A Village Awakens
I climb out of my sleeping fleece and put on my black yoga pants for the fifth day in a row. I scrape a dry Qtip under my eye to wipe away the sleep and mascara from six days ago. Slipping into my shower shoes, I grab my wet wipes and head for the squatter.
My black yoga pants are perfect for this chore as they roll up easy and stretch as I squat. I am quite impressed at my ability to hit the porcelain every time. Unlike the patron before me. I rinse with four buckets of water, wash my hands with a corner of my wet wipe I think I didn't use and brush my teeth with my bottled water. I head back to my cell, grab my padlock and step outside to meet my yoga master, Shivagiri; my watch reads 5:45am.
The mist wraps around me a like a warm blanket and dew caresses my face. I look for the rising sun. Shivagiri, appears with his big (annoying) smile; how can somebody be so happy this early in the morning? Must be the yoga.
Although I'm not a morning person, I really look forward to our morning walk through the daily lives of villagers of Kathmandu Valley and am tolerant of Shivagiri's habit of telling me everything I need to know about life. Trust. Breath in and out through the nose. Give more than you take. Do the cat pose ten times a day to keep your reproductive organs healthy. Believe.
On this particular morning, the vapor dries quickly and the sun warms my face and soul. As if the villagers could sense the beauty of the day, the farmers are already in the fields harvesting the rice. I sneak a peek at an elderly man as he bundles the rice, but it is a young woman who strikes me. She is folded over scooping up the rice stalks. I stop and admire her tenacity and sense of self. She is alone and content. I wonder what she is thinking. She's so focused. She doesn't seem to notice my presence.
I stop timidly, wait patiently for her to look up and through dramatic gestures and facial expressions, I receive permission to take her photo. She bobs her head from side to side in the Nepali way that at first glance appears to be a "no," but agrees. Again, like most Nepali people, she doesn't smile. I'm not sure if it's to conceal her teeth or if it is the nature of her way. I take two pictures and then motion for her to look at herself. She shows no expression. I wonder if she likes what she sees. To me, she is beautiful.
We continue on through the paddies and come across a futbol game. I pause and watch as the older boys hit the ball to the youngest, giving him a chance to practice or perhaps show off. I'm amazed at the support and attention they give this younger player.
Approaching a spring-fed community watering hole, children and mothers are gathered preparing for school: brushing teeth, washing hair and tenderly styling the girls' hair in pigtails. A little girl in pink smiles a toothless grin. Immediately, I recognize the toothless grin to be that of a six year old. I smile back and think of my nephew in first grade. Missing him.
Like the other four mornings, we come across the lady in red washing her metal dishes under the spout on the main road. Buses and trucks go honking by, leaving a trail of dust on her newly washed dishes.
Next to her, is the public bath built of bricks chest high. There are colorful and shiny saris hanging over the bricks and cotton pieces strewn about over the walls. Women go about washing themselves amongst their neighbors.
I continuously am seeking balance. I trip over rocks jutting out from the road, step over fresh animal droppings, avoid toothpaste spit and the morning phlegm that seems to conglomerate in their throats overnight.
We trek up the 75 degree, gravel incline. I am breathless. My teacher is breathing in and out through his nose, unaffected by the incline and high altitude. He leads me past local stores opening for the day; it isn't even 6:30am. We step inside a kiosk and sit down at the benches for tea. The town gossips sit around the table.
Fascinated, I sit down and watch the conversation between these seven men. I imagine these villagers are discussing who they saw at the public baths, the rice harvest, and who is this strange girl walking around with Shivagiri. Perhaps, this is what Shivagiri wanted.
A tiny man with a khaki cap and pants drawn tight with a belt, grinds black pepper in his mortar for the tea. He's interrupted by a boy around the age of 15. Immediately, he stops what he's doing and hands him three pencils. It isn't even 7am. Has school started already? Or is this his son trying not to get a demerit for not having his school supplies?
The tea is ready. It is delicious. The hint of pepper awakens my senses. I take my first sip and glance up to find 18 eyes watching me. I instantly smile and say honestly that this is the best tea I've ever had. I don't need Shivagiri to translate. They understand.
I thank them for the morning tea and experience and step onto the gravel road. Awake.
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Published on 12/22/06