Teaching in K – 5th grades in Nepal was a wonderful and enriching experience, but becoming a part of the local community was a special bonus I had not anticipated. During my two month stay, I was invited to Shiva’s (a major Hindu god) birthday celebration, a wedding, and a funeral.
On one of the many days off school for holidays, I found out it was Shiva’s birthday and was asked if I wanted to go to the temple, hidden up on the hill. Readily agreeing, we climbed the hill and gave green leaves to a priest brought to the village for this special day. Villagers cooked tea and bread outside for everyone, and many people brought coconuts which they broke into small pieces to share. Later in the evening, music for dancing filled the air for miles around.
Weddings are always a special time, and the whole village was invited to attend. The couple had a mixture of rice and water (and perhaps other special ingredients) on their foreheads while dressed in their finest. Money rather than gifts are appropriate, and baskets were set in front of the couple as people came in to offer congratulations and eat. A musician was hired to provide music for both song and dance. As the liquor came out later in the day, I am quite sure the songs were louder from the attendees, and the dancing became a bit wilder! A good time was had by all, even those of us who did not speak the language or always understand what was happening!
My lodge manager’s father had been best friends with a villager since they were six, and they had never had a fight! The manager’s father had been ill and out of town to the hospital for a week, and upon his return, he wanted to see his friend. He was encouraged to wait one day as his health was still fragile.
That January morning, his friend was outside resting in front of his home in the sun, as I had seen him do many days on my way to school. He was found, dead, later in the day. The next day he was wrapped in a cloth, carried down to the river, and cremated. For the next 13 days (customs vary from village to village as to the length of the mourning period), his two sons sat outside their father’s home, barefoot, and wearing little besides a warm blanket. There was always someone there to talk and comfort the family, including my lodge manager’s father. On the morning of the 13th day, my teaching companions donated money to the sons and their mother, and school was released early that day.
Most of the students and teachers and I were invited for lunch of rice, vegetables, fresh donuts, and tea.
My husband and I had hiked in Nepal 30 years ago and stopped in villages for a day or two. It was one of the best times of my life, but actually becoming part of a village for a brief time is quite the richer experience!!
Julie McKee (Nepal, 2014)