Counting with beans…

Saturday 22nd September 2007
Well, I’m afraid we’ve still heard nothing about Jeetu, it’s been a week so we can only hope and wait at this point.
I must admit that I’ve been waking up in the night, wondering where he is and if he’s found somewhere to sleep, especially when it rains.
The rain is so loud it frequently wakes me up, from the regular rhythmic tapping to the sweeping rain that builds up into a thundering torrent. It crashes down onto the concrete and is sometimes so loud I’m amazed anyone can sleep, but somehow they do!

My efforts in the kitchen have been appreciated, and I can now make Achaar all by myself (recipe at the bottom) which I’m dead chuffed about! After three days of getting up at 5am to help make the food and then teaching, I’ve been pretty knackered, and wasn’t suprised when I woke up with a cold on Wednesday morning.
I stayed in bed until 7, as I felt rotten, and then went downstairs. There was much exclaiming – I’m really not that sick, it’s just a cold, but apparently if you say you’re sick here, it means you’re dying!
Aamaa was terribly strict and said I was only allowed to teach one class before I had a rest – it’s the first time I’ve ever been ordered not to teach because I have a cold!
It was all very funny, except that when I went to my room for a nap, I discovered the neighbours had chosen that particular day to take down a wall with a sledgehammer, so I ended up with a headache instead of having a nap!
Then last night, after I’d managed to have a hot shower (I’ve just about figured the water system out now) Aamaa came into my room to explain how I would get better.
She gave me a list of instructions to carry out, including not washing, (or in fact touching cold water at all), wrapping my head up to sleep, she sent a massive thermos of hot water up to my room and insisted I only drink hot water (gesturing rather pointedly at my water bottles by the bed! Mustn’t let Aamaa catch me drinking cold water!). Then Sabina came in with a large cup of tea and Aamaa told me it was medicine.
I sniffed it, and it smelt like ginger tea, which we have quite a lot and I love (it’s black tea, and it’s delicious!). Aamaa listed the ingredients for me (chiyaa, aduaa, nun, besar etc) which translates as tea with ginger, salt and besar – a kind of curry powder!
It tasted foul, and after a few tentative sips it dawned on me with horror that Aamaa was actually going to sit there and watch me drink it!
I think after raising so many kids for so long she has a very strong sixth sense about which kids might just chuck their medicine down the sink/out the window if it weren’t for her watchful eye – and apparently I was no different! (She was right too – I sooo would have lobbed it out the window if she hadn’t bloody sat there!).
Anyway, I tried to just inhale the fumes, claiming they were helping, but that didn’t work, so I said it was too hot to drink and distracted her until she left (when I duly threw it all out the window!).
Apparently I have to drink the stuff 3 times a day instead of having tea, but this morning I pretended to gargle with it and managed to pour most of it down the sink, and lovely Jack made me some proper tea (being blissfully unaware of Aamaa’s strict instructions!).
Luckily Aamaa went out yesterday, so I’ve escaped more medicine, and have been able to recover nicely mostly by staying in bed and taking good old paracetamol!
School continues on very well. I realised that the younger students really needed some counters to help them with maths, and rather ingeniously (i thought) managed to pilfer some dried beans out of the kitchen before they got soaked. I’ve been keeping them in a box so the kids can use them to count and add with – literally bean-counters!
I gradually realised that the beans seemed to be diminishing, despite me being extra careful about putting them all away after each class. I couldn’t figure it out, and yesterday after class I looked in the box and realised that all the beans had gone except for the big red kidney beans! It was a total mystery, and I started to wonder if there were any slightly autistic children who had painstakingly removed all the dried chick-peas, black-eyed beans and other white ones.
I asked one of the older kids in a very puzzled tone if he knew what had happened, and he just laughed and said the kids had eaten them!
Then of course it dawned on me that the kidney beans are the only ones they can’t eat dry – It must have been like giving a bunch of British kids a handful of m&m’s, popcorn, peanuts and marbles to count with, and suddenly only having marbles left!
So, I’ll have to invest in some more kidney beans for counting purposes, although this does explain how so many of the kids were getting 8 + 3 to equal 5! Eating the counters in the middle of a sum does NOT help!

Hope everyone there is well and happy

(I’ll leave you with some lovely tips from the fabulous Kesar Lall’s cutural customs book:)
Don’t leave your shoe overturned. One must not take more than six steps with only one shoe on.
Monday is a bad day to buy cloth as well as to put on new clothes, A Sherpa will not sell ghee on this day.
Proverb 15: It makes no difference to the blind bull whether it is the full moon or dark moon.
Proverb 28: The grass is trampled when the elephants fight.
tons of love
ps – Here’s my recipe for Achaar, which translates as pickle, but it’s actually more like a lot of Mexican type-salsa.
Get about 5 or 6 baby tomatoes and 4 or 5 chilies, put them in a little water in a pan and boil for a minute or two until soft.
Peel the tomatoes and throw away the skin.
In a pestle and mortar, crush up a clove of garlic and the chilies, add a bit of salt, and some fresh corriander. Then add the tomatoes one by one, crushing it all together into a smooth paste.
And voila! Have a little on the side with your rice, or have it next time you make fajitas!
It’s lovely!

The kids showing off their viking boats that we made in “school”!

1 thought on “Counting with beans…

  1. Pingback: Looking back, and looking forward… | Had we but world enough and time…

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