Dashain 2012

The last month has just flown by. With the tropical storm that hit the east coast, the presidential election and the holidays, it’s gone by so quickly! But before the start of these busy last few weeks, we celebrated a quiet Dashain.

This was my sixth Dashain. I can’t believe it’s already been six years since I met Tri and started to get to know the Nepali community. The first year I celebrated, we didn’t have a traditional celebration, but I did go to a Dashain party on campus. The next year was pretty much the same. Dashain didn’t take on much meaning for me until I studied abroad.

A Dashain swing made from Bamboo

One of my most memorable experiences with Dashain involves watching my host family slaughter a goat while I was abroad. I wrote a little bit about it here. I had never seen an animal killed before, especially not with a knife, and I wasn’t particularly pleased about watching the goat die, but I guess it was kind of educational.

Although the extensive meat eating isn’t my favorite thing about Dashain, one of the things I’ve always loved are the blessings. Older people give younger people tika and often money or presents. I’ve always liked getting and giving tika because it’s a nice way to connect with others. The games are fun too. Card games for adults and kite flying and swings for the kids.

In Nepal, Dasain is celebrated over the course of 15 days (with certain days being more important than others), but in the US, a lot of families do most of their celebrating on one day. For the main tika day this year, Tri and I went over to a family friend’s house to get tika, have delicious food, and play games.

Tri giving me tikka

Since I still haven’t learned how to play Nepali card games, I stuck to the simpler game – lungur burja. There are six different symbols on the board game. The dealer has three dice, and when he rolls them, if the picture on one of his die matches the picture that you put your piece on, you get your points doubled.

Although Tri and I have celebrated Dashain together before, this was the first time that Tri gave me tika. Husbands usually give their wives tika, but it’s never the other way around. I feel a little bit ambivalent about the patriarchal tradition, but nonetheless, I am very happy to get a blessing from my husband.

Happy late Dashain, everyone!

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The Natural Lawn Mower and The Unusual Passengers

The other day Tri and I were driving home from work, and as we were passing the golf course off of Ring Road, I said, “Look there are some goats on the lawn.” Tri half-jokingly said, “No silly, those are the lawn mowers.” It looks like the long-held tradition in Nepal is being picked up in other parts of the world…

This morning, Tri showed me a 2009 post from Google’s blog. Apparently they use goats to mow their lawn at their Mountain View Headquarters. It’s a pretty awesome alternative. No air pollution and free fertilizer 🙂

In other goat news…

During the Dashain festival, Nepali families often eat goat meat and sometimes slaughter the goats themselves. When I Iived with my host familiy in Kathmandu as a student, they brought a goat home, killed it, cleaned it, and shared the meat with the neighbors.

I felt very mixed about the whole process. My gut instinct was to turn away in disgust, but I forced myself to watch the slaughter. I had never experienced the killing of an animal, but of course I had eaten lots of meat in my life. When the meat comes all nicely cooked and spiced on your plate, it’s hard to remember that that product came from a living thing. It certainly made me think about where the meat was coming from and what the animal gave up for us to eat.

While my host aama (“mother”) was cooking the goat, no part of the animal was wasted. The head was cooked over a fire, the innards were fried, even the blood was boiled down and eaten. I wanted to experience the slaughter as fully as I could, so I told my host aamaa that I would eat anything she put on my plate. I was able to down some of the goat blood, but I just couldn’t stomach the fried stomach. My family members in the US are generally pretty adventurous eaters, and my parents taught me to always try new things, but I got to thinking about that live animal, and I just couldn’t eat it all. The experience didn’t turn me into a vegetarian, but I do try to eat less meat, especially mammal meat.

As Dashain nears this year, the streets of Kathmandu have been filled with all sorts of activity. Hoards of people, streams of cars, puja being performed, and much much more. Last night on the way to a party, I saw a goat standing patiently in the back of a taxi:

The family wasn’t taking it home to raise; they were taking it home to eat. It’s pretty amazing that the taxi driver okayed the unusual passengers, but maybe they’re not so unusual in Nepal 🙂