Monday, April 28, 2008

Maha Shivaratri

Oh this post is long overdue but things have been just a teensy weensy bit busy here in The People's Republic of Nepal. (I know I said I would leave politics aside for awhile but a post dedicated to the election results really is warranted - just not this one.)

Last month I left the house unusually early, leaving all kiddie duty to WonderBill. I went with a group to Pashupati, one of the most sacred places in the Hindu world, to see the Sadhus do their thing on the river banks and temple terraces. Now to a believer I know this is truly sacred so I will try to report this as objectively as possible but I've got to say, to the uninitiated, you do a lot of head shaking in disbelief peppered with a few laughs that you aren't sure are appropriate but spontaneously rise up anyway.

Shivaratri is a celebration of the Hindu god Shiva's birthday. Sadhus or holy men from all over Nepal and India pilgrimage to many Shiva temples, but most particularly to Pashupati to, well ... I know it is supposed to be to pay homage, but it sure looked like one heck of a party to me. The big event was the night before where I understand there were hundreds of thousands of people at Pashupati. Pashupati is a large collection of temple buildings and ghats (riverside cremation sites) along the Bagmati River. Non hindus are allowed all over the complex but not inside the main temples. What I saw was the post party hangover at 7am the next morning.

We entered Pashupati via a misty, wooded footpath. Monkeys were everywhere feasting on the leftovers from the party the night before and a few stalwart Nepalis were doing their calisthenics. It was just feeling wayyyy to early for this. As we got closer to the heart of Pashupati we started to see the groups of Sadhus - different sects with some physical distinctives - just sitting around. Many, many were smokin' the ganga. Some had dreads down to their ankles. Really. Some were sleeping (this seemed to make the most sense to me) after a looooong night. Some were just wearing loincloths. Some were clothed in ashes. Several were playing musical instruments. Have I mentioned that this is still really early in the morning?Nearly all were quite friendly and happy for you to take a picture - of course some expected a donation for their kindness:). What song should be on this soundtrack? Along the river were mourning parties dressed in white, attending the cremation of their loved ones. Not that anyone plans it but I can only assume that Shivaratri is an auspicious day to die.

As always it is late as I write. More another time.

Peace, Laurel

Wednesday, April 16, 2008

Whoo whoo is in Kathmanduuuu

This cute little guy flew down the chimney of our next door neighbor's not once but twice over the past few months. The fearless guard (who has really missed his calling and needs to work at a zoo) just plucked the frightened owlet from the curtains. The kids just loooooved him and wanted to know why we couldn't keep him. Sigh.

Other ornithological wonders here include actual Cuckoo birds that indeed, "Cuckooo" just like the clocks:). Hawks glide on air circling who knows what. There are these fabulous egrets, white mini stork looking birds, who nested on the embassy grounds last year. At first we were all fascinated but then the flock grew exponentially and it was someone's FULL TIME job to wear a hazardous waste suit and clean up after them. They stunk up to the high heavens as my mother used to say. (Now this guy's job was better than the man who used to ride around on a scooter with a poop vacuum at our last post. Don't get me wrong I was grateful for his service but how do you describe what you do all day?) I noticed yesterday that the new egret season has started and this year they are starting to nest in the trees in front of the royal palace. Oh the metaphors are too much to contemplate. Speaking of the trees in front of the palace, (which is pink by the way - KTM architecture, another post another day) they also provide a home for a huge bat population. It is the oddest sight to see dozens of bats hanging like black bags in broad daylight high in the trees.

More flora and fauna some other time.

Namaste, Laurel

Friday, April 11, 2008

"World Stunned"

This was the Kathmandu Post's headline regarding yesterday's relatively peaceful polling. I'm not sure much of the world was watching honestly, but for those of you who were - it was indeed stunning and moving. Many in this country where 60% of the population is under 35 have never had the opportunity to vote. Many risked their lives to do so. The outcome will tell the tale of course and I promise a break from Nepal politics in this space. If you happened to see any of the online/print coverage, a friend of mine was covering the Maoists for the New York Times and took some fabulous shots.

The kids are missing Daddy who is understandably doing a fair bit of election observing/monitoring these days. This too shall pass!

More later when I'm awake ....


Wednesday, April 9, 2008

Tomorrow ... E-Day

You think the US election has been eternal? We hope the third time is a charm as Nepal heads to the polls tomorrow. The border is closed, no travel will be allowed after midnight and the roads are already eerily empty. Save a few "explosions" here and there over the past week things have been remarkably quiet. The calm before the storm? We are about to find out.

I just wished some Nepali friends well as they travel to their village to exercise their franchise tomorrow. It is an exciting time and an anxious time!

My three lovable tyrants beckon.