Sherpas, tea and leaches

For the two last days we’ve been in an area where most of the people belong to the Sherpa caste. It’s a poor area and the standard of living is simple. I really liked it there because people were so nice and hospitable, it was really a pleasure to visit. We had bucket loads of tea and were fed cucumbers and potatoes in heaps. The first day when they found out we hadn’t eaten lunch, a family cooked us dal baht (rice, lentils and vegetables). There was just no stopping them. Here I come, a comparatively rich westerner, to this area with food shortages and poverty, and they worry about ME being hungry?! I guess they know what it feels like to be hungry. Such wonderfully sweet people. For the record, I gave them money for the food when I left. I do try to take care not to be a burden to the communities I visit, I know they work hard for their food.

I have had to redefine my definition of what constitutes a steep hill. Sometimes I think I am not going to make it to whatever village we are aiming for, or even the next house! I don’t think I have ever spent so much time being out of breathe ever! I guess the altitude of about 2000 meters above sea-level isn’t helping either. Half the time I’m so exhausted I can’t even muster the energy to care about the leaches. Speaking of leaches, on my first day in the hills I was asking what they looked like and soon after a young man said “sister” and pointed to my ankle, and what do you know, there I could see what a leach looks like firsthand, while it was stuffing itself with my blood. Actually I feel like a walking blood bank up here, so many little creatures are helping themselves to what I used to consider MY blood.

Sometimes it is frustrating to hear stories and meet suffering people whom you can not help, so it is very nice when you can actually make a difference to someone here and now. One malnourished girl I referred to the hospital was brought in by her mother the next day and admitted to the nutrition unit. She has now been here for a week and is gaining weight and becoming more energetic. It’s a nice when field research isn’t just something abstract that is supposed to benefit people in general and in the long run, but also directly helps those who contribute to our gathering of knowledge.