Written by Andrea and Valeria, AWASUKA volunteers:
We started this week celebrating Tihar, a celebration that lasts only a week not like Dashain, the former religious festival we held for 15 days.
Every day was different from Tihar, the first day is the KAG Tihar where crows are worshiped and blessed by people leaving food outside the home for them. All this because it is said they bring luck!
The second day Kukur Tihar, dedicated to the most loyal friend, the dog; they put red ticas and garlands made of flowers around his neck. They do this because they say that dogs can see the danger coming and death.
The Gai (cow) and Laxmi Puja Puja is the day for the cows, they are blessed in the morning.
People paint traces in their houses in the main entrance simulating the entrance of the goddess Lakshmi, who brings happiness and luck money.
On the fourth day Goru Tihar and Mah Bid the attention will outweigh the cow dung, very important in Indian culture and the daily lives of residents who use it to everything from the finished floor , lights up the kitchens.
All the houses are decorated with a beautiful mandalas, candles and colored lights, we had a Christmas in advance. Another tradition is that at night many young children go from house to house singing the song of gods, very similar to Bhailo the singing girls, although nowadays everyone in group singing and dancing to borrow money and sweets.
The last day, Bhai Tika, sisters put a tica of seven colours to his brothers to wish them a long life and prosperity are also offering food and nuts, they give them money in return.
This is how we celebrated this week in Tihar, making Yama Raj happy, because he judges our vices and virtues after our death, and his soul will treat accordingly.
Among middle of so much celebration we had time to continue working, Thursday we made another trip to Hetauda to buy more plastic for the ground and thus end up covering the entire surface of the office, an A4 printer to work with amendments we do the plans for the new prototypes and technical communities work with agility.
We’ve been twice in Jyamire Suping, where we have found more candidates to join our program AWASUKA. Here people help without expecting anything in return, thanks to a guy we met crossing one of the bridges to get Suping, we could understand many of the families affected by the earthquake, since many do not speak a word of English; but with gestures and smiles we understand without speaking the same language.
So far we have visited the houses that need to be rebuilt are made of stone and mud, most of the materials needed to rebuild the house already have: they reuse of the old stone house and a lot of wood of the house in ruins, another point in our favor is that many families have already bought new “Jasta” (plates) with which they have created their own emergency shelters, they sometimes brought the plates on foot through impossible roads. Monica helps us to recognize the pathologies they identified in the journey that many houses had suffered. With her we continue working!
Bhimsen is the Hindu god of commerce and industry, especially revered mainly by Newaríes.
Bhimsen Jatra is held every August / September In Bhimphedi, it is the festival of the village. It is just one day but for locals is the event of the year. In the morning they make an offering to Bhimsen in the Temple of the main street, many families sacrifice a cock that they will after eat. This main street is crowded all the day, unlike the calm of any other day of the year. Some clothing stalls, balloon sellers and the usual goodies and ice cream vendors appear.
At night there is a DJ for the young people, which is quite surprising, because it is very similar to any disco we know in Europe. Young people tell us excited that last year lasted an hour, and this year will last two. They also organize a Bingo! Very slow in our opinion (the 15 minutes between the numbers is long …) but again the locals enjoy it as children.
Finally people carries the “Rath” (a figure of the god Bhimsen) on the shoulders. anyone who wants to carry it, surrounded by men with torches shouting “Lio Lio Ha !! Ha !! Payo Payo Ha !! Ha !!” whose translation (language Newari not Nepali) we have not been able to get.
Maybe you wondered, does Bhimphedi has something to do with Bhimsen? Well, yes. “Bhim” comes from Bhimsen, and “Phedi” refers to “plain at the foot of the mountains”. In Bhimphedi we are in a valley in the first mountain range (Himal) that separates the plain (Terai) and the huge Himalayas.
Thanks to a project by Rotary Club Kantipur, with financial support coming from Spain coordinated by Juan José Rodriguez, a multisports court has been built in Bhimphedi village.
Everybody was talking about it some time ago, cause it has been a long process: first its planning, then its construction process. And now it is finally completed, and everybody can play whatever they like: basketball, football, volleyball, badminton …
Although many villagers were already using the court some days ago, the official opening will be held on April 25th. The project promoters are coming to Bhimphedi from Madrid and Kathmandu, along with the sports minister and other personalities from the country. So, on April 25 a big event will take place in the village of Bhimphedi!
About one month ago, event organizers asked Laura and me to organise an exhibition basketball match with the children in our home and the children in the village. So, this month we really had to work hard, because children do not forgive any single training!
Every afternoon from 4h to 6h, and some days even in morning time from 6:30 to 8am, we had to go to the sports court and teach them how to play basketball. And most of the times we had to stop them, otherwise they would have kept on playing on and on, until midnight!
Both boys and girls have learned to play very quickly and plus, promoters offered us team t-shirts and sports shoes for the two teams, which we delivered on the events day. They all looked like real teams!! It was great to see how good they played while wearing sports shoes, after having trained wearing flip-flops! (Almost everyone in Nepal wears flip-flops, no matter it is summer, winter, rainy, must climb a mountain, or must work at construction sites). Ram Raj, the star in one of the teams, achieved to reverse the score in favor of the orange team, while executing his attack movements very well, but still having to count his steps loud, cause he had only been doing them for one week: “One, two, toss!”
After the five minutes basketball game, the speeches came. Two hours of speeches where everyone was getting infinitely bored… Finally they decided it was enough and let the local kids do some dances, “but do it quick, quick, it’s about to rain!,” master of ceremonies said…
But it’s not the rain what closes the event. The ground begins to shake… it’s an earthquake! We look at the village and we see many town houses starting to collapse, everywhere. And, far in the mountains, where many detached houses used to be, we can only see some smoke plumes.
After a long minute, the ground seems to be still again; but we are not looking at it the same way we did before: everybody is scared. Nobody had experienced an earthquake like this before… Everybody is very concerned about the consequences this quake might have had, and also to know whether it is stopped or it will have more afterquakes. We all head to the village very quickly…
On April 25 there has been a big event in the village of Bhimphedi! Although it was totally different event than what we all expected …
If you want to know what happened the next hours and days after the quake, read the next post about the earthquake.
In early April in Nepal children finish the school course. Everyone, including those studying nursary make final exams. For one week students only go to school to make the daily exam. After finishing exams, holidays!
The Nepali new year begins in mid April. This year we start 2072, we celebrate it by eating chicken and and shrimp bread! And, of course, rice with lentils soup (no Nepalese is satisfied if he doesn’t eat Dalbat twice a day).
This year, all 28 children living at the Bhimphedi Children’s Home have passed the course. Everyone is very happy. Binita, one of the girls of the center, has been the first of the class (about 55 students), here they don’t care much about the marks but on the possition within the class.
Ashok S. is the only kid of the center who has finished class 10 this year, so he had to do SLC (very important exams for Nepalese students). To do this test Ashok moved to Hetauda for 10 days, living in the nearest town (they can not do the exam at the same school where they study). The results of these examinations will not be made public until the end of June, so Ashok has gone to Kathmandu to start a new stage in his life, now out of the children’s home. He has to think what to study, where to work, to meet interesting people who do interesting projects in the capital, and start making friends there; so Ashok will spend his holidays doing a course in EduLift (www.eduliftacademy.org) we will tell you how things are going for him!
The other children, staff and volunteers of the center, we continue our daily life in Bhimphedi. One day we went to play cricket in Hetauda with children from other children’s homes, our kids were very confident about their victory, but after an hour and a half we were already out… “They were small but they were very good playing cricket!” say the our kids! “We do not ever play cricket and they had a lot of practice; we didn’t win because we have failed to make any point “balling” (no idea what balling means) and they have made twenty” they complain. And it is true, because since some weeks ago, the only sport they practice is basketball, but that we will explain in the next post!
We are also doing the usual work at the center, we collected all the potatoes and planted corn (lot’s of them for the animals and weat, and some to make pop-corn). We have also improved the entrance to the center, cleaned the water channel, cooked roti (a type of bread shaped crepe), practiced typing, planted trees and did other projects we will explain in future posts as well.
In early May the new year begins, here between course and course students don’t have very long vacation, but they do have, instead, many festive periods; in August nearly a month of holidays for monsoon, in October another month to celebrate Dashain and Tihar (most important festivals for Hindus), and many other festivities… I will keep telling you about many of them!
Holi by Paula Minguell, Coordinator of the Health Projects of Amics del Nepal.
You can notice Holi is approaching, when the street shops are full of water guns and colour powder. During the previous days, kids would charge them with water and colours and shot anyone passing nearby. Although it wasn’t my first visit to Nepal, it was the first time I would celebrate Holi here. This festival after Dashain and Tihar it’s the thirdth most important celebration and one of the most enjoyed by people who have survived to it. So I decided it would be better to move from Kathmandu where we are working for the reopening of the Health Center that Amics del Nepal has, to Bhimphedi to enjoy the day with the kids of the Children’s Home.
Holi is a hindu celebration that settles the beginning of spring, leaving the long and cold winter behind. It is also known as the love festival, because as well as you leave winter behind, it is the moment to get rid of misunderstandings and bad feelings. The colour powders are used in honor to Vishnu, the god with a characteristical blue skin.
So I head to Bhimphedi with a big box of water balloons and powders of all colours. When we got there we found Mar, a volunteer, with a cold. “The kids have been throwing water balloons the whole day, and today was not a warm day…” she told us. And she warned us “Be prepared for tomorrow”.
Early in the morning, the kids were awake as usual but specially calmed, walking around the compound, with their hand in their pockets and angelical faces. We saw this weird behavior from the windows of the volunteer room (we are not ashamed to say we were a bit afraid) and we decided we wouldn’t go out of the building until we were well prepared with a good defense: a basket full of water balloons. That wasn’t really useful, as soon as we stepped out of the room water balloons started raining from all directions.
Once we where completely wet, we decided it was time for the colours and that’s when the real war started. The colours went from hands and water baskets to faces and clothes. Every time the recipients to throw the coloured water were bigger and bigger. Children running trying to avoid the water and balloons and colours kept flying through the air for hours. We went from green, to blue, to red and pink depending on the colour we were using at the moment. Even the staff got into the game.
And in this way we enjoyed the Holi, and also the days after as cold and paint accompanied some of us for some days. Anyway, there’s no way to be happier than listening the kids saying “Happy Holi” while they paint your face with colour powder.
The great night of Shiva is one of the most popular festivals of Nepal. It is celebrated for two thousand years ago. Shiva represents destruction, unbridled passion, sex, human misery, …. It is also related to fertility and, consequently, is also considered the god of creation. It is a popular Hindu festival in India and Nepal.
Like all Nepalese parties, there is no fixed celebration because they depend on lunar cycles date. Shivaratri it is celebrate during our February and “Falgun” for the Nepalese.
There are many stories about the origin of Shivaratri … and it’s a special day for women as those who are married tend to pray for the good of their men and children. Single asked to find a good husband. Most devotees stay awake all night.
One of the most interesting places is Pashupatinath (Kathmandu) It becomes a center of pilgrimage for the faithful. During this night hundreds of people come together in this temple to adore the god of destruction.
Hours and hours waiting for making offerings to Shiva. A bonfire is made and surprisingly, only during this night, it is permissible Cannabis consumption.
In the Children’s Home we had a great day together. Children and adults we went to the mountain to collect pine cones and wood for a bonfire at night.
When was the moment of truth, we met together around the fire. It was a special night around the bonfire…