After trekking for 10 days in Annapurna (LINK to other post), all I wanted was to be in Nepals’s jungle hills, relaxing with a beautiful view to take it easy. Being away from the city de-programs us from the Western “do, do, do, be productive” mindset. In the East, life is more easy-going and shanti (‘peaceful’).
Unbeknownst to me, Nepal’s most celebrated festivals, Dashain, was beginning the day after finishing my trek. To celebrate, thousands of families return to their home villages (so the cities are empty). As a foreign-festival fiend, I wanted in!… How can I join in?
Here’s an excerpt from an email I sent to my family:
“Low and behold, as I strolled to my hostel, I walked past a home with blood spilled across the front door step and a goat head lying on the ground…. A goat had just been sacrificed. The family invited me in and smeared a tika mark (a red paste made from a mixture of vermillion red powder, rice, and yogurt) on my forehead. The family was preparing the goat for dinner by dehairing it’s body under hot water. They explained that thousands of mountain goats are sacrificed across the country in honor of Dashain, and feasted in Nepalese homes.
When I made it to my hostel, I noticed a note written on the whiteboard at reception: “Sorry, due to Dashain festival, we will be away from Wednesday to Saturday in my family’s home village.” Great, today is Wednesday 😥….
There was a young Nepalese girl sitting at reception. She didn’t speak a word of English, and she wouldn’t look up at me. Eventually, she called the owner, who informed me he was already en route to his village… and he invited me to join them! Wootwoot!!
This led me to Jayagayau valley of Salyan village, where I lived for 7 days.
After about 2 hours of off-roading in a fully packed Jeep, we arrived at the village. Dashain festivities had already begun, with over 50 relatives visiting the village (and sleeping on the floors of the village home). Unfortunately, I missed the morning sacrifice of the mountain goat, but, I arrived in time for round 1 of the goat feast, featuring all of the internal organs of the goat (liver, brain, tongue, intestine). Round 2 was roasted goat testicles and scrotum! Round 3 was boiled goat testicles 🤢!! The testicles were fattier and chewier than I thought they’d be… I basically choked on them. Round 4 was the delicious goat curry.
The love energy in the village was powerful and undeniable, as the elders gave tika to their relatives. In return, the recipient gives a small donation to the elder and kisses their feet. Tika is meant to be a blessing given by the eldest household members to bestow good fortune and health upon the recipient. Family members went from household to household for their tika. The messier and larger the splotch of red on your forehead, the more blessings you received!
We went from home to home, receiving tika, eating, local sweets and apples, and feasting. It’s beautiful how genuinely devout everyone is towards the festival.
When I received tika from the elders, I could feel the energy rushing through my body. It brought back memories of receiving blessings from my parents each week on the Jewish Shabbat.
Now, allow me to introduce to my hosts in Salyan village, Ganesh’s family: Baba, Ama, Ganesh, Sita, and Rohit.
This was like my home away from home. I felt like part of the family from the moment I walked through the door. The family was always looking after me, caring for me, and introducing me to village life.
I’ll give you a taste of my time living in Salyan village!
-I had to learn how to eat with my right hand and wipe with my left. Yes, there’s actually methods for each of these actions!
Squatter toilet with a water bucket. As there’s no toilet paper in the village, and my stash ran out after day 1, I was left with no choice but to go the local route. I used the water bucket for wiping with my left hand. Ganesh was kind enough to demonstrate the most effective wiping technique 😝… and I can’t lie, I prefer water buckets over toilet paper 😲. It’s quicker, leaves you cleaner, and feels better on your behind.
Cold bucket showers with no enclosing door.
Only 2 meals per day at 10am and 6:30pm. We also had 2 intermittent chai breaks at 8am and 2pm featuring delicitable milk chai with fresh buffalo milk from earlier in the morning. Needless to say, I was starving mid-day.
My room was more than just the 5.5 ft long mini-bed you see in the photo.
Can’t forget to introduce you to:
-My roommate, Sheela, a massive spider 🕷 who webs out in the corner of my room.
-My neighbors on the other side of the wall:
1. The goat’s sleeping quarters: 6 goats were packed into mini-shed. Clearly these goats didn’t have enough space in their shed, as they were relentlessly kicking and screaming at each other throughout the night.
2. The rooster pen: featured 5am morning wake-up calls, whether you request it or not. The roosters snoozed every 2 minutes until 7:15am!
3. The buffalo and cow shed: Contributed to the unique cow dunk odors outside my room.
My room wouldn’t have been complete without having these buggers around 😄
The villagers live a very simple and primitive, yet natural and wholesome lifestyle. Allow me to enlighten you on the wonders of village life:
-Meals are prepared with fresh vegetables from Ganesh’s organic garden. There’s no grocery shopping 🛒, Ama walks down to the garden and collects all the veggies needed to cook up a storm. The food we ate for each meal was freshly picked right before (yummy luffa gourd and pumpkin were in season), as there’s no refrigerators.
-Natural fertilizer from the buffalo and cow dunk is used for farming. Envision this: Ama pulls up her sleeves and scoops up the wet cow dunk with her hands each day to collect this fertilizer 💩.
-Source of all the water for the village is fresh mountain water 🏔
-Drinking fresh milk eryday. Baba milked the buffalos every morning and evening. All the milk is either consumed fresh or turned into curd or ghee (butter).
-Smells of lush greenery all around. My sinuses thanked me for a break from pollution.
-Hearing only natural noises of the jungle (insects, birds) and of the farms (roosters, goats, and cows). It’s relieving to be free from the honking of cars and construction of buildings.
-Waste is almost entirely compostable (natural), other than 2 handfuls of trash waste, such as plastic wrappers, which are burned weekly.
I’m always intrigued by the naturalness and simplicity of village life.
Giving gratitude: I found it effortless to cultivate gratitude for all the food, water, milk, etc. that we ate in the village. Since the food was all farm-to-table, it came natural to feel thankful for the preparation of the meals… after all, all the contributors were sitting right in front of me. And damn, Ama cooked up amazing Nepali meals on the floor of her kitchen!
I formed a gratitude expression to recite internally before eating each meal. “Thank you to Ganesh’s family for farming this food, to Ama for collecting the vegetables and cooking for us, to the mountains for producing water, and to the buffalos for producing this milk. Please give me the energy I need for the day.” Of course, I thanked them aloud as well.