That’s Nepali for “it is very very good”. With more elaborate praises unknown to me, it works for everything: food, photos, people, feelings, gifts... these last few days I wore this phrase completely out ;)
Seeing how my last blog was dedicated to just one day, technically this blog should be 3, because each of my last three days at my little village just got better and better!!!! With over a week under my belt, I'm now recognizable as “the westerner staying at Bishnu’s”. What this brings about is all sorts of special little things that happen all day: like not being able to walk anywhere without getting called over to sit and chat on a porch. Like trying to stitch my pants and having Sova take over and sew them up for me :) Like stopping at my normal store for tissues (the closest I can get to tp), casually mentioning I love farsi (pumpkin) and having them instantly go and gather me one from their garden. Like having crowds gather to watch the crossfit workout everyday (great motivation to do them btw :). Like having a hilarious late night card game session with the neighbors. Even having a karate Chop! shouting session to spice up the corn field work w/ Bishnu :). This is the way I like to travel. To get in there and blend/merge/get involved! This is the making of awesome memories :)
|Sova fell off her chair at one point :) and the loser had to make a "jackal" sound. Good times :)|
The first morning I got to watch the sweetest/ cutest/ clumsiest first feeding of baby to momma buffalo cow. It was adorable. Momma getting pissed and trying to kick baby away, baby hardly able to stand on his new knees and falling a few times, having a hell-of a time trying to find the teats! It took three people before the episode could be called a success: Bishnu holding him up/back, Buba (Nepali for father, Bishnu's) working the milk out, and Sova holding back momma’s kicking leg! I announced baby’s name later that morning (after corn choppp!). At the suggestion of my sis, (seconded by pal Erin!), I christened the new baby Buffalo “Billy”! Get it? The funny thing is, a word that is pronounced similarly in Nepali means ‘cat’. Ha!
|After seeing this, Im not sure how if happens in the wild ;/!!|
I watched a Nepali movie w/ the kids, and then later that afternoon we have a red saree photoshoot! After Sova’s dress up with me the day before, I suggested we get a bunch of ama’s together for a picture, and it was well recieved! The four closest neighbor ama’s all got spruced up, they gussied me up too, and a million pics ensued! It was a neat, sweet, fun event, parading around the street, having to take a pic in front of each of their houses:). I clearly see that it’s women and children that I’m better and more suited to interact with. Whereas in everyday life, because of the lifestyle I lead (sports, games, adventures) I tend to find myself keeping company with males. This is not always favorable since the age old ‘When Harry Met Sally’ question comes into play more times than I’d like it to, and typically not on my end ;). Being a touchy person can get me into trouble with said males, whereas with women/kids it’s a mutual sign of dually understood platonic affection. Especially when there’s a language barrier, and all you can do is smile smile smile! The touch says, “I like you”, “I appreciate you”, “Im equal with you”, and to quote an awesome line from Avatar, it says “I see you.” It’s too bad it can’t be as innocent w/ men!
|Do I look Nepali??!|
|Love this one... how cute is Ama?|
The next day, I walked with the ama’s (umbrellas and all) to the park where an all day and all night Puja was in progress. If you recall, a puja is any Hindu ceremony to the God’s. This one in particular was a Puja to Indra, the rain god. It’s really dry here, most of the crops dying... so 16+ hours of singing/dancing/praying for rain seems a good course of action. This was a very notable event for me. Right off the bat, the Ama’s bring me to the food section and we proceed to cut up veggies. Ginormous plates, bowls, and vats of food being prepared to feed hundreds of people. We didn’t have enough knives so I used a metal cup :). After my cup reached it’s cutting limits (didnt work so well on cucumbers), I wandered off from the endearing eyes of the amas. I took a ton of pics, intrigued by the methods and customs of both the praying and the cooking! All sorts of wood fire stations and bare hand work. At one point I’m watching the “chef” hand mix (arm really) a giant barrel of veggies and bags of spices... I help him hold the lid back and in exchange he drops a gooey handful in my mouth! Who needs a spoon?! Yum!
|Chopping up veggies for the feast!|
|The dessert station.. yummy|
|Making chapatis! (Like a tortilla)|
There are tons of people here, and since it’s a special occasion, a majority of the women are wearing red (the typical married woman color). I have an “ah ha” moment.... what a perfect opportunity to continue my new photo trend: the Human Font! Where in the World is BJ Fromm?? To bad I didn’t have my red saree on still---- I could have been one of the 11 ama’s in red who we organized to spell out N-E-P-A-L!!!! Like India, it was again quite challenging (even with Bishnu and neighbor Shankar helping me translate), but hilarious really, and we probably had 100+ people gathered around, pulled by curiosity, in just the 15 minutes it took to make it happen! Outstanding!
|N- E- P- A- L with Nepalese Ama's :)|
|I ran behind and took a quick pic of the crowd ;)|
The neatest thing about this Human Font business (can I copywrite this?!), was it gave people that reason they needed to approach me. Me being the ONLY westerner, many are visibly curious.. but for the rest of the afternoon there were knowing smiles, waves and chats, and I got my own personal sidekick out of it! The most adorable little 4 year old named Amrita :) For the next 2-3 hours, she was holding my hand or sitting in my lap, carrying my umbrella, every few minutes we’d swap smiles (our only form of communication). At one point we joined the podium where the main Puja was in full swing: music, chanting and one-by-one dancing to the God Indra. We sat at one end, when a woman insistently waved me over to her side. Unknown to me, she was waving me over to dance and they had already made a clearing in the middle of everyone!!! I could hardly refuse;). I thought what the heck, and spend the next 10 minutes doing my best Indian rain dance! This was wonderful... I certainly looked a bit awkward, but everyone was smiling and positive, one amazing ancient Ama flashing me the biggest bestest wrinkly smile ever, while demonstrating how to move my hands. As I’m dancing I’m thinking about this event. All these people, this whole day, wonderful food, painting “Om” on mango leaves, the priests submerged in a little water hole praying all day; all this for rain. So what else to do, but sit and pray like never before. Come on... a little rain for us, eh??? Little Amrita stayed with me those whole 30 minutes which I found so impressive for how little she is. When I finally got up to leave, I was refused exit before I gave another dance. ;) A truly jubilant day!
|The main Puja podium... mostly ama's on the stage, the buba's in front painting 'Om".|
|Let it Rain, Let it Rain, Let it Rain!!!! |
(Bishnu scores big points for seeing this happening and coming for photos!! )
|I love this pic, I'm giving a namaste to the Ama with helpful demonstrations :)|
|The men and women divide sides and take turns with the singing|
|Thousands of mango leaves get painted with "Om" today, |
each person needs to do a minimum of 108 (a significant # in Hindu religion)
|My cute sidekick Amrita!|
|One of the areas of offerings to Indra|
On another occasion, I was bonding w/ Billy, and asked permission to make a name plate for my favorite buffalos! Certainly! It was real simple sign, on a piece of scrap wood, but doing such wet the whistle of my artsy side! Everyone here has been so nice and giving and overly wonderful to me... I’d love to give something to everyone, but what? Men, women, children... I hate picking out random gifts and especially trying to not play favorites. Soooo, I can instead make them all something! I scoured the rock laden streets, and with my fav travel accessory, my sharpies, started drawing:). I made a “name rock” for everyone that I had a personal encounter with. Double bonus in that I got to be creative and have a lil something unique for each! I looooove homemade gifts (giving and getting)! So much more personal then just picking out something arbitrary the person may not even want. I always feel there’s something extra special about a gift that’s made, or that took thought and effort. It’s backed by more than obligation... it’s admiration :)
|A few of the first rocks... all in all I made over 25!|
|Bishnu got a special one for making this all happen :)|
|It reads, "The Poudel Family Buffalos: Buffy & Billy!" Ha!|
My last day had a short corn cutting session, a brutal crossfit session, the finishing up of my rock art, and then off for another play date. There’s not going to be the right words to describe the sweetness of the next 4 hours. The glee of the fingernail painting, card games, and magic tricks aside, it was the unexpected exchange of gifts that will forever be etched in my memory. Starting with the giving out of the rocks, this stirred up the emotions of the impending goodbye... they want me to write my name on the back (and I had to redo a misspelling!), so the pens come out. Two of the younger boys then make me a ‘name rock’, complete w/ drawings of my face :). Debaka comes with a gift of nail polish and tikas. Diwash makes me a paper hat. Sujan signs and gives me his school picture. Asmita gives me a note and a little plastic rose. Deepa makes me (and shows me how to make) porridge and mango chutney. Little Pratima gives me a heart hair clip, her little bear ponytail holder, and a note that I “can’t read yet... read it in secret”! Sita also gives me tikas, and as a family they give me a jungle scene art print poster :) The rational part of me wants to refuse, knowing the monetary value (easily fixed with a slip of notes the next morn;), but my sentimental side is so happy, fully feeling and reciprocating that these are gifts of love, something to remember each other by. There are a million photos, they allow me the out of the ordinary hugs, and there’s even a few rare kisses to see me off!!!
|The Bhattrai joined family :)|
|Jiwan, Sujan, and Sita|
|Debaka!! I love her :)|
I had a merry walk back to the house, only to be greeted by Santi, towing me off to her place for tea and cucumber, to show me all the pics of her kids. Then it’s to Sova and Shankar’s, for watermelon they bought ‘just for me’. The next morning is more of the same: Sova gives me bracelets. Santi comes with a tika and mango for the bus ride. Ama gives me a special tika of rice and red die, hibiscus flowers and a scarf: a blessing for a safe journey. Then they all see me off with waves in the bus smoke!
|A safe journey blessing from Ama|
So I found myself sitting on a bus to Kathmandu, reminiscing about my feelings of the prior two weeks, the last 24 hours especially. Checking out my new bracelets, my 3/4 nail polish job, sniffing on my flower blessings, a new scarf around my neck, and rice tika falling of my head. A bag full of gifts, chomping on yummy mango jerky, and reading a sweet “secret” letter (I promised I wouldnt show anyone.. so I’ll just say it was adorable ;). I was so awed. I was so touched. I am so humbled. In such a short amount of time there was a very obvious connection. I felt the same love w/ the women and children in Kolkata... the difference here being that I had the kids as translators, so it could be easier verbalized. One moment, as we were sitting on the floor in their little hallway, Ama Dharmi, (via Asmita) told me 'I’m different than other people. I smile and I’m kind and I care, and so they are happy, and so I’m like family’. Wow, I may never have felt more honored :) On my last blogs, three people commented about me being ‘an ambassador’. I hadn’t really thought of it in this way, but I suppose that’s exactly what I'm being in cases like this. There’s a saying you may know: To the world you may be one, but to one you may be the world. The caste system is still very much in place here, and especially for this family across the field I feel it was very significant to have me pay so much attention to them. I think we all have a very powerful capacity to make or break someone's day just in the way we interact with them. I feel like I in particular have this great ability to really make someone feel very special (or the opposite I must be careful of). My closest friendships no doubt, but even a stranger via a smile, and especially the underprivileged. I do think it’s a gift too, and not just being sympathetic, because it’s not about pity... its a real true feeling of equality, with an awareness of difficult circumstances, and a desire to give someone the love and feeling of worthiness we all deserve.
|My showering of wonderful gifts :)|
That’s the wonderful thing about love. It’s free to give. And luckily it’s limitless! ANDDD.. bonus: the more you give the more you get :) Sweet deal!!!!
So for sure, IMHO, this is the way to travel. You can’t have these experiences in a motel, or by just visiting the tourist spots. You can’t have them refusing to sit on the floor, shake a dirty hand or eat the offered food. Maybe you have to use a lot of soap and have a few spider wars(!)...but you get them by really embracing a culture, dropping your ego, and letting love pour out. I hear there’s an Elephant Polo tournament around these parts... sounds like a great excuse to come back one day :)