Shivaratri


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March 6th 2008
Published: March 6th 2008
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busy street on the way to the temple
Last night I went to the Ambassador’s house for a pizza party. I’m not into schmoozing with people like that, but it was more fun than I expected. Nancy Powell is pretty down to earth, and this is her second post in Nepal, so she knows the routine. I didn’t actually talk to her much, but she asked how my Crocs were handling Kathmandu.

The house they have her in is beautiful. After you get past the half dozen or so armed guards out front, you’d hardly know you were in Kathmandu, except for her collection of Nepali art. The food was good—pizza and salad made in house by her Nepali staff, followed by cookies and brownies. And the place is spotlessly clean. She even has a little garden in her bathroom.

I spent most of my time talking to a woman working for USAID and a guy from the Embassy who seems to be working pretty closely for the Ambassador (I forget his exact title). He gave me the inside scoop on being a foreign service officer. It sounds like a pretty sweet deal, and I have a high school friend who is now starting her second post
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women selling items necessary for puja
as an FSO and loves it. But for as romantic as the whole job seems—moving from country to country every 2 years—I don’t think I could do the politics part of it. The guy I spoke to said the hardest part is that in working for government you’re told what to say, whereas in my field I can say whatever I want. I don’t think I would do a good job of keeping my mouth shut. I think he was relieved to spend the evening talking to someone who didn’t care what he said.

Today I worked at home and then walked to Dinesh and Renuka’s house to meet Renuka to go to Pashupati to see the Shivaratri festival, which celebrates the god Shiva. It’s a crazy festival—tons of people migrating to Pashupati (the holiest site for Hindus in the country) from all over Nepal and India. It’s also the festival when the sadhus (wandering holy men) smoke hash in Shiva’s honor, since Shiva himself was a big hash guy. So the smell of marijuana was everywhere.

We walked for about 2 hours from Renuka’s house (her, Dinesh’s father, and me) to Pashupati and all around the temple
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woman selling hot seeds
area. The streets were packed with people making the journey. Women were dressed in red saris, carrying supplies to pray and make offerings. Renuka said we couldn’t go into the temple because she is menstruating, but that was fine with me since the line was incredibly long. One woman told Renuka as we were walking along that she waited 5 hours just to get in to pray.

But there were lots of people there just to get in on the action and have a good time—lovers snuggling on the grass, groups of young men smoking up, and a large group of people dancing and singing to Lord Krishna, “Hare Krisha! Hare! Hare! Hare Ram!” It was a lot of fun to watch. There were vendors selling everything from peanuts to cotton candy to grapes and oranges. And because I was one of only a handful of foreigners, people would repeatedly stop and watch me pass with my big camera in my hand. Occasionally men would comment, “Raamro chha! Kasto raamro!” which literally means, “Nice! How nice!” Nepali men are learning how to cat call. I wonder from where? Must be that cable TV everyone has now…

After 2
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woman selling bracelets
hours of walking halfway through the city and battling the crowds, I was exhausted. So I hopped in a taxi—also wanted to get in before dark so that I was not out walking alone. Renuka and Dinesh’s father walked the rest of the way home.

Now I’m killing the last half hour of load shedding for today. I think I’ve finally figured out how to deal with the 6 or so hours I go without electricity every day. Glad I got that extra big laptop battery!



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boy selling cotton candy
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woman praying
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woman selling some very spicy snack


7th March 2008

Just caught up on the last three blogs. Very interesting, as usual! This is definitely one of my favorite fulbrighter blogs.

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