October 14, 2010

Wow, I love Janakpur! People is very welcoming. A lot of people stop me on the street to ask the usual questions, where I come from, if I’m traveling alone, what my name is, if I like Janakpur. A few times I was also asked “What is the purpose of your trip?”. The purpose of my trip? I don’t know! But they are not annoying, once they are done with the list of questions they go.

This morning in the shop where I stopped to buy a coke I met a very smart boy. 13 years old, he spoke a good English and told me that the Nepalese situation is not good. Because I told him I live somewhere near Venice, he told me about Marco Polo, born in 1254 or similar, that left Venice to go to China, where he lived for 17 years, becoming friends with the emperor.

By the way, the coke was to kill potential bacteria that I might have ingestited with a weird drink I had for breakfast. Just out of the hotel this morning, desperately looking for something to eat, I saw some people drinking this yellow thing, and I decided to try it. But it was cold, I should only drink something that has been boiled or that is in bottles. This drink was probably made with their tap water and some corn flour (from the taste of it). Quite thick. Not my favorite drink. And I’m expecting trots any time.

These days they are celebrating Diwali, one of the most important holiday for Hindu. Their Christmas, as they explain it. It lasts 10 days. Tomorrow will be the most important day, when thousands of goats will be sacrificed to gods (I read this is only a tradition of Nihang Sikhs). For many families it will be the only occasion to eat meat. I would like to participate to the celebrations, but tomorrow I must leave Nepal because my visa is expiring. It would have been interesting.

An oblivious goat

I like walking around the town. Janakpur is different from other places I’ve seen in Nepal. It’s grey and dusty, roads have few cars, many bikes and many people walking. And I’ve met only one other foreigern, from Australia.

This morning while I was walking around I could hear prayers and songs coming from speakers. I sat on the steps of a temple, surrounded by many small altars, and I looked at the people around me. A family (the man dressed in bleach white) entered escorted by a group of armed men. In the temples priests (or servants?) are dressed in rags, very skinny; women wear bracelets on both ankles and their feet are red. A man sells newspapers and he has a large group of men, sitting on the steps of the temple, reading his newspapers. A cow tied to the column of a temple. She also has a red forehead. A guy moaning as he prays. In another temple two men dressed in white are sitting on the floor and are talking, one with a long grey beard, and the usual skinny man that brings them water to wash their hands.

The cow is holy for hindy. They consider it their “mother”, or at least this is what I understood from a guy on the bus yesterday. Poor hindy, I wonder what they feel when they come to Europe and see what happens to their holy cow. There are many cows roaming freely around town, it looks like if they were also taking a stroll; people walk around them, most times ignoring them, sometimes they stop to put the red powder (tikka) on their foreheads. These white cows with red forehead are quite pretty. I wonder if they have a owner and how they find them?

Janakpur Women Development Centre

This morning I went to visit the Janakpur Women Development Centre, near Mithila village in Kuwa. It was interesting. The center was founded in 1989 I believe; here work women from the village, very poor, that have the chance to create a space out of the influence of the husband. They make pottery, carpets, bags. They sell to tourists and they export, even to Italy, but the lady couldn’t tell me where exactly. I bought a cup (I love cups) and some mirrors to hang on walls. I wanted to send them home, but the post office is not like those you find in Europe. There was nothing, no envelops or packages you could buy, only a tiny counter where I was told that I couldn’t send glass because it can be broken and they don’t want to take the risk. I will try from India. It’s a shame, it would have been nice to have an envelop with a stamp from Nepal.

Lunch with family

As soon as I got out of the post office I was invited to visit a family for a tea. That became a pork with puffed rice and vegetables, and a glass of grapefruit juice. I had just had lunch, but I couldn’t refuse. The mother of the family even gave me some bracelets and a necklace. Probably they hoped I would bring their 20yo son to Italy. They were a well-off family, compared to the average nepali, all children had been to university, one was in the army, the other in Kathmandu working for Qatar Airlines. But I’m european and when I work I probably earn 4 times what they do, so for them I’m rich, a good solution for the son. They had to invite me, they said, because I’m a guest in Nepal.

They also invited me to sleep with them, they hoped I could meet the father, that was at work, and another of the brothers. I excused myself saying that my bag was at the hotel. They were incredibly welcoming, and it was nice and funny at the same time, spending some time with them.

pranzo in famiglia a janakpur

There’s a sudoku on the page of the Kathmandu Post that was used to wrap my mirrors. And I am scared of letting one off, in case I got diarrhea.

Janaki Mandir

In the afternoon I went to Janaki Mandir, a temple described by the Lonely Planet as similar to Taj Mahal. It is very beautiful indeed, different from other temples I’ve seen in Nepal. It is built in honor of Rama and Sita, husband and wife. Women wear their most precious sari to come here.

There’s a guy with a white sheet around the waist and long hair wrapped in a tail, wild, my type. I don’t now if he’s a priest or he’s studying to become one, he crossed the courtyard a couple of times carrying wood.

While I was sitting there, looking at the people around me, there was always someone coming to talk. The usual questions. A guy was slightly different. It was a true interrogation. Favorite book, hobbies, movies, and so on. He asked me what I think of the political life in Nepal. I don’t know? You tell me. Not very good, he said. He thinks maoist, despite being part of the government now, aren’t happy and want to rule alone and they cause troubles. They are like HitlerS, he said. He liked to say “it means”, to confirm obvious facts. Like “do you eat meat” – Yes. “It means you are not vegetarian”. “Do you speak Nepali?” – no. “It means you cannot understand nepali”. I don’t understand the reason of this. It wasn’t annoying, it was interesting, this approach. While he was talking to me I couldn’t stop looking at the sweat between his nose and the mouth.

I heard many people complaining about the government. They say it’s corrupt and it keeps 95% of International Aid. It’s a shame. Nepal is a beautiful country that needs a good government and a boost to the economy. People deserve to live a better life.

In the evening I stopped to drink a fresh juice of tiny oranges and I saw that many people were drinking a white thing, a bit thick. I found out it was lassi (like a milkshake, but I don’t know what it was made of, it tasted of yogurt and lemon). Delicious. I wonder how they make it. Very refreshing, and it’s a blessing with this heat. I went back after dinner (fried fish very salty) and I had two more. I wonder if I will find lassi in India too? (I will have loads).

I was really surprised by the hospitality and warmth of people in Janakpur. At first I thought they were a bit intrusive and too curious, but they have been a good company throughout the day.