Tuesday, February 6, 2018

The White-Faced Mama

Yes, I survived! What’s more, the gods didn’t strike me dead because I surely offended them!

There are cultural differences at this Nepali home-stay and no guide. So, I’m learning as I go and practicing not being offended when Shyam says, “You just made a BIG mistake.” Actually he has only said that when he’s told me once, I goofed, and he had to drive the point home.

Such as?

Where I pee. He suggested I work my way down the dark slippery slope with 2 foot high uneven stone risers in the middle of the night to the very clean outhouse. Sorry! I don’t think so! 

So we settled on me having a pail once it got dark. I dumped it the next morning in the very wrong place. He politely said, “Put urine on other side of your house. You put it where the Goddess is.”

OK… And yes, this morning we gave paint, food, water and incense to the Goddess Devi, which as far as I can tell, is a colorful stone. It’s all about intention and care — about respecting the sacred. Got that one.

And I’m afraid I goofed again when I asked him to repeat the constituents of the floor in my shed/room/earthquake house. “Is my floor stone?” It looked a little like adobe. “It is dirt.” “Dirt?” “Yes, dirt” OK… so I take my shoes off outside the room so I can walk on dirt with my clean socks...

That got me wondering about the kitchen floor. 

Turns out there is no dining room, much less a table. That’s right, no table. We sit on the floor of the kitchen to cook, eat, visit, etc… I asked about it too. “Every morning we spread it with red paint and cow dung to honor the Goddess Laxmi who is incarnated as the cow.” OK … so plates on floor, I’m sitting on manure. I choose to ignore the possibility of germs.

Next, I wanted to win over their sweet 20 month old daughter Unnati. 

She was understandably shy of this older lady in camping clothes. She wouldn’t smile or play so I gave her a cookie. Opps, without asking her Mother. Dumb! “Sugar?” Sabita asked. “Yes,” I admitted. Turns out she has had a cold for the last month and they aren’t giving her sugar.

OK… So, this morning I gave her an orange. Again, without asking Sabita. Dumb again. I figured the Vitamin C wouldn’t hurt. Boy did I get a look! Turns out that when their child has a cold they don’t give her raw food. (But I did see her eating a banana.)

I’m definitely waiting on bringing out the chocolate!

I’m amazed that this little girl does not have or need toys!

She simply imitates the adults and has a wonderful day. Here is the attic full of corn.

And here she is helping out husking the corn, without being asked and without praise. Joining in, having fun. Just a child doing what needs to be done. 


She played for about two seconds with a corn-husk doll I made, tossing it aside to imitate my sweeping the courtyard free of goat poo with a smaller broom.

When her grand-mother made rotis from flour and water, she took a little wad and rolled it out too.

Here she is learning to milk, 20 months old!

Adorning the Holy Basil altar with paints.

Helping her grandfather bless the cow.


Dancing with her grandmother and father. All so natural...

And just hanging out. Loved, adults keeping her safe without hovering, learning by watching, part of an extended family.

And did little Unnati come around to me, the stranger who doesn’t speak her language?  

She finally started smiling  when we played peek-a-boo around a post. 

And when I pushed her on the little swing and sang a childhood swinging song, she looked at Shyam and called me something with a grin.

“What did she call me?”

“The white-faced Mama.”

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