Manju, the Firebreather

Carrie, Manju and Kim in traditional Tamang dress

This past weekend we went to Manegaun. It was amazing to get out of the city and the smog and be in a place much stiller, harder, and vibrant than my normal routine. The lushness of the landscape, the way trees have the ability to grow on a seemingly vertical slope, the rushing rivers and the unmanicured farms, all of these things make me feel part of an ecosystem, rather than part of a rat race. The only other places in the world where I have felt something similar are Guatemala and Ireland. At the village, we stayed with host families, two to a house. Kim and I were placed with Manju. I call my host mother in Kathmandu Aama, but since I am quite sure that Manju is somewhere around my age, Didi is more appropriate. The house had a few goats, two water buffalo (one was definitely a baby that was very interested in these new humans coming around), and an amazing view from our porch-bedroom.

Our first meal with Manjudidi had been already prepared, but the next morning, we were privy to her cooking method. The kitchen was of some sort of clay and basically an open room with some shelves for cookware. In the corner were two raised areas with holes in the front and on top. The firewood went in through the bottom and the pots were placed on top. Once she had a good fire going, after awhile it would die down. Then the magic. She took a wooden tube that looked almost like a recorder and would blow into the embers. As soon as her breath exited the tube, the fire would leap back to life and lick the bottom of the pot! Amazing.

From her pots emerged rice and daal (lentils) and the best potatoes I have ever had. They were spiced but also moderately creamy, but the creaminess did not seem to come from butter but rather the potatoes themselves. I have no idea how she made them, and my Nepali (much less my Tamang – her native tongue) are definitely not up to par for finding out.

The business of living in this village appeared, from our very brief stay, to be hard work. By hard, I do not mean bad. In a recent interview I conducted, it was said “It is because they do the hard work that you are in a position to give.” Spending time with Manju and the rest of the Manegaun village gave me more insight into what the interviewee meant by hard work. Now my question is: what does it mean to give?

Crossposted at Rangi Changi Kathmandu

Published by creatingcarrie

writer, performer, misadventurist, catmom, the silly aunt, and lawyer. i'm not very good at being still.

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