August 27th, 2017
I was supposed to leave for Kathmandu earlier this week. I was planning on spending about half of my time at the farm, volunteering at the local health post and half of my time at a community hospital in Kathmandu. Shanti didi suggested we stay at the farm for a couple extra days so we can celebrate Teej at the farm.
Background: Teej is one of the two main holidays for the people here, and the most important holiday for Nepali women. Women fast for good health and a long life for their husbands and if they are not yet married, then they fast in hope of getting a good husband. Also, everyone wears red. Red nail polish, red lipstick, red hair (jk it’s just henna). It’s like a nationwide dress code that everyone follows.
Teej was beautiful. Absolutely beautiful. I love when an entire community gets so excited to celebrate. That’s why I never minded people wishing me Merry Christmas even though I don’t celebrate anything in December but my Dad’s birthday. If everyone else wants to light up their houses and make everything jolly, then count me in! Everything felt so energetic that day. I wore my new kurthi, sewn by one of the women at the farm, and walked downstairs and *the crowd goes wiiiiild* “SISTERR! NEW KURTHI! SO NIIICE.” Thanks. I try.
Drinking chai was fun. Chasing the chickens was fun. Getting ready was fun. Everyone started getting out their Teej outfits; long skirts, heavy earrings, safety pins everywhere to keep their saris up. Now the rest of this blog post is so hard to write, I can’t explain my experience to you. I don’t know how to describe the excitement in their eyes, and how their laughs were louder and fuller. Pictures and videos are as close as I can get (and this page doesn’t allow videos, so pics are all you get). We climbed down that mountain I worked so hard climbing up. I was nervous to make the trek down and back up in one day, considering the first time made me pass out for 12 hours. I knew I would regret it if I didn’t take advantage of the fact this might be the only time that I get to celebrate the most important Nepali holiday while masking myself as a Nepali, so I convinced myself to suck it up for a couple of hours so that I can see cool things.
We climbed down the mountain to go to the temple there and join in the festivities of the main city at the bottom. Once we got there, we started dancing right away. We were the first ones to start the dance circle in front of hundreds of people. The Her Farm women knew so many people there. They were greeting and celebrating with everyone. After a couple of hours of wandering around, the black clouds came (not figuratively, literally it was going to storm soon). We decided to head back but by the time we started our long trek up the hill it was already pouring—wow. Déjà vu. But this time…I walked up the mountain 30 minutes faster, with no breaks, no complaining, and no tears. It was a Teej miracle.
The next day, it was time to go back to Kathmandu. Within the three weeks, my experience with the place and the people changed drastically. I developed strong connections with many of the kids. As I was telling them that I was leaving, I was happy to feel sad and I was happy they were sad. I never want to be glad for losing something or someone. I would rather feel the pain of leaving than realize that I never even liked the place. I was watching them have another dance party that night when one of the leaders of Her Farm said, “the kids are sad to see you leave. You didn’t feel like a volunteer, you felt like family.” I always say that the way to move past prejudice against a certain group is to meet someone with that identity whom you like, then your judgments automatically start disappearing. That’s why that statement meant so much to me; I felt like we were one step closer to breaking down the barrier between the volunteer and host.
Thanks for being super cool and changing the world, Her Farmers 🙂
And here I am back in the main city, filled with just as much beauty, but of a different kind…