Wednesday, November 14, 2007

Tihar

A week ago they celebrated the festival of Tihar ("The Festival of Lights") at Sam's House.

The fifth and final day of the festival is called "Bhai Tihar," which involves sisters giving tika to their brothers and brothers giving presents to their sisters--a most appropriate holiday for Sam's House.

They celebrated in healthy fashion, thanks to you--our kind donors.


The goddess Laxmi.

The third day of Tihar is "Laxmi puja." Laxmi, the goddess of wealth, is symbolized by the cow, so you will see cows walking the streets covered in garlands and tikas.

Here the table is set with sweets that will be given out during the "bhai puja" ceremony.


Brothers at the start of the ceremony. The morning of Tihar is an immense amount of work, like preparing a Thanksgiving dinner.

The didis and sisters set up all the arrangements: flowers, plates of sweets, incense, garlands, and colored dye on the floor in symbolic patterns.


Sister making a celebratory walk around their brothers.


Maya giving tika to Babit.


Mina giving tika to Sharan.


Pratima offering a plate of sweet to Suraj and Sharan.


Sarita feeding Suraj some dahi (yogurt).


Rina giving tika to Sharan.


After the puja and the exchange of presents.


Amrit giving tika to Manju.


The sisters wreath garland around their brothers.


Enjoying sweets after the blessings (puja).


After the celebration.

Yoga

As Desain and Tihar form the holiday season in Nepal, it's also a nice break for the children from school. Having the time off, Dinesh wants to make sure they have plenty to do.

We recently had a volunteer from Holland, who came by way of India where she had been studying yoga and meditation. She been teaching some positions and breathing work to the children, notably, the older ones. I'm not sure Bishal and Rina are yoga material yet.


Getting comfortable and relaxed. It appears to be the boys bedroom serving as the makeshift ashram.


I'm not sure, but it looks quite fun.


Learning the lotus position.


Maya in lotus.

Friday, November 09, 2007

Tennis Anyone?

Our landlord Ranjit Gurung is a retired Gurkha Army officer and a tennis pro. (You may recall in an older post that he took me to his "club" for routine thrashings.) Since he and his wife agreed to rent to Sam's House, he has been planning to teach tennis to the children.

Over the summer he started collecting smaller racquets, from where I don't know, and waiting until he had enough to give lessons to the whole bunch.

Lessons are underway...



Thursday, November 08, 2007

Coats for Kids

As the winter season draws nigh, the temperatures in Pokhara--yes, Pokhara, land of muggy, sweat-just-standing-around summers--get sort of cool too, especially at night.

Two friends of Sam's House recently donated some money for cold weather jackets. Dinesh, freshly returned, though possibly not refreshed, from his US tour and Kathmandu holiday extravaganza, went shopping for winter gear.

Nothing but trouble: Pratima, Rina and Kiran (who appears to be fitting in nicely with her new siblings).

Maya and Mina, developing their adolescent independence through fashion, opted for jazzy cardies.

Babit, Dhiraj and Amrit.

The guys. Check out the flashy jeans.

The girls.

Monday, November 05, 2007

More Girls Than Boys

One of our core values at Sam's House is keeping a 2 to 1 ratio of girls to boys. As we've written in this space before, girls have a more difficult time in Nepal, and frequently have their life opportunities taken away in order to serve male siblings. If you can only afford to send one child to school, if your girl will later go to her husband's family, it makes sense to pour your resources on boys.

However, it now appears that girls are falling from the equations altogether...

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More boys born than girls in Vietnam and Nepal : UNFPA

By Grant McCool

HANOI (Reuters) - Vietnam and Nepal are the latest Asian countries to show a trend toward fewer newborn girls than boys because deeply rooted cultural traditions lead to a misuse of medical technology, a U.N. agency study found.

Asians, particularly in India and China, have long been known to practice pre-natal son selection by using ultrasound and amniocentesis and then aborting unwanted female fetuses, the United Nations Population Fund said.

"I don't think we are damning the technology and one shouldn't. But unfortunately the technology is being abused," UNFPA deputy executive director Purnima Mane said in an interview on a weekend visit to Vietnam.

Ultrasounds and amniocentesis help doctors detect birth defects and the health and development of a fetus.

Many Vietnamese want to have a son as their first child, part of a tradition to continue family lineage, for ancestor worship and security in old age for parents.

For Vietnam, which has a population of 85 million, "sex ratio at birth is not a significant problem now but could be within a decade" the researchers said.

In Nepal, which has a population of about 30 million, researchers said women living near the border with India could go to clinics in India that flout prohibition on sex selection.

"It is not a major concern now; however, it is likely that demand could increase in future," said the UNFPA study presented at last week's Asia-Pacific Conference on Reproductive and Sexual Health in Hyderbad, India.

Mane said that in these predominantly rural societies, an increase in trafficking of women and domestic violence were possible consequences of gender imbalance.

"The entire devaluation of the girl child is much more relevant and the status of girls is much more linked with the fact of trafficking and domestic violence increasing," she said.

"We want girls to be valued as much as boys."

UNFPA said Vietnam, where abortion is legal, was recording about 110 boy births for every 100 girls. The natural ratio of boys to girls is about 105 to 100.

It said in 2005 unbalanced sex ratios in China had risen to 120 males for every 100 females born. According to India's 2001 census, it was 108 males to 100 females.

On paper, Communist Party-ruled Vietnam respects gender equality.

It is written into the constitution and the National Assembly, or parliament, passed a Gender Equality Law last year and is on its way to approving a Domestic Violence Prevention Law by the end of this month.

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I like to think Sam's House provides families with another option for all children, but girls in particular.

Educate a boy and help a family. Educate a girl and help a whole country.

CB