“Tori bahini, be sure to come tomorrow at 4:30 exact,” Pastor Samuel told me. “We’re caroling in Kathmandu, and we need to get there by 5PM. There will be a vehicle, but there is limited room, and its first-come-first-serve.”
The vehicle that showed up at 5:15 was in fact not meant to transport people, but cargo. Nevertheless, Sangita didi began shoving people in, first the kids, then the women. “There’s room for two more!” she called. She waved Carly and I into the back. LeAnna was already comfortably seated up front, with the driver and at least two other people. As soon as Carly and I were settled, Kumar came running up. “Actually, you two get in the taxi,” he said. A few minutes later, Carly and I were squashed into a taxi with Anish, and Kumar’s wife and son, Nani Beti and Prashant. Sunil rode comfortably as a passenger on Kumar’s motorbike, the guitar situated between his stomach and Kumar’s back, the neck reared into the air above his head.
Inevitably, we were stuck in a traffic jam. But this gave Anish a chance to warm up to Carly. I encouraged Anish to speak English with her, but my situation between the two of them in the backseat made translating all the more convenient. It gave me a good exercise into how much Nepali I actually understand. Kumar and Sunil caught up to us. The taxi driver yelled out the window, “I’ll just follow you!” He had been confused as to where he was taking us when Kumar first told him where to go anyway.
Carly began taking pictures of Sunil on the bike. She eventually gave the camera to Anish to try. “Just snap pictures,” she told him when he protested he didn’t take good ones. “You’ll get better as you experiment.” He immediately pointed it to the truck parked on his side of the car. “What is it?” Carly asked.
“Um, bones,” Anish said, and showed her the picture. Sure enough, it was a truck full of animal bones, mainly buffalo from the size of them. Suddenly, we all realized the strong smell wafting in from the truck’s direction. I immediately covered my nose with the scarf around my neck, and Carly grabbed the end of the scarf to put over her nose. “Where are they taking those?” I asked him.
“To India,” he replied, “to make things like buttons, glue, etc.”
Our vehicle was the last to arrive at the house. We were ushered up onto the roof, where we celebrated as last night. This time, LeAnna joined in the dancing, much to everyone’s delight. As we stood around after the program, I summarized what Amos dai had told everyone.
“Basically, they expound from the songs we sing,” I said. “He’ll choose a few sentences from the song to build upon. Its something they do in church services as well; it usually happens between each of the bhajans sung, and sometimes between choruses. This time, he asked the question “why did Christ need to come in the form of a man?” (many of the songs mention that Christ was born in the form of man). He went back to Adam to talk about sin, and how Christ was born to rectify the relationship between God and man. And that this was what we were here to declare—Christ’s birth—through our singing and dancing.”
Since it was late, we were served a true evening meal. LeAnna sat next to me, and I described the food to her as it was brought by: rice, curried chicken meat, curried vegetables and a spicy radish achar. When Radhe dai put a dollop of the achar on my plate, the boy next to me—who I had been with in bal sangati (children's fellowship or "Sunday School") for the past few months—asked, obviously surprised, “You like achar?” I assured him I did.
Carly, in the meantime, was having quite a time with Ashish, Sunil and Anish in the corner of the roof behind us. “I had almost finished everything,” she told me later, “and Anish had them put MORE food on my plate. I told him he had to eat what was left, because I couldn’t do it.”
I laughed. “If you’re not hungry anymore, then leave a little left on your plate,” I told her. “Otherwise, that’s a signal that you’re still hungry, and they’ll put more food on your plate.”
“Oh!” Carly exclaimed. “They kept telling me I didn’t have to eat everything, but then I insisted on finishing, and that’s when they put more on. And I thought I was doing so well…we’d consider it rude or a waste to leave food on a plate in the States.”
“And,” I said, “people here don’t eat each other’s leftovers. It was a little rude to offer your leftovers to Anish.”
“Oh! I’m so sorry!” Carly apologized.
“Don’t worry,” I told her. I had seen her offer to plate to Anish, and Anish kind of stiffened at first, signaling that he didn’t quite know what to do next. But later, he took her plate downstairs, and had showed it to me. “See, your friend is such a waste; she didn’t finish her food,” he shook his head. “He wasn’t offended,” I assured Carly.
By this time, it was about 8PM. “Come one, all the ladies to the van!” Sangita didi told people. Apparently, public transport had dwindled, and they had decided that everyone present would be split into two groups: ladies and gents. And ladies would go first. Carly, LeAnna and I would get to experience the squash of the small van.
The three of us were packed into the back after the kids. It took a while to get settled.
“You’re sitting on my lap!”
“Uf! You stepped on my foot!”
“Get your hand out of my face!”
“Move over; I don’t have enough room!”
I ended up with a little girl of about six years old on my lap, and the bony butt of an eight-year-old boy on my knee. At one point in the journey, we hit a bump in the road that left one boy standing up looking for something to hold onto. He unintentionally whacked a lady’s nose, and was given a good telling-off. Sanju—a high school girl who had practically adopted LeAnna and Carly; she had been talking to them in English all evening—tried to teach them some Nepali phrases. Much as they tried, they could not get the “tsa” sound essential for the verb endings. In the course of conversation, a Nepali lady was trying to say “three,” but it kept coming out “tree” with a rolled "r" (there is no “th” in Nepali). Much as one little boy—who apparently attended an English-medium school—tried to correct her, she couldn’t’ do it. Finally, he smacked his forehead in frustration and gave up.
“I’m so content here,” the six-year-old girl on my lap told me at one point. My knees and feet screamed otherwise. When we were dropped off at the Jawalekhel chowk, and I was able to stand up, they began to tingle like crazy.
“Wow, we’re getting the full Nepali experience,” LeAnna concluded. “Caroling, food in people’s houses, being squashed into a van—as well as trekking and jungle safaris!”