Festivals in Nepal - Effect on Volunteers - Stories of a VIN Volunteer - Blog #3

Festivals in Nepal - Effect on Volunteers - Stories of a VIN Volunteer - Blog #3
Former Volunteer, Thomas J. - Wed May 09, 2012 @ 07:28PM
Comments: 5

Thomas J. was a VIN volunteer teaching English to 6th & 7th graders in Jitpur, Nepal, 2011.


The past couple of days have been unique. Previously I was finding the rhythm of living with the Dahal family as well as adjusting to life in remote Nepal, and teaching my classes, when all of a sudden everything stopped in this country due to the Tihar Festival.


NepalPhotos001_139.jpgThis is the second largest festival of the year and it lasts for 5 days. It is devoted to Loxmir, the Goddess of Fortune and is celebrated, in part, by allowing the sons of each family to trounce around the village, on each of the nights, chanting and singing and stopping at each house until the occupants come out and give the young men rupees. All of it has a Halloween feel (Tihar, too, landing at the end of October) kids awaiting nightfall for license to rumble around the town, in groups, knocking on doors, many feeling, for the first time, the empowerment of being part of the streets with their brethren. My 13 year old host brother (Bijaya) had that bank robber look in his eye, and could not wait to scratch away from the dinner table in order to go stealth with his friends; no school, no curfew, and no parents.


NepalPhotos001_127.jpgI had school, for first period only, on the first day of the festival which was the 25th and walked in my class and, as is the routine I have taught them, wrote the page number of the English book we have been studying on the blackboard. No sooner had I started to write when the entire class screamed to me “Noooooooooo!!!!!!” and I knew they had me. There was no chance they were about to focus on present and past participles on festival day. So, without turning around, I erased and wrote again on the board in big letters HAPPY TIHAR!!!! and the class went jail-break on me. So I told them, “If I give you this hour, what are you going to do? How are you going to use your time?”


For the next hour, those kids danced and sang and clapped and drummed on desks like their life depended on it, all of it traditional Nepalese music which had been taught to them by their parents and grandparents. They remained enthused yet orderly which impressed me as, really, I have not had to play disciplinarian.


For the remainder of the days, while school was closed, I have hiked and hiked and hiked straight up these mountains. With bottled water and journal in my backpack I crank out of the house after a plate of rice and dissolve into any trail I can find and stay on it until there is nothing left, always keeping the Kathmandu valley in my sights. The people are my map. I have no triptik for this part of the world, but know enough now of the area to ask for assistance and, more importantly, how to ask for assistance to the next landmark, whether a temple, or archaic stone staircase which mends my travel to the next ridge, or a switchback that hyphenates a section of the hills, its the people of this land who know how to get me back home.


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