The weekend all started with a productive work day on Friday wrapping up with a 3-hour long dinner meeting with the entire staff and board of Prerana. A lot of well-educated women make up the executive committee and it was inspiring to hear what sort of humanitarian work they all have their hands wet in. Plus, now I have some research behind me when I have to explain the female leader roles in the org for my proposal! The food at dinner was fantastic too, mind you, I’m struggling with all the -gasp- cilantro. I’m not surprised it’s so present in Nepali/Indian dishes, but ugh do I HATE that herb!
Saturday was culturally explosive for me. I was a guest at a Prerana cultural program, centred on action for women against violence, that took place in the Lele valley. It took over an hour to get there on a dusty, windy, ‘road’. Our bus was crammed to the max with women from all around Kathmandu (many of them disabled) and all of them full of passion! I’ve never heard such laughter, singing, and yelling!
And, I finally saw clear blue sky! Kathmandu has such poor air quality that despite the fact that it’s been a balmy 25 plus everyday since I arrived, you can never truly make out the sky past the smoggy haze hovering over the city. I’ve figured it out now. Just drive for about 20 minutes straight up and wham! you’ve got green pastures, rolling hills, and ah, yes, straight up sunshine. Delicious.
After turning a barren-looking empty spot on the side of the road, into a full-blown stage set up (chairs, banners, sound-system, and sun-shielding tarps), the dancers/singers and I all sat down for a hearty meal of chow-mein. Some of the girls were around my age and are professional dancers in the valley. And they are in love with Western culture. It was riot to compare skin/hair colour, giggle at my attempt to speak Nepali (and them, English), and attempt to learn a few traditional dance moves. Plus, they couldn’t believe I put the ‘spicy sauce’ all over my meal. That’s right, I can handle it!
The program itself was unreal. I imagine it’s similar to what some tourists see in the Newari/Nepali traditional restaurants in Thamel (tourist district), but so so much more. All of the entertainment had a clear message: women have to fight for their rights. They have to rise above only believing their place is in their home. They have a voice and they need to come together and use it as one.
What was even more inspiring than the women putting on the program, was the audience in itself. Women of all ages gathered to take in the festivities and they shouted along with the speakers as they drove home their message. They were cheerfully clapping along with the dancing and nodding in agreement to the discussions. I stared in awe at the glittering array of colourful sari’s, shining in the afternoon sunlight.
Men also gathered to watch the show and listen. Though, I did see one young boy rip up the info paper and throw it in a little girl’s face – disheartening, I know, but you have to persevere and keep pushing for change.
It all wrapped up with the awkward foreigner (me!) being forced to dance on stage with all the performers. At that point in the day I was pretty used to being pointed and stared at anyways, so I might as well make a fool out of myself!
Ah, you know it’s a good day when you fall fast asleep on a very uncomfortable bus ride and you wake with sore cheeks from smiling so much.