Wednesday, April 3, 2013

A glimpse into a Nepali morning in the year 2070…

Let’s begin with a bit of time travel, days before the start of the year 2070, according to the lunar calendar—57 years ahead of the Gregorian calendar.  The Nepali New Year begins in mid-April, so kids here are busy taking exams, much like their American counterparts do before Christmas/ New Year’s break. A lunar cycle is divided into the 2 “dark” weeks of waxing moon, leading up to the full moon, and the 2 “bright” weeks of waning moon, preceding the new moon. Festivals happen on a given bright or dark day of the lunar cycle, even though the actual “date” may change from year to year.
Image  108/365: According to the lunar cycle, it is the year 2069 now,
but the New Year (2070) will begin in mid-April. Hence, Happy Holi 2069
last week. 
Time is 5 hours and 45 minutes ahead of GMT, (9:45 ahead of North Carolina) and evidently that 45 minute bit stems from a little rivalry with India with the intent to distinguish Nepali time from India’s 5 hour 30 minute time. But, wherever you may be, and regardless of your clock time, here's a glimpse into my mornings…

It all starts with the greeting: “Namaste.” Saying Namaste with hands together, and a nod of the head means “the God in me bows to the God in you”, or “I bow to the God in you”, depending on who translates it.  Greeting someone like this sets you up for success, don’t you think? And when they are accompanied by smiles like this, there are very few better ways to feel accepted into another’s culture.
Image 107/ 365: A typical morning Namaste from one
of the students. 
Image 106 /365: How can you not smile??
Morning puja: Hindu women have a copper plate with flowers/ flower petals, rice/ seeds, maybe a sweet, and some incense to offer the gods. In some places they may walk down the street and perform it more socially, but it can be done outside the home, either at the doorstep or home altar. Before setting down the offering, they sprinkle water on the doorstep or around the altar, and sprinkle the rest on the altar or in a specially designated spot near the door.  Often, bells are also rung during this ceremony. They perform all of this at the start of the day, before doing anything else—which, to me, is not only religious, but represents a high level of conscious gratitude. Not sure about you, readers, but it certainly is easy to take things for granted in our way of life.
Image 105 /365: An example of morning puja: you can see the flowers,
incense, colored "tika" powder, and sprinklings of water and flower
petals. Other offerings may include sweets and seeds. Puja at many
homes is placed on both sides of the doorway each morning, so there
are actually two of these. 

Image 104/365: Always, always, always, these women
are heading home with full baskets when I'm just
getting started. 
In Nepal, there is a saying that “Visitors are Gods,” and in my experience so far, they can be doting, with endless offerings of tea, rice, warm milk and millions of smiles. They have made phone calls to friends to set up an otherwise impossible meeting for me,  and have helped me reserve seats on a local flight at a “Nepali” price. When I wander through the village, I never get far, as they invite me into their homes, pull up a woven straw stool and serve me warm buffalo milk.  They have served as guides through town, and are as curious to know about me as I am to learn about them. They are patient (entertained?) with my language skills, as we navigate through my phrasebook, sing songs and look at pictures together. A later morning start than I am used to lends itself well to exploring and observing. And I’ve gotta tell you, the women here are incredibly busy, starting early—the women of the house are starting to let me help a little with chores, but they keep a mean pace!
Drinking warm buffalo milk, offered by the family of some local girls
during an evening of wandering in the village.
Image 103/ 365: One of my impromptu Nepali teachers.
He lives upstairs, and runs the local milk collection
business. His son lives in Boston.

School here begins at about 9:45 (10:45 during exams) in the morning, and goes until 4pm.  Kids show up as early as 8:15, though, eager to play with friends, and hang out. They definitely know how to have fun—one little bouncy ball (the gumball machine size) provided over 2 hours of diversion for about 20 boys before school! The school playground (about the size of a volleyball court) is the flattest stretch of ground around —even though they say they love soccer, it looks like they don’t have many opportunities to actually play it full on themselves.
Image 102/ 365: Kids playing soccer with a tiny pink bouncy ball,
one of many games they devised during a 2 1/2 hour time span.

Image 101/ 365: Playing together on the slide--a fast and steep one!
Image 100/ 365: Playing with and sharing a rangichangi (colorful) ball. 

Image 99/ 365: Listening to music together in the morning. Old McDonald's
Farm and the ABC song were the definite hits. 
There is electricity, but lately it just hasn't been on in the mornings. Nepal uses a policy of “load-shedding”, which are scheduled power cuts.  Power is usually on anywhere from 2-6 hours / day, which, as you can imagine, severely inhibits industry, communication, and production--at least according to many Western standards. Load-shedding impacts everyone, city and rural alike, so generators can be common in some areas, especially those which rely heavily on tourism. For those of you who love to check the news/ weather/ email first thing in the morning, you’d be sorely out of luck! (I have to admit, I kind of like it!) Nepalese in the rural areas tend to stay up a little later on nights with power so they can watch TV, otherwise it’s early “lights out”—a very good thing since music from the local temple starts around 4:15 am…
Image 98/ 365: Enterprising businesses have generators to deal with
continual power cuts.

Image 97/ 365: A Hindu temple and home to a local "sadhu", a holy man
who has chosen to renounce society in favor of individual spiritual
practice and focus. His music can be heard as early as 4:15, then again
in the evening. The structure in the near right in the picture is one of
two funeral pyres for Hindu cremation. The bamboo fences house
the local cemetery.

Image 96/ 365: The local sadhu. And yes, I went
with another local man (principal of my school) to
visit him. 
With that, I bid you “Namaste” (which also means “goodbye”), and may you and that God within you have a fantastic day! 
Image 95/ 365: Namaste!! Here's to what the rest of the day will bring!

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