Friday, January 12, 2018

Organic Magic

Well, folks I’m at my second farm experience in Nepal. You can call this “total immersion”.

Eco-organic Farm in the Kapan district of Kathmandu is the complex enterprise of Sangham Sherpa and his family. (The “Sherpas” are a Buddhist tribe/caste in Northern Nepal that we associate with trekking porters.) 

I’m not quite sure how to describe this far-reaching undertaking. It’s an organic farm, the produce of which we package each morning for sale in upscale markets. We sort mong bean sprouts. Measure out kim chi.

It’s an organic restaurant for those ambitious enough to ride up the pot-holed lanes. 

Combined with the Himalayan trekking company he and his wife lead. Here they are dressed in their Sherpa finery with a Belgian tour group after the Anna Purna Base Camp trek with their two daughters.

And they have plans for supplying organic food to trekkers, maybe an organic garden at Kopan Monastery, etc …. 

He is an ambitious man! Always on the phone, planning, influencing, helping...

But that’s what it takes to rise from what we could call poverty in a small village, to organizing better conditions for trekking porters, to having connections in the Agriculture Department and lobbying for more organics in Nepal.

His Mother is a case in point. She didn’t seem to be a happy woman, always yelling shrill instructions. But at night when she enjoyed the local brew, we could get her to reminisce.

 I asked the 12 year old to ask her grandmother what it was like growing up. The jist of it was:
No schooling, reading or writing. Her father would walk 7 days each way barefoot to fetch bags of salt. At age 9 woke up at 4 AM to haul fodder for the animals. Age 12 married. Husband left the country for work and she raised her son Sangham by herself, being a porter, growing food, etc... Husband came home and died. She worked hard and survived. She taught her son ambition.” Wow!!!

I had hoped to get more instruction in organic growing here but what I got again was an education in living. 

My rendition will seem a little hodge-podge but that’s is how it evolved, or assaulted me, each day.

Here is the Earthquake House where I slept.

There are many such structures in Nepal. Because there were many aftershocks after the initial destruction in 2015 and because the family home often needed reconstruction, families lived for months in these tarp or zinc roofed, bamboo framed and dirt or tarp floors. (And for those poor enough not to have the resources to rebuild the house, they still live in their Earthquake Houses. My driver from the hotel, Deepak, says that’s all his Mother will ever have.)

At first I recoiled to the label of Earthquake House. Do these people want to be reminded of that death and destruction? One daughter remembered sounds like many buffalo stomping, water shaking and then houses collapsing. But after hearing stories of this neighborhood, I feel privileged to sleep here. I am told that neighbors without houses slept on the grass here and in these organic gardens. They played volley ball here in community solidarity. Who cares if there are rat droppings on the floor! 

This is a place of safety, a place of refuge, where a family slept together and celebrated survival.

You could call this organic living! 

Picking green beans and bok choi for dinner. Walking past odiferous cowsheds and scurrying chickens on the way to the outdoor toilet. Trying not to slide off the 1 foot wide path in the middle of the night. Washing clothes and food in the same unfiltered not-fit-for-drinking outside spigot.

And organic magic! The first night I was awakened by grunting squealing behind us. The next morning? Placenta still trailing,  the mother and wobbly gaited babies. Each morning they greeted me, each day fresh new life.

And here two are of the workers in the green tarped dining room  as we listen to the ultrasound heart beat of my tiny fetus granddaughter! Sent by wifi!

And although I had missed the Dashain goat-sacrifice festival, I did partake of three days of the Tihar Festival.  

Five days of celebrating different life forms. The first, crow (takes prayers to heaven?) 
The second, dog — see these street dogs enjoying the attention of adornment and extra food. (Honored for protecting the home.) 

And the third, cow (prosperity.) . Wow! What a big to do! Necklaces, foot anointing, tail and forehead painting, incense ... (And I wasn’t around for the next two days…)

I wish this family well. I hope organics succeeds in Nepal. I’m so glad girls can go to school. Here the are the children on their school-bus.

And I’m grateful to have slept in an Earthquake house next to baby goats. Organic magic.

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