Monday, February 17, 2014

Winding Down

2014 got off to a lousy start. In early January, returning from Pokhara, Harvey’s backpack with his Kindle, pocket camera, and six months of language notes was stolen. A few days later, he got a terrible toothache. The dentist at Ampipal said he needed a root canal so he rushed off to Kathmandu. A root canal was not needed after all, but it was still a major drag. Then Harvey got the runs. Then Malinda got the runs. (Too much information?) Then Harvey got a cold. Then Malinda got a cold. Then Malinda got the runs again. Considering how healthy we have been for our whole time here, these ills were long overdue and we are glad they came as a package. As soon as the calendar flipped to February, we resumed our usual good health and good luck.

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We got some discouraging news in January as well. Sangita Adhikari, a first grader in our school, was born with club feet, misshapen hands, and knees that do not bend. She is a sunny, delightful child who is clearly beloved by her family.  We arranged for her to be seen by a pediatric orthopedic surgeon in Kathmandu. The exam showed that while intervention is possible, it would be prolonged, difficult, and very costly, with no assurance of success. The family decided that they just do not have the resources to pursue it. We are disappointed, but understand that it is really the only decision they could make.  Our deep thanks to Dr. Deepak Mahara and his colleagues at the Tribhuvan University Teaching Hospital for giving Sangita a thorough – and pro bono! – exam.

Sangita has two older sisters who will one day get married and leave home. She herself will likely never marry and when her parents die it is not clear who will care for her. Her father wants to put aside $4,000 for her future care and is considering working overseas to create a fund for her.  We have seen the impact on families of men leaving for years at a time to work in the Gulf, and it is not good. Life here can be fraught with painful choices.

Sangita (in gray) front and center
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On a more positive note, one of our projects has finally gotten traction. Since we first came here in 2010, we have been intrigued by the ancient fortress and palace complex at the top of our mountain, Liglig. It is historically important and archaeologically rich, and the acres of ruins and mounds have never been mapped or fully surveyed. With views along 150 kilometers of the Himalayan range, it is a spectacular place. (For more on Liglig, go here.)


The southern end of Liglig Kot
For centuries, the ruins were used to provide stone for houses and fences. Over the past decade, the communities at the top of Liglig have transformed the site with reforestation and the construction of pavilions, picnic areas, and a bandstand. They have erected a small building to house a future museum and they hope to attract tourists. There are cultural festivals and public events. The site is getting richly-deserved attention, but the structural and historical integrity of the site is threatened.
 
The northern end of Liglig Kot
Over the past year, we have been trying to put together a group of people to develop a plan that balances historic preservation, community development, tourism, and scholarship.  We have finally rounded up all interested parties, including the national Department of Archaeology, the community association, a representative from the academic community, and the Gorkha Foundation. We have received some interest from the tourism industry and hope to attract the attention of NGOs. We have identified potential funding sources to develop the plan and begin implementation. (If anyone has ideas for funding, please let us know.)

We are surprised that we have gotten as far as we have with this, and we will continue pursuing it until we hit a wall. It helps that all the players see the need for a plan, although it may become clear as we get into it that there are different ideas on what that plan should be. We expect to be back in Nepal this fall working on the proposal, and we’ll see what roles we may play on any project that emerges. 

The king's palace
 
The main fort
Dharapani from Liglig Kot
Looking north from Liglig Kot

 
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UPDATES….  Our post on Sita’s wedding brought us many (for us) emails.  Sita has been shuttling between Dharapani and Lamjung, and it’s not yet clear where she will settle. Her husband returns to Abu Dhabi this month. Her friends say that she is happy, but when we asked her she really didn’t want to talk about it. 
 
The mill is still going gangbusters. The women’s association put up a signboard that proudly lists the members. Malinda's name comes first on the sign and in the photo she's the one in the middle. 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
The project to pump water throughout Dharapani is just about done. Mit is dragging his feet on getting our house hooked up, in part because we already have an easy, reliable and free flow of water from the stream. He may be more inclined to get connected when Harvey leaves and he takes over the job of filling the tanks. Meanwhile, the contractors built an enclosure at the stream to keep animals from getting into the water supply. It is hideous – the price, we suppose, of development.
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Dharapani and Himalchuli
We have three weeks left in Dharapani. Living here has been an extraordinary experience on a number of levels, and it will take time, distance, and a review of 10,000+ photos/videos and 1,000 pages of Harvey’s daily journals to fully appreciate what it has meant.
 

Our house (the white one)
We had considered staying another year – not teaching, but in some other role – but ultimately decided it was time to move on. Thoreau explained his decision to leave Walden by saying that he had gotten all he could from the experience. “Perhaps it seemed to me that I had several more lives to live, and could not spare any more time for that one.”  We feel much the same.  We are in our early 60s, life seems short, and we can't keep our health and marbles forever.

Other clues it is time to leave….  Our successive piles of beer bottles next to the outhouse have become an embarrassment to the family …. Harvey has played 3,095 (and counting) games of Solitaire, most of them played while waiting for web pages and emails to open…. Malinda has gotten far too attached to cats Seti and Tika…. Teaching has become a six-day-a-week job.… Although Malinda's computer died last summer, she is still grieving for Photoshop.... When we ask each other what we will want to eat in the States, all we come up with is dalbhat…. We are without health insurance and pushing our luck… We have not seen the last two seasons of Breaking Bad and want to know how it ends. (No spoilers, please!)…. We are down to our last stick of deodorant.
 
As for the future…. we arrive in Boston at the end of March and will spend the next two months shoveling three decades of occupation out of our house and getting it ready for sale. We have elder son Jonah’s wedding in Reno in June, and then we will relocate to Eugene, Oregon. Living in Nepal has clarified a lot for us, especially our aversion to consumerism and frenzy, as well as our need for simplicity and nature. Most of Malinda’s relatives are in Eugene, and we hope to find a place in the country that can replicate our views here (not likely).

 
 
If we manage things well, we will spend part of each year here in Nepal, perhaps up at Liglig, or perhaps consulting, or perhaps writing. Or perhaps we’ll get drawn into something completely different. We will see what turns up.
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Our ability to stay here for nearly two years was possible only with the help of wonderful people.  Jonah handled our finances and paid our bills. We assume we are still solvent….  Mikel Sidberry took care of the outside of our house. Based on photos, the house looks better now than at any time during the 28 years we lived there….. Ted Roland tended to the inside of the house and kept the pipes from bursting (except once). While we were gone, Ted became a master glass craftsman. That’s his joker bike man on the left; to see other creations, go here …. Pete Jackson, Donna Dickerson, and Sarah Bachrach took care of our plants…..  Thanks to all.

We will keep this blog dormant in case we have anything interesting to report in the future. Many thanks for reading and we’ll see some of you soon.