Fall(ing) in love with Fall in Chapagaon

October 12, 2017 | Caroline, POL, Népal - Uniterra - Lalitpur District Milk Producers' Cooperative Union - Intern for communications and documentation

Never have I felt more relaxed and at ease, yet never have I lived in a busier or more confusing place. Paradoxical I’m sure, but that is the best way I can explain life in Chapagaon, Nepal. I’ve been in Nepal now for over a month, where I am working as a Communication and Documentation Intern with the Lalitpur District Milk Producers’ Cooperative Union. Our office is situated in a village called Chapagaon, which is located in the Kathmandu Valley and is about 1-1.5 hours by bus from Kathmandu (depending on the road conditions/traffic/presence of livestock!). In my position with the LDMPCU, I am developing a communications and report-writing strategy, writing engaging stories to improve their social media presence, and training staff members on both internal and external communication.

Since my arrival in Nepal, all the locals have been eager to tell me that I am visiting their country at the ideal time – and sure are they right! Fall is the “festival time,” where the Nepalese celebrate both Dashain and Tihar, two of their most important, auspicious, and anticipated holidays. Fall here is also the time with the nicest weather according to the locals. It was extremely hot when I arrived in September, but in the last week or so the temperature has become beautiful, crisp, and moderate. With the drier and clearer weather, I am increasingly able to get spectacular views of the Himalayan mountain range right from the deck of my apartment. I know I’m bragging now, but the night sky views and sunsets are also pretty spectacular from rooftops here in Chapagaon, where we are farther away from the light pollution and density of Kathmandu.

Any future student who is coming to Chapagaon for the fall semester should count themselves lucky, because I can truly say that spending Dashain here has been such a special experience. Dashain is a 15 day-long festival, which fell this year at the end of the September. It is a holiday that is celebrated in the home, with significant portions of the Kathmandu population returning to be with their families in the villages. My apartment-mate and I decided to spend part of Dashain in Chapagaon, so that we were able to experience the festival with locals here, and this is a decision I certainly don’t regret. Our boss at the LDMPCU invited us over to celebrate with his family – we were invited for “lunch” at 10 A.M. (most Nepalese people eat two bigger meals a day, one in the mid-morning and one in the evening). They served us copious amounts of food, including paneer which is a special treat for vegetarians here. We ended up staying all day at their home until dark, at which point they insisted we stay for dinner as well! My favourite part of the afternoon was when we all sat around together on the floor and played card games – my apartment-mate and I taught them ‘Canadian’ games and they shared ‘Nepalese’ games with us.

As if this weren’t enough, he invited us over a second time during the holidays to put tika, which is a red substance made of rice, yogurt, sugar, and red dye that the eldest of the family puts on the foreheads of others to symbolize blood ties and anticipate good fortunes. We wore Nepali kurtas, tika on our foreheads, and jamara in our hair all day long – a look that garnered many smiles, looks, and comments throughout the day.

Throughout my studies in Political Science, I’ve always been most attracted to qualitative methods of research. I’m interested by the way in which micro-interactions and meaning construction inform broader political processes. Being in a community, talking in casual settings, and participating in festivals has only reinforced the value of small-scale, qualitative based research. Big statistical analysis have merit, but on their own would not tell the complete story of change, development, and tradition here.

I didn’t come into the internship with a slew of expectations, but one month in I can already say that one expectation has been prove wrong – although it’s cheesy to say, never would I have predicted that Chapagaon would come to feel so genuinely like home.

Namaste till next time!

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