Thursday, January 27, 2011

Nahima Agricultural Resource Center

This is Diktel, the district capital of Khotang, which straddles the high ridge between three hill peaks. In contrast to the lowlands from which we came, it was quite cold. During the duration of my stay the clouds never lifted, which frustrated my goal of glimpsing Mount Everest for the first time. We came to Diktel almost every day, to the bazaar or the Internet café, to climb the hill peak to the temple, or to meet the local leader of the Nepali Congress or the Communist party.

This is Nahima, a thirty minute walk from Diktel. The Nahima Agricultural Resource Center is spread out along the several terraces of this hillside. We stayed in the building located at the upper right. The other terraces are covered in crops and pools for the crops. Above to the right there is a community forest.

This is the entrance. Around forty people live here communally, including over a dozen secondary school students from many villages around the area who attend the boarding school in Diktel. They all share in the labor of cooking and cleaning and planting. There are also many workshops and classes on sewing, sowing, grafting, etc. etc.

We stayed here. The walls are made of bamboo slats and so it was fairly cold and the voices of the children in adjacent were clearly audible throughout the night, but I was very comfortable here.

There were several pigs, water buffalo, chickens, and a cow. We drank rich buffalo milk and ate dried buffalo meat, and we were awakened in the morning (in my case temporarily) by the sound of the roosters.

This shower is made from the same material as the urinals. Waste water from each is drained into pools that are used for fertilizer and irrigation.

These lamps provided directed light for reading a playing poker with chocolates purchased in town. They connect to a solar charger. They were more useful than the light bulbs connected to the power lines from Kathmandu (load shedding has surpassed twelve hours so at this point you have a worse than 50/50 chance every time you try a light switch). There is also a large industrial-looking solar dryer for drying out plants.

Here Evan is doing a cauliflower impression.

Evan's job is to provide tutoring to the students who live at the center. In addition to English teaching, he teaches music. At the center there was a melodica, a harmonium, Nepali madal drums, and a guitar to complement Evan's ukelele and Indian flutes. We jammed a few times, and at one point played for an entire sewing class. Harmoniums are a ton of fun.

It was a very comfortable place to stay. We spent a lot of time reading and looking out over the terraces below. The resource center is one of a series of ventures started by a rich Nepali who has lived in Japan and South Africa and studied in Britain and the United States. It was he who suggested that Evan come teach. There are similar communal centers in other places in Khotang, an orchard and a beekeeping station; he built the airstrip we saw on our way in and while we were there he hiked ten hours down to the river one day to visit a site where he foresaw trout fishing and woodworking. I got an impression of boundless innovation, because there were so many projects going on all the time that I had no way of keeping track of them all. 

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