Today was the closest we will probably get to a big family Christmas this year, in the form of a Hindu house blessing ceremony. Tej, our boss, and Rupa, his wife, have been living in their new house for a couple of months now. A recent bout of bad luck (hopefully nothing to do with us being here) has persuaded them to get the house formally blessed. So the Brahmans were summoned and they declared Monday 7th to be the lucky day for the blessing. From here on luck should flow freely around the house and all those living within it.
Preparations started early yesterday morning with the grinding of grains to make flour for about 300 donuts. Such culinary expertise continued late into night, only to start up again early this morning. It later became clear that the importance of this feast was not only to serve up to 200 hungry humans but to also please the apparently quite greedy gods. At the crack of dawn today it was all go; the party tent arrived, giant cooking pots got steaming, vegetables turned up by the bicycle load and the household put on their finest.
The blessing ceremony took place in the form of Pooja (Hindu prayer), which started at 8am and went on for an extremely dedicated 6 hours. This all took place in a room on the bottom floor of the house, which was transformed into a den of holiness for the day. The once mundane room was filled with incense, offerings of money, potatoes, flowers, rice, 5 very stern looking Brahman, the family of the house, a huge bonfire, holy water, every spice under the sun and never-ending chants. At the end of the ceremony the Brahmans walked around the house blessing everyone and every corner with a sprinkling of holy water chanting 'peace here' (in Hindu). For the finale a huge sheet of white silk was hung from the roof and water and flowers were poured down it to Tej, Rupa, Riza and a very confused Tiya (2 years old) waiting 3 stories below. Chains of flowers, bananas and donuts were hung around the house and then everyone got stuck into the vegetarian buffet, curd, sweets and milky tea (at last!). You cannot help but be entirely captivated by the mystical sounds, smells and colour of it all. So laptops were shut and we soaked up a day of blessings, feasting and entertaining the little ones. I am now particularly excited about instigating all of the above traditions for our new pad warming party on return to the UK.
We have been in Nepal for five weeks and now feel very at home. Our home is a remarkably peaceful suburb of Kathmandu called Pepsi-Cola Town Planning, inspiringly named after the adjacent Pepsi factory. Time has raced by at an alarming rate, reminding us of the woes and joys of routine, staying in one place and having a job to do. No doubt a gentle reminder of what to expect on arriving home in about 5 months time. Despite some initial trauma linked to space (lack of it), snot (an overload of it) and smog (trying to train for a marathon in it), things are now looking very rosy. Not only have we been blessed by the gods, but our adventure tales got published in a real magazine and we achieved our first work related task in 14 months. VSN's new website is now up and running at http://volunteersocietynepal.org.
To have completed the website feels like quite an achievement, especially since the process only involved one or two 'storming out' moments. All this burying ourselves in html and entering the world of cyberspace nerds compensates a little for ample time spent away from computer screens in the last year. Our next challenge is to send the website racing up search engine rankings (any advice much appreciated!) and to spread the VSN word around Nepal and beyond. But its not all work. Between teaching kids to talk proper and all the marketing faff many an hour is spent sipping whiskey at our local, The Hut, dodging rabid dogs on runs and watching the world go by from our roof terrace. And then weekends (only Saturdays off shock horror) take us to such cultural delights as Kathmandu zoo, the tailors, the best fried eggs in town and guesthouses with fire places in remote hillside villages. So with all this we should remain nicely occupied until trekking and feasting time in Pokhara come Christmas!