Visiting the Village and kids
Trip Start Oct 13, 2010
69Trip End Mar 08, 2011
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Where I stayed
We guessed that Santos was heading that way and offered him a ride, not knowing about our secret rendezvous. So we started to walk faster now to the park headquarters and saw him there waiting for us. Santos had to run some errands and he headed off with William. Indra explained what we suspected, that he'd just offered him a ride and we giggled about it. Together we walked towards the village and he led us to his house. As we walked off the street there were the typical Tharu style houses around and fields of harvested rice. We walked up to his house and he invited us inside. It was a bit dark, but we saw they had a sleeping room to the left with two beds, and the main room was divided by the large rice containers, like walls. He showed us their kitchen and explained why they store so much rice. It's basically an emergency back up, and the more rice you have the more status and security you have as well. They even had extra rice piled high into a few corners.
He introduced us to his wife and two sons, ages 13 and 16. They both looked a lot like him and his wife was lovely. They married when they were 17, and had their first son when he was 19. So now he is 35 years old, and he says done with having kids. He invited us to sit outside and we talked about his house and land. He owns many fields that his father left him and rents them out to other farmers in exchange for half of what they harvest. Some grow rice, corn, other stuff, so it's a pretty good deal. I ask how they plant rice, naively, not having a clue if there are rice seeds different from the rice we eat all the time. He chuckled to himself and then explained that when it's time to plant the rice they soak regular rice in water for a few days. Then they put it outside in the sun for a couple days till it sprouts little roots. Then they plant these in a small garden near the house and let them grow till they are a bit stronger. After they're ready they pull them up, roots and all, cluster a few together and then plant them in the fields, evenly spaced. Looking out at all the vast fields it was impressive to imagine that someone planted each and every cluster of rice. I had a new appreciation for the work that goes into farming it.
After he asked if we wanted to try some of the local rice beer that they make themselves, and of course we agreed. So we headed inside and sat on short little stools, barefoot on the dried mud floor. His mother in law joined us, as well as his wife's sister. All looking at us curiously, but smiling. While we waited he brought over a photo album and we carefully leafed through with him. Seeing pictures of him as a teenager, when they were married, a trip they took as a group to another village. Some pages had missing photos and others were falling out as we moved them, but he said it was ok. We saw pictures of his sons as babies and another of his wife wearing some very beautiful elaborate Tharu traditional dress and jewelry. We told her she was "dire ramro" (very beautiful). After finishing the photos we thanked him so so much. This was obviously a treasure to them, as they didn't have a camera of their own.
Then his wife brought over a metal platter and water container and Indra told us we should wash our hands. His wife gave us each a glass of cool yellow rice beer. It smelled a little like sake to me, but the taste was entirely different. It came in waves, first it was a little sweet, then strong, then smooth rice after. It was a bit stronger than I expected, but we drank up. Then he asked if we wanted to try some fish. Sure! His wife then produced small plates with tiny dried fish that had been marinated in oil, onions, garlic and some chili. At first I was hesitant, not sure if i wanted to eat them. I was worried that they might be really spicy, but Simon tried his and said it wasn't too spicy. So I picked up one and took a bite. It was delicious! mixed in there were also tiny shrimps, no bigger than the tip of my pinkie. Some of the bones were a little firm, but it reminded me of the canned herring we love so much. After a couple bites I think I ate one of the chili seeds and definitely felt a warm burning sensation filling my mouth. My nose started to run and my eyes water and his wife and mother in law laughed with me as I tried to pantomime that it was spicy for me.
After we finished the fish he asked if we wanted more, partly being polite and partly really wanting more we said of course. So our cups and plates were filled again. I started to feel the beer a bit and really enjoyed just sitting there with them. I pulled out my iphone and showed them a couple pictures of my sister and her son Tristan, and our cats and house. And the photo that seems to shock people the most, of me right before I cut my hair. They all look at the photo, and then me, and back at the photo and ask "why? why?" It's pretty funny. After that we thanked his wife many times and set off to the main part of the village, Indra bringing his bike along. We walked along and soon each side of the street was filled with tiny shops, restaurants, grocery and butcher stands. A couple days before Simon and I had asked Indra about the watch on his wrist, after he asked Simon for the time. He said it had broken a few months ago and out of habit he just keeps wearing it. So we thought we would try and find a watch as a gift for him. Simon lagged behind taking pictures as we walked along and I continued with Indra to a fruit and vegetable stand. He gathered stuff for the hotel, and then told me he was going to get his hair cut just in the next building. I saw Simon coming along and he whispered to me that he'd found a watch and we snuck it into my purse.
After his haircut we continued along visiting various shops and I found one that had bags and bags of brightly colored yarn. My first instinct was to buy some and knit a scarf or something, but then realized a warm scarf might not be as practical in India… maybe. Anyway, i saw smaller bundles and had the idea that I could make little bracelets for the kids we'd met. I bought a bright pink, turquoise and orange. Indra had finished his errands we walked back through the community park, where kids were playing soccer as the sun was setting. We got closer to the road and then Indra said he was going to ride his bike from there and get to the lodge before us, and that we could just walk along the road from here. We thought quickly this would be a good time to give him his watch and tip for all the amazing days in the jungle. It felt a bit shallow just giving money, but it seemed to be the most practical gift. He accepted it with a big smile and thank you and then sped off.
We walked along and bumped into Pruno and his sisters. They grabbed our hands and pulled us to their house where we sat and chatted for a bit in broken English. The tiny little sister grabbed my hand and pulled me to sit down, and she stuck her hand in a plastic bag she had, pulled it out and started to spread whatever she'd collected on my hair. She was very gentle, but adamant, and I saw that the bag said soy bean oil. She then put some on her hair too, and I gathered it was something they used to make their hair shiny and pretty. It just cracked me up. Since I had my iphone I showed them the pictures again, and they loved them. Also very curious about the iphone, I played them some music and bit of the movie "Elf". They were squealing in delight. It started to get dark so we thanked them and headed off through the rice field shortcut towards the hotel, getting a bit lost, but we found it eventually. We had a nice dinner and I started to make the bracelets, the kind I learned to make as a child that has a spiraling design all the way through. I made three and then read some more and we headed off to bed.