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Holidays in Nepal

The project is moving forward here… but slowly.

We work seven days a week—when there are no Hindu, Newari, or Buddhist holidays, which seem to come every few days, so it is really a few days on, a day or two off.

Traditional Newari dress

Last week was a fabulous Newari holiday week called Bisket. Like New Year’s Eve and Thanksgiving combined… every day for six days. So only a couple of crew show up each day (because my builder is Newari!) and there was the actual Nepali New Year on May 13th.

For Bisket, though, in the nearby old town of Bhaktapur they have created a giant chariot (like the Hari Krishna one for Festival of Chariots. Come to think of it, it might have the same roots.) Anyway, with this one, they play tug of war with it, through the narrow winding streets, surrounded by thousands of people. Every year, people get crushed under the huge wheels. (The chariot is where we get the term Juggenaut.) This year, one person died. I’m went, but tried to stay far away from the chariot… I did not succeed.

Bisket was nuts. Bhaktapur is a town on a hill and the chariot starts at the top. They tug on the ropes until the thing comes careening down the alleys with people fleeing for their lives. The chariot is totally rickety, and huge, and pieces break off as it rumbles along and smashes into buildings. If you’re under it, or trapped in a narrow alley, forget it. Here’s a pic of it after it passed me.

I was crushed into a side alcove with hundreds of people, but survived! Then you make your way through back alleys to the next exciting down-slope.

It ends later at night with the chariot at a standstill in a big square. Huge party ensuing!

Now, back to builder-mode—just going to a construction site every day and watching them work, and going to the construction supply places, dealing with foreign money exchanges, and paying… paying… paying. :0) It’s a meditation practice.

Jon at brick factory.

But something fascinating happens everyday—either related to the job, or Nepali culture/festivals, observations about people and different traditions, or existential thoughts.

And the family is so happy.

dressed for a holy day visit to the temple

In April, there was the Holi Festival on the 22nd. A national holiday celebrating spring.

Dousing people with water and throwing handfuls of colored pigment on them and rubbing it in their faces and hair is the order of the day. Kids with water balloons on rooftops and buckets of water. Mayhem in the small squares and narrow roads of the old towns. The “religious” part of the day: a man dressed in billowing robes and wearing a fearsome mask chases the throng—people flee as if being chased by the bulls in Pamplona.

I was invited by a super young engineer, whom I met on one of the sites I visited in the mountains, to join him and his friends back at their college a couple of hours south of Kathmandu in a town called Dhulikhel.

Hanging out in a small cinderblock room with his buds drinking beer and smoking pot (them) and eating boiled potatoes and listening to the Eagles (all) was a scene that could have played out anywhere on the planet where young people exist.

Then we went into the town where they went off to find girls to douse and dust, and I took a bus, jam-packed with people with colored faces and clothes, back toward the city.

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