It’s festival time in Nepal! For the past few days people have been hanging colored lights on houses and temples, bands have been rehearsing, and firecrackers have been going off periodically.

Now the festival is here in earnest. Last night we spent some time up on the rooftop. A thundershower earlier in the day cleared away the smog so we could see for several miles in every direction; no Himalayas, but the hills surrounding the valley became visible. Then after dark the fireworks began. With a panoramic view from the rooftop, we were scanning 360 degrees to see the next bright rocket or flare, sent up from housetops all around us. It’s like a combination of Christmas and the Fourth of July.

The feast is in honor of Laxmi, goddess of prosperity, so many people leave doors and windows open to allow prosperity to come in. (One Nepali bluntly said “Today we worship money.”) There are also bands of children going door to door singing and shaking down the residents for donations.

It’s also the New Year for the Newari people, so they’re having their own parades.

Yesterday was the day to worship dogs; you’d see feral dogs all over Kathmandu with red tikka marks on their foreheads and flower necklaces. The day before, it was crows. I don’t know if there’s an animal for today, but tomorrow it’ll be cows, and then on Monday sisters will worship brothers and vice versa. Makes sense, since Hindus say God is everybody and everything. Shubhas tells me there’s a day in another feast where they worship tourists; I’ve missed my chance, I guess.

The other day I passed a roundabout that was clean and well-maintained, with trimmed grass, flowering shrubs, and no trash. It really stood out in contrast. There was a sign: “Maintained by Yak and Yeti Hotel.”

It made me think of the “Tragedy of the Commons” – the observation that things owned by everybody, nobody bothers to maintain. A few altruistic exceptions aside, most folks only take care of things they claim as their own.

Sorry for the sparse updates. I can check my email from time to time at a cyber (not a cybercafe or cyber pub, just a cyber; half a doen computers sharing a dial-up modem, twenty rupees an hour.) Text pages come up if you’re willing to wait a bit, but sites like Gmail, Tumblr, etc use too much JavaScript; they time out so it’s rare for me to be able to update this site.

If all goes well, tomorrow I leave for Bangkok so tomorrow night I should have Wi-Fi. And that will be good.

Author: Father Silouan Thompson

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