A visit from Clay Olsen

Namaste Family and Friends,

              Namaste is the most common form of “hello” but can be easily replaced with namaskar. I don’t actually know the difference, so I usually stick with Namaste. It’s actually more than just “hello”. Apparently its deeper meaning is more along the lines of “my soul sees the soul in you”. Imagine if they did that in the US! How many fewer people would be lonely? How many fewer people would feel invisible? That is one thing that Nepal does incredibly well, people are seen. Never once have I felt ignored by a Nepali. They do truly take the time to see you. Some other important vocab includes dhanyabad (meaning ‘thank you’), tapailai kosto cha (‘how are you’), mero nam [your name] ho (to introduce yourself) and, perhaps most importantly, malai boozah desos (‘can I have more rice please’). There you go, you learned something new today! 

              This week was a busy one! We got around to having a birthday party for some of the girls on Monday (complete with cake and pizza), and, of course, tons of dancing. There are a few new girls at the shelter and most of them are really young, including Susmita. Susmita is a little firecracker. She is about 6 years old, is a fantastic dancer and her English is superb! She is so incredibly loving and every time she sees me she runs up to me and throws her arms around my neck.  When these girls pull you onto the dance floor it is nearly impossible to say no. They dance long and hard and even when you feel like you’re going to fall over you can’t help but dance along too. Susmita insisted on me dancing with her in my arms and my friend Kate was kind enough to capture the moment.

             Wednesday was a bit chaotic because half the group went to earthquake cleanup and the rest were back and forth from the airport. Wyatt and Natalie were ferrying the 6-week volunteers to their flights to leave Nepal. Isn’t that insane that we’ve passed the halfway point already?  If anyone has an ‘in’ with any time-travelers, please send me their number so I can ask them to make this program last longer. It is going by far too quickly! Everyone on earthquake cleanup pitched in to haul rocks for 7-8 hours. Our group is tough!

              Wednesday was full of all kinds of adventures, because that night we also welcomed Clay Olsen to Raksha, Nepal. For those who (like me prior to Thursday) had no idea who Clay Olsen was, he is the CEO of the organization Fight the New Drug, which is devoted to combating the modern drug of pornography. Fight the New Drug is based in Utah, but has become an international phenomenon. Raksha welcomed him with open arms as a fellow advocate for fighting sex trafficking in Nepal. I was shocked to hear about how prevalent pornography (or, as they call it here “blue movies”) was even in Nepal. Clay gave different presentations on pornography to local high schools. The presentation was enlightening, but chilling. He shared stories from addicts and victims alike, and the consensus seemed to be that pornography addictions are terrifyingly common, and terrifyingly mind-twisting. One extremely compelling video he shared was that of Elizabeth Smart, who was kidnapped and repeatedly raped by her captor at age 14. Here is the link: https://www.nbcnews.com/news/us-news/elizabeth-smart-her-captivity-pornography-made-my-living-hell-worse-n635066. If you or a friend are struggling with a pornography addiction, or you want to learn more about its prevention, I highly recommend checking out the Fight the New Drug website.

              I will end this with the way we end most days – prayers with our girls. At about 7:00 every night they file up the stairs and sit in lines cross-legged in the prayer room. Prior to coming to Nepal I had never experienced anything quite like this. I will do my very best to paint a picture, but I definitely won’t be able to capture the true spirit of the experience At the front of the prayer room is a shrine adorned with paint, scarves, candles, and portraits of the Gods. Not all the girls are Hindu, so there are some Islamic, Buddhist, and even Christian artifacts on this shrine, as well as some prayers recognizing the other religious beliefs. Everyone in the room closes their eyes as the music begins. A few of the 10-12 year old girls usually play the drums and finger cymbals (and I  get to play occasionally when they’re willing to forgive my lack of rhythm) while the 13-16 year old girls take turns leading the chants. They sing with high, lilting voices that only Nepali and Indian women seem to be able to do. The chanter will often lead a call-and-repeat or we will simply sing along with her. As the prayers continue, the clapping, drumming, music and singing gets progressively louder. In such a small room you can feel 40-50 voices reverberate in your chest as they cry out to God at the top of their lungs. Their final chant is my favorite. Though I don’t know exactly what they are saying in Nepali, I understand that it is a plea to God, seeking out a relationship with him. I don’t think I can accurately describe how heartbreakingly beautiful it is. As the prayers come to a close, one of the girls comes around to give us white powdered tikkas, the incense candles are lit and the lights are turned off to allow the girls time for quiet meditation.