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Holi cow! Where's the chocolate?

NEPAL | Sunday, 28 February 2010 | Views [921]

The first thing I heard Kathryn say when she woke up this morning is that she was going to go to Pokhara to buy some gifts for our host family. I asked if I could go along. As much as I enjoyed the day of leisure yesterday, I knew that I would get restless today. I jumped out of bed and I went to go wash up. It was tough to take a bath at 7:00 in the morning. My wet head in the cool morning air left me shivering. Kathryn announced to the others that we were going into Pokhara, and Aamaa said, (in Nepali) “not today, Holi.” I forgot that today was Holi, the festival of colors. In Nepal the kids celebrate by throwing colored powder or colored water on each other. I thought about my freshly washed laundry and cringed. I didn’t want to come back rainbow-colored. However, Kathryn was determined to go and her determination made me feel a bit more at ease. Besides I could move faster than her and if one of us were to get doused…..

On the bus to Pokhara, there were several young men who had already painted themselves for the holiday. One of them looked like Lucifer with the red powder on his face mixing with his dark Nepali features. He kept looking in my direction and smiling. It was spooky. I have taken this trip several times now and I often wonder why there are no set bus stops. It’s amazing the bus will come to a stop to pick up a passenger and then start again once he is aboard. 25 meters down the road there may be another two passengers waiting to be picked up. Did it ever occur to them to go to where the other people were waiting to get on? No wonder it takes an hour and a half to get 22 kilometers. It’s the same with the passengers getting off of the bus. Of course some of these passengers have heavy loads like a large bag of rice….or a goat, but I digress.

In town we only had time to purchase a few small gifts, mostly little luxuries fruit, chocolate, shampoos, moisturizers. Things we knew that they would use. Since Aamaa had been kind enough to share her millet wine with us, Kathryn wanted to share her favorite cocktail, a gin and tonic, with her. We also had time for a quick western meal of muesli, fruit and yogurt. In an amazing coincidence, we ran into one of the other INFO Nepal volunteers at the café. It was Emily. She told us about her assignment at the orphanage while we enjoyed our meal. She said that she taught English class during the week and the rest of the time she had to run around Pokhara. She said that there were a number of other volunteers at the orphanage and it was like living in a hotel with a bunch of kids. Kathryn encouraged her to come back with us for the evening to check out the village experience. She declined because her favorite football team was having a match that afternoon and she wanted to follow it on the internet. As far as Holi was concerned, I managed to get through Pokhara without adding too much color. I had a few celebrants come up and rub colored powder on my face, but at least my clothes were clean.

Climbing the hill back to Damdame took longer than last time because we had to stop and repack several times. Kathryn was struggling so I had to take on additional weight. I had no idea that a small bottle of gin and a few cans of tonic could be so heavy. She was really having a rough time of it. She scared the hell out of me when she started hyper-ventilating, but she settled down and we finished the climb to Damdame.

We offered the gifts to the family and they were quietly accepted. Nepalis are not effusive in their gratitude. We learned that in training. I had brought a lot of fruit including grapes, oranges and bananas. These were washed and shared. When I offered the chocolate, though, it was whisked away and never spoken of again. As a chocolate fanatic, I completely understand (I got them some good stuff too).

Tags: homestay, nepal, village, volunteering

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