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Running away from Home

The rise of Batuli

NEPAL | Wednesday, 17 February 2010 | Views [457]

We had to meet the cab driver in front of Happy Home at 6:20 to catch our 7:00am bus to Pokhara. The power was off when I got up at 5:30 and I had to stumble around in the dark to get ready. I was so happy to be getting out of Kathmandu that I did not mind the early hour of departure. The mother at happy home shivered on the curbside in her light robe and sandals as we said our goodbyes. We met Saroj and Emily at the meeting point for tourist buses and we were off to Pokhara.

I was impressed by how well the driver handled the giant motorized tin can on the narrow mountain roads. The scenery was breathtaking. The girl in front of me got carsick. I was charged 50 rupees for a Pepsi while Saroj was only charged 30.…Ah memories. Seven hours and 200km later, we were in Pokhara. This is where I realized that I had packed incorrectly. I was going to try to take my big bag up the hill to Damdame, but Saroj told me that it was too much and that I needed to get all I would need into two small bags. This required repacking….at the bus station, which is actually just a big parking lot. After getting through the mob of cabbies hoping to pick up a fare, I found a semi-secluded spot where I could reconfigure. In my haste, I got a bit sloppy, the contents of my bag displayed like the guts of an eviscerated animal. I heard a soft male voice behind me ask if I was with INFO Nepal. This was our contact from Damdame and a member of my host family. I responded that I was, but I needed a few minutes before I could give him my attention. He asked again if about INFO Nepal, and I begged for just another few minutes. He asked after Saroj, and with my attention still on my possessions I waved him in the direction of the group that I had come with. At the time I had forgotten that he had never met Saroj, but I was so preoccupied with repacking that I neglected that small detail. The next thing I know Saroj was in my light telling me that I needed to hurry up because we had to catch the last bus going towards the village and time was getting short. Somehow I got the necessities down to two small bags and I prayed that I hadn’t forgotten anything. Emily had already caught a ride out to the orphanage where she would teach and look after small children, so I missed saying goodbye. I was pushed into a Suzuki sub-compact with five other people and we headed to the provincial bus station with a quick stop at the Hotel Grand Holiday to drop off my big bag. They promised to hang onto it for me and give me a special volunteers discount when I came in for the weekend.

The last bus out of town was already full by the time we got there. Our options were to stand for the hour-long bus ride or to get on top and ride. I jumped at the second option right away. It was a beautiful day and so far all that I had seen of Pokhara was two bus stations and a hotel. Besides, I had just spent seven hours on a bus and the thought of being crammed into another one did not appeal to me. Kathryn agreed with me. She climbed onto the bus after me. Saroj and his friend were already up there. When our trip out of Pokhara began the local law enforcement had a hard time with two white women riding on top of the bus, so we had to get off, walk to a point outside of their vision (about two blocks), and then climb back on. It was a clear day and I enjoyed watching the paragliders fly over the lake. As we approached the end of the line, the blacktop disappeared and the bus bounced over the poorly maintained gravel road.

After spending the majority of the day in or on a bus, I was ready for a walk. I put the independent woman thing aside for a moment and allowed one of my two bags to be carried for me up the road to the village. The road turned into a set of stairs that ascended the side of the mountain. Thirty minutes passed. Kathryn was having difficulty, but she was toughing it out. I started to have difficulty getting up the stairs to Damdame and pretty soon Saroj was winded too. I hadn’t signed on for this. Thank God I had left my big bag at the hotel.

By the time we reached the village over an hour and a half had passed, the sun was setting and I was a sweaty mess. We arrived at the host family’s house, and we were served hot tea with sugar and buffalo milk (not bad) and some snacks to hold us until our daal bhat was ready. Saroj and I discussed Nepali culture while sipping homemade millet wine. The host family asked my name and I told them that it was Melissa. They had a difficult time pronouncing my given name so Saroj gave me the Nepali name “Batuli”. He told me that it meant round, beautiful face. I practiced saying, “My Nepali name is Batuli,” in Nepali. I got a belly full of rice and lentils and then I retired for the evening. Batuli was beat.

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