Its 10:30pm and the shop is closed, but Devraj still wants a couple of cigarettes and is insisting on me eating some chocolate, which is how he refers to all forms of candy. I didn’t bother asking if the shop owner was a biological brother of his parents, because it doesn’t much matter. Uncle is often used as a term of respect. In a small village like this there is a sense of community that I have found in few other places, everyone is family and there is an incredible amount of trust. Once someone came to open the shop for us Devraj got his cigs, but only after grabbing two lolli-pops and insisting that I needed them, then we continued our way. No money was exchanged. He said that was the beauty of his community, the owners knew he would pay tomorrow, or the next day, or the next week. It didn’t really matter when but they knew he would pay.
Gaindakot is a small village overshadowed by the national park, but being overshadowed by an international tourist attraction has its benefits. A lot of them, if you ask me. From there its just a 20 minute drive down Nepal’s east to west highway, the one major road connecting the country, and you’ll arrive in Sauraha. It’s an area filled with hotels and signs boasting food specialties in Italian, Mexican, and Chinese cuisine; empty promises. But in Gaindakot there are no hotels, and the only food they specialize in is the recipes that have been handed down from generation to generation. This includes Dahl Baht, and Dahl Baht. Nepalese traditionally don’t eat breakfast, instead it’s an early lunch around 10-11am consisting of Dahl (a soup of lentils and sometimes legumes with as many recipe variations as there are Nepalese people), Baht (rice, usually grown on their farm in rural areas), and a vegetable curry (potato, cauliflower, carrots, and spiced up with Maseura & Gundruk. All served on a stainless steel plate, smushed together with love and eaten with hands. The same meal is served for dinner as well. The Nepalese theory on nutrition is made up of tree categories:
1. Foods that give you energy: Rice, Corn, etc.. (carbohydrates)
2. Foods that protect your body – Fruits & Vegetables (food rich in vitamins and minerals)
3. Foods that help for the growth – Beans & Lentils (proteins)
The structure of the village is not unique when compared to others in Nepal but the people here are as warm as any. As I moseyed through it’s mostly unpaved streets many locals greeted me, sometimes accompanied by a surprised and even confused expression, with the warmth of an old friend. On three separate occasions my new friends whom I had known for mere minutes had invited me to stay in their homes, if not this time than whenever I was back in the area. Part of the reason why Nepal has grabbed and held my interest for so long is its people.
Also, there is a water tank that instantly reminded me of That 70s Show, especially the episode where Kelso is trying to spray paint a marijuana leaf and falls off, breaking his arm. Ha. But that’s not the only part of this place that screams 70s, there are only a few cars, many people are farming, most have bicycles which they use on a daily basis, and it has that middle America ‘howdy neighbor’ slow pace beautiful place feeling everywhere you look.