In a serene valley ringed by low mountains I strolled past fields of patchwork bronze and green where whole families had gathered to harvest the rice. Some bent low, cutting the golden stalks with small curved scythes, while others carefully spread severed stalks in the sun to dry overnight. On a cleared portion of the field, men and women swung previously dried sheaves high above their heads, slamming them down ferociously on plastic tarps to separate rice grains from the stalks. The resultant pile of amber grain was scooped up in flat round wicker baskets studded with tiny holes that allowed the wind to carry away dirt and leave the winnowed rice behind.
Elsewhere, cleared fields were already being prepared for planting a new round of crops. In one, a stick-thin man wielding a short spade bent over double, digging furrows by hand. I raised my camera to snap a shot but he spotted me; obviously proud of his small patch of slate-colored earth, he snapped to attention, smiled, and waved before continuing his backbreaking work. Everywhere I looked, workers operated like a well-oiled machine, albeit one powered only by hand tools and brawn.
My guide for this two day trek explained that the dark green fields were planted in millet, a grain used to make hand-rolled flat bread and to brew Rakshi, a distilled liquor preferred by Sherpas. “The cleared fields will be planted with potatoes, which are a very important staple in Nepal,” he continued. “Potatoes can be boiled, fried, baked, cooked in curry, or added to soup; they can be served with vegetables, with meat, or with beans.” I chuckled to myself when I realized why his discourse sounded so familiar.
“Anyway, like I was sayin’, shrimp is the fruit of the sea. You can barbecue it, boil it, broil it, bake it, saute it. Dey’s uh, shrimp-kabobs, shrimp creole, shrimp gumbo. Pan fried, deep fried, stir-fried. There’s pineapple shrimp, lemon shrimp, coconut shrimp, pepper shrimp, shrimp soup, shrimp stew, shrimp salad, shrimp and potatoes, shrimp burger, shrimp sandwich.”
Halfway around the world, I was having a conversation straight out of the movie Forrest Gump.
We were headed for Nagarkot, a small village atop a mountain in the foothills of the Himalayas. I’d chosen this destination because it was supposedly a gentle three-hour trek along an improved dirt road. The knee I had injured in Mexico some months ago had refused to heal completely and each time I attempted Continue reading