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Walking up to the family house was like stepping back in time for me.

As a little girl I was an avid reader of Laura Ingall's "Little House on the Prairie" books. I still have my cherished original set tucked away in storage. What I saw and experienced was like stepping through a door back into time, into the setting of the family's every day life.

The first greeting came from the water buffalo and two cows as they looked up at me, taking a momentary pause from eating and giving me that look of "who is this stranger?" They stood there gazing at me, chewing their cud, and pondering life...the life of a big four-legged beast.

I walked past their barn piled high with hay and other edibles for the big beast and thought about the amount of work that it took. Honestly, I was still huffing and puffing from the trek up and realized what effort most everything here must take! I just thought that pause would give me a chance to gather myself before I met everyone! Looking at that barn and the food for the animals is an element of farm life that I can attest to first hand. I was the skinny, little half-pint driving the old tractor (when my feet could barely reach the pedals) around in circles on the hay fields while everyone else threw the bales of hay up on the wagon. We had machinery; here they have a sickle, a carrying basket and a strong back!

One of the neighbors was taking her second trip to the spring that morning as we sat down to start preparing the first meal. It is usually an hour round trip to walk to the spring, fill up the container and walk back. Most of the ladies are up by 5am to get started. Here every single bit of water in the house - cooking, bathing, washing clothes, washing dishes, watering the animals, toilet - every single drop comes from the ladies carrying it from the spring or from rainwater collection. Hence, the reason for my no shower and being overly cautious about every single drop of water I used. Not to mention the fact that the spring is drying up, they are having drought conditions and probably do not have enough water for the village to make it through the winter. Talking about having a different set of stressors to deal with!

The goats tied-up between the two houses were the sweetest. Yes, they use every single bit of space here – crops, animals or houses – nothing is wasted. All of the different animals get milked too. I can now say that fresh buffalo milk is my absolute favorite and I have never, ever, ever in my life liked milk.

The most amazing thing to me was watching Shree’s mother cook over the earthen stove. It was literally made from mud with the heat provided from charcoals, wood and corn cobs. Gives wood-fired stove a completely different meaning! The whole family would gather in the kitchen and talk and help prepare the food. One of the most inviting and fun parts of the day for me, even though I couldn’t understand a word!

That evening it finally hit me – a mild case of altitude sickness. I had read about it in prepping to go to the South Base Camp of Mt. Everest, but didn’t think it would affect me at this level. Oh no, no, no. That 2,000’ change in altitude got to me. That morning I woken up at 4,600’ and was now at 6,560’ with a strenuous trek between the two. Suddenly my brain felt like it was going to explode out of my head, I was nauseated and my vision was going blurry. I drank as much water as I could, took a pain killer and went into an agonizing sleep.

The next morning I woke up fresh as a daisy. Amazing what rest and acclimatization can do for a body! I bounded out of bed, pulled my hair back in a band, put on some lip gloss and grabbed my camera. We were out the door, Sandesh in tow, ready for a tour of the village.

All of the village homes here have this similar look, made from mud bricks and large timbers. The ceilings are low, so low in some places that I have to duck. Being here makes me feel like an ultra-tall supermodel!

By this time, word had circulated through every household that there was an American amongst them. I think a few of the villagers were out walking around just to see if they could spot me.

We kept taking shortcuts down narrow little dirt paths that would cut in and out of the woods and fields. Every house that we passed was a reason to stop and chat. You don’t move quickly on these walk-abouts!

Namastes are the greeting. Hands held in prayer position in front of you with a slight head nod and a sweet sounding “namaste.” Much nicer sound than the typical hello.

The funniest was coming upon this farmer as we were taking a short cut through the woods. Middle of nowhere and there he is taking care of his crops.

We took a turn down another path and Sandesh looked back at me with a smile. “We’re going to the secret garden now,” he said with a devilish smile. That got my attention! When I see devilish in a child I know something good is about to happen!

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copyright 2011-2017 Loxley Browne

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