First Post-Earthquake Volunteer: Dave

September 19, 2015

First day in Chanaute

 

 

I arrived in Chanaute after a long, bumpy, and dusty taxi ride from Kathmandu. The first hour was spent getting through Kathmandu and the outskirts of town and during this time the air was filled with black exhaust spewing from most of the busses and trucks. After that, the ride got a little better as the traffic thinned out and the air cleared up some and we made our way through the smaller towns and into the mountains. The last two hours were along a narrow road that alternated between dry and dusty or wet and muddy. The road ran along the Melamchi river and the view is nice and scenic. However, most of the time we had to follow behind several large dump trucks or busses and waited for those rare opportunities to pass.

 
When we finally arrived in Chanaute after about four hours, we found our way to the clinic and I met the two midwives working there, Mina and Bina. Neither spoke much English and so I asked about the translator, Bhoudimann and they informed me he will come later. Mina then phoned the clinic director, Hasta, and he told me he will be back from Kathmandu tomorrow and so I spent a couple of hours going through the acupuncture and herbal supplies that were salvaged from the old clinic that was destroyed in the earthquake. Bhoudimann arrived three hours later and I gave him the gifts from the previous volunteers, Ari and Bonnie. 

That night Bina made me a delicious dinner of dal bhat, spicy potatoes and rice. Afterwards it poured down rain and my roof had a few leaks, so I moved the bed and my stuff to the dry sections of the room and placed a pot down to collect the water from the area with the biggest leak. My first day had come to an end.

 

 

 

Friday, September 18, 2015

End of First Week

 

Each day that passes I become a little more acclimated to living in the remote village of Chanaute and I've started to feel more useful. After treating 2 people on Wednesday and 4 people on Thursday, I was also able to treat 10 people yesterday, so it felt really good to get busy and see that word is spreading that acupuncture is available again after 4 months without anyone since the earthquake. While I still feel very much like a stranger in a strange land, I'm starting to get to know the wonderful people here. Yesterday as I was treating one of the villagers a young boy was watching with keen interest. He then noticed the school supplies with pads of paper, pens and colored pencils that I had brought from Kathmandu. He smiled and gestured that he would like to have some. After I gave him some pads and pencils, I soon had a stream of kids coming to the clinic asking if they too could have some school supplies. It was awesome to see their excitement. Many of them stuck around for a while and watched as I treated more patients with acupuncture.

It seems most if not all the children learn English in school and some speak even better than the adults. I suspect this is because it's fresh in their minds while most of the adults lose the skill because they don't have a great deal of people to practice with or reason to keep up the language living in such a remote village. Later I met another 8 year old boy named Saugat who was friends with Bonnie, one of the past volunteers, and he spoke pretty good English as well. He found out later that I was giving out supplies and came by this morning to see if he could get some too! Of course I happily obliged him.

 

 
Saturday is my one day off each week. Today I went for a morning walk and I think the villagers are getting use to these strange westerners going for morning walks (the villagers walk all the time for work or to get around that the concept of walking for exercise and enjoyment is foreign to them). I know Bonnie always went for walks, so today when I passed a man he smiled and nodded when I told him I was doing a morning walk.

 

 

Wednesday, September 23, 2015

Where in the world is Dave

 

Prior to coming to Chanaute I did a few Google searches to try to find out exactly where Chanaute is in relation to Kathmandu. Google maps was not helpful and so I relied on mapcarta.com. Each time I searched it came back that Chanaute was southwest from Kathmandu. On the drive out of Kathmandu I remember thinking that I hope the driver is taking me to the right place because it didn't seem like we were heading in a southwest direction. Once I got here and saw the orientation of the Melamchi river to the sun I realized the we must have traveled north not south from Kathmandu. I finally got the opportunity to try google maps ability to triangulate my location today and sure enough I'm north of Kathmandu (if indeed Google is correct). See the blue dots on the two images posted below.

 

 


According to goggle maps, I'm only 19 miles north of Kathmandu, but as I noted on an earlier post it took almost four hours to get here so I'm not sure I trust google on that one. Perhaps it's 19 miles if you could fly here in a straight line.

 

 

Wednesday, September 23, 2015

Earth shake

On my second or third night in Chanaute I awoke and thought I felt a vibration of some sort. I wondered if this might be a light aftershock but I didn't see anything in my room moving or falling off the ledge where I had a few items so I dismissed it as my imagination. Then last night I again awoke and felt a vibration but this time I was pretty sure it was a very minor aftershock. Again, nothing was rattling off the ledge, so it was definitely minor. Later that day one of the locals asked me if I felt the earthquake last night so I'm sure that there was indeed a minor aftershock last night. 
In case any of you are worried about my safety, my room sits above a newly constructed clinic room that was built by an engineer to withstand earthquakes and this part of the structure has withstood the two earthquakes that occurred last spring, so you can rest easy that I'm in a safe place.

 

 

Sunday, September 27, 2015

Temporary Clinic and Daily Schedule

Back in my first post from Chanaute I included a picture of the temporary clinic which is actually made up of two separate buildings that look like they are joined but the rear structure was built about a year ago and the front building is an older building made of stone and cement (by our standards it could use some serious tuck pointing). The front clinic is where the midwives/nurses administer to the general health needs of the residents of Chanaute including first aid and dispensing western medicines. Behind this clinic room is the newer building that also has a clinic room which is where I'm treating patients each day. 

 


On top of these two small structures is a temporary metal shed that is bolted into the stone and cement buildings below and consist of five rooms. The front room serves as a meeting room for the clinic director and is used for everything from town meetings to construction planning as far as I can gather. The next room houses the three guys who perform the heavy construction projects (like building a retaining wall nearby for some new housing that will be built). During the day this room is sometimes used for other purposes like holding a informational meeting for local residents on how to apply for a work Visa abroad. The next room is a kitchen which is where Bina, one of the midwives cooks and where we both eat. 

The last two rooms are bedrooms. One for Bina and one for myself. 


Last but not least are the bathroom (a small tiled room with a sink and a hose from outside that supplies running water constantly and prevents you from closing the door completely) and a second toilet room that has an Asian style toilet (essentially a porcelain sink like structure that feeds into a hole in the ground that you squat over). I will say there are at least two advantages to this style of toilet. First, if you are not already aware, there are many who believe that it's better for your colon to squat during your bowel movement, so much so that there are devices sold that help you obtain a similar position with a standard toilet, thus creating what some call a squatty potty. Second, for anyone who has used a public toilet and wondered how clean that toilet seat is, with an Asian style toilet your bum never comes in contact with a seat since there is no seat. I actually think we should make all public toilets Asian style everywhere. :-)

 

 
My daily schedule so far usually involves waking up between 6:00-6:30, and starting my day by either going for a morning hike or doing some light exercise in my little room. Unfortunately I don't really have a good space to do Tai Chi at the moment. 
After my morning exercise I either clean up (i.e. Take a cold bucket shower) or freshen up (comb my hair and put on some new deodorant). From what I can tell, the people of Chanaute don't generally shower every day based on my observations. Twice a week seems to be the high standard. But I'm guessing that many locals shower once a week or as they deem necessary. I actually haven't minded the cold bucket showers so far, but that may change as the weather and the local water source gets colder. After I clean up I meditate for about 20 minutes and then I have tea and breakfast. 


At 9:00 am I start seeing patients in the clinic and work until about 11:30 before having lunch. Then it's back to the clinic until 4:00 or 5:00 depending on how busy we are that day. 


The remainder of the day is spent doing some reading, listening to an audiobook, writing blog updates or drawing before having dinner and then calling home. 


Below is a picture from my hike yesterday morning.

 

 

Wednesday, September 30, 2015

The Word is Out...

 

After arriving unexpectedly back on the 14th of September, word has continued to spread and the clinic has started to get busy. Last week I averaged about 12 patients per day and after starting the week with 13 patients each on Sunday and Monday, we jumped up to 21 yesterday and today we had 24. 


Yesterday I also had an interesting case. A gentleman who I would guess was in his 40s or maybe 50s came into the clinic with severe acute leg pain in his right posterior/lateral thigh and calf. I was busy with another patient but my translator asked if acupuncture would help. I suggested we have him drink some water right away in case he was experiencing cramping due to dehydration (he claimed he had experienced cramping before and this was different). After I finished with the patient I was working on, I placed a couple of auricular needles in his ear to try to help calm him down and help with the pain. It seemed to help as he did calm down and no longer appeared to be in quite as severe of pain. The nurse had him lie down and applied a topical muscle analgesic to his calf and wrapped it. I then asked if he was having any low back pain because I thought perhaps he may have some nerve impingement further up stream. He indicated he had a little. I placed needles at L5, S1, S2, (based on the nerve root/dermatomes chart) and UB54, GB30 as well as the bladder xi cleft point of UB63. The gentleman was in so much pain at this point that he was shaking on the bed. The nurse placed a blanket over him. About an hour later I took his needles out and he walked out of the clinic. At that time he did not appear to be in any distress, but I was busy with other patients so I wasn't able to find out exactly how he felt. I'm honestly not sure if it was the fluids we had him drink, the analgesic cream and ace bandage the nurse applied or some of my needles that appeared to help him. Thankfully he seemed to be much better when he left which is what matters most.


After my shift I went for another short hike along a stretch of road I hadn't explored yet heading south east from the village. The view and the sky were amazing. I happened upon one of the women I'd been treated in the clinic for knee pain. 

She doesn't speak much English and so at first I thought she said I should "go home." I thought maybe because it was starting to get dark or something. However, her husband came along and the way he motioned at me made me realize they were actually inviting me into their home. I followed them down the path and sat down in their living room floor on a bamboo mat while my patient (most everyone has long difficult names and I see so many people that I can't remember her name) made me milk tea and I smiled and said namaste to her two little girls who were both adorable and smiling right back at me. There wasn't much talking at first, but then her two older children showed up (a boy aged 9 and girl aged 15 and they both spoke some English so I asked if they wanted to see some pictures I'd taken since I'd been in Nepal and we scrolled through them for the next 15 minutes. After finishing my tea, I thanked them for their hospitality and made my way back to the village.

 

 

Saturday, October 3, 2015

Clinic Update

 

This week gave me a sense of what clinic will be like during the remainder of my time here in Chanaute. Over the past four days I've performed almost 100 treatments. The majority of complaints are normally pain related with the top three being back, knee and shoulder pain. Surprisingly I've not seen more neck pain because the Nepalis almost always use an strap that wraps up and over the forehead to help them carry heavy loads on their backs (although I have seen neck pain complaints, just not as frequently as the other three noted). It's easy to see why when you see how physically demanding the work is around here. Between the farmers working in the fields, to the villagers who are tearing down and rebuilding by hand their homes and shops damaged during the past earthquakes. I purposely have not taken a lot of photos of people working because I would rather have their permission.


Back to the clinic, I also treat a lot of gastritis and headaches. Other issues include high blood pressure, breathing issues, and dermatitis or other skin issues. Besides working extremely hard, many of the local Nepalis eat diets high in salt, sugar and cooking oil. And many of them cook over open fires inside their home that are often not well ventilated.


All of this creates a high demand in the clinic. On my busiest days I have seen 24 patients so far and I expect that number will grow to around 30 on some days before I depart.

 

 

Saturday, October 3, 2015

Drawing and Games

 

Today I was outside on my off day working on a drawing when 9 year old Saugat came by (I mentioned him briefly in a previous post and that his English is pretty good). He was curious about what I was up to and I showed him my drawing and asked him if he wanted to join me and draw something himself. He smiled and nodded yes, so I handed him some paper and offered him his choice of colored pencils. Below is Saugat and his masterpiece. In the lower corner it says Art by Saugat.

 

 
Saugat then ran off only to show up again later with a hula hoop of sorts (essentially a piece of plastic tubing with a piece of wood wedged to hold the two ends together in a ring). He then demonstrated his excellent Hula skills. Afterwards we played tic tac toe, Rock Paper Scissors and a couple of other games (three other kids had joined in or were watching at this point).
 

Eventually the kids wore me out and I told them to run along and maybe we can play again next Saturday.

 

 

Monday, October 12, 2015

Intro to Hinduism

In preparation for next weeks Dashain festival, which is the major Hindu festival celebrated each year in Nepal, I thought I would share a brief description of the Hindu religion in my blog today (since over 80% of Nepalis are Hindu, including the majority in Chanaute). The following was taken from two websites, the Smithsonian Institute and Hinduism Today.

Most Hindus believe in an immense unifying force that governs all existence and cannot be completely known by humanity. Individual gods and goddesses are personifications of this cosmic force. In practice, each Hindu worships those few deities that he or she believes directly influence his or her life. By selecting one or more of these deities to worship, and by conducting the rituals designed to facilitate contact with them, a Hindu devotee is striving to experience his or her unity with that cosmic force.

While scholars, philosophers, and priests debate the finer points of Hindu theology, lay worshipers call upon familiar gods to help with their everyday hopes and problems.

There are three primary Hindu deities:

Shiva
Shiva (the Creator and Destroyer), who destroys the old while creating the new. His consorts include the loving Parvati and the ferocious Durga, who represent the feminine aspects of his complex nature.

Vishnu
Vishnu (the Preserver) and his two most popular incarnations, Krishna and Rama. 

Devi/Parvati
Devi (the Protecting Mother), sometimes known simply as the Goddess, who appears in some form in every region of India. She is often identified as the creative energy of the universe, and is considered by her followers the equal of Vishnu and Shiva.

Hinduism was born in India, but it was not founded by one individual. Rather, it is the fusion of many religious beliefs and philosophical schools. Accordingly, Hinduism is said to be a religion of a million and one gods. Its origins are mixed and complex.

Satguru Sivaya Subramuniyaswami, Hinduism Today's founder, assembled these beliefs, a creed shared by most Hindus, to summarize a vast and profound faith. He wrote, "The Hindu is completely filled with his religion all of the time. It is a religion of love. The common bonds uniting all Hindus into a singular spiritual body are the laws of karma and dharma, the belief in reincarnation, all-pervasive Divinity, the ageless traditions and our Gods. Our religion is a religion of closeness, one to another, because of the common bond of loving the same Gods. All Hindu people are of one family, for we cannot separate one God too far from another. Each in His heavenly realm is also of one family, a divine hierarchy which governs and has governed the Hindu religion from time immemorial, and will govern Sanatana Dharma on into the infinite. The enduring sense of an ever-present Truth that is God within man is the essence of the Sanatana Dharma. Such an inherent reality wells up lifetime after lifetime after lifetime, unfolding the innate perfection of the soul as man comes more fully into the awakened state of seeing his total and complete oneness with God."

1 Reverence for Our Revealed Scriptures

Hindus believe in the divinity of the Vedas, the world's most ancient scripture, and venerate the Agamas as equally revealed. These primordial hymns are God's word and the bedrock of Sanatana Dharma, the eternal religion which has neither beginning nor end.

2 All-Pervasive Divinity

Hindus believe in a one, all-pervasive Supreme Being who is both immanent and transcendent, both Creator and Unmanifest Reality.

3 Three Worlds and Cycles of Creation

Hindus believe there are three worlds of existence--physical, astral and causal--and that the universe undergoes endless cycles of creation, preservation and dissolution.

4 The Laws of Karma and Dharma

Hindus believe in karma--the law of cause and effect by which each individual creates his own destiny by his thoughts, words and deeds--and in dharma, righteous living.

5 Reincarnation and Liberation

Hindus believe that the soul reincarnates, evolving through many births until all karmas have been resolved, and moksha--spiritual knowledge and liberation from the cycle of rebirth--is attained. Not a single soul will be eternally deprived of this destiny.

6 Temples and the Inner Worlds

Hindus believe that divine beings exist in unseen worlds and that temple worship, rituals, sacraments as well as personal devotionals create a communion with these devas and Gods.

7 Yoga Guided by a Satguru

Hindus believe that a spiritually awakened master, or satguru, is essential to know the Transcendent Absolute, as are personal discipline, good conduct, purification, pilgrimage, self-inquiry and meditation.

8 Compassion and Noninjury

Hindus believe that all life is sacred, to be loved and revered, and therefore practice ahimsa, "noninjury."

9 Genuine Respect for Other Faiths

Hindus believe that no particular religion teaches the only way to salvation above all others, but that all genuine religious paths are facets of God's Pure Love and Light, deserving tolerance and understanding.

 

 

Wednesday, October 14, 2015

Journey and Blog Goals Midpoint Review

 

Today marks the end of the first half of my journey to Nepal. So today I thought I'd revisit my goals for this journey and also my blog. 

#1 - To provide the people of Chanaute and the nearby villages who have very limited access to healthcare with an additional affordable healthcare option by offering acupuncture and herbal medicine. 
#2 - To help educate the local Nepalis on health risks they face and how to try to avoid them.
#3 - To show the people of Nepal that the world hasn't forgotten them after the devastating earthquake last spring and to restart the line of acupuncture volunteers after a nearly five month break without anyone to provide acupuncture.

I mostly feel that I'm achieving my first goal although I've had to work without a full time translator, which has definitely made this more challenging. The second goal is even more difficult without a strong translator, so I've not been able to make much progress here. On the last goal, I've been able to restart acupuncture treatments here after a 5 month gap.

 

 

Thursday, October 15, 2015

Dashain Festival

 

The Dashain Festival is in full swing here in Nepal. The kids were let out of school starting yesterday and won't return until about the 25th I think. The number of patients in the clinic has dropped from an average of 20+ per day to just 6 yesterday and 12 today. Below is some interesting information on the holiday that I found on visitnepal.com. I'm curious to see what the coming few days bring. This morning I saw a large black water buffalo being led into town. I'm afraid he is likely to be sacrificed for the festival based on what I've read (my understanding is that all the animals sacrificed will be consumed, not simply sacrificed for the festival).

Dashain Festival in Nepal and Information how it is celebrated - VisitNepal.com
Dashain Festivals in Nepal

 

During the month of Kartik (late September and early October), the Nepalese people indulge in the biggest festival of the year, Dashain. Dashain is the longest and the most auspicious festival in the Nepalese annual calendar, celebrated by Nepalese of all caste and creed throughout the country. The fifteen days of celebration occurs during the bright lunar fortnight ending on the day of the full moon. Through out the kingdom of Nepal the goddess Durga in all her manifestations are worshiped with innumerable pujas, abundant offerings and thousands of animal sacrifices for the ritual holy bathing, thus drenching the goddess for days in blood.

Dashain commemorates a great victory of the gods over the wicked demons. One of the victory stories told is the Ramayan, where the lord Ram after a big struggle slaughtered Ravana, the fiendish king of demons. It is said that lord Ram was successful in the battle only when goddess Durga was evoked. The main celebration glorifies the triumph of good over evil and is symbolized by goddess Durga slaying the terrible demon Mahisasur, who terrorised the earth in the guise of a brutal water buffalo. The first nine days signify the nine days of ferrous battle between goddess Durga and the demon Mahisasur. The tenth day is the day when Mahisasur was slain and the last five days symbolise the celebration of the victory with the blessing of the goddess. Dashain is celebrated with great rejoice, and goddess Durga is worshiped throughout the kingdom as the divine mother goddess.

In preparation for Dashain every home is cleansed and beautifully decorated, painted as an invitation to the mother goddess, so that she may visit and bless the house with good fortune. During this time the reunion of distant and nearby relatives occur in every household. The market is filled with shoppers seeking new clothing, gifts, luxuries and enormous supplies of temple offering for the gods, as well as foodstuffs for the family feasting. Thousands of sheep, goats, ducks, chicken and water buffalo are prepared for the great slaughter. All types of organisations are closed for ten to fifteen days. Labourers are almost impossible to find; from the poor to the rich, all enjoy the festive mood. Anywhere you go the aroma of 'Vijaya Dashami' is found.

The first nine days of Dashain are called Nawa Ratri when tantric rites are conducted. In Nepal the life force is embodied in the divine energy and power of the female, depicted as goddess Durga in her many forms. All goddess who emanated from goddess Durga are known as devis, each with different aspects and powers. In most mother goddess temples the deity is represented simply as a sacred Kalash, carved water jug or multiple handed goddess holding murderous weapons. During these nine days people pay their homage to the goddess. If she is properly worshiped and pleased good fortunes are on the way and if angered through neglect then misfortunes are around the corner. Mother goddess is the source of life and everything.

The first day of Dashain is called Ghatasthapana, which literally means pot establishing. On this day the kalash, (holy water vessel) symbolising goddess Durga often with her image embossed on the side is placed in the prayer room. The kalash is filled with holy water and covered with cowdung on to which seeds are sown. A small rectangular sand block is made and the kalash is put in the centre. The surrounding bed of sand is also seeded with grains. The ghatasthapana ritual is performed at a certain auspicious moment determined by the astrologers. At that particular moment the priest intones a welcome, requesting goddess Durga to bless the vessel with her presence.

The room where the kalash is established is called 'Dashain Ghar'. Generally women are not allowed to enter the room where Dashain puja is being carried out. A priest or a household man worships the kalash everyday once in the morning and then in the evening. The kalash and the sand are sprinkled with holy water everyday and it is shielded from direct sunlight. By the tenth day, the seed will have grown to five or six inches long yellow grass. The sacred yellow grass is called 'Jamara'. It is bestowed by the elders atop the heads of those younger to them during the last five days when tika is put on. The jamara is taken as a token of Goddess Durga as well as the elders blessing.

As days passes by regular rituals are observed till the seventh day. The seventh day is called 'Fulpati'.

In fulpati, the royal kalash filled with holy water, banana stalks, jamara and sugar cane tied with red cloth is carried by Brahmans on a decorated palanquin under a gold tipped and embroidered umbrella. The government officials also join the fulpati parade. With this the Dashain feasting starts.

The eighth day is called the Maha Asthami: The fervour of worship and sacrifice to Durga and Kali increases. On this day many orthodox Hindus will be fasting. Sacrifices are held in almost every house through out the day. The night of the eighth day is called 'Kal Ratri', the dark night. Hundreds of goats, sheep and buffaloes are sacrificed at the mother goddess temples. The sacrifice continues till dawn. While the puja is being carried out great feasts are held in the homes of common people where large amount of meat are consumed.

The ninth day is called Nawami: Temples of mother goddess are filled with people from dawn till dusk. Animals mostly black buffaloes are slaughtered to honour Durga the goddess of victory and might and to seek her blessing. Military bands play war tunes, guns boom and officers with beautifully decorated medals in full uniform stand there. When the function ends the courtyard is filled ankle deep with blood. On this very day the god Vishwa Karma, the God of creativity is also worshiped. All factories, vehicles, any machinery instruments and anything from which we make a living are worshiped. We also give sacrifices to all moving machinery like cars, aeroplanes, trucks etc. to get the blessing from goddess Durga for protection for vehicles and their occupants against accidents during the year. The entire day is colourful.

The tenth day is the Dashami: On this day we take tika and jamara from our elders and receive their blessing. We visit our elders in their home and get tika from them while our younger ones come to our home to receive blessing from us. The importance of Dasain also lies in the fact that on this day family members from far off and distant relatives come for a visit as well as to receive tika from the head of the family. This function continues for four days. After four days of rushing around and meeting your relatives Dashain ends on the full moon day, the fifteenth day. In the last day people stay at home and rest. The full moon day is also called 'Kojagrata' meaning 'who is awake'. The Hindu goddess of wealth Laxmi is worshipped. On this day the goddess Laxmi is given an invitation to visit each and everyone.

After Dashain everyone settles back to normal. After receiving the blessing of goddess Durga, people are ready to work and acquire virtue, power and wealth. Dashain thus is not only the longest festival but also the most anticipated one among all the festivals of Nepal. 

 

 

Sunday, November 8, 2015

Tahir Festival

 

As my time in Chanaute comes to a close, I'm departing during another festival in Nepal. Much like our two biggest holidays, Thanksgiving and Christmas, come in quick succession, the same holds true for Nepalis of Hindu descent.

Here is a summary of the 5 day Tahir Festival that begins on Wednesday from the website "We All Nepali". 
http://www.weallnepali.com/nepali-festivals/tihar 

Tihar is the five days celebration in Yama Panchak.

Tihar is the most celebrated festival after Dashain in Nepal. It is a five-day festival celebrated in late autumn. It has its unique ways of celebration. 


The Five days of Tihar


Kaag Tihar - Crow Pooja

Kukur Tihar - Dog Pooja

Gai Tihar or Laxmi Pooja – Cow or Goddess of Wealth Pooja

Goru Tihar, Govardhan Pooja, Maha Puja, (Aatma pooja) – Ox Pooja

Bhai Tika, Bhai Dooj - Bother and Sister Pooja

Story behind Tihar

There are various stories about the celebration of Tihar. One of the famous stories behind the celebration of tihar is related to Yama the god of death and his sister Yamuna. Yama had been staying away from his sister for a long time. His sister wanted to meet him so she asked various sources to visit him and ask him to give her a visit. She sent crow, dog, and cow and at the end she went herself to see her brother. She worshipped him with tika and flowers, she put him five colored tika. Yamuna made a circle with mustard oil, Dubo Grass (Cynodon Dactylon) and put Makhmali Mala (Globe Amaranth) and asked Yamaraj not to go till the oil, Dubo Grass and the flower gets dry. Therefore, every sister worships her brother keeping him in the circle of mustard oil, putting mala (garland) of Makhmali flower and Dubo grass.

How is Tihar Celebrated

First day - Kag Tihar (Crow Puja)

On the first day of Tihar, crows are worshiped and fed early in the morning. People leave different food items outside for crows to eat. Crow is considered to be the messenger of death. People believe the crow gets the messages to the house in the morning. People worship it to bring good luck themselves. 

Second day - Kukur Tihar

The second day of tihar is dedicated to the most loyal friend of mankind. Kukur, the dog, Puja is done by putting a red tika on dog’s forehead and flower garland around the neck offering him foods and sel roti. Generally male dogs are worshiped. It is said dogs can see endangers and the death coming. 

Third day – Gai (cow) Puja and Laxmi Puja

On the third day of tihar Cows are worshipped in the morning. Cows are worshipped with sesame oil light, garland of flower and red color (abir). Wheat flour, sel roti, rice and dal are feed to cows. Disciples try to pass in-between four legs of the cow. Cow is regarded as mother in Hindu religion, as we grow up drinking her milk. Some consider cows as Goddess Lakshmi, the goddess of wealth and prosperity.

In the afternoon we clean our houses, paint floors with Red Mud (Rato Mato) and cow dung (gobar). Small circle are made in front of the main gate and decorated with colorful designs. Some people call it rangoli. 

Small designs of footsteps are painted from the main entrance to the puja kotha. These footsteps are believed to be the footsteps of goddess Lakshmi. Candles or pala are lit all over the house making it bright and beautiful. 

There is a long tradition of going house to house in the evening singing songs to ask for money and foods. Generally girls and kids go out to neighbors and sing traditional songs. The tradition is called “Bhailo” and songs are called Bhailini songs. 

The song starts with “Bhailini aain agana gunyo cholo magna, hey ausi ko din gai tiharo bhailo”. Badali kudali rakheko, laxmi pooja gareko, hey ajako dina gaitiharo bhailo…” Meaning Bahilini are at your door to ask for a gunyo cholo (Nepali traditional dress), today is no moon day and Cow pooja and Bhailo day, the house is clean and you have done Lakshmi puja, today is cow pooja day and Bhailo”

Fire crackers are blown up on this day. People play cards in Laxmi puja to welcome goddess Laxmi in the night. People believe, laxmi comes to the house which is clean and bright. 

In the evening the goddess of wealth Lakshmi is worshiped by lighting numerous lights and lightening works. It is believed that by worshiping Laxmi and pleasing her in return she gives us wealth. People worship wealth and food store this day.

Fourth day – Goru Tihar (Govardhan parbat ko puja) and Mah (aatma or self) Puja

On Govardhan puja Goru Tihar, three different Kinds of puja are performed. We perform Goru Puja, or worship Oxen. We also perform Govardhan Puja, which is done by making a hill of govardhan parbat using Cow dung. Cow dung has big importance in Hindu culture. In the old days it was used for everything from light at night (Methane) to polish mud floors of traditional houses. Still now no Puja is complete without cow dung in Nepali Hindu culture. 

In this night Newar community perform Maha Puja also known as self-puja. It is done to purify our body. In this puja a Mandap decorated with Saipatri (marigold flower), sweets and fruits and a special Mala (garland) which is made of thread is kept. Each member of the family has one Mandap. A female member of the family offers the person sitting on the Mandap a Sagun with her hands crossed. Shagun usually consist of fried eggs, fruits, sweets, meat, fish, lentil and pastries. In the left hand with egg and fish and in the right hand Rakshi (homemade alcohol). This day is also the beginning of Nepal Sambat, Newari New year. 

In the evening many Nepali children and young men go house to house singing Deusi song (Aahai bhana mera bhai ho deusi re bhana na bhana deusere). Deusi is very similar to Bhailo. Bhailo is primarily for female and Deusi for male. However, now a days there is such distinction. People go in group with males and females members to celebrate Bhailo and deusi both. 

Fifth Day: Bhai Tika or Bhai Duj

The fifth and last day of Tihar is Bhai Tika. This day sisters put “Tika of five colours” Paanch Rangi Tika - Yellow, green, red, blue and white on forehead of her brothers, to ensure long life and pray to Yamraja for her brother’s long life and prosperity. Sister offers brothers Shaguns of dry fruits and nuts, especially walnut, hazelnut (Katus), fruits and sweets and in return the brothers give their sisters gifts and money. The brothers also put Pancha Rangi Tika to sister and bow her on her feet and assure her to protect her till the end of life.

On this day, Rani Pokhari Temple (located at central Kathmandu) is opened for those who do not have any brother or sister. This is the only time in a year the temple is open to general public.

Story and legends behind Bhai Tika

A legend has it that while performing ‘brother worship’ the messenger of Yama Raj came to collect the soul of the man going through ‘brother worship’, as the lifetime of the man has expired in the human world. However, a sister performing ‘brother worship’ has requested the messenger to wait until she completes the ‘brother worship’.

The smart sister invited the messenger to sit along with the brother and get the honor of ‘brother worship’. The sister did ‘brother worship’ so well to the messenger that he became very pleased with her and asked her anything she wished to have as a gift. The wise sister asked the messenger for a long life of her brother. Thus, she saved the life of her brother.

Another story about how the ‘brother worship’ has started is that Yama Raj has five days off, as Lord Vishnu gave the boon of ruling the three worlds for five days to Bali Raja. Lord Vishnu has tricked Bali Raja to go to a lonely dark world for his meritorious act that has shacked the heavenly kingdom of Lord Indra. So, Lord Vishnu has granted him to rule all three Hindu worlds for five days in addition to agreeing on guarding Bali Raja for four months. Yamaraj’s world is one of the three worlds. So, he went to visit his sister, as he has not visited her for a long time.

Seeing her brother, Yama Raj, sister Yamuna became so happy, she did not know how to welcome the brother who has visited after such a long time. So, she did every possible thing to keep her brother Yama Raj happy for five days. On the last day, before going back to his world, Yama Raj made the presentation of a unique gift to his sister in return for her hospitality. We believe that she has set the tradition of ‘brother worship.’

So, we call the five days of ‘Tihar’ as ‘Yama Pancak’ means the five days of Yama Raj. On these five days we do everything possible for keeping Yama Raj happy, as Yama Raj is going to judge our vices and virtues after our death, and treats our souls accordingly. 

Happy Deepawali to All!

 

 

Tuesday, November 10, 2015

Little Did I Know...

 

Little did I know that shortly after taking this picture of a giant haystack in the fields above Chanaute that a short time later I would be helping to build one, but that is exactly what happened.

 

 
I'd already had the opportunity to help with threshing the week before, which is where you grab a bunch of rice stalks that have been tied together and allowed to dry out over several days and then whack the stalks 3-4 times against the ground to loosen the rice grains. After threshing a few hundred bunches you end up with a large pile of rice that is then collected in 40 kg bags (roughly 80-90 lbs) which are then hauled away on the backs of the workers to be processed. 


Needless to say, I didn't do any of the heavy lifting, but the threshing alone is hard work after you have done it for the hundredth time (they let me off the hook after about 10 bunches, probably because I wasn't very good at it).


After clinic ended today, I was invited to Copola's home for tea. When I arrived, her husband and another relative were building a haystack and they asked if I wanted to lend a hand. Below are some pictures of me in action!

 

 

 

Thursday, November 12, 2015

Farewell Chanaute!

 

In the blink of an eye, my two months of volunteering in Chanaute has come to an end. I'll never forget the people and the experience of living in this remote village of Nepal. From the bewildered looks on the faces of Mina and Bina, the clinic midwives, on that cloudy afternoon in September when I arrived with two giant suitcases in tow and not speaking barely a word of Nepali (beyond Namaste!), to the fond farewells that have taken place over the past few days, it's been a wonderful experience.
 


I will miss Mina, Bina and Copola who run this clinic seven days a week and without whom I could never have treated all the patients who have come for acupuncture. I will miss the warm smiles and friendly "Namastes" of the people who I have treated over these past two months as well as the invitations to join them for tea or dinner in their homes. 

I will also miss the hikes along the endless trails through the serene mountains and the natural beauty of this village tucked along the Melamchi River. I will miss the sheer enthusiasm that comes beaming forth nearly every time I say "Nameste" as I meet or pass by the children of Chanaute and the nearby villages. And finally, I will miss the young friends I have made and who I have posted about several times before: Saugut, Rakesh, Suman and Karki.

A few days prior to the day I was to depart, everyone agreed that it would be best if I left on the 6:15 am bus to ensure I was able to get a seat for the four hour return trip to Kathmandu (especially because it was during the holidays and many people would be trying to go visit relatives). I assumed that any good byes would take place the day prior since I'd be leaving so early. At least, that is what we would normally do in America. So I was very surprised to awake at 5:30 am and discover over a dozen people came out to give me a warm send off with tika, maalais (flower garlands) and khadas (ceremonial scarves) and then walk with me to the bus stop. It's just another example of the loving kindness of the people of Chanaute that I will never forget.

 

 

 

 

To read more about Dave's volunteer experience, as well as his side-trips to Kopan and Pokhara, click here.

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