Last Saturday Ellie, Sasha and I were invited to lunch at a beneficiary’s house. This is the house of the woman who lost her husband in the earthquake, and who lives with the family of her sister-in-law. We finished this site about a month ago, and I felt a very deep connection with both these women and their extended family. The entire village were very involved in this site and kept popping in while we were working there to give us sweets, chocolates, cold drinks, encouragement, help and love.
Now on Saturday, when I had just about recovered from the ten day Giardia saga, and my stomach had just shrunk back to normal human sized portions again, we set off at 10am for our lunch appointment. We were joined by Kabitha, Soniya, Shrada and Roni, four of the Nepali staff members that work with us. And possibly four of the most beautiful girls I have ever seen.
It was a really hot and incredibly humid day, and after my ten days of walking only to and from the toilet, the short walk up to the village left me looking just about the same as I do when I step out of a Bikram yoga class. But the reunion was sweet. It felt exactly the same as when family comes together after some time apart. It felt right. It felt safe and it felt beautiful. Other than “Namaste Didi” (Hallo Sister), “Ramro?” (Good?) and “Danyabat!” (Thank you!) there was no language connection. But we understood. We all did. We understood the love and joy there was in seeing each other again. After spending some time just drinking in the atmosphere, we took off our shoes and stepped inside for some lunch.
It came as no surprise that our plates were overloaded with delicious dhal bat, aloo, atchar and all the other dishes that these people cook on one fire, often in one pot, in one small house, but with no limit to the amount of care and pride they pour into it. As is standard, they sat watching us eat, constantly walking around with serving bowls, and no doubt playing their game of “let’s see how much food we can sneak onto their plates”. We laughed, they laughed, we smiled, ate, took deep breaths, ate some more and had the best time.
Straight after lunch we were told that they are going to start preparing the snacks in the adjacent house. Snacks. Whatever. We have learnt on site that an afternoon snack is none other than a second lunch, in similar quantities and just as carbohydrate heavy as the first. We protested heavily saying that we could not possibly have snacks now, but they informed Kabitha that it will take about two hours to prepare the snacks and that by that time we are bound to be hungry again.
Sasha previously worked on a site just up the road and was keen to go and say hallo to those beneficiaries so it seemed like a good time to head up there while our snacks were being prepared. Having learnt a thing or two about Nepali hospitality though, and therefore fully expecting to be fed up there, Ellie and I chose to spend some more time with Prabati and her family while the others headed up. We sat inside their one bedroom house admiring their family photo and exchanging goofy happy smiles for a while when a beautiful teenage girl confidently walked in, took us each by the hand and summoned us up to the house where the others had gone. She guided us like a father would walk his bride up the aisle and we soon realised that no amount of protest will get us out of what was bound to be a second plate.
We walked into the house and were greeted by knowing laughter from our friends and the family. As soon as we sat down the feeding commenced. Obviously. Yep, you guessed it: some dhal bat, some vegetable dishes, some chicken and generally too much delicious food. Ellie and I had not met this lady before, but when she heard that two of the gang was nearby she had promptly sent her daughter to fetch us. That is just how it works here. The thread of generosity runs through it all.
We slowly managed to eat our food and still failed miserably at our attempts of preventing our plates to be refilled. As soon as we were done and wanting to say our goodbyes, we were faced with another “we are starting to prepare your snacks now” situation. It took a lot of explaining from the Nepali girls to decline this offer as politely as is possible.
My food baby was weighing me down by this point, but we made our way back down to Prabati’s house for our second lunch which would now in fact be our third lunch.
We got served more chicken, some chana (chickpeas) and more rice. Go figure. The raksi also came out. Raksi is Nepal’s answer to Saki and to me is not dissimilar in taste and effect of clean ethanol. Thankfully I was still on my medication so I had a legitimate reason to decline the offer. It was now nearly 3pm so we had been eating for 5 hours straight.
When it finally became time to say our goodbyes, we took a few pictures with the family which I intend to print and take back to them before I leave. Prabati’s daughter went inside the house and came back out with three pairs of earrings and three hairbands decorated with bright flowers. She had gotten these especially for Ellie, Sasha and myself, and took great pride in decorating our hair and putting our earrings in for us. When it was my turn she gave me one look, turned around into the house, came out with a stool and got onto it so that she could reach my hair. This made everyone chuckle. I am a little bit like the amazon woman in Nepal, and have gotten used to always minding my head when entering and exiting any house.
It is hard to put into words the way I felt after this day. The only way I can really describe it is that I felt full. Of food, yes of course.
But full to the brim of nothing other than love. I have never in my life been on the receiving end of so much gratitude, love and soul connections without language. This is true for my entire time in Nepal. It will stay with me forever and I am a better person for it.