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Running away from Home

An interesting day at Pashupati

NEPAL | Monday, 15 February 2010 | Views [586]

The INFO Nepal volunteers are invited to stay at Happy Home during the duration of their orientation and this morning, we packed up at Tibet Guesthouse and got a cab over to Happy Home which is a big house in a more suburban section of Kathmandu. We dropped off our luggage and took the cab back to Thamel to begin our first day of volunteer orientation. Saroj was there to greet us and to begin our language training. Just as we were finishing “thank you” and “how are you,” Saroj stepped out to go get another volunteer. Kathryn and I chilled, quite literally because the power to the office was off and there was no sun coming in the room. Saroj entered with a third volunteer in tow. In a soft Scottish burr she introduced herself as Emily. She had already had some language lessons, but she and Saroj were patient with the two of us until we got up to speed.

The three of us got on well so we had lunch at one of the places Kathryn and I had deemed “Safe to Eat”. I ordered the vegetarian Nepali set, which was a mistake because, while I like Nepali food, volunteering for a homestay in a small village almost guaranteed that I would be eating a vegetarian Nepal set for almost every meal until I leave Nepal. The amount of food that I received was staggering. It was all I could do to finish half of it. After lunch we made a stop at an ATM so that we could get the Rupees to pay INFO Nepal for our volunteering gig. The total for two weeks volunteering is 200 Euros or about 20,400 Nepali Rupees payable in cash when you begin your orientation. Suffice to say, it took me a few minutes to get all of the cash that I needed out of the ATM.

We got back to the office for our complimentary round of sightseeing. Our two locations today were Boudanath and Pashupati. I had visited Boudanath the day before, but didn’t mind going with a tour guide even though Saroj practices Hinduism instead of Buddhism. He did tell me that Hindus believe that Buddha was an incarnation of Vishnu, the protector, and further described elements of Hinduism that are similar to Buddhism. I don’t know how many times he has taken volunteers to Boudanath, but I could tell that he was less than excited to be there, so we didn’t stay for long after our arrival.

I had gotten close to Pashupati on Friday when I went to the festival, but I hadn’t seen it. One thing that I hadn’t known is that there is a tourist entrance to the temple (500 Nrs). Fortunately, Saroj had given us a volunteer card that allowed us entrance to certain sites for a reduced fee or no fee at all. It pays to offer your time. Only Hindus are allowed into this particular temple, so the best we could do was to admire it from the opposite side of the river that flows adjacent to it. I hadn’t made it 50 steps beyond the fee collectors booth when I was descended upon by the hawkers and beggars. One of the beggars was a little boy in a purple sweater who stuck right to me repeating, “money for chocolate, money for chocolate.” As we approached the temple, we passed two dogs mating while another male dog paced by them nervously. The third wheel was a well-groomed domesticated creature with a collar whose female was being mounted by a mangy, battle-scarred beast who would offer a menacing growl every time the other male got close. The jilted male dog started whining and even jumped up on Kathryn as if requesting her assistance in the matter.

The stone and concrete walls of the temple extend down to the river bank and back up the other side so that the river that flows past is almost like a moat. The river is used in purification rituals or so Saroj told me when I asked why there was a shrouded body laying on a slab with it’s feet in the water. We just don’t see things like that in Kansas. He told me that after death there were certain rites to be followed before the body was placed on the funeral pyre and he went on to explain the contamination that was put on a family when a member had passed. I was trying to listen intently, but the little boy in the purple sweater would not stop insisting that he wanted money for chocolate. “Look, it’s no good for you. Take it from someone who knows. I used to be a great big person.” This didn’t work. I knew that it wouldn’t, but I was irritated. Saroj was irritated too. He stood up and started to fish around in his pocket for a coin, but came up empty-handed. I didn’t know that I could get away with just handing over a coin. I pulled one out of my coin purse and the little boy took off with it. We were all making our way toward the exit when I asked, “and, where is the funeral pyre?” Then I noticed the smoldering pile a little further down the river. There was actually a funeral pyre going on at the time I was there and I hadn’t noticed it because I had been distracted by the dogs. There were a lot of interesting things going on at Pashupati today.

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