Saturday, December 22, 2012

Moving In (and Moving Out) with the Gautams

For my final week in Lokanthali (yes, that now-famous week when I was ill) I moved in with the Gautam family - that is Santa and Hem and their children Adi (19), Arun (16) and Samana (13). Though those ages are debatable because if you're born at home, you can just nominate any date of birth you want, and it's common to push it forward by a couple of years. So legally, Adi is 17 (though biologically he's 19) and I am not quite sure what advantage this would give him, especially if he decides to get a driving licence!!

So the house is directly overlooking Urbana school, a convenient fact given that Hem is the manager, and it is the first story of the (newly-painted) building in the middle of this picture:

The house itself is quite nice, especially for a Nepali dwelling (many of which have only one room), which probably mirrors Hem's status as the manager of a private school. There are a couple of rooms devoted to IDF volunteers in the house, both with two beds inside, but this is a bit cheeky because Adi and Arun have to sleep in the lounge as a result whereas Samana must sleep with her parents in an annexe which, on closer inspection, is actually the balcony enclosed with plastic sheeting and wooden panels!
The house is unheated, which makes the nights quite cold - hence the copious supply of blankets in the room of me and my new roommate Kit:

Here, Santa is at work in her kitchen. Note the absence of oven, microwave, kettle or any electrical food preparation tools. Everything is done on the hob. The metal urn is full of twice-filtered drinking water, which I am certain is only for the benefit of the volunteers!

Here's the lounge, Samana and Arun eating their morning Dal Bhat (with their hands of course) while watching one of the many incredibly dramatic Hindi soap operas, before heading out to school.

I haven't got a picture of the bathroom, but I can assure you that the toilet is one which requires good thigh muscles and balance to use. In other words, a (porcelain) hole in the ground. No bother! One of the great advantages of moving up from the IDF hostel to Hem's house is, as well as the sweet tea brought to me by Samana when I'm ill, is the fact that the shower is gas-powered and hot. Technically so's the one at the hostel but it didn't work for the whole time I was there, just occasionally let out a whiff of gas!

On my final day in Lokanthali, Amy and I carried though our promise of cooking something western-style for the Gautam family. However, this was very much harder than we first though! What decent cuisine does the UK have, apart from cooked breakfast and roast dinner, and numerous sweet deserts?! Furthermore, the absence of an oven prevented us from making lasagne, or a pie, or pasta bake, or almost anything else that would spring to mind, even if the ingredients were available!

But there was one ingredient we had in abundance. And that was rice. So Amy suggested we make risotto. Why not?! After a brief visit to an amazingly old greengrocers in a traditional backstreet, and then to the bakers, and to the supermarket, we soon had a big mush of rice, onions, garlic, tomatoes, mushrooms, peppers, chillis, chicken and white wine (soo expensive!)! We served this with more wine and garlic-d bread  (gently fried) and generally tried to blow the tastebuds out of the heads of our hosts.

Judging by Arun's face I think we succeeded!

Dessert was another excellent creation of Amy's - flapjack. It took an hour's detour to find the porridge oats, honey was used instead of syrup, and then it was filled with all sorts of nuts and dried fruits, including something that we were for a while convinced was figs but upon tasting was so sour it almost had to be spat out. We gave some to Arun to try - he laughed and said it was "(some Nepali word)" and why would you put that in a dessert?! But actually it worked sort of well.

And that, dear readers, was how my last evening in Lokanthali went. I slept hard that night and woke shortly before 5am to catch the bus and take lots of my stuff to Kathmandu. Pokhara, here I come!

1 comment:

  1. Great blog Colin. We all look forward to the final installments - and seeing you flying solo - following the path yer dear old Dad trod!!!