Sunday, March 15, 2009

Mountain Biker Sends Buffalo into Air

After we got back from our mountain biking adventure, I was taking my dad on one of my usual four hour mountain bike rides. I am cruising down a jeep road, and as I round a corner I see a buffalo standing in the middle of the road. I slam on my brakes and stop just before the buffalo. The buffalo leaps up onto his back legs, does a 180 degree turn, and launches himself into the air in the opposite direction. He runs at full speed for two minutes before he stops.
Unfortunately, this was not a wild buffalo. Some middle aged Nepali lady, who was carrying at least 50 pounds of vegetables on her back, was herding this buffalo up the trail. She looked at me, looked at the buffalo now 100 meters away, looked back at me, and started laughing. She put her vegetables back in her house and began running down the trail after her buffalo.
I felt terrible, but fortunately she thought the whole situation was hilarious!

Holy Festival (and my last day at the orphanage)

Holy crap. Today we celebrated "Holy." I still don't know exactly what the festival means, how it is related to Hinduism, or why people celebrate it the way that they do. All I know is that it has been my favorite day in Nepal so far. I was told the night before to wear a bad set of clothes that I did not care about. By the end, all of my clothes were stained pink, purple, red, green, blue, turquise, yellow, orange, and every other color you could think of. I was dripping with paint and water from head to toe, and I had a couple of crushed tomatoes and crushed eggs in my hair.

I got to the orphanage around 10:00AM and was greeted by a cloud of water balloons, dyed water, and powdered paint. For the next two hours, we opened up bags of powdered paint and dumped them on each other's heads, took all food that was left out and threw it at each other (there wasn't much food around), and filled up buckets of water to unload on people that were still dry. By the end of the day, there was not a spot on my face or arms that was my true skin color

We managed to use up all of the water during the water fights, so there was no running water to wash our clothes or take showers. We walked the kids to a river, brought bars of soap, and all jumped into the river to shower and wash our clothes. It worked surprisingly well. A couple of the kids were scared to get into the water because they could not swim, so I grabbed them and got rid of their fears.

When we got back to the orphanage, they had a ceremony for me since it was my last day. About 1/3 of the kids kissed me goodbye they were so sad to see me go. I really want to figure out how to get back here and see them again.

Shiva Ratri Festival

Shiva Ratri (The Day of Shiva) is a national holiday in Nepal. Shiva is one of the most important Gods in the Hindu religion, and the whole day is set aside to get closer to him. In the morning, I went to one of the shrines with older girls from the orphanage to pray for husbands in the future. Women stood in line for several hours to bring their offerings-- burning incense, fruits, leaves, water from their homes. They gave their offerings to an important looking man standing at the shrine, and the man put their offerings on the shrine, gave them a ticka (a large red mark above their eyes), and blessed them.

Shiva is also the God of destruction and marijuana. At night everyone buys sugar cane in five foot long rods, heats an end up in a fire, and then whacks the end as hard as they can on the ground. The end of the sugar cane usually explodes and makes a noise as loud as fire crackers. So at night there are several large bonfires, a lot of exploding noises, and kids and adults eating sugar cane until the sugar rush is out of control. None of the volunteers could fall asleep that night due to our sugar rushes!

Marjuana is decriminalized on Shiva Ratri, and many Nepalis smoke once a year on this day to get closer to Shiva. I opted out of this part of the festival.