Kathmandu: Sherry Russell first came to Nepal in 1984 on a Study Abroad Program with the School for International Training (SIT). She lived with a host family while studying the language, culture and history of Nepal along with its social and governmental functions.
After 1984, she had the opportunity to live and work in Nepal from 2000 to 2004 as the Director of Programming and Training for the Peace Corps. She says she has been fortunate to have the opportunity to live in Nepal and has been here now since January 2018 as the Country Director for Peace Corps Nepal.
Dashain for her was a wonderful time to experience and understand Nepal’s culture. She recalls her first Dashain in Nepal and says that Dashain holds a special place in her heart.
It was in 1984, her first Dashain in Nepal. She used to live with a wonderful Thakali family in Kathmandu. “I remember the joy and excitement, I remember visiting many, many relatives and friends’ houses, but above all, I remember eating until I was so full I thought I would burst,” said Russell, laughing.
Russell is particularly impressed by the hospitality of Nepali people and their habits of making the guests eat as much as possible. The mother of the family she was living with, her Nepali Aama, made sel roti and other delicious treats. “The family sacrificed a goat, and at our home or at others’ homes, I was served one plate after another of food, and no amount of saying “pugyo” made any difference.”
This was her first Dashain experience in Nepal. And it constitutes a fond memory for her. “Despite eating until my stomach could hold no more, that first Dashain holds a special place in my heart,” she said.
Russell has lived in Nepal for many years. She has mingled with Nepali people and Nepali culture and feels very much like home when she is in Nepal during the Dashain festival. She knows what Dashain is for Nepalis, as any other Nepali would know about it. “Dashain is a holiday dedicated to the Goddess Durga and the triumph of good over evil is celebrated,” said Russell. Additionally, Dashain is not just a religious festival but also a social and cultural event for her. “It is a joyful time of year in which friends and families gather together to tie the bonds of friendship and celebration together more tightly,” she said. “This is what makes the whole celebration so meaningful.”
Sherry Russell finds herself in Nepal mostly during the times of Dashain and Tihar festivals. She does not want to be anywhere else around this time. “I absolutely love this time of year in Nepal. It’s my favorite,” she said.
For her, the whole atmosphere looks so pleasant around this time. “The rice is beginning to turn gold, the skies are clearing, kites are flying, there are festivals almost every day, and the feeling of excitement and happiness in the air is palpable,” said her poetically. “I wouldn’t want to be anywhere else.”
She has seen how for the last two years, the Covid-19 has taken away the joys of celebrations and fun from the Nepali people. She has also seen how the Covid-19 has also changed the way how people celebrate the festivals in Nepal. “In the past year and a half, Covid has significantly changed how people celebrate. Last year, travel was very difficult so people could not visit their families who lived at a distance,” she said. The happy thing this year, she says, is that people will be able to travel and she wishes for the health, happiness, and prosperity of Nepali people.
But how is she celebrating Dashain this year? “This year I will celebrate Dashain by spending time with family and friends, enjoying the clear skies and the long-overdue feeling of joy in the air,” she said.