In my last post, I talked about our journey back to Nepal and how we got to celebrate the anniversary of the foundation with the Rukmini Scholars.  If you have not read that already, please give it a look.  After we celebrated the event, handed out the new library to the students, we set out for the Nepali holidays.

Informal meeting with the Rukmini scholars

Prior to the start of the Dashain festival, we called all 10 girls to get together to meet again. It was a voluntary and informal gathering without any agenda. The main purpose was to get to know the students a little better. A School for Community (ASC) was the most convenient place for all of us to gather. The meeting was also attended by some other local scholars, supporters of the foundation, Didis (meaning older sisters – mentors), Foundation Program Officer, and some teachers.

We met with the students and formed a circle to make them feel equal to be able to express themselves.

We met with the students and formed a circle to make them feel equal to be able to express themselves.

The Didis and the students (Bahinis – younger sisters) arranged the chairs in a circle where we all sat and began our introductions. Two of the attendees were former students of Shikharapur, both working as Mechanical Engineers. One of them is currently working for the Government in Nepal and the other employed with the Nepali Army and working for UN Peace Mission in South Sudan, and was visiting home for the Holidays. It must have been a rare occasion for the students coming to school without school uniforms. They all looked very relaxed and cheerful. As far as I know, these kinds of meetings are very rare or unheard of in most of the schools in Nepal. Also, being in an open discussion with elders is not a custom among most of the Nepali students, especially girls from the villages.

The scholars seemed very relaxed as they interacted with us.

The scholars seemed very relaxed as they interacted with us.

One of the teachers, and member of the Selection Committee, volunteered to begin the introduction. In the first round all of the students took a turn to introduce themselves by telling their name, where they live, and what class they are currently attending. We also introduced ourselves by stating who we were, where we used to live, where we live now, and what we are doing. The main purpose was to learn as much we could from these students, so we asked them to tell us all about themselves, their families and their school. I was pleasantly surprised at how all of them were able to speak up.  They all seemed to focus on two topics – one was the new e-books which they were sharing and exploring at that time, and the other being the big holidays and how they were going to spend that time.

We tried to make the mood of the meeting to be very relaxing, and we encouraged them to ask anything they would like to about us. Some of them asked questions about how I got my education back in the “old” days and how I ended up in America. Although I had written a detailed blog post about my road to education, they were not aware of it because they did not have access to the posts due to lack of computers, lack of access to internet, and their limited ability to comprehend English, and most importantly, due to a lack of time to look into other areas besides their homework. It reminded me that even though things are changing in Nepal, there is still a big gap between the people who have and those who do not.

We said our goodbyes and wished the girls a very happy holidays.

We said our goodbyes and wished the girls a very happy holidays.

Finally, we exchanged Holidays wishes to each other and went on our way. Some of the girls were planning to shop at the nearby Pharping Bazaar (market) for the holidays, while others were returning home to attend to their daily chores. My husband and I returned to our home feeling very happy with the meeting because we felt like we got to know each of them a little bit better.

The Holidays

Dasain was just around the corner and everybody was busy preparing for the holidays. It is the time of harvest in Nepal so there is so much work to be done in harvesting crops, clearing the fields, and cleaning and decorating the house for the holidays. Everyone seems to be busy during this time, doing something or other inside the house or in the farm. Although we do not have rice paddies anymore, we have a corn field around our house, which we helped to harvest and clear. My husband was busy fixing up our house doing carpentry and other odd jobs that he seems to enjoy so much.  It made me think of how we used to mow our yard, rake the leaves, and clean the house in Pittsburgh.  It is not quite the same as harvesting corn or taking care of the cows, but doing this kind of work has never left my mind even after being in the US for more than 2 decades.

We celebrated Dashain for 10 days by visiting the famous local temple of Dakshinkali and other nearby temples, playing cards with friends and family, and enjoying good meals. On the 10th day of the festival, we received “Tika” (blessings) from our father and his uncle, who are 2 eldest members in our family. All of our relatives, from around the village and from around Kathmandu, visited our house to receive Tika from our father.  Having many family members together at the same time was great fun for my husband and I.

As soon as Dashain was over, all of Nepal started preparing for another big holiday – Tihar, also known as the festival of lights. This holiday is much more relaxing than Dashain, since most of the crops are already harvested and the major cleaning of the house as well as the shopping for the holidays is already completed. The perfect warm weather during this time adds to the enjoyment. As we celebrated the holidays, I thought about the girls and how they were spending this time.  We hoped that they were able to enjoy this time because for most Nepali people, celebrating in this manner is limited only to the holidays.

Thank you for reading another part of my blog post regarding my trip back to Nepal.  In my next post, I will talk about my experience being in class with some of the students and my thoughts on how things are going based on my firsthand experience.  Thank you very much for reading and following along. Until next time …

Laxmi Aryal

About Laxmi Aryal

Laxmi was the first female in her family to receive an education. While the education she received was limited, she was able to make the best of it and became the first person from her family and village to complete high school, undergraduate studies and eventually a Masters degree. She eventually earned a Masters Degree from the University of Pittsburgh in Public Policy. Hers is an inspirational story that the Rukmini Foundation hopes to replicate. She serves as an inspiration for the foundation and its leadership.
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