and fuchsia flowers. We all crowd inside one of the small classrooms, wooden desks and a dirt floor. The principal makes requests for intervention, Francesca prudently asks for a written report to be prepared. The principal undertakes to prepare it and to speak with the heads of the schools and the leaders of the communities.
We go down the path a little hot and therefore we welcome with enthusiasm the proposal to go rafting, since there are no other visits in the afternoon.
After lunch, they take us to Trisuli Riverside Camping, with fixed tent camping and bungalows on the river bank, not far from Benighat. It is a place for frikkettoni, complete with murals by John Lennon and a series of pleasant corners with chairs or deck chairs on the terraces overlooking the river.
The delivery of paddles, vests and helmets and the briefing are very fast, although boarding is practically already on a rapid.
The rapids are short but intense, then the Trisuli resumes its sleepy course at the bottom of the valley, where we can relax and look at the landscape, finally without the noise and smell of the cars, trucks and buses that we sometimes see on the road, flowing in the valley, but high above the river.
All around wonderful views, it is a real shame not to have a camera to immortalize it, I will try to make a sketch, in particular of the many Tibetan bridges that cross the river, long and high, with people crossing them, women with colored saris , a boy on a bicycle, the children who stop to watch us go by.
Where there is still no bridge, a cable and a large basket pulled by arms are enough to go from one bank to the other.
The banks are teeming with life. The river supplies construction material, sand and stones worked in large quarries or simply loaded with the shovel on the trailers of tractors pushed into the water. The river provides food, tasty little fish that are dried and sold in kiosks strung on bamboo sticks, ready to be fried. Furthermore, the river provides water for washing clothes and for washing.
At the landing we can already see from the shore the orange outline of our bus between the houses, where Bigendra, our driver and Mahesh our guide-translator are waiting for us.
After the excellent dinner based on dal bhat with chicken and fried fish, we gather all the children and with a small ceremony we deliver personalized gifts to each one, underlining the already good average school results, with some excellences, in particular the little ones Sushila and Janak, but above all Bikram, with an exceptional average of 96% (percentage). That of the percentage will be a joke that will chase us throughout the trip: Mahesh makes it involuntarily in a translation, one hundred percent percentage and we hold back the laughter since it was in a formal context.
Thinking about the children and their academic results, certainly not taken for granted, but the keystone of their existence, my tears come, thinking how much what Hanuman is doing for them, can actually give them the opportunity to have a better life, which to drag very heavy panniers up trails between the village and the city.
Still it is they, with their enthusiasm in the simple games we offer, who bring me back serenity.
Day 4 - Tuesday 18 April 2017
We leave today, adults and children, with two white Mahindra pickups, me standing on the body of one, Claudia more certainly sitting in the cabin on the other.
The short stretch up to the asphalted road is just a small taste of what awaits us: a few kilometers later, we finally abandon it for two hours of tossing, both hands clenched until the knuckles on the iron crossbars are whitened, with the road that climbs up the hills, pure off-road passages, on the edge of overhangs, difficult even to remove a hand to take some pictures, impossible to try to frame the surrounding landscape, whose charm you can barely guess, with the ordered terraces and peasants who work the land with plows and oxen.
We manage to pass with difficulty with some maneuvers alongside a truck with a group of workers who are fixing the road, who knows what it was like before!
We arrive at the SHREE RICHOK IRANG LOWER SECONDARY SCHOOL, the school was damaged by the earthquake and renovations are urgently needed.
Taking pictures is also a good excuse for me to wander around the classrooms, take a useful table with numbers in Nepali and Western, which as we will often see, is painted directly on the wall.
In another classroom I find a poster with the National Luminaries of Nepal, which our boys illustrate to me, focusing on the figure of Pasang Lhamu Sherpa, the first woman to climb Everest, the country's heroine.
While Hanuman's leaders and local representatives continue the discussion, we organize a crowded and confused flag match, with our boys involving their local comrades.
Another short and intense pick up stretch and we arrive at the SHREE HARKAPUR SECONDARY SCHOOL, the school was inaugurated last year and is very well maintained. It's an L-shaped building under tall pine trees with gigantic pine cones, which the kids have fun collecting. As usual with my "photo pass" I feel free to browse around. In one class I even find, hanging in plain sight, a card with the main mathematical formulas, they seem to me sine and cosine, however similar to those I see in my daughter's notebooks in third high school: mathematics, a truly universal language, a language which, however, I do not already master, at least at that level.
I approach our cars to better understand how they can handle these roads, perhaps thanks to the steel leaf springs, certainly not the tires, now the canvas, without any trace of tread. I wonder in particular if the front right of mine will be able to withstand the stresses, hoping if it decides to go limp I do it gradually and in a manageable condition!
Here we are offered a good dal bhat, heated in an improvised kitchen set up in a classroom, where we also eat, leaning against the desks.
Another short transfer, the wheel holds, it would have been better not to have seen it ... We reach the SHREE HARKPUR LOWER SECONDARY SCHOOL, smaller than the others, but also on the crest of the hill, so that it is easily accessible from both sides. Here a brief meeting with the manager is sufficient for a quick update on the status of the work to be done.
We get back on the pick-ups for a short transfer, suddenly giving a lift to a group of women who huddle with us on the body. On a curve, in the middle of a group of houses, we pass by a low building used as a Catholic church, the Crusader flag flying, much more out of place than the frequent hammer and sickle flags we find on some houses in the villages that we cross.
The jeeps stop just above a small school in a beautiful location, the SHREE BAIRABI PRIMARY SCHOOL. The school is so small that we find it closed, the roof and walls in order, but the grass is a bit tall in the courtyard.
From here starts the path that will lead us directly to the Happy Home. The jeeps descend, on the other hand, along the road backwards and boarding the little ones. The path is steep with an insidious gravel that breaks the group in two, Mahesh as a good guide follows the slower, providential sticks, which I share with Donatella. Stopping every now and then to enjoy the landscape is not just an excuse, it really deserves, around small groups of houses perched on the hill, all worked with small terraces where vegetables and banana trees are grown. Below you can see the river bed, which we reach after about an hour. For some time we have been observing a group of girls washing clothes from above, who knows what they will think when suddenly we see a group of hot Westerners passing by, given that this first part of the path was under the scorching sun . Short stop, therefore, we too at the river to cool off a bit, easy ford and we conquer the other bank, in the shade and slightly sloping downhill, therefore much more pleasant. From the river starts a long irrigation canal, part dug directly into the rock, part made of concrete, we follow it, balanced on the embankment, because it brings the water directly into the fields above our house.
Shortly before we reach the group that had preceded us and now we enjoy the hospitality of Ravi's family, one of the Nepalese references of Hanuman, who now lives in Kathmandu and is a web designer. A nice glass of lemonade is just what was needed after the pleasant but long hike.
After a shower, I look for a quiet corner to fix the emotions of the day on paper. Next to the house, leaning against the surrounding wall, there is a beautiful tree, surrounded, as we will often see during the journey, by a concrete platform. In this case it is semicircular and forms a small staircase, on which it is pleasant to sit.
I manage to write a few lines, then Neera approaches me, we chat for a while, I ask her to draw me a drawing for the diary, she is always reserved, the opposite of Sushila's exuberance who joins us and plays with the camera. For now we don't talk about the diary, never mind, if you don't live you don't write.
Claudia and Mahesh also arrive. Today Mahesh is in the mood to tell stories, just give him the there, she has lived through a lot in her 35 years of driving. We ask him about Italian mountaineers. He will confirm that he has met Messner, he will tell us the Nepalese version, undoubtedly according to him the only original, of Simone Moro's problems with the Sherpas a few years ago. Mahesh does not let himself be prayed to and caught our interest in bizarre anecdotes, he entertains us about what happens and is tolerated during the numerous parties, telling how he saved an intrusive photographer from the fury of a masked character, by forcefully pushing her into a house and closing the door just before the angry guru's sword struck her, causing the wooden door to become a shield on which the weapon stuck.
At dinner I give the there to Vitaliano, Francesca and Irene to tell us about the birth of Hanuman. Francesca tells an episode, which happened during one of their many travels. They were in Tibet, cold walking along an isolated path when they passed a child, with a few torn clothes and the shoes of an adult, cheeks red from the cold. Vitaliano gave him a caress and the smile of the child triggered the spark that will cover for hours during a long transfer by car. Something had to be done.
The photographic book Faces of the East, written by Vitaliano and published by Baldini and Castoldi, of which I proudly keep a copy exhumed from the library on the occasion of this trip, yields an important fundraiser, donated to Emergency, but it is not enough, something is needed. more, something must be done directly. Surfing the Internet, they come across Co.y.on, a Nepalese youth association that had set up a project for simple signs to be installed along the main road, to invite trucks to slow down and prevent village children from being hit. along the Highway. It was the concreteness they were looking for. In 2004 they leave with a first load, clothes made from a donation.
Then the first schools, with the approach that we are beginning to know, to make interventions where the Government would not arrive, we have seen it today with the arrangement of the schools, lost in the hills, to avoid passing through rich benefactors who give money without worry about its use, invest in the long term, in the future and therefore in education, select volunteers ... and we have been accepted, we understand that it is not so obvious ...
APRIL 2017 SECOND PART
by Marco M.
Day 5 - Wednesday 19th April
We get on the pick-ups again today, a good hour on a road perhaps worse than yesterday, luckily this morning our driver changed the worn tire.
Near the village the children chase us to get a ride to school, the drivers slow down a bit but don't stop, while they run, run, run .... One stays behind but does not give up, we encourage him and end, when he arrives within arm's reach, he manages to get on with our help, as with our help we hope he can get on the train of his future. Today he has a dusty school uniform shirt and an unstitched sleeve, tomorrow who knows ...
Even today a full immersion in rural Nepal, stone and clay houses scattered on the slopes of the hills, stone terraces to make the steep sides cultivable.
We visit the SHREE JANAGAUN PRIMARY SCHOOL. We distribute notebooks, pens, pencils, erasers and sharpeners, as well as a couple of bags of clothing. Some, especially those as adults are very unlikely, it is the fashion that determines the waste, while those of children, unused for growth, are still current. In the end, however, everyone gets something.
Inside a classroom they offer us spiced potatoes and fruit, apples and bananas. There are no cutlery, in Nepal eating with your hands is normal. As a courtesy to us, there are toothpicks.
Here, too, I delight in collecting meaningful shots, especially the faces of small children and women. Of women I like the elegance, the care and the taste with which they combine the kurtha, long shirt with the slit on the sides and trousers, harmonious combinations even when they seem daring. Children are the eyes that attract me, dark and deep eyes, eyes that seem to touch you ... Claudia sums it up beautifully, a sentence that is worth the journey, eyes that look inside you!
Today the humidity and the morning fog do not want to give up, on the contrary the sky is increasingly gray. A few passing drops had just touched us during the first part of the road by car, but it is when we finally abandon the jeeps to continue on foot that we catch a first shower of rain. We huddle under the roof of a house for a few minutes, then it seems to drop and we leave. We cross the other side and the rain reaches us again, here we find shelter under a tree. This second shower is also short, but sufficient to make the already difficult path treacherous and slippery. We stay a bit behind, along with the guys carrying a bag full of clothes. Their ability to remain in balance with the flip-flops on the damp rock is amazing, while our technical shoes in goretex with the vibram soles sculpted prove to be completely ineffective, so much so that a couple of times we slip, without any consequence if not a little mud on the clothes. I like to follow with my eyes and with the lens the orange bag, which moves between the terraces, often walking on the edge of the walls, the only reference among the green. We knew that the path today would be difficult, so those who did not feel it had stayed at the Happy Home, but then in the evening they will reveal to us that even in the "leading group" there have been some flights.
The freshly painted blue roof of the SHREE BASANTA PRIMARY SCHOOL peeks through the trees at the end of a last difficult descent. The school is located on the crest of the hill, at the end of a dirt road, which we will then see being widened. Three large trees protect the driveway that leads into the courtyard, where the headmaster kept the children lined up to wish the precious Namasté to us, the latest arrivals, in chorus.
This school was deeply affected by the 2015 earthquake and today, almost two years old, it is re-inaugurated. The walls are freshly painted, everything is tidy, the children sit on the benches brought out for the occasion. The principal gives a short speech, apologizing that the party is no longer attended, but most of the adults are busy working in the fields or tidying up the houses. Then comes the time for the distribution of gifts, the notebooks that we carried on our shoulders for about an hour, the sack I had with pens and pencils, the bag of clothes.
The school is very nice, there are about 40 children, classes from the nursery (our kindergarten) to the third, but only 2 teachers. They tell us that there are many Dhalit, the poorest, and that a food support program would also be needed. We will see in the future how to follow up. The return is a pleasant walk downhill along a wide road under construction, which should connect the Highway with the Chitwan, shortening the current route by almost an hour, an important road but one that causes a long and deep wound in the side. of the hill.
On a curve one kilometer from the Happy Home, under a large ficus benjamin, there is a small temple dedicated to the goddess Khalí, poor, but built on a terrace whose surrounding wall is decorated with religious symbols, including the swastika facing west, which always makes a certain impression on us.
Dinner is always a good opportunity to chat and to satisfy our curiosity or listen to the many anecdotes of all these years of Hanunan's activity. Irene tells the story of Neera, who lived with relatives in a remote village in the jungle and was strangely reluctant to come to her family home. Only after some time did he discover the reason: to the village where to look after his little brother Bikram. They convinced her only by welcoming him too, then unschooled, today among the best and for the third consecutive year the first of school.
Day 6 - Thursday 20 April
We leave early: the road between Mugling and Chitwan is only open until 10:00, because there are big works in progress, so at 7:30 we are already on our orange bus. Even before the deviation there is a long queue, you continue in fits and starts.
From Mugling onwards, where we leave the Prithivi Highway, to go south, the road is a long continuous series of construction sites. The traffic is already chaotic in itself, being one of the main routes to and from India. Tons of goods are transported there, loaded as best they can on colorful trucks. In addition to this, there are all kinds of road works vehicles: some bulldozers, mechanical vehicles, but above all many workers with carts and wheelbarrows.
Work in progress equal dust. Dust plus rain equals mud. A brief shower of rain is all it takes to turn the road into a strip of mud. Here too sudden traffic blocks, perhaps due simply to the slowing of a truck to stop at one of the many stalls along the road, where everything is covered in dust and the pots are boiling on ingenious clay hearths.
This morning at the mere thought that our daughters were getting up to go to school I get a lump, I clear my throat by attributing the responsibility to the dust and I content myself with a greeting via Whatsapp.
After about three and a half hours we make a short stop, we too at a tin shack on the side of the road, where we buy chips and drinks, a delicious fresh Champa Lemon. Another half hour on the road and we reach Bharatpur.
The welcome to the SHREE JANAJEEVAN HIGHER SECONDARY SCHOOL is pompous, complete with a loudspeaker announcing our arrival, a banner on the entrance gate and teachers to donate silk scarves, while the pupils give us necklaces and bunches of flowers.
The school consists of two buildings on a large fenced lawn. Modernization works are underway thanks to the few government funds and Hanuman's help is requested to integrate the completion of the works. Specifically, the Dean asks for help to create the bathrooms and the library, perhaps even computers ... More touching is the speech of the President of the Committee, "it is not only us who thank you, it is also God who thanks you ..." and he concludes by saying “that your action can go forward not only for Nepal, but for the whole world”. Francesca explains that without prejudice to the priorities of the post-earthquake interventions, it is certainly our intention to help them.
In particular, he proposes to contribute to the arrangement of the library by dedicating it to a friend of theirs who died prematurely in an absurd accident in the mountains: along an easy but exposed path, he meets another hiker who loses his balance, clings to her and drags her down a cliff!
The meeting ends with the offer of drinks and fruit and the delivery of copies of the school calendar, which contains photos of last year's visit.
We move about ten kilometers to reach one of the entrances of the Chitwan National Park, where we have booked an elephant ride.
Shortly after the entrance to the park there are a series of fences with wooden platforms that allow tourists to climb them, after a first wrong attempt we enter the right enclosure, where there are already elephants waiting for us. Since there are five of us, Claudia, Alessandro, Marcella and Donatella and that a maximum of four can be climbed on each elephant, for photographic reasons Claudia and I split up on two different elephants. I join a young Ukrainian couple with their Nepalese guide. A large wooden board with a small balustrade is fixed on the back of the elephant, you climb astride the corner bracket and hold on to the handrail. We already test by climbing the solidity and strength of the animal, which does not bend when we put our foot on its back to climb. The docile elephant at the first command of the driver starts swinging.
We go into the jungle by wading the river, from where some canoes leave, an alternative way to visit the park. Soon we are captured by the sounds of animals, the call of birds, the heavy step of the pachyderm and the rustle of the branches it moves.
So we continue in the jungle for a couple of hours, immersed in nature, which regardless of our presence continues in its daily life: a satisfying experience, even if undoubtedly touristy, even in terms of cost.
We find the others of the group waiting for us near some local handicraft stalls, where not only is it sold but produced. A carver is at work, curious and effective the way in which he holds the piece of wood still, from which the figure of an elephant is emerging, holding it tightly between his feet, his hands being occupied by a wooden chisel and hammer. Across the street an old man weaves straw objects with impressive skill, all the more so when we realize that he is completely blind. It was 17:00, the road reopened at 16:00, heavy traffic should have already moved ... vain hope! If we had known, we wouldn't have made all those stops in town looking for hydraulic valves for the Happy Home. Shortly after the entrance to the road to Mugling, in fact, we stop for an accident for over half an hour and from there on it will be heavy in all senses, given the size of the trucks and their endless queue, which our driver Bigendra overtakes with millimeter overtaking. and come back at the last second, following a code that is obscure to us of honking and dazzling headlights when night falls. He still takes us to Benighat safe and sound, to tell the truth a little shaken, due to the road conditions and the duration of the journey, more than four and a half hours! It seems to have covered hundreds of kilometers, instead it was just over eighty!
Such a busy day deserves the time I spend writing before falling asleep.
Day 7 - Friday 21 April
There is excitement among the boys: today we leave for the 3-day trip. Three buses are waiting for us, we will be more than 100 people.
For many of us it's our last day at Happy Home and we want to leave the house tidy, so we are happy to get involved in cleaning.
Meanwhile, Hanuman's staff have gathered for a series of issues, calling some guy individually, Neera for example, who comes out happy and excited. Francesca will explain that they had pointed out to her that the day before her we had met her cousin on the street, with a heavy pannier on her shoulders, she too could have come to the Happy Home, but she had not accepted it. Now Neera was here, in a comfortable home, where she could study, while her cousin broke her back under her heavy load ...
Francesca reminds all the kids of the good fortune to be there, luck to deserve every day and to reciprocate when they grow up, collaborating when possible with Hanuman. She then announces that to give more job prospects they will organize professionalizing courses (computer, sewing, plumber, electrician, ...).
I don't remember how to get to the speech, but I am struck by the anecdote that Ravi tells, relating to the great Nepalese poet Laxmi Prajad Devkota. "One day at a meeting of poets in India, he showed up in traditional Nepalese dress, while all the others were elegantly dressed in suits. During a break, everyone is offered tea, but the Nepalese poet is snubbed because he is badly dressed. The next day he shows up in a suit and tie and when they offer him tea he dips the tie in the cup. Everyone looks at him in amazement and he comments "this tea is for my tie, if it had been for me you would have offered it yesterday!"
Before leaving, the usual group photos, all together in front of the Happy Home entrance: us, the boys of the foster home, all the other boys and girls in long distance adoption who live with their family in the nearby villages.
We all board our orange bus, already loaded with our luggage. We are crammed beyond belief, three of us on each seat and the others standing. We look at each other perplexed and only upon arrival at the paved road in Benighat we understand that it is a temporary accommodation, there are two other buses and most of the passengers get off to settle on those.
The first part of the journey is smooth, the road is in good condition and there is little traffic. The road runs alongside the Trisuli river, along whose banks there is a succession of patches of rice and vegetable plots, each of a different shade of green, with peasants in their colorful clothes working or resting under the shade of trees. Often the landscape changes and gives way to gigantic sand and gravel pits dug by the river, gray and dusty.
Traffic intensifies in the vicinity of Nagh Dhunga, the rock snake, the pass that leads to the plain of Kathmandu, is blocked. We therefore continue slowly in the suburbs of the city. Having experienced the quiet of the villages for a few days, it seems even more chaotic and suffocating.
We arrive at the end after almost five hours at the Allied Hotel, run by a friend of Hanuman, where the boys will sleep. We have dinner with them in turn on the long table with about twenty seats. Then we return to the Holy Himalaya, our hotel.
Day 8 - Saturday 22 April
Long and heavy day, with over 11 hours by bus for about 230 km. We leave at 7:00 in the morning on a public holiday, when the traffic in the city is still acceptable, long queues are only at petrol stations, the supply of which seems to have become an electoral weapon to discredit the government, in view of the elections. policies that will be held within a month.
We easily reach the meeting point with the other two buses, in a dirt square next to the airport, where aspiring drivers and motorcyclists practice driving, an ideal location to learn to dodge the holes and deep puddles of the Nepalese roads.
We go up the Kathmandu valley through an area full of brick factories, with the gray raw bricks to dry, before being fired in the kilns and then taking on the color we know and being stacked in large ordered piles along the road.
Just before the top of the hill, near Sanga you can glimpse in the haze the Kailashnath Mahadev Statue, the tallest Shiva statue in the world (and the fourth tallest statue in the world, 44 meters), which has protected the Kathmandu Valley since 2010 .
For the trip, the children were equipped with pills against motion sickness, in this case the bus, and plastic bags, but the first ones already show some signs of abating, we continue anyway for a couple of hours before stopping. to one of the many stalls along the road. Guides and drivers take the opportunity to refresh themselves, I accept Vitaliano's invitation to imitate them, with a plate of excellent chickpeas and tasty curry potatoes, accompanied by chapati, the typical bread of Indian and Asian cuisine, round and thin. Vitaliano then challenges me to taste some curry candies, I don't hold back and try to classify that indescribable flavor, but not entirely evil.
Shortly before noon we reach Ramechapp, where we stop to eat at the White House, a hotel restaurant along the main road frequented by locals and where they feed all our kids very quickly. For us adults, in addition to the usual dal bhat, some tasty fried fish.
We continue on the road following for a while the course of the river, whose stony bed doubles during the monsoons and covers the entire valley floor. The road has been recently repaired, with good asphalt and long stretches of retaining walls, which are already insufficient: a short stretch is interrupted by a landslide and the provisional road becomes an off-road track with a yielding edge, which climbs steeply on the hill.
After this stretch, an infinite series of hairpin bends bring us back up to a pass, where we stop. With a short walk we reach the Sindhu Ghadi fortress, where in 1822 the Nepalese defeated the English, in a battle that became epic when, running out of ammunition, the Nepalese threw stones and honeycombs at the invaders. Only the bases of the ramparts remain, but one can imagine the terrible gurkhas repelling the assailants.
This road, 158 kilometers of long and winding hairpin bends, was built with the help of the Japanese government and is named after the former leader of Nepal, Bishweshwar Prased Koirala, B.P. for short. Koirala Highway. It is defined by many as the most beautiful road in Nepal, but by some as the most dangerous.
The landscape gradually changes, we reach the plain, the dense trees give way to large cultivated fields, everywhere people at work and in the villages, at crossroads, lively markets. The colors are so bright that not even the dust from the streets can extinguish them. The desire to capture with the eyes or with the camera the thousand frames that slide from the window, make me overcome the tiredness that is now weakening us.
Finally, after eleven hours of travel, we arrive in Janakpur, but we are immediately swallowed up by traffic, thanks to the work in progress. The main roads are gutted for the construction of the sewer, the others invaded by vehicles of all kinds and, to seal the proximity to India, dozens of cows. Pending the conclusion of the works, the sewers are in the open, running alongside the road, mixing with dirt and waste.
We get stuck with the bus a couple of times. On these occasions an effective system of human parking sensors comes into operation, which through an indecipherable code of whistles and pats on the bodywork indicate how much room for maneuver remains.
Eventually we take the right path and arrive at the Welcome Hotel, our accommodation in Janakpur. The last obstacle remains that of raising a bundle of power cables to be able to get the bus into the hotel courtyard. The facade is modern, with blue mirrors and the hall is also new and welcoming, the rooms a little less, but after eleven hours of travel we don't have much trouble.
The dal bhat of the dinner is accompanied by a good pasta, we wash it down with a Gurkha beer. After dinner we can't resist going to have a look at the Janaki Madir, the sacred temple, crowded even in the evening, a few steps from the hotel. Here there is a continuous coming and going of pilgrims, who dribble the cows, the vendors and the beggars who crowd the churchyard. The white marble building is full of multicolored decorations, tomorrow we will be able to appreciate them better.
APRIL 2017 THIRD PART
by Marco M.
Day 9 - Sunday 23 April
A first piece of news discourages us: we leave by bus and not on foot as we had hoped.
An hour crossing the always fascinating countryside, but being seated inside I prefer to let Mahesh tell me the legend of the places we will visit and try to understand the complex hierarchy of the Hindu gods, which are thirty-three-three million, one and a half for each inhabitant of Nepal!
First stop Dhalusha, where it is said there are the remains of the giant arch that only Rama was able to draw, a condition that Shiva asked to choose who could marry his daughter Sita. The arch then broke into three pieces, one a heaven, one to the underworld and the other remained there on the ground.
Under a gigantic ficus, now included in a building with a tin roof from which the trunk protrudes, there is indeed a strange rocky conformation. Among the roots you can glimpse a strange bottomless hole, in addition to the guide who came with us from Janakpur there is a priest who explains the history of the place to the boys and then blesses them with the tilaka, the characteristic red mark on the forehead, also giving them to drink with a tiny ladle of holy water. Everything is very poor but somewhat suggestive, the tree is particularly large and is said to be over five hundred years old, but the legend of the arch dates back to much earlier.
We move a few kilometers, touching a large pool with a snake-shaped monument in the center to stop at the edge of a smaller one in Mani Madap, the place where the marriage between Shita and Rama would have been celebrated. Here there is only a platform with a small temple, but the people around the tub offer interesting shots: a little girl with light eyes (a photo for which some benevolent friends will flatter me by comparing me to the Mc Curry of the famous Afghan girl), a old man weaving a long straw rope, children bathing in the tub, the inevitable women with their colorful saris.
Speaking of women, the next stop is the Janakpur Women Development Center, whose motto is
“Empowerment through tradition: the local tradition of painting has become an art form, the Mithila art, very colorful and expressive, so much so that we buy T-shirts, paintings and a nice blanket, freshly made, so much so that it was still lying out to dry. The center consists of a group of buildings arranged in a square, with a beautiful courtyard in the center shaded by a large ficus. Each building has its function, we see in one decorating the ceramics, in another painting the fabrics, in a third making the colorful paintings, the fourth is the shop where you can buy the works. Perhaps just to pass the time while we spend some time shopping, perhaps simply for the pleasant background, Hanuman's staff has meanwhile started taking pictures of each child for long distance adoption. My arrival is providential, the camera card is now full and then I continue, a nice way to look each of them in the eye.
We return to the hotel for lunch, where we can even allow ourselves the luxury of a postprandial nap.
In the afternoon we move on foot, a long snake of gray T-shirts with colorful designs trying not to get cut by the oncoming traffic.
A short walk through the alleys of the bazaar and we arrive in front of the Janaki Mandir, the great temple / palace, actually quite recent, 1910, built in a particular style, the Rajput architecture, with white marble and colored inlays of other marbles and stones, a harmonious whole, sometimes daring but not too kitsh.
The place of worship dates back centuries to the construction of the Mandir and is frequented by a lot of people of all kinds, very religious or simply curious, especially young people with the inevitable (even here!) Cell phone, who seeing strange strangers bewildered they ask us to take a selfie with them!
We enjoy the beautiful climate and the humanity that attends the temple, the boys go around here and there, we hope that they are all there when we move to a smaller and less sumptuous temple, where a group of locals are playing and improvise a few steps of dance.
We continue the visit of the main religious monuments of the city along a first basin, at the corner of which stands a temple dedicated to Hanuman, which we discover has not only one but several heads side by side in the shape of a monkey.
A few more steps and we arrive at the edge of a second pool, much larger, at the edge of which there are various pavilions.
Here every evening at 7 pm there is a ceremony with music, about half an hour to go, but we gladly stop to wait, watching the shadows that lengthen and small snakes that sometimes emerge from the dark and turbid water.
The ceremony begins with the ablutions and the blessing of the instruments, then 3 monks go up on the platforms obtained on the staircase that slopes down to the water and begin a ritual dance with music and songs. In the meantime it has gotten dark and when they start using braziers the effect of the flames on them and the reflection on the water are extremely spectacular.
At the conclusion of the ceremony, I cannot resist the temptation to join the many who are scrambling to take the "blessing of the fire", first passing my hands quickly over the flame, then joining them as in the traditional namaste, finally passing them slowly over the head.
Janakpur gave us a pleasant evening, we have dinner in the hotel and then we collapse to sleep.
Day 10 - Monday 24 April 2017
We wake up early but breakfast is late and therefore we are unable to leave before 8. The road out of Janakpur is still not very busy, as is the BP HIGHWAY, the road that climbs with an infinite series of hairpin bends. At the pass, where a small market has been created just to refresh the travelers tried by the road, we make a short stop. By now the curiosity for the flavors has undermined the hygienic prudence and therefore we do not shy away from the offer of aluciock, potato balls fried in palm oil and chatpatt, puffed rice seasoned with curry and small chickpeas, with a slightly bright flavor but pleasant, served in newsprint cones with square cards like a spoon.
The road is still interrupted by a landslide and being the alternative one-way alternating route, a long queue has formed, made less boring by the presence of a group of vultures and a couple of eagles competing for carrion on the river bank.
Peddlers up and down the queue offer food, especially fruit and large cucumbers cut in half and seasoned with salt and spices, which they keep on large trays resting on their heads, right at the height of the bus windows.
We arrive at the White House Hotel, where we will have lunch, after about 6 hours of travel, but by now our resistance to travel is tested.
So the moment comes to say goodbye with the boys. We will stay in Ramechhap, they will return to Benighat via Kathmandu. Last speech of recommendation for the boys, this trip is a sort of reward trip, their academic results are good, they must continue like this, the goal for everyone must be a 75% evaluation, knowing full well that it will not be interpreted so rigidly , to leave those who will not join him at home.
Then the greetings. affectionate hugs, handshakes, pats on the cheeks, perhaps a little hasty so as not to run the risk of being seen crying. The fact is that as soon as their buses leave we all remain silent for a long time, although we are all seated around the same table, everyone is absorbed in his thoughts ... Will we see them again? maybe! What is certain is that we will carry them with us in our hearts, or perhaps it is a piece of our heart that will remain here with them ...
Just across the street, on the river bank, at the mouth of a long Tibetan bridge, stands the SHREE PASHUPATI PRIMARY SCHOOL. The Ramechhap area was hit hard by the 2015 earthquake and this was one of the first schools to be rebuilt, using a new and effective technique, cardboard-cement.
The school is well maintained, the classrooms clean and painted, the principal, a very determined young woman. The Tibetan bridge connects the school to the other shore and a few hundred meters further on the village rises, one of the two in which Hanuman intervened immediately after the earthquake, building bamboo huts with a tin roof on which you can still see the now almost completely discolored trace of Hanuman's H.
On the right of the bridge, by the river, surrounded by a beautiful green lawn, there is a small temple colored in white and blue, with a green tree. I stop for a moment to look at it, with the background of the hills it looks like a postcard, there is no one around, an oasis of peace, so magical that I don't dare to go near it, I enjoy it from a distance ...
In the village the houses half destroyed by the earthquake are still there. Two-storey houses, poor but dignified, built of stone and clay with wooden beams, could not withstand the seismic wave.
Many people are at work in the fields or in the vegetable gardens next to the houses. A very elegant girl who is planting seeds in the fresh furrow of the earth attracts our attention, she gives us a wonderful smile that lights up even more gaudy.
The trees around them have only become curious barns, with straw hanging from the branches. Next to the houses the goats are tied under small sheds, they look like small cribs, the atmosphere is serene, the water has recently arrived here, thanks to a lifting system powered by solar panels, technology also knows how to be a discreet friend.
Water can change life, as can the construction of a road, we see it in the next village, where there is a small school that we will visit.
Let's go back to the opposite bank, crossing the Tibetan bridge on foot, from where you can see a new road bridge a kilometer upstream. The access ramp is not yet completely completed, but it can be accessed with a cumbersome maneuver, passing under the span on a bumpy road, making a U-turn on the bank to take a very steep short climb that leads to the bridge.
From there the paved road continues, but we take a fork on the left, a dirt road on which the bulldozers are working to complete the road to the village where the SHREE JAKHANISTHAN PRATHAMIK VIDHYALA PRIMARY SCHOOL stands, which our friends from Hanuman have nicknamed the School of fishermen. The welcome is great, for the occasion they intertwined a portal of banana leaves, with a red sign hanging with the yellow welcome written in English and Nepalese, Just beyond the portal the tilaka ritual on the forehead and a wreath of orange flowers. The school would need an intervention but it is not known what the opening of the road will entail, if the number of children continues to grow, last year they went from 35 to about 50, or if the families will move elsewhere .. .
It seems that we will move towards the implementation of the necessary consolidation interventions and postpone the expansion, perhaps with the agile and modular technical solution adopted for Pashupati, once the demographic dynamics are better understood.
We talk until sunset and when we get back on the road it is dark, but by now we are used to trusting in our driver's ability to dodge the deepest holes and extricate themselves on the dirt road, for Binendra our bus is a 4x4!
At the end of the bridge, despite the darkness, work continues. The asphalting of the road is in progress, with a curious manual method: in the light of the headlights of the steamroller, buckets of bitumen are poured onto the road surface and then by hand, as if sown, sand and gravel, then compacted by the large vehicle, with a shiver that runs through our backs when touching the bridge makes him tremble all over.
Pleasant dinner at the White House with noodles or sauteed rice, a worthy alternative to dal bhat, topped off with chat and travel stories.
Day 11 - Tuesday 25 April, two years after the earthquake
A bit difficult night at the White House hotel. As soon as we close the doors of the rooms we hear the creaking of the metal shutters that close the corridor towards the street and towards the inner courtyard: two sturdy padlocks block them and we suddenly feel prisoners. A sigh of relief when, having no one answered our calls, rummaging around we see the keys hanging from a nail, providential also because Alessandro, who had accompanied guides and drivers to their nearby hotel, was locked out.
The internal rooms have no ventilation, only a small window overlooking the dining room, the bathroom is blind (and certainly not fragrant), the bed linen invites us to show off our personal sheet bags ... well before 8 we are all awake and a little tired. That may be why jokes flock at breakfast, genuine laughter for witty puns, such as "disagree" to communicate the first signs of excessively rapid digestion problems.
But in the meantime the world goes on with other problems: they warn us that from 6 this morning there is a mother with 2 children who is waiting for Francesca and Irene to tell her problems. After the interview, it is decided that the oldest will be welcomed in the foster home and the youngest will be supported remotely and will therefore stay with the mother.
While the jeep was necessary in recent years, the road we will travel today seems to have been fixed and we therefore leave by bus. It is an important road, it leads to Tibet, but for our western eyes it is little more than a cart track, which climbs up the mountain with tight hairpin bends, on which the bus faces the nose on the precipice.
All around, patches of lush vegetation in the most inaccessible areas alternate with fields and terraces every time the ridge flattens a little, with stone houses with thatched roofs perfectly integrated into the landscape nearby.
Around a bend, at the entrance to a village, the inhabitants gathered to welcome us warmly: we arrived at the SHREE PRAGATISHIL SECONDARY SCHOOL. We pass under the portal of banana leaves, the teachers put silk scarves and flower necklaces around our necks, the students lined up accompany their Namastè with the gift of flowers and petals. These small welcome ceremonies that we receive upon arrival in the schools are always exciting, even Vitaliano will reveal to me that he always feels a certain emotion, even if they have been given to him for years now.
This is a large 3 storey school, freshly painted red. In the courtyard an awning has been set up to protect us from the sun and an audio system, the benches have been set up in the courtyard and pupils and people of the village take their place, girls and women with colorful saris and elderly people with a face furrowed by the sun.
The day is clear and the sun is high, I am almost drunk from the whirlwind of shots that enter the viewfinder of the camera. This is where I take one of the shots I love the most. The girl had a nice red sari with wide green pants and she kept going in and out of the courtyard gate waiting for her friends. Next to the red gate a tree with bright green leaves, a perfect play of colors with the young woman's clothes, which after a few attempts I finally manage to grasp. Swallows chase each other above the courtyard, they have made their nests under the balconies that run along the entire façade of the school ... the school where swallows fly!
Today is a big party, the local authorities are also present and make their speeches, often interrupted by long applause. We are called by the speaker one by one, who has a role with his qualification, Giorgio is (rightly) promoted to the engineer field, in fact if he deserves it. We move to the stage to the plaque on the facade, covered with a red cloth. Francesca is called to discover it, just today, April 25, exactly two years after the terrible earthquake of 2015. At 11:58 we have a minute of silence to underline it.
The party continues with a dance made by 3 girls, who despite being in school uniform each had a different detail. At the end of their performance we are invited to dance, we gladly join together with children and teachers.
Then another small ceremony, the ribbon cutting of the nursery room. The feast ends with the offering of fruit.
Before leaving we are presented with two requests for distance support, Irene collects all the information and takes good notes.
We leave with the bus, the downhill road seems shorter, or maybe we are the ones who hope so, given the thrilling slope. For some, however, it is not enough and relaunches: the Nepalese who accompany us and Alessandro do it all on the roof of the bus.
Short stop for lunch always at the White House and then we leave Ramechhap for Kathmandu.
In Bhaktapur we stop for a check of the consolidation works of the SHREE SUBARNESHOWR LOWER SECONDARY SCHOOL, the school where Hashish's grandmother, one of Hanuman's Nepali boys, acts as caretaker and janitor. The little old woman welcomes us with tea and cinnamon biscuits, while the workers with a pneumatic hammer partially demolish the walls to bare the pillars and reinforce them with an additional reinforced concrete coating. It is a historical school for Hanuman, where they intervened in 2008 and 2012, when a second floor was built. The work in progress became necessary after the earthquake, the school has substantially held up but it needs to be reinforced with major renovations, it is necessary to intervene right down to the foundations.
We arrive at the Holy Himalaya Hotel at 6 pm, we are divided between relaxation in rooms and massage.
We have dinner in an excellent restaurant on the second floor of an anonymous building, the Mountain Steak House with an open kitchen and large and tasty steaks, accompanied by an amazing house mustard and good Everest beer.
April 2017 fourth part
From Wednesday 26 to Saturday 30 April
In the following days we split up: the neophyte volunteers from Nepal around the Kathmandu valley, the leaders of the Association who remained in the city to carry out a series of bureaucratic and organizational tasks (we can barely imagine how much work there is behind the interventions in schools and the support of children helped by Hanuman).
We visit villages and cities where history and mythology intertwine. Our guides will point out small details on a street corner or unravel the complicated structure of imposing temples, in terms of size and richness of details, isolated or almost suffocated by other houses, or grouped in the splendid Durbar Street or Durbar Square, the street or the palace square. We will see large brick pagodas, with frames inlaid with wood or painted in gold, marble statues, large stupas, prayer wheels, niches full of offerings.
We will see buildings during the earthquake, sometimes reduced to simple piles of debris, other times harnessed in rudimentary and ingenious scaffolding, in some cases just rebuilt, wherever we will still be able to guess the ancient glories, when the valley was divided into three kingdoms and the three capitals, Kathmandu, Patan and Bhaktapur also competed with each other on an artistic level.
Our guides will help us untangle the innumerable gods, their different manifestations and the vehicles they would traditionally use to move, to understand the complex ceremonies, among all the most suggestive the morning homage of the reclining statue of Vishnu in Budhanilkantha. We will visit Tibetan monasteries and Hindu temples, we will see self-styled holy men expose themselves to receive offers from tourists who want to photograph them, others distant and careful to avoid any contact with foreigners. We will see the funeral pyres burn at the end of an articulated rite full of symbolism. We will simply stop to look at the people passing by, the humanity that is perceived quivering in the surroundings of the most sacred places, where people and sacred animals respectfully touch each other or irreverent monkeys chase each other.
Everywhere artisans and sellers will offer us their products or their wares, simple banquets or small artisan shops, some larger, other tiny closets in which sale and processing overlap, difficult not to get involved in the skill of the artists and the tempting prices, above all. taking into account that the first requested price is always almost double the actual one at which it can be purchased.
But in the eyes and hearts we carry our children, we often see them in the eyes of the little ones we meet, in the uniforms of the pupils who leave a school, in the dirty and tried hands of a small worker ...
The colors make us intoxicated, the scents intoxicate us, but they are the sounds that touch us deeply ... And not only those of the Tibetan bells, which vibrating with different frequencies stimulate the chakras, but also the simple music that comes out of the CDs sold to street corners. The mantra Om mani padme uhm, “jewel in the lotus flower”, the one that Vitaliano played to wake us up after the nights spent at the Happy Home that we now have fixed in our ears, can be heard so often.
Less frequent and for this reason it causes our hearts to skip a beat to hear a familiar song, Resham Firiri, a song that our children sang to us in English: we exchange a look and continue in silence ... only a few days have passed since we saw them leave from Ramechapp, we miss them to death ...
As the days go by we begin to think that when we are no longer here, to touch with our hands, to see with our eyes, to breathe with our nose, to listen to this splendid country with our ears, we will need something that will make us relive its sensations. And also the heartfelt story that we will tell to our loved ones and our friends will have to find a tangible sign, a small transactional object, a symbolic casket in which to enclose our feelings ... This is why we will take a certain frenzy for purchases. We will buy necklaces, bracelets, scarves, Tibetan bells, lungta (the colorful prayer flags), all from the same suppliers that our friends in Hanuman have relied on for years now, the same products they will buy to resell for self-financing in Italy.
These days of sightseeing, although extremely pleasant, do not cancel the deep emotions experienced in the previous ones, which instead take root more and more deeply within us, stimulating important reflections on the meaning of our existence, on the rightness of our way of life and on the our approach, so ... Western, to things and to nature. It is really true the Indian proverb that says: “traveling to discover the countries you will find the continent in yourself”.
Sunday 30th April
It is the day of departure. Mindful of the difficulties of the start, we weigh and mark the baggage well, in order to be able to identify it during boarding and stay inside the 30 kg maximum weight allowed per person. We fill the hotel lobby with our orange bags, so much so that we think of arranging them in H as in the Hanuman logo and we get a photo from Roberto, the volunteer who will spend part of his trip to Nepal with our lads.
Nepalese friends fill us with gifts: flower necklaces, silk scarves, for each a small souvenir and a rice paper notebook, the typical Nepalese envelope hat ... then warm greetings with long hugs, we shared days together but above all, from now on, we share a mission ... for the children of Nepal!