It has been 2 months since we made our big move to Astam, a hamlet tucked under the embrace of the Annapurna. The boys, much to our surprise, have adjusted almost seamlessly, soaking in new experiences with light-heartedness and a sense of fun. I couldn’t be more thankful. Often enough, when the freezing waters and icy winds get me down, I would find inspiration in their aptitude to simply go with the flow. We are taking it a step at a time, and it is getting easier day by day.
Language transcends all barriers when a football appears in the scene. We got them a football from Hemje in the second week and it magnetised the village children that lived within 500m from our homestay. It still does with new faces. Football is a daily affair on the terraces for hours, sometimes till nightfall in complete darkness. We can hear them but we cannot see them.
Little A found his new love with a baby goat. He religiously feeds her with fresh leaves in the morning and evening and runs with her when he has his burst of energy. His love affair, over time, has extended to Madam Buffalo, Madam Cow and her beloved calf, Kali. Suddenly, the haystacks make real sense to them. It isn’t just a hide-and-seek hideout.
One random afternoon, Big A, totally unaware of being in the right place and right time witnessed the birth of 2 baby goats. He was in total awe with the entire birthing process and how quickly it had all happened with no fuss. In contrast, the human species has somehow made the whole birthing business rather complicated. The next day, the boys found that only one calf survived the night. The other, apparently was attacked by a vicious wild cat. I was grateful that he had experienced it all which saved me from explaining, in many words, how babies come about, and how life can be forfeited too soon. Later, when it had all sunk in, he decided that it was a rather revolting process and the question of having children in his adulthood was compromising.
Spring is finally here after a cold winter. The warmer temperatures have brought more comfort and relief but the merciless winds from the snow-capped mountains continue to make their debut from time to time. With spring comes abundant life from the world of insects. The bees and butterflies make a head start, followed by the pesky flies and mosquitoes. Of late, we have seen the hatchings of termites. More to come on this subject as we have discovered that the termite species have the ability to abandon males altogether in reproducing their colonies!
Harvesting vegetables from the garden at our homestay has become a regular part of our routine. Little A couldn’t believe, much to his excitement being a carrot muncher, that carrots do appear from the ground when you tug at their leafy tops. When hunger calls, he learns that he can chill out at the greenhouse picking tomatoes and sweet pea pods, and wild juicy yellow berries along the pathways. These berries, known as the yellow raspberries – aiselu- is a native shrub to the Himalayas. Its fruit is sweet, detachable, and highly sought after by birds, elephants and peckish humans.
Green leafy couldn’t get fresher on our plates as we harvest them just before cooking. And if you wish for eggs, you got to get them yourselves. The chickens have snappy beaks and aren’t too pleased about sharing them.
Coming from an urban environment, and feeling rather unskilled, there is an abundance of knowledge and hands-on experiences to learn from the villagers. We are grateful to our hosts for sharing their garden vegetables and dairy produce with us. Every ingredient that comes our way to prepare a meal has been reaped with love and hard work.
There is much to do in the fields before monsoon sets in June. There is much to share and it will come in many more chunks and slices.