Immersive Cultural Experiences Sallyan village

Living in the Salyan Villages in Nepal – Part 2

After leaving the village, I formed a gratitude expression I connect with, and I quietly recite it before each meal. Maybe you’ll connect with it too:

“Thank you to the sun and the air for their energy, and to the soil and the water for the minerals and nutrients that helped these vegetables to grow. Thank you to the farmers for working to produce this food, and to the persons who cooked this food for me. Please (the food) give me the energy I need for the day.” Oh, the joys that gratitude brings us.

I also learned that smelling my food before beginning to eat helps us digest the food. Smelling the food informs our bodies to begin the digestive process before we even begin eating. So before I say my gratitude, I take some good whiffs of the food.

Watching Ganesh’s family work in the fields and in their home was astounding. I never comprehended the strength and level of work required to live in the village. This is a hard-working family, particularly the women, Ama and Sita.

Household responsibilities include milking the buffalos every morning and evening, farming/ gardening, cutting grass for buffalos and cows to eat, cutting rice, cooking, cleaning, laundry, clearing the cow dunk in the sheds, among other work. All of this work is done every day by the family (no hired laborers), in addition to any seasonal work they have.

The grass and rice is cut from the fields in the jungle, which is down a massive hill from the house. After cutting, it needs to be carried all the way back to the house on foot. Baba (72) and Ama (71) contribute to this work as much as Ganesh and Sita, including the heavy-lifting required to carry the baskets full of grass back up to the house. The physical strength and mobility of Baba and Ama are unfathomable. They’re constantly working, taking minimal breaks. My jaw dropped when I witnessed these aged villagers heavy-lifting and contributions to household work.

I helped cut grass in the jungle, cut rice in the fields, and beat the rice. Damn, was this a challenge! It tested my strength, which was zilch compared to them. I ”helped” for 45 minutes, whereas they worked for 5 hours! I got a battle wound from working in the fields—- sliced my pinky with my machete.

Even walking down the hill from the house to the jungle was a challenge, as I walked in flip flops, just like they did (there’s leeches in the jungle, so you wear slippers to avoid the leeches sneaking into your shoes). I was sliding around all over the rocks and grass, while they walked down seamlessly with baskets on their backs.

I appreciated the level of gender equality we’ve developed in the West after witnessing the the treatment of women in the village. In the village, the daughters in a family and typically given over to another family, along with a dowry LINK, as part of an arranged marriage. At this point, the new bride must go off to live with the family of her husband and serve & work as requested.

At mealtime, Baba, Ganesh, and Rohit are served first. They enter the kitchen, sit in a circle on the floor, are have their feast. Once they finish their meals, Sita enters and eats dinner with Ama. After a long day of work, Sita then washes all the dishes and helps Ama to clean up. Meanwhile, the men can generally relax and have fun with the other village men.

It was refreshing to see this family eating without Netflix on or cellphones in their hands. Rather, just quiet, uninterrupted quality time with the family. Brought back sweet memories of nightly dinners with my family during my childhood (except our dinners featured more arguing).

My days in the village involved chillin’ like a villin’, and other explorations, including:

-Played with the ‘pata pati’ (baby goats): These baby goat brothers were hilariously entertaining. Surprisingly, the family doesn’t name their animals.

-Reading HeartMath Method ❤️: I began reading a new book called “The HeartMath Solution” by Doc Childre and Howard Martin. It uses scientific research to explain how our hearts have a ‘brain’ of their own, which the book terms our ‘heart intelligence’. HeartMethod teaches how to follow your heart (your instincts) through developing a connection with our heart.

Although I found the book to be repetitive, I connected with the HeartMath techniques. If you’re interested in learning more about your “gut” feelings, I recommend this book for you! ❤️

-Trekking to the village hilltop at sunrise: Love me them 360 views of the surrounding jungle, and views of the snow-capped Himalayan mountains.

-Cutting grass: Walked down into the jungle to cut grass for the buffalo and cows to eat. We cut grass on the side of a hill in the jungle in our flip flops using machetes. This was way harder than it looked… standing on tons of brush, trying not to slip in flip flops, and mustering enough strength to cut the grass. I ended up doing much more watching than cutting #cityboy

-Harvesting rice from rice paddies: Using machetes, we cut the straw (mature rice), foot deep in mud. We laid the straw to dry in the field, and returned the following day to whack the rice grains off the straw. Surprisingly, whacking the rice relieved tons of stress. The whole process takes tons of strength and stamina, kudos to the farmers who do this labor!

-Play hide and seek with kids

-Make mini, unsuccessful bonfires with the kidlings.

-Playing ‘marriage’, a Nepali card game, with Baba and Ganesh (the women don’t play cards): The card game requires 4 decks of cards, and I’m pretty confident a bunch of the rules were randomly made up. I wouldn’t recommend this game!

-Eating fresh honey comb from Ganesh’s beehive. We eat the honey with the bees inside there too! 🐝

Insights on village life:

I was intrigued by the daily work and responsibilities of the village, as it’s all so new to me #cityboy.

However, doing this repetitive, purely physical labor each day seemed rather mundane in my eyes. Why would you choose to live the village life, rather than move to the city?

I couldn’t help but compare this ‘mundane’ farm labor to the urban labor I’m so accustomed to seeing, such as manufacturing on an assembly line, data entry, call centers, etc.

With village work, I found that:

-The labor has more variety, as there’s 3 seasons for field work (i.e., planting and harvesting rice, corn, and wheat in the fields), there’s house responsibilities vs farm work, and there’s the reward of seeing you’re work from beginning to completion (i.e., planting to harvesting to consuming).

-You directly receive your livelihood through your daily work (i.e., the vegetables you pick from garden, the rice you cut, etc. are the foods you’re consuming).

-**Most importantly, you’re working outside in nature, being environmentally-friendly, and you’re surrounded by people who love you. From this perspective, village work is healthier for the soul.

Whereas, with urban labor:

-Minimal variety in labor

-You’re often working indoors (i.e., factory call center, office), and with electronic equipment (manufacturing equipment, computer, telephone).

-Working in a stressful environment, often being micro-managed by a supervisor.

Considering these comparisons between village and urban labor, village labor appears to create a healthier, more holistic lifestyle.

However, there are significant trade-offs that come with living in the village, particularly villagers have:

-Less opportunity to connect with the rest of the world and experience the wonders of our global society (i.e., whether through the internet and social media, or through direct travel experience, if your finances allow). Most villagers don’t have access to the smartphones or computers to access the internet. Many of them have never traveled further than the closest major city of their country!

-Less access to trained doctors to cure diseases, which extends the average lifespan.

-Less physical comfort (i.e., cushioned beds, couches, heating and A/C, etc.)

What trade-offs! Take a moment to imagine a life where you can’t connect to the rest of the world, and you are siloed to your city of birth.

I always made sure to give Ganesh’s family things to laugh at me about. It’s always worth it to hear their chuckles and see their smiles. I knew they were laughing at me whenever I heard ‘gora, gora,’ which means ‘white person’!

Maybe you’ll have a giggle at some of these as well:

-Wearing Ama’s Nepali saree: I wore one of Ama’s traditional Nepali sarees, putting on a mini-fashion & dance show for the women. They were ecstatic!

-Chasing buffalos away from Ganesh’s crops with my favorite stick: I did my best to do as the locals do.

(Filming credit: @Ama)

-Letting out a huge scream when a weasel tried to kill a rat right above my head.

-Attempting to help with farming and household tasks, and being absolutely pathetic at it. The strength of these villagers is uncanny.

-Spinning my favorite wooden stick, which always seemed to covered in cow dunk.n

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