Hello and Happy Belated Dasain. We just celebrated the largest holiday in Nepal, Disain! The past few days have been very very interesting. Disain is celebrated by Nepalese Hindu all around the world. The holiday is known for its emphasis on family gatherings and the renewal of community ties. That was evidenced in Surkhet, where many of the Aunties and Uncles had relatives in town visiting. Further, based on conversations I’ve had it sounds like the Kathmandu clears out during the holiday, as 2 of the 4 million residents return to their villages for holiday. In addition to visitors to our home in Nepal, we’ve also lost lots of kids to their villages for the week. Slowly but surely about 15 kids trickled out to visit grandparents, aunts, and uncles. That said, we’ve still managed to have a great time around here…
On Monday night we watched Home Alone with the kids, and they LOVED it. I don’t think I’ve heard that much laughter since I’ve been to Nepal. Not only did they love it, but so did I. I haven’t seen Home Alone in ages, and it really got me in the Christmas spirit. Unfortunately Christmas is over 2 months away and we don’t celebrate it in Nepal. That said it was great and we all had a wonderful Monday night. The excitement of the week trickled over into Tuesday, when I had one of the most interesting experiences to date. The plan for dinner Tuesday night was lamb, and in order to eat lamb you need to kill a lamb. At around 11 Tuesday morning a lamb was brought into the compound…and lamb that would become dinner Tuesday night. To this point that volunteers haven’t been witness to any animals getting slaughtered, that changed on Tuesday, when Tope told all of us that we were welcome to watch. I really wasn’t sure what to expect, but for some reason thought there would be a prayer and ceremony around the killing. Rather, the Uncles met outside to do the deed. On uncle grabbed the legs and the other wielded a giant machete like knife. Before I could even brace myself there was a lamb head flying across the yard, and blood squirting violently from the neck. A few moments late, the body began running in place as its nerves shot off their final impulses to the muscles. What happened next was fascinating, the next steps occurred like clockwork, and we soon found out that everyone plays a different role in the preparation process. Almost immediately after the lamb was dead, they were burning off the hair and skinning it. Afterwards a team of aunties and uncles were in the kitchen butchering the meat, two other uncles were cleaning out the intestinal tract, and 1 was in the side yard cleaning and preparing the bones. I’ve often read about the way certain people prepare meat, and how they leave nothing to waste. That said, I was shocked by what I saw. Literally everything was used, including the raw skin which Tope enjoyed feeding to me. Since I’ve arrived in Nepal, I’ve promised myself that I would try everything at least once. As a result, I sat with Tope trying out different parts of lamb skin, and disliking all of them equally. Until I tried one last peace, which was bigger than the others and coated in fat, that one I disliked far more than the rest! It was about 1 minute into chewing that I almost lost it, and had to spit it out. The one thing I haven’t tried yet is the fried intestines…hopefully that isn’t offered to me or my “promise” to myself will likely kick in again. I could go on and on about the lamb, but I’ll spare any more details and get on with the rest of Disain.
|Working on the Lamb|
The rest of the day was rather laid back. I went into town with a few of the other fellows to by some treats for Disain. I ended up picking up 2 kg of cookies from a stand set up specifically for the holiday. Following that trip, we had a big game of Frisbee up at school which as always was a blast. Unfortunately, my team has not been on a winning streak recently, but I think that is about to change. Following dinner, Tope encouraged the other volunteers to eat dinner on the roof and enjoy some time away from the kids to celebrate the holiday amongst ourselves. We had a beautiful sunset dinner, and the lamb was delicious! After eating we were joined by one of the other uncles, which turned out to be a very interesting experience. He serves us dinner every day, and for 5 weeks I didn’t think he spoke English. It turns out I was very wrong, and we had a several hour conversation regarding his road to Kopila Valley and his life prior to now. He has two kids and a huge amount of responsibility at the house…and is 29 years old. At 25, I look to some of the people here and am floored by some of their ages. I have decided I am not very good at figuring out how old the Nepalese are.
Finally there was Disain…we began the day with a light breakfast, and conversations with the fellows. Following breakfast we celebrated with Tika and Jamara. Tika is a combination of rice and red dye which is put on by our elders on our foreheads to bless us with abundance in our future years. Further the Jamara is a green colored grass which is placed behind the ears for blessings. During this ceremony, the aunties and the uncles were busily preparing a large lunch for everyone still at the compound. We had all sorts of food, which was a welcome treat for everyone at the house. Granted, there was a ton of fried food and by the end of the meal, I was ready for some of the staples. After lunch, we watched rise of the planet of the Apes in the TV room. The uncles just installed a new satellite on the roof, and we now have a bunch of new stations including some English movie channels. The holiday essentially peaked at lunch time, and the remainder of yesterday was largely Status-Quo.
Looking forward to this evening…Matt Falk’s mom and dad arrived from the states yesterday, and are bringing the fellows out to dinner. Should be a nice treat, and as I’ve mentioned before any excuse to get out of the house for a change of pace is always welcome.
Hope all is well!