The past days I have been a little bit sick, but I am finally recovered, and was introduced with a healthy day of morning-salsa - in Nepal! Seriously, I had expected my "regular" Nepali traditional dance-class, which I attend three days a week, but there was not as such, so I settled for salsa, and had GREAT fun! I just have to do both, but don't know how to squeeze it into a schedule that is about to become tighter and tighter...
So what am I doing in Kathmandu? For three weeks I have been a perfect tourist, with some planning here and there... (read: I have not started teaching yet, correct...). Why? One reason is the festive periods in this colorful country: the past month, which you now all know as Kartik (!) has been very busy with two important festivals, Dashain and Tihar/Diwali. Actually the first one starts already in September! These festivals, especially Dashain, is very important for the Nepali people. Dashain is almost celebrated like we celebrate Christmas. Families get together, and travel extremely long distances to see each other. They're off work and school during this festival, and spend their time in their family homes.
Just for fun, I will give you some background information :-D
Dashain (main festival of the months september/october, which is "Aswin"):
The different festivals always have a religious perspective, celebrating either one or several gods, or focusing on specific religious themes. Dashain is a festival celebrated throughout the valley and all over the country. Its duration is almost two weeks. The "valley" means Kathmandu Valley, which includes the three main cities Kathmandu, Bhaktapur and Patan. Dashain celebrates the forces of good over evil. It is based on a story in the Ramayana epic, with Rama victoring over the demon Ravena. The goddess Durga is worshipped, represented as a vessel filled with holy water. Throughout the festival there are lots of sacrifices on animals, whereas the blood for example is used to bless all moving vehicles...(probably needed in Kathmandu - the traffic is wiiiiild!!). Aside from the sacrifices, there are of course also a lot of blessings within family groups, as giving each other tika. There is dancing and parades, shamanistic and tantric trance rituals.
Tihar and Diwali is a "milder" festival without the terrible sacrifices. It is the festival of lights and the celebration (puja) of Lakshmi - one of the wives of Vishnu, and the goddess of wealth. I was happy to be here during this festival! The last days of the festival was almost like New Year's eve, with fireworks and crackers roaming the streets everywhere! You actually had to watch yourself so that noone would smash one up right in front of your nose...pretty scary for me, as I'm already a little bit scared of fireworks.. but it was a beautiful celebration. Lights everywhere, all over the city! And we also were so lucky to be invited to the home on the day of "tika" - sisters (the meaning of brother and sister is a tiny bit looser here than in Norway - they don't have to be related) giving blessing and gifts (sweets and fruits) to their brothers. The brothers in return give some money back to their sisters (the amount of the money usually being a bit higher than what the sisters paid for the gifts, so that they are actually able to earn some money on this..:-)).
Another beautiful thing about the festival, is that all the entrances of people's houses are decorated with color painting, beautiful ornaments in order to welcome Lakshmi into their houses. Almost a bit sad the festival is over! :-) Speaking of New Year: the saturday during the festival is actually New Year's Eve according to the calendar of Newar (the ethnic group of the Kathmandu Valley), so this is also the celebration of a new Newari year (year one-thousand-and-something...).
(Source: Gibbons, B. & Pritchard-Jones, S. (2005) Kathmandu; Valley of the Green-Eyed Yellow Idol. Pilgrims Publishing, Thamel, Kathmandu)
So, tomorrow I am finally gonna meet my students for the first time! I will introduce myself with a musical presentation, which basically will be a mini-concert showing them what I have worked with earlier, and what I would like to work with this year! I look forward to this! And hopefully I will havea lot to offer. This is the first time the students are offered classes in western vocal, but many of them are well trained in eastern vocal, which is the "main" course here. I hope I will be able to sneak into some classes and learn a bit myself! It will be interesting to see how I teach in comparison to the eastern vocal training here. Hopefully we compliment each other!
More coming up very soon! :-D