I had a bit of a heart attack on Sunday. I only have 4 weeks left in Nepal. Gulp! How did that happen? I have seen two waves of volunteers come and go, and it is a bit unsettling to think that it will be me next. I have gone through the initial phase of I-have-no-idea-what-I’m-doing, then a few weeks later I hit the I-am-finally-getting-the-hang-of-things phase, but now my life here has begun to feel almost entirely like home. I desperately don’t want to, but I know I will have to start mentally preparing to come home sooner than I would like. Poop.
This past weekend we took the long, bumpy ride to Pokhara again so the new volunteers could get a taste of tourism. We booked our beloved bungalow again (of course). Because this was my second time I wasn’t as worried about seeing everything and took things a bit slower. I finally got some souvenirs I had been meaning to buy, and I went paragliding for the first time. I didn’t tell my parents until after I was on the ground safely. I hope they appreciated that.
Because things are winding down, there will progressively be less and less to tell. You will probably appreciate no longer getting novels. So…you’re welcome? This past week consisted of the regular projects as well as taking on the last dregs of our team members’ projects. We are all buckling down and helping each other power through to the end. In addition to Days for Girls, English teaching and DOKO Recyclers, I am helping with painting some classrooms at our girls’ school and doing a summer camp for our girls. I hate to embarrass her, but Kim had the amazing idea to do these “I Am” days while the girls have a 2-week summer break from school. Remember when I told you that at the end of prayers, the girls chant “I am beautiful”, “I am powerful”, and “I am healthy”? Kim’s genius idea was to devote a day to each of these mantras.
Amidst all the planning for the I Am days, Dillon, Mickinley and I continued to do our regular English teaching. Of all the projects, I definitely struggle with this one the most, but it is also the most rewarding. I usually enjoy teaching, but teaching to a group of teenagers who do not understand most of what you say poses a unique challenge. On top of this, their rockstar principal wants us to teach heavier topics like gender roles, morality, and even first aid. I love my class dearly, but they have given me a run for my money. I frequently come home from teaching feeling a bit drained. This week Prabin stabbed Susahn in the butt with the poky end of a compass. That was exciting. Discipline and learning is a fine balance, but I definitely feel like I’ve bonded with the class and that their English has improved. I have certainly gained a newfound respect for teachers!
Wednesday was “I am beautiful” complete with mehendi, facials, a hair station and, most importantly, an object lesson on true inner beauty. It could not have gone better! My team was called Khushi and Creative (khushi in Nepali means “happy”). We had a cheer and everything. The object lesson consisted of our lovely Goma (the manager of Raksha) wearing a white shirt as we smeared dirt on her to represent cruel words that might make us feel lesser. After the dirty shirt was removed to reveal a beautiful dress underneath, each team took turns adorning her with jewelry which represented, respectively, compassion, integrity, endurance, patience and forgiveness. The symbolism involved with this activity, especially the fact that it was presented to our girls was incredibly heartwarming and, I admit, that I was pretty darn close to tears.
Thursday was “I am powerful” and consisted of kickboxing, tug-of-war, arm wrestling, and a fun balloon-popping activity. Dang these girls are strong! This is probably obvious, but, yes, we ended with a dance party.
Friday was our grand finale. “I am healthy” day was a hit with hand-washing, lice checks and I even got to teach CPR. That was definitely an adventure to train 50+ little nurses, but was a blast!
Sunday was the last day of our weekend, so we headed into town to see the sights and run errands. Unfortunately, one of the girls in our group got sick…really sick. By the time the day was said and done she was exhausted and dehydrated enough to make her almost entirely bedridden. Around midnight she was feeling so sick that she, Wyatt, and Natalie hopped in a taxi to take her to the hospital. She spent the next 24 hrs receiving IV fluids and sleeping on and off. Yikes! Drink water everyone!
They stayed at the hospital for most of today (Monday) as well, but thankfully the Nepali nurses and doctors are fantastic and took very good care of her. In light of their absence we continued to work on our projects and go about our routines as normally as possible. Morning yoga was a success, and so, to some degree, was English teaching, but painting was put on hold a bit due to some obnoxious kids who had decided to duck into our paints and paint over our lovely pirate ship and lighthouse. It was a bit shocking and frustrating, but we still have plenty of paint to cover up these shenanigans and start over.
Early this evening we walked up to Raksha to say hi to the girls before prayers and dinner, and were surprised to find 5 new girls had moved in, one of which was a 9-month-old baby. They seemed to be somber and quiet like most of the new girls who come in, but this was the first time I had met them upon first arriving. Again, like most of the new girls who come in, you can see a tangible sadness in their eyes. This young mother caught my attention the most. She is my age, but life’s experiences seemed to have aged her. Her baby was wailing as she was trying to unpack her few belongings into their new room, and she seemed burdened with logistics as well as her screaming child. There was a moment, though, when this new mother, holding her child in her arms, happened to cross the path of another young girl and her baby, the only other mother-and-child pair at Raksha. I saw the four of them framed between pillars and felt my breath catch in my throat a little at the bitter sweetness of the scene. I know almost nothing about this new Raksha mother, but judging by the multitude of scars on her arms and face, her story is probably not much prettier than anyone else’s. Regardless of how vastly different each girl’s story is, I’ve seen the same pain initially in the faces of every one of the new girls. The beauty of Raksha though, its magic if you will, is its ability to change these expressions. Since being here I have watched between 10-12 girls stumble into Raksha, not exactly knowing what to do with the trauma they have experienced, but slowly beginning to open up with their sisters and begin a new life. Though there are many things I love about Raksha, this might very well be one of my favorites. The magic and sacredness of Raksha has helped prostitutes become nurses, has turned venomous street children polite and well-read, and has given a full and wonderful life to a children and their young mothers.
I hope everyone is loving life and staying healthy!
Peace, love, and dal bhat!