This is a note to myself…while I will never forget yesterday, I might forget the details and the texture of the moment, and I never want to do that.
Renu asked us if we wished to take a separate car or ride on the bus with the children on our laps on the way to Jhule. Three minutes later, I was sitting in a seat meant as a tight fit for two people, with Srijana, Manju and Pinky, who insisted, despite the fact that their seat already was an excruciatingly tight fit, that I sit with them. They had a mission. They wanted to teach me a Nepali song.
Photo by Manoj Jirel, Student Photographer and Joker
I positioned myself on a full half inch of seat available to me and began to try and do what they said as they moved quickly through the song, expecting me to pick up and repeat the simple words they were telling me. After a laughed filled five minutes, I redirected them. I asked “is there a song you teach the babies? Like a VERY simple song the very little ones can learn to sing?” They laughed wildly and then began teaching me this one:
Ma Janchu, Kathmandu
Bholi parsi aune chhu
Ma doctor ba ne ra.
They tell me that this means “I am going to Kathmandu by motorbike. When I come back, I will be a doctor.”
I asked them to please write down the words for me so I could follow. They first wrote them in Nepalese, which is a truly beautiful looking writing, but one I cannot read, of course. They got help from one of the teachers to write the English phonetic spelling for me. I now have it in their handwriting in my little book, along with the words for parts of the face and the word for silly. They enjoy it very much when I identify several of the boys as jokers…and jokers they are.
I sat with them, trying to sing the baby song for a while (I plan to record them singing it as soon as possible, so that I can continue trying to learn it when I go home). Then Manoj asked me to sing an American song for them. I told Manoj (who, by the way, is quite the joker) that I was glad to see everyone happy and that I did not want to make everyone cry by singing. He laughed and asked me if I knew songs by Hannah Montana. I told him my favorite song of hers was Party in the USA and, miraculously, one of the teachers produced their phone playing the song for me to sing along to. So sing I did…at least the chorus. They watched me very seriously, studying me…like I held some kind of information in my random moves and singing manner. It was odd, but ok somehow. Then I sat back down (yes, I had to stand for this so I could turn to face the one requesting the song) and the back of the bus, where I was sitting, broke into Let it Be, by the Beatles. As I was sitting, I had to brace myself by placing my hands on the seat back and the seat in front of me. As I sang, my hand was stroked by the little girl sitting in the seat behind us. We only stopped singing because Manju said she wanted me to look out the window with them and see their country as we drive past.
The ride was hard. As uncomfortable as it was for me, kids all around me were throwing up from motion sickness into little plastic bags. The 30 minute bus ride seemed to last for hours. All I could do to comfort them was stand so that they had the seat to themselves, and offer the exotic wet wipes I had for them to wipe their mouths and faces. The remainder of the trip was them being sick and me wiping their faces, pulling their hair out of their faces and asking the teachers around me how much longer the trip was. I was glad when the ride ended so my friends could recover themselves, which they did with amazing alacrity.
But the amazing thing was how the other kids took care of their friends. As kids up and down the bus became sick, their friends would move them to the seat by the window, yell for plastic bags and water, and tend to them constantly. Some of the older kids, even the jokers, stood in the aisles to facilitate quick transfer of the needed items. They were all focused on taking care of the motion sick kids. And no one had to ask any of them to step up. Not one of them shirked the responsibility of caring for the others. Not one of them. No one wanted to change seats to get away from the sick ones. The seat in front of me had kids in it who were probably 7 years old, and when one of them fell sick, the other two in the seat tended to them for the remainder of the trip. They would look up continuously and make faces like it smelled awful, but it never occurred to them to do anything other than what they were doing. And, for the return trip, they sat with the same kids…never once considering changing their seat mates as an option, though it most assuredly was.
Next installment will be about the trek itself.