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Week Five: Wind Horse, Water Tanks and Tihar

I have successfully navigated the road between Lakeside and Bel’s home on the cycle. Yeshi and Migmar blessed the cycle with a dab of butter and tied a Tibetan prayer scarf around the handlebars. Bel blessed it with a brightly colored strip of cloth that he uses in his healing ceremonies. How can I go wrong? I have named it my Lungta…my wind horse….although it doesn’t go very fast.

When I made my way to Pau Rhichoe’s home this week, Bel’s brother-in-law Kamal went with us to take a look at the roof and see what needs to be done. He told us that the rafters and the tin are in good condition and do not need to be replaced. This older tin is much stronger then the newer stuff available in the market. He told us that Rhichoe’s tin should be good for at least another ten years where the new tin would only last about 3 years. This was great news. We then shifted inside the home to talk about putting in a plywood ceiling to help with the heat during the summer and the cold during the winter. This he told us would be easy. We also want to create a front porch with a tin overhang so that during the monsoon season, they can more easily enter and leave the home. Kamal told us that he would return the next day with his crew and take precise measurements and give us the bid. The next day, while I was visiting Pau Nyima, Kamal and his crew arrived, so Migmar and I headed over. They took all of the measurements and did their calculations. Total cost for everything will be about $350. What a deal, huh? When Migmar and I visited on Saturday, the inside ceiling was in place and they were working on the porch overhang. It looks great. I was worried that the ceiling might make the room look small, but they followed the lines of the old ceiling and it still has a sense of great height. They are also rewiring his electrical system. They figure that they have one more day of work to finish the porch and paint the inside. Rhichoe and his wife Tserap were beside themselves. Two of their granddaughters were visiting, so between the four man work crew and all of us…it was quite a party. We all sat around outside watching the progress. When I next visit after Tihar, it will be done.

We also worked to get the two old women their water tank. Yeshi went to the market and priced it all out. We purchased a 200 liter tank for them and a 500 liter tank for Yeshi’s mother. They were both delivered and when we dropped by the old women’s home before heading to see Rhichoe, it was all set up and full of water. Boy was it a great day!

Bel has a neighbor named Dal Maya. She is a goat herder. Recently, three of Dal Maya’s goats had babies, who are now finding their legs and experimenting with jumping and head butting. One of the goats was a first time mother and at first rejected her first offspring…so another of the seasoned mothers took over the care and feeding of the new goat. Whenever the birth mother comes near, the substitute mother now charges her to chase her away. Dal Maya has been taking the time to teach the new mother goat how to care and feed her baby. She’ll hold the goat still while the baby suckles. At first the baby was quite weak, but is now playing along with the other newborns.

I am happy to report that Prem has been released from the hospital and is now home resting comfortably…under strict orders by the doctor to never drink again. He has also been told that he should not drive his taxi for two months, eat only cold food because hot food will create a fever in his stomach and to not treat patients (he is a shaman in training). His power is gone and will take several months for it to be restored. He walked over to Bel’s Friday morning and sat with me on the roof. He looks wan…but every day he walks a bit and, as for now, speaks the words of abstinence.

It was bedlam at Bel’s home. The Tihar festival started yesterday and it is common practice for people to clean their homes from top to bottom and put a fresh coat of paint on the windows and walls. The family had shifted most of their belongings outside while Bel was repairing holes in the ceiling’s plaster (cement). As he finished in each room, the girls would come behind and clean up the mess then restore the room. When Kamal finishes out at Rhichoe’s he will paint the house for Bel. Bel, Bishnu, Durga and I headed to the market to do our Tihar shopping. I always buy Bel and Bishnu a new set of clothes for this holiday. Bishnu chose a beautiful blue sari and Bel found pants, shoes and material to make a vest. I also must buy each of my brothers a topi (Nepali men’s hat), the colored powder for the tikka, special lights to hang outside and candles that will line the front porch. We were gone for five hours. In addition to the items I purchased, we went furniture shopping for a cabinet for their television set and ordered new cushions for their sofa and chairs. After entering and exiting many stores, we finally found a beautiful one. Durga, Bishnu and I headed home in a taxi with all of our goodies and Bel rode in the furniture truck. When all was set up in their main room, it looked wonderful.

Tihar is my favorite festival. It lasts five days and celebrates the relationship between sisters and brothers. The first day crows are honored and people will set out plates of food to feed them. The second day honors dogs and you will see them running around with red tikka on their foreheads and flower mallas (necklaces) around their necks. The third day is the new moon day and they do a special ceremony to honor Laxmi. Laxmi is a goddess represented by a cow, so cows are honored with tikka and special food. The fourth day honors bulls and the last day is Bhai tikka day. This day honors brothers. Each night kids go from house to house and sing and dance for money. We will turn on the special lights and line the porch with candles. The younger kids will just run quickly from home to home and shout out a song as fast as they can. The older kids will actually practice for weeks and come wearing traditional clothing and perform many of the old songs and dances. They usually donate part of the money they earn for some charity work….and they also will treat themselves to a picnic once it is all over. My job on Bhai tikka day will be to honor and bless my brothers for long life. Bel tells a story about a young man who while on his way to visit his sister, met a snake on the road who wanted to kill him and eat him. The brother asked the snake to please let him first visit his sister so he can get tikka one more time. Then he promised to return and be killed. The snake let him pass. The brother told his sister that this would be the last time he would ever receive tikka and told her of his promise. She put a ring of water around him, rubbed special oil in his hair, then put four vertical lines of rice paste on his forehead and dotted them with colored powders. She placed a special flower malla around his neck and put a new hat on his head. When the boy returned to the snake to keep his promise, the snake had been cut into four pieces. So on Bhai tikka day, I will walk around my three brothers pouring water on the ground, rub special oil in their hair, put the four lines of tikka on their foreheads, a flower malla around their neck and then put the new hat on their heads. They will then touch their foreheads to my feet and offer me either a gift or money. Bel will then put tikka on my forehead to complete the ritual. There is a lot of singing and dancing. I will be on shell roti duty again and will need to make sure I have enough Nepali rupees to hand out to the singers.

Shelly has safely returned from her trek in time to witness her first Tihar. Her time is quickly coming to an end in Nepal.

See you after Tihar!


P.S. Check out Fate of the Lhapa is having a busy October: Taos, New Mexico; Rome, Italy; Finland; Toronto, Canada and Detroit, Michigan!!

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