Monday, October 20, 2008

Settling Pine Ash

UPDATE: After watching another Bollywood film last night ("Race" and yes it was on my 7" screen), I have to admit success in understanding all four twists that occurred throughout the film, full of plotting and scheming over deaths for insurance money, though lacking the incredible dialogue that the classic "Double Indemnity" featured, at least to my undiscerning ears. I reached a conclusion in my readings on gasifiers and general research - I need a focus. So I'm presenting some ideas when the director returns, including one to establish innovation centers to give locals the tools to invent their own solutions to rural problems. Meanwhile, I spent two nights at a secluded, solar powered center three hours from the nearest road, rode to a few towns on my bike and just recently hiked down from our village to the convergence of two rivers, where my guide smashed a fish with his hands - don't be too impressed, it was only about a half-pinkie in size.
Following my general routine of working in the mornings and reading, studying Hindi, or exploring in the afternoons, I headed downhill - really you can either go up or down from here, about 5km in each direction - and stomped around a stream til I found a nice looking rock to climb on. Returning once, I have now mapped out two climbs, pedalling fiercely uphill back before sunset each time. One day I biked 20 km out to Chaukori, the most popular tourist spot nearby, where hotels were under construction and I met a nice woman who ended up being from Dubai - she met her husband while he was studying hotel management, and they just recently set up there. She teaches English at the school and he makes pizza and pasta. Yes, I did find pizza in the middle of the Himalayas, but I haven't tried it yet. She said it was the "Second Switzerland" and showed me an orchid that some "scientist" tourists had brought back from the nearby forest. My other trip was 20 km downhill, to Gangolihat, home of a temple to Kali, a god that merits goat sacrifices, which happen often there. After seeing a white faced monkey that was at least 4 feet tall on the road, I entered town and ate a delicious omlette before getting very angry with everyone's questions and curiosity when I just wanted to explore. I realized that I'm still on the cultural learning curve.
The two design students working here next to me in our office were headed to Digoli, an Avani weaving center, to learn more about the spinning process and I tagged along. We crammed 5 people in the passenger seat of the front (3 kids) and many more in the back and drove an hour and half til the road was no longer navigable. Men carried bags of rocks on their backs to keep continue the construction and repairs. We walked by them and up, through pine infested forests and in the drizzle for three hours til we reached the center. There was one umbrella, but I was the only person of the six of us to have a raincoat. We cooked vegetables we had been given during the walk as we squatted on the floor of the kitchen that night. The next morning, armed with potatoes, the center staff - two guys - made potato pancakes laced with Hindi spices, wrapped them in newspaper and we trekked off to a temple, eating guavas as we collected them along the walk. We made it there some three hours later, and I contributed to the purchase of some incense for the temple. After a holy rinse under the waterfall that spouts from the base, we climbed back up to the temple and rang the numerous bells, lit incense, left a guava for the gods, and talked to the local religious 'pandits', meanwhile the women sang songs to the gods inside the temple. We made it back by afternoon and I asked numerous questions about the workings of the foot powered weaving looms, learning a bit about the silk and wool patterns being produced. That night, reading Krishnamurti's writings, I pondered all my motivations and considered giving them up to become a magician to better share the message of world peace through card trick banter. Meanwhile our staff cooked some Maggi's instant noodles as an appetizer - I was impressed. I thought we'd be there for one night, but two days later, we began our return journey, despite the aches of our design students, and back at the road we were greeted by our congenial cook who I've nicknamed Rambo cause he calls me some Indian star's name. We crammed in the jeep again (why did they bring 4 people to pick up 6?) and arrived in time to have an Avani lunch.
A recent attempt at alternative stove fuel by packing ash and buffaloo poo into briquettes and drying them failed when they refused to catch fire and turn into coals. We will try again, but until their local briquette compactor design is complete I ran off into the surrounding forests, hiking with one of the workers down and down to the junction of two rivers. We splashed around, I impressed him with my breast stroke and got in one front flip before we relaxed and ate the four buns and chutney we had brought for lunch. He kept trying to catch fish with a stick and his hands, eventually smashing one on a rock with his fingers - he didn't eat it raw like he promised and tried to throw the plastic bag that carried our lunch into the stream. When it wouldn't float away, I pocketed it and brought it back with me, unable to explain in my poor Hindi why it was a bad idea to leave it in the water. We made it back to his house by 3pm and he was surprised by a new calf in his shed. This enormous thing had been birthed that morning as we walked through the forest, dodging spider web after spider 'jal', and I only believed it because his umbilical cord was still dangling from his belly. I did not think that was in the cow I had seen that morning. I returned late, and tried to make myself some bread for lunch, but Rambo stepped in, ordered me to sit down, and cooked up some delicious rhoti and daal to nourish my aching muscles, followed by some extra spicy tea to warm my bones. Counting down til Divali (Oct 28th) and the fireworks that are said to come with it. They are going to act out the Ramayana in town for the six nights following Divali and I am scheduled to attend and learn a bit about Hindu epics.

1 comment:

Deborah Edward said...

You certainly pack in an incredible variety of experiences in a few days - calves being born, good meals, and new horizons. Send us titles to Bollywood favorites and we'll try to sample!