village of Hewa (Yawa)
Taksindu VDC 6, Solukhumbu, Nepal
Hewa (formerly Yawa) is one of the villages of Taksindu VDC. Taksindu itself is a hamlet with both a Buddhist monastery and a nunnery situated at a height of about 3.000 meters. In Nepal, local administration units are called Village Development Committees (VDC). Taksindu VDC is part of the district of Solukhumbu where Mount Everest (Nepali: Sagarmatha, Sherpa: Cholomungma) is located. Taksindu VDC has an area of 166.9 km² and is home of about 2.100 people who live in 530 households. In 2015, the education rate has been 62 per cent.
The closest metalled airport is at Phaplu, about half a flight hour East of Kathmandu. From Phaplu, walkers need about half a day to reach the village of Ringmo at the foot of Taksindu Pass (Sherpa: Taksindu La). Up to the Taksindu monastery, they need another two hours. Of course, locals are faster.
Besides, Phaplu can now also be reached from Kathmandu by road within 8-10 hours. From Phaplu, the extension of the road to the Dudh Kosi valley is under construction. Parts of this track can already be used by tractors and Jeeps. A first few kilometres behind Phaplu are already metalled. But from Chiwanghop onwards, the road is unpaved and especially during monsoon hardly to be used, even for walkers. But for the local population, the road has come as a blessing. At the end of 2015, the road ended at Taksindu. In the meantime, it has been extended down to Chhulemu from where it will go further on to Nunthala. Currently, a feeder road from Chhulemu to Hewa is under construction.
Related to the number of inhabitants, Hewa is the biggest village of Taksindu VDC. Originally, the name of the village had been Yawa, but since the administrators generally have problems with ethnic languages and cultures, they have renamed the village as Hewa.
Hewa with its 54 houses is currently inhabited by 650 persons. But the migration rate is high. Especially young villagers have gone to Kathmandu valley in recent decades where they have found a home from home. Nevertheless, they have remained in close contact to their village and regularly return there. Similar to other Nepalis, some young people from Hewa have sought greener pastures in India, the Gulf states, Malaysia and Korea in the form of labour migration. A few have even ended up in Europe, North America or Japan.
Contrary to other villages of Taksindu VDC, Hewa is only inhabited by Sherpas. This has helped its inhabitants to conserve and promote their Sherpa culture. In recent decades, Hewa is seen rapid changes. In the mid 1970s, there had been only 22 houses in the village. But they had been homes of much bigger families. At that time, it had been normal that families had 10 or more children but the child mortality was also high. Today, most of the young families have only 2-3 children whose chance of survival is a lot better.
Forty years ago, nobody thought about clean and running drinking water, toilets or electricity. Defecation was done in the open fields. Women and children fetched drinking water from the few springs within the village. All houses had open fireplaces where firewood was used for cooking. Children often got heavy burns or even died when they fell into these fires. The required wood was collected from the surrounding forests that got decimated over the years. There were no window panes and the small window cases were sealed up with paper or wood. The roofs of the houses were generally covered with timber shingles that often became leaky and had to be replaced. There were no chimneys so that the houses were filled with smoke what led to respiratory ailments.
Modern communication media were hardly available in Kathmandu in the 1970s and they were obsolete in Hewa. To listen to the only radio station of the country, Radio Nepal, was only theoretically possible. Useless to say, that newspapers were also not available. There was a small village school with two rooms but it had neither a roof nor windows nor doors and, with exception of two wooden benches, no other equipment. There were two or three teachers who hat been sent there from far away; they were unable to understand the mother tongue of the school children.
How different the village looks today! Most of the two-storeyed houses are more stable, bigger and better equipped. All the newer houses have chimneys and are separated into several rooms. The roofs are covered with corrugated iron sheets, into which translucent fields are integrated that provide for light in the kitchen that is normally below the roofs of the Sherpa houses. Since 2006, almost all the houses have running water inside provided by a nearby spring. All the houses have toilets which are usually placed a few meters away from the houses. Only a few of them are still earth closets. Most are now squat toilets that are embedded in concrete floors.
The small paths within the village have been improved considerably. Of course, instead of wooden torches, the villagers use hand or forehead lamps when they walk through the village after sunset. But today, the village is also not as dark as it had been before. Since 2010, Hewa and the neighbouring villages are connected to a small hydroelectric facility that provides the people with power 24 hours a day. So, the locals can work or talk even hours after sunset. This has influenced their daily routine considerably. If you stand in front of the Taksindu monastery and look down at the villages on the surrounding mountain slopes, then you have a similar view as in alpine regions in Europe.
The school has been improved as well. A French NGO, Népal et vous, has constructed a primary school with five classrooms. And there is an annexed building where the teachers can live. Three teachers from Bahun and Chhetri castes have been transferred there from faraway places as it had been normal already in the 1970s. But the current teachers are at this school now for many years and even have learnt to speak Sherpa language. They are fully integrated, are respected by the village community and participate in all village events. Besides, there are now Sherpas from the village who function as teachers. One is Lhakpa Sherpa. She teaches English. The other one is Chhapte Sherpa who is also vice-president of HSCC. Originally, he is a monk from Taksindu monastery but is most of the time in his home village Hewa and teaches Sherpa language to the children. Currently, the government has started to add another building to the school complex, probably because of the planned extension of the primary level up to class VIII.
The American organisation Hike for Help has organised
a health camp in Hewa in December 2015 that has been very well
frequented by the village people. This is why Hike for Help has decided
to construct a health centre in the village that is already under
construction. HSCC is not directly involved in this project.
The health centre is constructed nearby the just finished socio-cultural village centre building. The latter has been a common initiative of HSCC as well as Lhakpa Doma Sherpa, a daughter of the village who went to Germany in 1965, and her husband Karl-Heinz Krämer. The village centre project has been kindly support by the German Nepal Friendship Association (Deutsch-Nepalische Gesellschaft e.V.), Cologne, and the German Ministry of Economic Cooperation. The framing of the building has been concluded in July 2016; the completion of the interior is still underway. The village centre will be a meeting place for the inhabitants of the village. In the end, it will include a small library and a computer room.
In an attached smaller building, there will be a kitchen on the ground floor that can be used for all activities at the centre. In its upper floor will be three rooms including lavatory and toilet for passing travellers. The income shall contribute to the maintenance of the centre.
Modern communication media have reached Hewa for long. Especially most of the young people nowadays have mobile phones by which they can communicate among themselves. Thanks to the well developed Nepali mobile phone network as well as applications like Skype, Viber and Facebook, communication with people in Kathmandu or even far away countries is possible without greater costs. In other words, Hewa has become part of the global network.
This has also influenced the daily life and culture of
the people. Probably it becomes especially apparent from the way the
young people dress themselves. And also the behaviour of the youths
during festivities conforms more and more to what we can see in
Kathmandu. But despite such unavoidable changes has the fostering of
traditional Sherpa culture increased as one can observe during village
festivals like Losar ( New Year).