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Culture

Nepali Traditions

http://ozarkspub.vo.llnwd.net/o37/KSMU/audio/mp3/nepalitrad_4.mp3

As part of our ongoing series, Global Citizenship, KSMU's Emily Nash shares a travel essay about the time she spent in Nepal this summer.

The second day I was in Namche Bzar, I met three Tibetan women.

In their late twenties and early thirties, each owned a little street shop that sells various Tibetan trinkets and hiking gear knock-offs.

During tourist months, the rocky streets of Namche are filled with trekkers and tourists browsing the displays in the Tibetan market.

But it was the rainy season when I was there, and the mountain side was mostly empty.

I caught a glimpse of what real life is like for these three Tibetan women when the tourists aren't around.

At sunrise, which in Nepal is around 4am, the unmarried women go for a two hour hike that looped down and around the Namche village.

The women convinced me to join them one week into my trip, saying the only way I was going to survive the thin altitude, was to climb a mountain each morning.

Every morning, in a straight line, we would follow one another along the steep trails.

Passing the town's Buddhist monastery, the women would spin the brass prayer wheels clockwise and moan their puga, or prayers.

In their wrinkled hands, they held and rubbed their personal prayer beads.

These were brightly colored beaded necklaces, with a Buddhist long life charm and a picture of the Dhali Lhama attached.

My three Tibetan friends would walk to the left of every ancient prayer rock we encountered, no matter how much harder the path was to walk around it.

When I asked them, in my best attempt to speak Nepali, what all these religious traditions meant, I never got a straight answer.

One of them said it was for good luck. Another said it was to live a long and healthy life.

And the third said she does it because she has always done it.

It was simply their tradition...I can relate. Many Americans, including myself do a lot of things "just to do them."

We don't really have a good explanation for why we do them, but we do them.

For these Tibetan women, their religion was so connected with their culture and their daily routine, you couldn't distinguish between them.

Each woman, although very poor, would build an ornate shrine that held small idols of Buddha and pictures of the Dahli Lama.

After our morning hike and traditional three cups of tea, they would rush off to fill 21 cups of water and a cup of cooked rice to lay before the shrine.

Every morning they did this.

I don't know if their hearts believed in the meaning behind the traditions they practiced.

After spending a summer with these women, I began to reflect on the traditions in my own life.

My Tibetan friends asked me to start a new tradition with them by climbing a mountain each morning.

I think that choosing each day to climb a mountain, whatever that means to each of us may be a way to shake up our daily rituals, to help us evaluate the meaning behind our traditions.

It could become a new tradition for me...

Except this time, I'll know exactly why I do it and why it's important to me.