When Sitting With Nepalese
By Mark Sconce - Peace Corps Volunteer, Nepal (1967 - 1969)
When sitting with some Nepalese,
I wander back in time
To my old village in Nepal
Where I did once abide.
Sindhuli Madhi was its name,
A Himalayan site:
With Annapurna on the left,
And Everest on the right.
Thatched roof adorned my village hut,
While cow dung formed the floor,
And mud and wattle were its walls.
No sense to lock the door.
My lanterns fed with kerosene
Provided reading light;
And I had water from our stream
To bathe in every night.
The milk of water buffalo
To froth my tea each morn;
Good chai from tea stalls down below
And by my bearer borne.
Sir Adhikari was his name
Just eighteen years of age,
A Hindu Brahmin, he became
My guide and cook and sage.
He cooked me rice and lentil soup,
Spiced vegetables a treat;
The fish he found in our bazaar
Were barely fit to eat.
Our hardships, though, were small indeed
Compared to village ways;
The men were yoked to ox and plow
The same as ancient days.
When looking out our window gap,
One cloudy afternoon,
We saw a body borne aloft
Before the great monsoon.
The mourning family bore the corpse
And placed it on a pyre,
Beside the rushing river shore,
And set their son on fire.
We watched the smoke ascend like shrouds
We watched the Hindu priest,
We watched the billows reach the clouds
And with them the deceased.
These memories oft return to me,
Both pleasant and profound,
When I sit down with Nepalese
On this my native ground.
This poem was entered in the returned Volunteer category for the 2015 Peace Corps Poetry Contest. The contest received more than 1,000 submissions, representing over 50 years of Peace Corps service in more than 100 countries.