Culture, Tradition & Traffic Jams

There he sits on the crumbling steps of a temple, its tiered roof offering shade from the midday sun. With arms folded across his lap, he watches the traffic racing by, stirring a cloud of dust around his shoulders.

The crinkles around his eyes deepen as he squints through the dust and sunlight, as his eyes meet mine his face cracks into a wide smile and his hands raise to make Namaste. Returning the gesture, I follow his gaze to the square opposite, where make shift tents, colourful flags and decorations have been erected to border the river of people weaving their way through. Continue reading

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Holy men

Nepalese Holy Men abide within the walls of Pashuputinath Temple in Kathmandu. They ask for money for food and tobacco. He has devoted his life to the quest for spiritual enlightenment, forgoing a career, home, education… a ‘normal life’ to seek enlightenment so that we do not have to.

That is what I’m told. Continue reading

The Merchants of Thamel

I’m tripping through the streets of Thamel, doe eyed and foggy, with the sights and sounds of Nepal’s capital closing in. At least we are moving, that’s important right now. We need to keep moving because the ground feels like it’s getting away on us.

I’m surrounded by lights poking holes in the thick dust that chokes the streets. The dust creeps in through your mouth and fills you up, sliding beneath your skin.

Bump. Marijuana?… Continue reading

Viva en el Amor: River of Ice in the Land of Fire

Go now, see this natural wonder of the world while it still exists.

We woke early, the sun already carving a passage of light through the white clouds despite only having set late the night before. It was cold, the air fresh, and our skin tingled with the anticipation of what the day held in store.

A river turned to stone. Brilliant blue ravines cutting through peaks of white. A wall of ice moving slowly through through the mountains, crashing, breaking into the lake below.  Continue reading

Gemstones Of Nepal

“We have over 10,000 rivers in Nepal, with the collective power to generate enough hydro-power for the whole of Nepal and then some- but we don’t have the power stations built to harness it, so we continue to import electricity from India!”

We are sitting in a small shop in Thamel, Kathmandu, glass cabinets of gem stones and jewelry glinting up at us from under the fluorescent light. Continue reading

Connecting Chitwan

In the low lying terai jungle lands of Nepal lies the city of Chitwan. A dusty concrete maze pulsing with the ebb and flow of industry and homelessness, prosperity and poverty. The cacophony of sound echoing from the wide and cluttered streets a stark contrast to the quiet farming villages that surround it, providing the city’s lifeblood in the form of goods and produce. Continue reading

Carvings from the Birthplace of Buddha

Crouched over a partially finished wooden window sits one of Nepal’s finest craftsmen. His brow is creased in concentration, his arms moving swiftly across the wood, deftly craving away the wood to reveal his design. Small piles of wood shavings carpet the concrete, each coil delicately hand carved by craftsmen and women sitting cross legged on the workshop floor or balancing above their work, their suspended weight used to drive their tools and aid their craft. Continue reading

Dashain Festival 2013

At least ten arms reach towards me, pressing the wet tika onto my forehead while murmuring soft words of blessings and good will. My folded hands attempt to catch the red rice and curd mixture as it drips from their hands onto my lap and the carpeted floor we sit on.

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There must be as many as twelve people in the small family lounge room, the eldest of whom are sitting on the floor in front of the tika mixture, ready to give the blessing to the rest of the family.

Each family member, friend and guest receive a tika that covers most of their forehead; a physical embodiment of the good wishes and blessings bestowed upon us by our new family.

Today is the main festival day, celebrated with good food, many guests, visiting family members and of course, the giving of the tika. Dashain festival is a time of open doors. There are four other volunteers here, plus myself and we are lucky enough to be spending the week with Bikram’s family in their home in Chitwan.

We have already met half the village, as people come to visit and receive tika. It’s so beautiful to see the family giving tika’s, each person receives the same honest and transparent blessing, regardless of age, background or religion. Today is about wishing well for the future.

Dashain festival is often described to foreigners like me as being like’ our Christmas’, not in a religious sense, but in that family members gather together, usualy taking 1-2 weeks holidays. There is good food (a lot of meat is eaten over Dashain festival, usually the animal is sacrificed at a temple first), good company and good times and with the family coming and going, hot weather and summer storms, it did feel just like an Aussie Christmas… in a way.

 

*Created for VCD Nepal Internship, Kathmandu. Published online VCD Nepal Volunteer Stories.

VCD Nepal Volunteer Stories

IMG_0394At least ten arms reach towards me, pressing the wet tika onto my forehead while murmuring soft words of blessings and good will. My folded hands attempt to catch the red rice and curd mixture as it drips from their hands onto my lap and the carpeted floor we sit on.

There must be as many as twelve people in the small family lounge room, the eldest of whom are sitting on the floor in front of the tika mixture, ready to give the blessing to the rest of the family.

Each family member, friend and guest receive a tika that covers most of their forehead; a physical embodiment of the good wishes and blessings bestowed upon us by our new family.

Today is the main festival day, celebrated with good food, many guests, visiting family members and of course, the giving of the tika. Dashain festival is a time…

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Real Wealth and Rice

I awake, already hot and sticky, to the sound of small feet rushing along the concrete corridor outside my door. The other volunteer, an English girl named Polly, is already awake and slowly disentangling herself from the mosquito net surrounding her bed.

It’s only my third day in the orphanage, but I’m already used to the routine. We awake after the children, rush to the balcony to watch the elephants slowly passing on their way to the jungle for grazing, help with schoolwork or games then biscuits and sweet tea for breakfast, always eaten sitting on the floor of the small kitchen located across the muddy courtyard we share with several other families who live in the building. Continue reading

At the Edge of the Earth

We are standing at the edge of the earth… The entire world just seems to drop away in all directions, dissolving into grey as thick clouds engulf the Annapurna range we are standing on.

As we climb higher along the ridge, the clouds close in to kiss our cheeks, leaving our skin slightly damp and cold. We are 3000m above sea level, between Tadipani and Ghorepani, and on a clear day this ridge would award trekkers with 360 degree mountain vistas; but for us, we will have to wait another day. Continue reading