5 July 2010. Day 2 in Likir
Yesterday was a blur. After two hours drive, and another two spent leisurely walking around Likir, I arrived at my home stay, where Ama-le invited me in for lunch. I was famished, as it was near two and I had only eaten handfuls of nuts and dried apricots all day. I sat on a wooden platform just barely higher than the dirt floor, and Amale brought me a plate of eggs and khambir, the local bread. I hadn’t eaten eggs in fifteen months, but I wouldn’t—couldn’t—tell her that, and proceeded to eat, while she had kholak—barley flower and butter tea.
The house is still under construction. During the day, Indian boys mix mud to line the inside walls, so the house is covered in dirt. The hallways and rooms hold small dirt piles, and in the meantime everyone lives around them. When the boys leave, the house is dusted and cleaned back near its normal state.
Ama-le says “skyot-le” and I follow her outside near the fields, where we sit down and begin collecting rocks into a bag, the reason for which I’m not sure, but I enjoy it. It brings me back to my favorite pastime—rock and seashell hunting on the beach.
When I finally admit that I need water, we go back inside. We clean the shrine room, taking everything out onto the balcony and dusting. I dust the thangka paintings and photographs of lamas with the utmost care, afraid of ruining a precious family heirloom. When Abi-le appeared, I tagged along with her to clean and shine the butter lamp holders by the stream in the cold glacier water.
When I met my Ama-le and introduced myself, what followed was a butchering of my name unlike any other. “nyerangi minga Angmo in-le,” Ama-le said, or, “your name is Angmo.” It took me a few seconds to figure out that I’m Angmo, as it does each time anyone says “Angmo-le”.
I climbed up the hill behind the house for a birds-eye view of upper Likir. How do I describe such an incredible place without the usage of a cliché? It is everything I ever dreamt about, read about, heard about. I almost cannot believe what I see—stunning snow-capped peaks everywhere I look above, and green everywhere below.