The village of Kamero Tol started their official Tihar celebrations on Thursday 19th October and they welcomed me and my fellow volunteers with open arms.
By the close of our first week in the community the festivities had started to begin.
Slowly but surely I started to draw comparisons between my host family’s celebration of Tihar with my own family’s way of celebrating Christmas. Despite being 4,000 miles away and living in a country with a different language, culture and way of life I recognised similar family traditions.
Multicoloured fairy lights were strung around the outside of our host family’s home, reminding me immediately of the lights my dad will insist on having on around our dining room table every year.
Since my eldest sister moved out 5 years ago, each Christmas has had a sense of family reunion with all five of us being together again. Similarly here the two eldest siblings return from their work and study in Kathmandu to join their family for the celebrations.
For each new day of Tihar, new foods were brought to our attention. They seemed to be traditional treats for the festival, giving us sweet doughnuts made of fried rice, crackers, bananas and crisps. On the main day of the festival we were treated to chicken dishes (meat is often for special occasions here) which was a noticeable change from dahl bhat. This one course reminded me of Christmas dinner, the best meal of the year.
The celebration of Tihar was a wonderful thing to witness. It not only brought our whole community closer together but also brought me and my host family together as they let me into this special time for them. With all the similarities to Christmas that we saw, it made me think of my own family back home and how we’ll celebrate this Christmas. I wondered if we also could welcome strangers from a completely different country into our own small village and have a celebration with them amongst our own traditions. I now know the value of feeling welcomed into a strange place. It’s sad to think as this first phase came to an end that we had more families to miss!
Liz is currently based back in community in Kamero Tol for her third Raleigh phase. The handwashing stations are progressing as the work the volunteers are doing there comes to a close. Cultural immersion plays a vital role in the programmes here and all volunteers are encouraged to take up the opportunities to participate in various festivals and family gatherings. The close bonds that are formed between volunteers and their host families is something all volunteers return from the programme with and it is what makes the volunteering programme on community with Raleigh so unique.