Sunday, November 11, 2007

Black Water

Last week we somehow ended up in Kaloopaani (black water) which is near the Tibetan border village of Taatopaani (hot water) but much higher up in the mountains. We got dropped off on a road and had to walk up-up-up for about 2 or 3 hours to reach the village. The village itself is really just a few clay/brick houses near each other. They have no services, no electricity, no running water, no bathrooms, not even an outhouse. The bathroom was literally behind a near by hill past a field of barley.

Our trip went well we met a kid who is 17 and joined the Maoist when he was 14. He left after his friend got killed in combat. Besides his interview we shoot kids learning to use a rifle, kids in a small rural school singing the new national anthem, and a shaman singing songs on a homemade guitar like instrument.

The food was interesting, they mostly eat some type of ground corn/barley paste and drink a barley based distilled liquid with ghee floating with every meal. I slept in the upstairs of one of the "houses", it was like camping. The floor was clay and dirt, I laid my sleeping bag on a hay mat so it wasn't directly on the dirt and the alarm clock was a white pigeon that lived in the rafter near were corn was drying. Scott and Prachanda were both sick from drinking the water. I was fine, I drank only tea and water with chlorine tablets.

On the way home our van was hit on the right side by an ambulance coming from the opposite direction, which in turn caused our van to hit a parked motorcycle, which in turn hit a lady sitting near the road. No one in the vehicles were hurt since the vehicles were only going about 25 miles/per hour. The lady sitting by the motorcycle was injured. I think that she broke her femur and her wrist, I checked her out since I was the only one who had any medical training what so ever. The police came and after some time, they felt that the ambulance driver should pay for the ladies injuries and take her to a hospital after they filled out the accident report. Our driver had to pay for the motorcycle repairs, we then had to place the motorcycle on top of our van and drive the driver to a repair shop in Kathmandu. I guess that is how traffic court works in Nepal. The police investigate and decide on the spot how justice is served. It wasn't fair, it wasn't fast and it didn't seem to make any sense, but it is kind of allegory for the way things are here.

So this weeks trip to Dhading went well. Our friend, Puru’s father is a Brahman priest in the village, located about 5 hours west of Kathmandu. We shot several hours of footage and interviewed 6 different people. This community was able to prevent it's young people from joining military groups because the local Brahmans funded an education system that is more inclusive than most rural Nepali villages. All caste (Brahmans, Chhetri, Janajaties and even Daletes (untouchables) go to school together and learn the same way. It still isn't great, they learn English and other subjects mostly through rote memorization, but it is still better than places that don't have any education at all. We talked to a 14 year old girl who was very intelligent and felt like the school can give her a chance to compete with the Kathmandu bourgeoisie. Then we spoke to a 17 year old Dalete girl, who was learning English and was a hard worker, but she felt that her only option was to join a military group because no one would give her a job due to her low caste status.

Last night I wasn't feeling great, when I got back from our several hour car ride, Prachanda called me and told me that a mutual friend, Sunita, invited us over to her house to celebrate Tihar. Sunita and her boyfriend Ojel are the photo journalist couple that accompanied us to Kaloopanni last week.

So basically Tihar is a brother/sister ceremony in which the bond between brothers and sisters are demonstrated through the sister giving the brother a seven colored tika on his forehead (Tika is a glob of colored yogurt and rice that is placed on your forehead during festival time). The ceremony is meant to take such a long time that it bores the god of death so much that he just decided to leave the brother alone for another year. So Sunita wanted to make me her brother, which was nice, but it takes a long time to get to the point. After driving on bumpy roads for 4 or 5 hours, by 8:30 PM I was feeling so tired that I thought I was getting sick. But I went home and slept until 7AM, the sun comes up before 6AM, so I slept in for about an hour and I am feeling much better now.