Site hosted by Build your free website today!

November 20, 1999 (Email)
Tihar Celebration II


I'm writing from Bill & Zack's apartment again where the three of us along with Kraig, Larry, Vince, and Vince's friend Claire (The majority of the white people in the city) are watching "Jewel of the Nile" on TV.

Earlier today, we all attended the final match of the under-16 Nepali soccer league tournament on the field next to the Yak Cigarette factory -- about 10 minutes from my apartment. Dhanusha district (Janakpur's district) defeated Soonsari district (Dharan's district) in a penalty kick shootout final. There was a good bit of suspicion about whether the game was fixed or not (so that the home team would win) by the other volunteers. Nepali culture is very fatalistic -- so all outcomes are usually assumed or manufactured. Plus, cheating can be safely assumed to be occurring in all situations. I'm sure the players on both teams who were actually under 16 were in the minority.

I'm sure I forgot to write about some aspects of Tihar in my last e-mail. In short, it was a really nice  family-oriented holiday. It seems to combine all of the nicest parts of Thanksgiving, the 4th of July, Christmas, and Halloween.

Here's something.... Sommer and I got to see a mob fight in Tarahara on  our way out of Shantinagar. About 50 teenage boys throwing stones at each other and brandishing their fathers' old swords and kukuries, while a handful of police tried to maintain order by firing their guns in the air (not a good way to keep order in my opinion). This sounds much worse and dangerous than it actually was. Sommer and I watched it all from the roof of a friend's "pharmacy". One English-speaking student who was there (able to speak English because she attends a Swiss-sponsored private boarding school) told me the boys fight periodically because they live on opposite sides of a tiny bridge which lies in the middle of the tiny town. Sure enough, the police trying to disperse the crowds were standing between the two mobs on the very same bridge. "Why don't they like each other?", I asked repeatedly. "Because they live on the other side of the bridge." I was repeatedly told. Behold, the nuances of Nepali logic! Which Dr. Seuss story does this remind me of?

The "candle-lighting ceremony" which I mentioned in the last mail was actually a part of Chait - a Terai holiday that follows Tihar. Every family is obliged to put together plate(s) of food -- just like the leaf plates of roti and fruit distributed during Tihar -- for their ancestors (I think). Every plate is accompanied by a candle or small lamp  throughout the night. At daybreak, the plates are floated onto a body of water -- in Janakpur, this being one of the many ponds. The buildings were once again lit up -- as I had seen them so in Inaruwa during Tihar -- but to an extent only achievable in a city as fanatical and religious as Janakpur. Everybody then bathes in the unbelievably filthy pond before going home.

Teaching is going ok. My program officer, Steve, is coming to observe me on Wednesday. The following day, everyone is taking Thanksgiving off (even the Dutch and British VSO volunteers in town) to cook, eat, and celebrate. Steve is bringing things like gravy, cranberry sauce, and wine. I'm making green beans and applesauce. The other volunteers are procuring a barbecue and chickens and cooking other side dishes. Sommer, Jill, and some other nearby volunteers are also going to come and partake.

Well -- Michael Douglas, Kathleen Turner, and Danny DeVito are waiting.


Home Back to Journal Back  (#21, November 17)  Next  (#23, December 2)

Send email regarding this web page to