I didn't plan to eat hash today. Nor did I plan to find myself pulling embarrassing bloyce dance moves trying to impress Nepalise women. But I did. And on reflection it was probably among the most memorable days of my life.
The morning ritual was the same: hear alarm, hit snooze, fall asleep again, hear alarm, get up, have tea, go to work site. This morning, however, the worksite was uncharacteristically quiet. We were soon informed that the skilled workers (the one's who tell us volunteers what to do) were taking a day off today to celebrate Lord Shiva's birthday. We were given the option of continuing work regardless or taking a day off too. In the end we compromised and worked a half-day.
After work we walked into town in search of a temple. On the way our i-to-i co-ordinator explained that Lord Shiva smoked a lot of hash and had sex with a bull. This holiday is traditionally celebrated by doing as Shiva does, but with less bull fucking. (I hope...)
Anyways, we found a local temple, took our shoes off, and looked around. From the amount of grapes and bananas scattered around the temple I can only presume that Lord Shiva liked these particular fruits. (Perhaps they were an invigorating interlude between sessions of hash and bestiality)
A religious figure (brahman?) approached us and gave us a blessing by rubbing a red paste (tikka?) on our foreheads. He then offered us a small, white, apparently-edible ball - An offering that our guide explained is infused with hash. I was apprehensive yet simultaneously did not want to deny myself an authentic experience so I at half of the mystery white ball.
As it turns out the hash-balls were quite mild so I had a few more and waited in nervous anticipation for my digestive system to process the hash.
Meanwhile, Guy - who doesn't care for putting mystery substances in his mouth (clever chap) - had set out to find a smokable, Lord-Shiva-approved high. We found some friendly locals waving about bags of weed and making 'come hither' gestures at us. Guy asked for, and received, some weed, but on offering to pay the local said "No no, just live a good life and be happy". Pay? Don't be silly. Nepali people are very generous.
We wandered towards home - or rather, by this stage, I floated towards home - and on the way found a house that was surrounded by loud music and jubilant, dancing locals. We stopped and listened for a while before tentatively requesting to head inside. To our surprise they happily invited us in.
The atmosphere was incredible. Men, women, and children were all dancing, talking, and eating. Their attitude towards us was one of curiosity and wonder rather than the suspiciousness and animosity that we would impart of wedding gatecrashers back home.
I tried my best to act as a sort of "ambassador of dance" representing Australia but more realistically I probably just looked like a fool who'd just wandered into a spiderweb. Nevertheless the locals clapped and cheered and were as enthusiastic as we were. I danced with the children, the high-as-kites men, and one particularly beautiful and flirty Nepalese woman. The hour or so that we spent at that party was so surreal, so vibrant, and filled with such a pure joy that surpassed all cultural differences that I'm sure will remember it for the rest of my life.
Almost as enjoyable as the party itself was recounting the afternoon with Guy on the walk home. We were all enjoying the warm afterglow of hash and talking and really didn't feel like anything could have possibly made me happier at that point.