And as the sun sets slowly in the west, I bid you a fond farewell…
(Written by Steph)
The next morning came and Jenny, Nick and I were all surprised to find Anees and his friend waiting for us at the gate of the base. They had come to carry our bags for us! Knowing that our bags were really heavy (did I mention the iron?) we were stuck between the English mentality of being too polite to accept, and knowing that these boys had come all this way to help us. We quickly conferred before gratefully handing over some hand luggage.
As we got to the bus, that awkward but inevitable question came…
“When you come Nepal?” Anees asked expectantly.
Honesty is the best policy, I assured myself.
“I don’t know, Anees.” I replied, hoping that would be the end of it.
“You come back Nepal?” he pressed.
Don’t say “maybe”, don’t say “maybe,” I repeated in my head like a mantra. As much as I wanted to say it, as much as I thought it MIGHT be true, I knew better than to hint at something I couldn’t guarantee. I had had it before with the kids I had volunteered with in India. If you say that to a kid that has been let down in their life, you’d better mean it.
“I really don’t know, Anees.” At least he had a wonderful family, so my answer was of less consequence to him. He looked a bit disappointed, but smiled again and nodded in receipt of the information. Anees and his friend waved us goodbye, and Nick and I climbed onto the roof of the bus to secure our bags.
“I hope that guy isn’t our driver!” Jenny joked, as we plonked ourselves in our seats. At that moment, *that* guy staggered over to the bus, stoned out of his face, and got into the driver’s seat. It was 9am. It was 9am and we were waiting for the next bus. The roads here were scary enough without a driver that didn’t have control of his faculties.
Just enough time for some breakfast then, we thought. We can relax a bit before checking out driver number two. We sat down in the cafe next to the bus and were greeted with something everyone wants to see when they eat breakfast – a severed goat’s head on the adjacent table. Mmmm. I moved my chair so as not to make eye contact and was confronted with its long-lost body. Oh well. Head down and all that…
It was to be the first of many goat heads on that bus journey home, so much so that we lost count after a while. It made a pretty good game, not that that was much consolation to the goats. We had forgotten that the festival of Dashain focuses on sacrifice. All families, no matter how poor, would sacrifice a goat over these few days. No wonder we had seen so many reluctant goats being dragged around the town that morning.
We arrived back in Thamel, City of Smog, to the same guesthouse we had stayed in previously, where the guestowner was in the middle of feeding his car…with fruit. This was another tradition of Dashain Festival, and apparently a way to bless the car and make sure it would not break down. I was dubious whether putting a banana in the bonnet was exactly the best way to ensure this. I wasn’t entirely convinced about circling the petrol tank with a naked flame either.
So, we had seen some evidence of the festival, but we knew that this festival was largely about family. There would be no dancing on the street or fantastical parades. We decided that now was as good a time as any to bid farewell to this fasinating country, and head off to Myanmar, via Thailand. So, after a glorious and indulgent pizza gorge out with our All Hands gang, we booked our flights and set off for destinations new…