Saturday, November 29, 2008

Male's Day in Nepal

October 30-31, 2008
The Himalayan Mountains surrounding Kathmandu are breathtakingly beautiful (if you can see them through the spog and/or fog). The art school and refuge for the former circus kids are located about 20 minutes out of town in lovely countryside with terraced fields ringed by the Himalayan Mountains. On clear days you can see Mount Everest peaking through the clouds in the distance.
They are housing me in a nice hotel until Sunday when I head for my teaching post in Bhairahawa in southern Nepal. The weather up here is warm (70s-80s) in the day and cold (40s) at night. I dive into my long underwear every night after an “invigorating” (NOT!) ice-cold shower. I’m told that where I’m going is a lot hotter (of course, most of the clothes I packed are for the cold!).
Yesterday I hung out with the two artists teaching up here. The school is BEAUTIFUL! Surrounded by gardens… Bright red bougainvillea and other flowers drape the brick buildings. The school has living quarters for two and some large sunny studios where the students do pottery, sculpture and mosaics. WAY nicer than I expected!
Since the Festival of Lights is going on, the students have the day off. Yesterday was like Father’s Day but for all males. The girls/women anoint the males with oil and marigold petals, drape them with flowered leis and decorate their foreheads with brightly colored lines embedded with jewels (glitter) made with powdered dyes. Then they give the guys sweets and fruits and other goodies. (I guess the women are thanking the males for allowing them to work their butts off 24-7 for the benefit of the men, families, society, etc… somethings remain the same wherever you go!)
We went down to the Refuge where the Esther Benjamins Trust houses the children they have rescued from jails, servitude in Indian circuses, and other abusive situations. What a trip! We were greeted with joyful shrieks and cries of “Namaste, Sister!” from about 100 kids ranging in age from maybe 6 to 16. There are three large apartment-like buildings overseen by a handful of adults. It’s really amazing how well the place runs. We were there for the ceremony for the males as well as lunch. The kids all pitched in, helped out, laughed and played, joked around with us and each other. They were very affectionate and funny and it was great fun!
After lunch we went to the “older girl” apartment and some of the art student teenagers tried to teach us how to dance Nepalese style. What a workout! We danced non-stop for about two hours trying to imitate the girls’ wiggles and twirls. I was sopping wet and exhausted, but we were all laughing hysterically by the time we collapsed. Then the girls gave us an impromptu language lesson. Oh, my God! I don’t think my brain is going to deal too well with yet another language! It’s kind of like Hindi (which I don’t remember anyway) but different enough to confuse me completely.
I tried to use the Internet but it’s not too good here, so don’t expect much correspondence unless it’s better down South. (Skype, by the way, is not possible according to the other artists, but I’ll try at the Internet cafes). I’m typing this in Word and am going to try to dump it onto the Internet quick… we’ll see. One of the challenges, I’m told, is the very frequent power cuts that last between 3 and 6 hours each day at various times.
Last night I crashed at 7:30 pm and then, of course, woke up at 3:30 am… don’t have the hours sorted yet, for sure!
Today – Happy Halloween! – I’m going to hang out at the school and watch the artists work. I’m also going to meet Philip, the founder of the whole thing… should be interesting.
The food is pretty good – lots of rice and vegetables and curries. The marsala tea (chai) is DELICIOUS!!

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