gunstream girl

Location: Cleveland, Ohio, United States

I'm a Southerner, born and bred (though you'd never know it from my accent, I'm told). I like to eat 'til I'm tired out from eating, hear good storytelling 'til I can recite the stories in my sleep (Stories have to be told or they die, and when they die, we can't remember who we are or why we're here.), watch people, look at sparkly things, listen to good bluegrass music, dream about owning a dog, tell crazy stories about my family, and organize things.

15 March 2007

Nepal trip

2 months hiatus = Embarrassing!

I've uploaded a few shots from my recent trip to Nepal. I don't know how to summarize the trip -- thus the posting hesitancy. I had a strange experience there: I was aggressively challenged by several staff to justify our work in the North America Region. Why support my countrymen when people in Nepal are visibly starving? I couldn't give a quick response. Which worried me. At the same time, I don't think you can compare apples and oranges. Or really, apples and hippos--our contexts are so different. I haven't yet articulated my experience or response. But I feel like there could be a blog entry buried in my head if I ever took the time to type it out.

This is a women representative of an indigenous people group outside of Chitwan. The women are characterized by these coin-like necklaces--among other characteristics. I won't go into an anthropological breakdown here. They had done amazing work to create lasting change in their communities. This lady was a real card. I got such a kick out of her. You can just see the sassiness oozing out of her. For some reason I kept thinking of what's her name...Vicki Lawrence (?) ...from Mama's Family when she talked.

Scenery from the bus window between Kathmandu and Chitwan. It was gorgeous and green there. I even got a little sunburned a couple of days. What a nice change from grey Cleveland.

Self-portrait. I was trying to get the tikka powder. You can't see it, but I am wearing two fresh flower garlands (malas). The flowers were so heavy that they were hanging down around my chest. All you can see is the thread used to string them together.
I had to give lots of autographs in the field. I think that the communities can't imagine that such a tall white lady would visit and dance with them. When I would tell them that my name was Julie, they would immediately start calling me Julie Roberts and giggle hysterically at their command of the English language.

I thought it was interesting that the women's group we visited wore uniforms. You could tell what group a woman belonged to by the color of her sari. Here are the pink and the red groups lining up for a passing on the gift ceremony. What is a passing on the gift ceremony, you ask? Project recipients are required to give the firstborn offspring and training they received to someone else in the community who also needs a boost. I'd say this experience was heavy on the ceremony. Rice, tikka, and fire are present at every ceremony. Rice means abundance. Tikka means welcome (tikka is the red powder you see on everyone's faces--and on mine on the picture above. I was interested to discover that widows traditionally wear yellow tikka powder and everyone else wears red. Tikka consists of a vegetable dye and flour, basically). I forget what fire means exactly. Maybe something about sacrifice? I'm sure I wrote down the meaning. I'll have to double-check. There was singing, dancing, speeches...and so on, for about 3-4 hours. And yes, we all danced. I made the mistake of moving my wrists around during the first site visit and was the designated dancer of the group from that point forward. I have evidence of the dancing....perhaps it will make an appearance on my blog.

Why do I think of the Billy Goats Gruff when I see this picture? These goats (triplets) were the pass-on gift from one family to another. Multiples are considered good luck.

The women and children were enamored by Elizabeth's hair. They had never seen anything like it. I have no idea what they were saying, but they'd swarm Elizabeth and chatter and giggle like mad while twisting her hair between their fingers. I don't have a picture of the hair inspections where she was being mobbed out on the paths, but you can see that a couple of kids here are eyeing her hair. She's a kid magnet.

You can see that Domingos (yellow hat-from Mozambique) is wearing an earpiece. It's connected to a simultaneous translation device. We were all able to put in our earphones and hear a translation (by a staff member) of what was being said during the ceremony instead of talk, talk, talk, pause (for translation), talk, talk, talk, pause--very tedious. Makes the days go by MUCH more quickly.

While the Nepalese that I encountered didn't have a lot of physical resources, they had a very vibrant spirit that made me feel very humbled and alive.
And now I'm back in my western life.
I think that's enough for today.