Oct 24, 2013
When you plan a trek through the Himalayas, there are a few essentials to bring. First, it’s going to be cold, so you better have a down jacket and warm socks and boots. Second, the water’s going to make you sick if you drink it, so a good filtration system or iodine tabs are a solid precautionary measure. There’s food along the way, but you better bring chocolate for the really tough days. Just make sure to keep the goodies hidden inside your bag, as there are natural predators lurking in every village you’ll come across.
They’ll pop out to greet you with an innocuous “Namaste!” and they sure are cute, so you’re likely to engage. (They’re Nepali kids and you’re not a monster.) But next, they’ll stick out their right hand, throw their left to their right elbow—a sign of respect in making a transaction in Nepal—and say, “You have sweet?!” You’ll say, “No, sorry!” and maybe laugh a bit, but they’ll consider this to be no laughing matter. “One pen?” comes next. “Nope, no pen!” “One rupee,” they’ll demand. “Sorry.” They’ll look you up and down to see if you’re lying, confusion the primary message scrawled across their faces. They might follow you for a little while, their hands outstretched the whole time, and you’ll just think, “One pen? I get the sweet thing and the rupee thing, but why a pen?”
This happened in every village while I was trekking. Some children were more aggressive than others. Most were pretty docile, but I once watched a 9- or 10-year-old girl follow two women through the better part of her village because these ladies were carrying a transparent plastic bag with prepackaged cookies inside. The girl pointed at the bag and tried to wrest it from them several times all to no avail.
My guide, Krishna, knew to expect this, so every time he passed a certain tree that bore a lemony fruit, he’d stockpile the bitter globes and pass them out when kids would get to begging. Their reaction was usually along the lines of “This not sweet!” though they would continue to suck and chew on the coarse treat long after this realization. And Krishna and I would saunter off with loosely suppressed giggles.
Hey, it’s a long trek, and you’ve gotta get your kicks somehow. Just cross your fingers it’s not from a child kicking you for your one pen.