On September 14 the people of Sainte Croix, a village in the Jura mountains of Switzerland, had a hearty meal of daal-bhaat, kwanti, aloo ko achaar and momo among other typical Nepali dishes. The occasion was ‘Nepal Night’ and the meal was prepared by around 26 Ne-pali men and women, who had gone there as a part of an exchange programme on the invitation of the Sainte Croix community.
The meal was attended by Swiss President Micheline Calmy Rey, Ambassador of Nepal and Anne Sylvie, FACCARD President.
Back in Nepal after their Swiss hiatus, Pasang Kaji Sherpa, a member of the team, said, “Although their palate is different from ours, they really liked the food. More than 500 people came for the feast.”
Chhuldi Lhamu Sherpa, who is involved in the restaurant business in her village, learned about hospitality and also the recipe of the most famous Swiss dish called Rosti.
“I got a chance to know the different ways to decorate a restaurant and how to serve the guests. Their foods are very simple and easy to cook.”
Food was not the only part of ‘Nepal Night’. The group also presented a cultural programme encompassing various cultures of Nepal like Lakhe dance, Tamangselo, Dhami naach, religious songs and also the traditional wedding ceremony.
For all of them, this seven-day trip was a wonderful learning experience as they got a chance to visit and learn about the working of factories like cheese factory, chocolate factory and community centres like schools and hospitals.
They however could not stop talking about the discipline and civic sense of the natives of Sainte Croix.
Bir Bahadur Phami said, “They are very disciplined and systematic. They don’t litter and manage their garbage so well. Even when they are in the forest, they have these huge bins where they throw all the garbage.”
Phami was also fascinated by the way houses were built in Sainte Croix and added, “I will try it in my village.”
Brahma Dhoj Gurung brought out a poignant point, “While interacting with the media, they asked that since we all were from different castes and religions, would we stop following untouchability. This really made us think.”
He also talked about the women there, “Women there are very hardworking. They would come and lift huge drums, which even we would think twice before lifting. One thing that we learned was that work doesn’t define a person’s status.”
These people from remote parts of Nepal were even more humbled when the Swiss president not only
attended the ‘Nepal Night’ but also had dinner and talked about Nepal with much affection.
“How many of our leaders have come to remote parts like ours and talked with us? Our own leaders hardly have time for us, but she was there to celebrate with us,” added Gurung. So what do they have to say about the fact that Nepal is often said to resemble Switzerland?
“We were taken to the surrounding villages and we found the landscape looks like the one from our village. However, the hills there have more greenery. Plus the people out there also follow what we say atithi devo bhawa,” was Gurung’s prompt reply.
This brought out the topic that is common between the two countries — forests. They all agreed forests there were very well managed.
Rugu Kumari Thami said, “Their forest are still like they were 50 years ago.”
There was only one thing they didn’t like about the place as pointed out by
Maya Sherpa, “We went to this hospital for old people. People have a very fast and busy life out there, so they keep their old parents in such a place. We found it a bit odd as we have our grandparents at home.”
For a week, they stayed with people and didn’t even have a common language. But this didn’t hinder them from bonding with each other. Gurung said the host families and the Nepali team cried when it was time to say goodbye.