Our office is situated metres from the edge of the busy East West Highway which is filled with gaily painted trucks with musical horns, beeping cars, belching buses, motorbikes, pushbikes, rickshaws, cows, goats and brave pedestrians. The road runs through Nepal’s plains (Terai) region and connects Kathmandu and the Indian border at Kakkabhitta, just 17 kilometres east of us.
Our extremely small office is set picturesquely between two driving schools (yes, they do exist here) which teach Advanced Horn Use 101 most of the day.
We often have 12 ladies here, all doing a variety of things. One may sew aprons on the treadle sewing machine or be putting the edging on the scarves on our donated picot machine. When the power is available, she stops sewing and we get the oven out to cook beads. We had a minor break-through recently when the ladies had the courage to cook their beads without the visiting polymer clay instructor.
Ladies sit on small stools, chairs or the floor and the record has been seven around a small, low table claying. Those readers of a polymer persuasion may count their blessings if they have decent sized tables to clay on.
We’ve all had our “first dal bhat” before we arrive at 10:00 and then work pretty much straight through until 4:00. We’ll usually get a chiya (sweet spice milky tea) at around 2:00 and maybe some pineapple. Birtamod is really hot at this time of year and through-out Nepal there is load shedding. This may sound a little like there is so much power we have to shed some, but that is far from the truth.
Even though there are many mighty rivers in Nepal, the current hydro-electric resources simply aren’t meeting the country’s electricity needs and most places go without power for many hours each day. We all know the minute the power is off because we all start sweating like pigs as the overhead fan, slow even when the power is available, grinds to a complete halt.
Claying generally stops although the Kato clay we use seems to be the best in these conditions. We have plenty of other things we can do like colour mixing or threading the wedding beads to match the clay beads.
Chickens peck outside the entry and throughout the day we are visited by the colourful and curious, the bored and the begging, and the lonely and the lost. At 4:00, we all find our shoes from amongst the mess of shoes on the footpath outside, pull down the roll-a-door and head home for “kaja” or snacks and the chores that wait us all at home.
The ladies wake early and work late to get all the things done that they need to do to be able to get to the office. Many are told not to come but gain strength from their early visits and stand up to those who try to stop them. The satisfaction they have from their day, the companionship they’ve enjoyed and the lessons they’ve learnt give them the strength to face what they do on their return home.