The first day of the month of Magh in Nepal is celebrated with the family.
Anna and I were lucky to be invited to Ram Krishna's place for this festival. Ram owns and runs the local chiya pasal near the orphanage with his wife. With his limited English and my bad Nepali we struck up a friendship almost immediately. His wife is as lovely as he is and they welcomed us both into their home.
So at 10am (11am in reality) we set off towards Ram's childhood village and his mum's home. Although its only half an hour out of central Kathmandu, the pace is as slow as if it were 30 miles away. His older sisters greeted us warmly but shyly on the roof of the house where rice mats had been laid to sit on. They spoke no English so smiles, gestures, and bad Nepali had to do. One of his sisters summoned her young son up to the roof with the purpose we think of being translator. At the tender age of 12 however, he collapsed in a fit of giggles whenever we spoke to him. Part of the celebration is to get "oiled". The mother putting oil on your head and slapping you a couple of times. We also had oil put on backs and massaged in by Ram's older sister. It was like being part of the family. Sitting around chatting, laughing, eating and taking photos. And my god! The food! It was never bloody ending!
First we had what we thought was lunch, but which we later learned was a snack. The best buffalo meat I've had in Nepal- spicy and so tender! Some beans and salty small fish thing, a potato salad concotion, chiura (bitten rice, not that nice really), and some typical Newar sweet which tasted like burnt molases. Our plates were full of this stuff, and after finishing it we were full aswell. An hour (at least it felt like that) or so later we had lunch. Dhal Bat. A meal which usually consists of rice (by the moundful), a lentil soupy thing and a veg curry or sometimes a meat curry. This is the staple Nepali meal. Most families will eat it twice a day for the whole of their lives. Sometimes its good. Sometimes its not. This dhal bat though was fantastic. But we couldn't eat it all, and in Nepal the hosts take exception to that. They thought something was wrong with the food. Through lots of pidgin Nepali and miming though we think they understood that the food was great but that we had useless appetites. This food was washed down with rakhsi. A usually rice based wine. Its usually potent. And Ram's mum's was no different. It was smooth but bloody hell it was like swallowing liquid fire. And Ram was swallowing huge mouthfuls while Anna and I were sipping at it. His big sister took control of the bottle, because according to her, after he has rakhsi Ram likes to fight. He of course vehemently denied this. Anna and I just laughed.
After the lunch Ram took us on a tour of his childhood village. Showing us the house he grew up in and introducing us to his cousins and childhood friends. We made the mistake of saying "yes" to an invitation to stay. This meant we had to eat more food and drink more alcohol. I was very nearly violently ill at the thought of it, but manners are manners, and we sipped and supped as best we could. Ram then took us to the family's plot of land where one of his sisters was picking saag (kinda like spinach). He then loaded us up with it and informed us it was for the orphanage. How cool is that?
Leaving was fun filled. The ladies of the house smiling and laughing. The kids running and playing and everyone promising to meet again. We had a great day, but if we thought it was over we were sadly mistaken.
Upon arrival at Ram's shop we were ushered into his home and rakhsi and snacks were placed before us. The thought was no longer there. At any moment I was about to bring up the entire day's scrumptious food and drink. I was only saved by the fact that Laxmi (Ram's wife) was working and Ram had a friend and child visiting. What should have been a 20 minute visit however took well over an hour as I refused more drink and tried hard to poison the potplant next to me with the stuff I already had in my glass.
Eventually we were allowed to leave and Ram joined us at the orphanage. The kids were happy to see us and the manager was happy with the saag. Ram then cemented his place in the kids' hearts when he went back to his shop and returned with typical festival sweets for them.
This is what I love about Nepal.