Sunday, December 31, 2017

Hasera — Simple Pleasures

My friends are texting— are you having fun?

I don’t think “fun” at this point would describe my Nepal experience. If “adventurous” means uncertainty, noise, chaos, foreign, interesting, getting lost,  etc… then that would describe the center of Kathmandu (Thamel). 

But fortunately now I’m in the country. At Hasera Agricultural Research and Training Center (, Govinda Sharma, the founder and well-known Nepali teacher of permaculture, had answered my inquiry about organic farms on which to work and stay. Just one long taxi ride from Kathmandu.

Whew! This feels so much better since I am a “country girl.” But also one can breathe here, high above it all and away from the pollution and noise and tourists. 

Here is Govinda teaching, always teaching...

Well, sort of away from the noise. 

Below the hill on the highway, musical horns  play while passing around a blind curve next to a cliff.  (Apparently horns playing a tune are outlawed in Kathmandu so the bus owners enjoy their individual musical statement below me.) So I awaken without an alarm at 6 AM to the sound of horns, the mooing of Kali the cow and the chopping of vegetables in the kitchen. Actually those sounds are now simple pleasures. Life awakening.

My days here at Hasera are unstructured

Sometimes they have work for us, sometimes not. Here we are planting.

Picking tea leaves.

We don’t even know when mealtime is. We just wait for the”Yodelyodelyodelwho.” Apparently a Swiss girl once tried to teach them how to yodel.They didn’t master the technique but retained the sounds as a meal call. And if you don’t appear for the meal they come find you.

And the meals? 

“Dal Bhat Power, 24 hour” T shirt describes the basic meal. 

A little bowl of lentil soup and large plate of rice. (I begged for less rice.) On the side are are sauteed vegetables and if you lucky fried bitter gourd,   curried balsam apple, and other exotics from the garden. So good!!

Even the spices they use are grown here — pepper, chili, cumin, garlic, ginger… For breakfast often roti (like Indian chapati), banana and apple. 

Actually the fruit is a luxury because it is grown here only in season and often has to be purchased.

So, when the basic meal is supplemented with something special, that is a “simple pleasure.”

Like when Begin, the older son, went to the city for errands and came back with peanut butter. Add that to the roti and banana — wow! Or when I gave him 1000 rupees to buy chocolate for everyone. (I thought he’d come back with change for the $10 but chocolate here is expensive.) What an after dinner treat! 

And mo mo’s. A traditional Nepalese dish. See  us here taking the rounds made from just flour, water and salt and stuffing them with a curry mixture. One has to do it just so or they will fall apart while steamed. 

Or the samosas! A lot of work, made with more of a pie crust dough, again stuffed just so, and deep fried. A luxury high calorie snack!

 In addition there are dipping sauces that I have yet to make. The simplest is tomatoes and salt and chili, cooked 5 minutes. Or the same with tomatillos (called tree tomatoes) here, with their skins first boiled off. To each of these ground roasted sesame seeds are added.

The best so far? Well, a slightly adulterated Western version of mo mo’s. Shaved chocolate, mashed  banana and chopped apple. No cinnamon? No problem. Just add black pepper. Maybe deprivation makes something this simple more precious. If so, deprivation occasionally is a good thing.

Case in point is the most delicious sensual experience yet at Hasera. A shower! 

See Rebecca blowing on the fire after feeding it cardboard and wood. (Of course we can’t heat water when rice bran is being cooked for Kali the cow.)

 See Josh pouring water to be heated. 

See the shower stall — a short walk up slippery steps while carrying the bucket. Ahhh… Even hooks to hang a towel, clean clothes and the underwear one washes in the warm water. Simple pleasures!!!

Clean body, full tummy and sunset. 
Or in the early morning, if you are very lucky, a  view of the Langtang Range of the Himalayas. Ahhh…

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