We were finally there. But, as we began to realize following elaborate trails of bamboo irrigation systems, just how little we knew about this place. Phakumba is not a village, it is a conglomeration of villages. There is no town “center.” There are 9 schools and 7 districts. One health post. This was not the destitute village we were expecting.
That night, we stayed at Dawa’s house. Rolling out our sleeping backs and mats, we slept on the floor by a hearth. In the glow, children poked their heads in and out and Dawa came in with a few glasses of Tangba (a drink make from pouring hot water over fermented millet.) We drank. Refilled out glasses and drank some more. Dawa’s father, who we called Baba, came in. He looked nearly 80 and we couldn’t believe that he climbed these hills daily.
Smelling of smoke and feeling the altitude we felt the alcohol mix, and blur us into sleep.
The next morning, Suman and David woke up before I did and they went off to the out house for a very memorable poop. Apparently, it had been about 2 ½ days, maybe 3, since either one of them had defecated. I was much more regular, though an incident in which I mistook alcohol pads for butt wipeys made me feel their discomfort.
That day, we met with the VDC’s veterinarian. He was very helpful, and we chatted over morning Tangba and, what we deduced, pork fat. Afterwards, we went down to meet with a teacher and talk to him about what we were doing and see what problems he saw with the educational system. As we walked down the terrace slope, everyone knew us. News travels fast in a small village.
After that, we packed up our things, said our goodbyes and trekked off to Dorchi’s in-law’s house. Dawa told us it was ½ an hour away, so we had absolutely no idea how far it was. We hiked up. David’s knee, which had started hurting him on the final ascent the day before, was getting worse. We were doubled-up on packs, and relying heavily on our walking sticks for support.
We hiked through another Cardamom forest, simultaneously cursing it for being there and blessing the fact that they had it. At last, we arrived at the house. It was a 2 ½ story mud and wood structure that sat atop a large terrace and overlooked the effacing Limbu village and, very distantly, Taplejung. Dawa and his brother set up our tents and brought our supplies into the house. The family did not know how to make tea, so Dawa taught them. David and I did not normally drink tea, we did so because we thought it was the thing to do. It was a strange scenario.
There was a couple packs of kids running around with chickens. Dorchi’s youngest, Dulma, was there with her mother. I don’t think she recognized me from the time before. Dorchi says she has Autism, but we weren’t quite sure – not that we were experts. But she didn’t respond to sounds, could not speak, and did not seem to show an aversion to eye contact. It is quite probable that she has some hearing deficit that evolved into the symptoms of a disability. But, as Suman commented on her laugh, “that is probably the purest laughter in the world.”
This was to be our home for the next week and a half. Little did we know how much we would grow to care about it, and feel comfort when we ducked our heads into the smoke filled dining room for supper.