In thirteen years, I have spent at least one of every season here. I’ve cut rice and planted millet. I’ve harvested wood. I’ve cut wheat, and planted corn and churned milk the old fashioned way. I’ve chased the chicken around and painted the house for Dashain. Most of these things I’ve done multiple times, and believe me, I received plenty of impassioned feedback as I tried them out. These are all activities people in rural Nepal learn from toddlerhood. Seeing a grown woman who can’t flip a pan of rice grain properly is basically impossible not to comment on.
I’ve pretty much learned a lot of these things because I absolutely insisted on doing them terribly while I figured them out. In some cases, I’ve really earned my stripes. In others, let’s just say that people have become happy with the American version of, for example, collecting water.
But there’s one season I’ve purposefully avoided, and it’s the rice planting one. Even tasks I don’t much enjoy, such as those involving fertilizer (i.e. buffalo poop), are things I have determined to throw myself in to. It’s like how, when I used to take winter diving lessons, we had a “fun day” where we got to use all of the diving platforms at Montgomery Aquatic Center, and that meant that, for fun, I had to make myself jump off the petrifying 10-meter platform that was level with the third-floor spectator section. I absolutely hated fun day. But it never remotely crossed my mind that, if the 10 meter platform was available, I wouldn’t jump off it.
This brings us to the topic of the hot, buggy, wet rice planting season. I think you get my point. I stayed in the U.S. No fun day.
It’s not like this was very clever and nobody noticed. Every year I am asked when I will come to plant rice. People will list all of my accomplishments to date, and exclaim as to how I have never participated in this one activity that is so central to the culture and basic survival of Nepal.
Ok, so here it is. I determined to jump off the 10-meter platform this summer. Partially because as you get taller, it doesn’t look as high. I over came my distaste for the idea of the monsoon last summer, and this summer, I appreciate the torrential rain tremendously.
So last weekend I joined Saano Didi’s family in their rice paddies. Govinda’s daughter Sulojana came with me. And the amazing thing about waiting 13 years to do this: not one person cried out at how terrible I was at planting rice.
“You have to teach her, sikaunu parchha, you have to teach her,” all the ladies cooed.
Silky mud, bright clothes, plants in your hands.
“Laura, you’ll be back in November, right?” Neru asked.
“Because that’s when we can eat this rice. Make sure you’re back.”