Props to anyone who gets what the title refers to!
This post is overdue by about two months. As I believe I mentioned, I had one month of vacation between the end of September and the end of October. You have already heard the tale of my voyage to Gorkha, but I neglected to tell of the reason for the long holiday.
In Nepal, there are two really big holidays: Dasain and Tihar. They both happen within quick succession of one another, although the timing varies every year, based on the lunar cycle.
If I understand it correctly, this two-week long festival celebrates the victory of a goddess, Durga, over an evil demon. There are many sacrifices of goats and buffaloes. Most families have plant a special grass that is used in later ceremonies of the holiday. On the tenth day, family elders put tika (a typically red paste made from sandalwood or rice) on the foreheads of their children, and present them with envelopes of money.
My experience of Dasain was not as full as the other ETAs, due to the fact that my aamaa is, like me, a Christian. We held the tika ceremony so that I could see what it was like, but we did not participate in any sacrifices, and no one made me eat any goat meat. Thank God.
Some of you might know this holiday by the name of Diwali, as it is called in India. It is five days long, and rather multifaceted. Each day involves the worship of a certain kind of animal: crows, dogs, cows, buffalo, and brothers. The third day—the festival of lights—is especially fun. That night, families decorate their homes with candles and strings of lights to welcome the goddess of wealth, Lakshmi, into their houses. There is also a tradition similar to our Christmas caroling on some of the nights of the festival. Groups of children will go from house to house, dancing, singing, and playing the madal (a kind of hand-held, hand-beaten drum) for rupees and selroti (a circular fried pastry that sadly resembles a doughnut in shape only).
I've already posted photos of the Tihar celebrations at Lisa's house. I have videos of me dancing with my neighbors on the night I returned from Gorkha, but since I'm not interested in being blackmailed, I'm keeping those to myself.
“Thanksgiving?” you might be saying to yourself. “I know what Thanksgiving is!” Yes, I’m sure you do. But no one in Nepal does. That’s why the Fulbright director here in Kathmandu valley held a Thanksgiving dinner in her house for Fulbrighters and friends. They even bused in the girls from Gorkha, which made for a nice treat. We had the pleasure of sharing our apartment with two Fulbright-Clinton scholars, who will be working as aides in the Nepali government.
Well, we had turkey, mashed potatoes, stuffing, gravy, Nepali spiced pumpkin, cranberry sauce, sweet red cabbage, green beans with walnuts, CHEESE (that didn’t come from a yak!), pumpkin pie, chocolate chip cookies, and apple pie. Because I was still a tad ill after my stay in the hospital, I had to abstain from eating for the whole day (with the exception of most of a waffle for breakfast) in order to enjoy the meal, but boy, was it worth it! Our director sent us back to our apartment with not one, but TWO whole apple pies. I brought half of one back to my house with the intention of sharing it with my host family, but ended up eating the whole thing by myself. I used the excuse that apples are good for certain digestive illnesses.
Speaking of holidays, I am very bummed that I won’t be with my family for Christmas this year. I actually only get one day off for Christmas—it will be strange going to school on Christmas Eve—and I have no idea how to get myself to church. But even without a tree and lights and cookies and music and the ever-present scent of pine needles and peppermint, you can still celebrate Christmas. As Belle says in Beauty and the Beast: The Enchanted Christmas (yes, I went there): “There’s more to this time of year than sleigh-bells and holly, mistletoe and snow.” It is the season of giving, after all. You don’t need the trappings and trimmings to be generous.
|The Dasain tika tray: the red is tika, the green is jamara grass, and the envelope is money.|
|Some of the Tihar lights in my village.|
|Our neighbor's Lakshmi welcome flower.|
|Our Lakshmi welcome flower - according to my Christian aamaa, done so that the neighbors aren't insulted.|
|My host dad making selroti. (psst...it's a video)|
|Part of the brother worship ceremony. As I told him, "I may be 'worshiping' you, but I'm still cooler than you."|
|Stuff for the brother worship ceremony. The package in the top left corner was a lovely scarf for moi.|
|Me with the host parents. They're pretty cool.|
|The spread. I was too short to take this photograph, so Robin-ji graciously offered to help me out. He's so tall compared to everyone else in Nepal that I swear I do a double-take every time I see him.|
|Poor Ellen always ends up in the foreground of all of my creepy candid shots.|
|Proof that I ate the whole thing.|
|Dessert. The best part of any feast.|