Should I tell you about the fact that the town is lit up as if it was Christmas? With children running around the streets letting off firecrackers? Occaisionally the odd firework will fly overhead as you walk down the street staring at all the decorations hanging from the shop windows that seemed to miraculousy appear overnight.
Actually I'll tell you about the cultural experience I had today. It was none to soon either. I have been wondering if I have not been fully embracing the amazing culture that surrounds me as I pass my year in this strange place. I can't explain to you what all the festivals are. I can't explain why people believe and do some of the things that they do. Today however, I had a great time at my counterpart's house.
We were called inside and I was given my designated place. Arrayed in front of us on the floor were lots of colours and fruits. Mohan's sister went through Mohan and his brothers dropped some oil on our heads. Mohan's daughter (I feel horrible because I can't remember any of their names) did the same thing for her brother and cousins and then for me. They then poured flower petals over our heads and for some reason we found ourselves balancing walnuts up there as well. As the process continues the boys all became more comfortable and familiar with me, joking all the time. Mohan's daughter then gave me a little Nepali man's hat (YAY! I finally have one) and more flowers.
Then she pulled out the paints (all sorts of colours, made out of various fruits and foods) and gave us each a base layer of yellow with purple, red, pink and orange dots. Then we got a wad of sticky banana-rice redness whacked up above that. I'll put the photos up tomorrow. Afterwards she lit the wick of a candle for each of us and we threw flower petals over it. The ceremony appeared to conclude when grandma (she looks so much like a grandma - she was adorable) ran (actually ran) outside with our walnuts and started crushing them with a brick. Apparently it was very important that this occur at the same time as some other unseen (and unintroduced person) set off a firecracker in time with each one and Mohan's daughter passed us a boiled egg and a bowl of curd (yogourht) which we were apparently meant to eat. I was obviously a special guest, as I was also given a dried out fish (not part of a fish, or a fish fillet, a dried out fish, head and all). It was really special and I felt like a part of their family for the day.
We then had some food (which I thought was lunch) and then I asked the boys to teach me how to play carromboard (a fantastic game slightly similar to pool but without sticks or balls). The younger of us gave Mohan's daughter 'tika' (just the quishy sticky rice-banana redness) while the elders gave it to Mohan's sister. We followed this up with a present, I had already given them them a box of sweets so had to resort to money, which I understood was quite OK. Then an entire meal of Daal Bhat (sometimes, you really just can't eat that much rice) and I came home.
This is a very typical Newari custom (that usually occurs at night time) but we had it at lunch today as they were going to Mohan's wife's family's house for the same ceremony (kind of like at Christmas where you need to go to the party for both sides of the family).
As I rode home, many people pointed out my flower petals (still sticking to my hair) and noted my 'tika'. I felt less bideshi today.
Extra: Forgot to mention that yesterday was Newari New Year. Like I said, it's been a busy week.