Posted from Kathmandu, Nepal
We've been in Nepal for an entire week and it's one of those weeks that feels like a lifetime and a moment, at the same time. I know that there are some of you out there who are just dying to know what it's like for us over here, and in the next few paragraphs, I'm going to do my best to give you a mental picture. Briefly though, you should know that of all of the places we've been, of all of the experiences we've had in the past 3.5 months, of all of the things we've seen and done, Nepal is the best and most amazing.
As Matt said, life in Nepal is a lot calmer than life in India. Which is to say that there are still honking cars, cows in the road, power cuts, touts, undrinkable water, trash in the fields, and tons of tourists, but there are just way fewer of all of those things. It doesn't hurt that Kathmandu is in a valley, surrounded by these beautiful mountains that everyone around here refers to as hills. They're mountains to me! We're hoping to catch a plane to check out some of those really famous peaks that are about 100 km from here this weekend. (And Andy, we'll be in a plane the whole time, so we shouldn't need the Diamox!)
We're slowly but surely getting used to the power cuts and the repitious meals. But seriously people, daal bhaat really IS good. And for the vegan that reads this website: I am learning how to make it because it is seriously the most nutritious complete meal I have ever eaten. While we're talking about food, I should take a moment to tell you about mo:mo. They're these little dumplings that look like something you get at a chinese restaurant, but they're just...BETTER. Also vegan-able. They are delicious with a glass or three of Everest Beer. Yes, people, Everest Beer.
The majority of our time, at least, the part of our day that takes the most energy, is spent with the seven little reasons that it's going to be so hard to leave this amazing place.
Ramesh is 8 and he is the newest addition to the orphanage. All of his living relatives died and kind neighbors brought him to VSN when they found him living on the street. He has never been to school. He eats like he might not get another meal. But at the end of every day, when he's tired and doesn't want to admit it, he likes to curl up in Matt's lap. And just yesterday, he read me an entire alphabet's full of words, in English!
Sangita is the leader of the group. She's 7-and-a-half and she's the kind where the half is really, really important. She reminds me of a woman I used to work with in Maine, because she's got this big belly laugh that just invites your own laughter, even when you have no idea what's funny. She loves, like absolutely LOVES, to sing and dance. The bedtime ritual includes a nightly performance by Sangita. I plan to take a video of it to share with you guys who want to have your heart smitten with love for this sweet little girl.
Sujan and Poonam are siblings. Sujan is 7 and he's just got so much energy that he occasionally needs to let it out by doing gymnastics off of his bunk bed and splitting his head open right before bedtime. True story. Remind me to tell you about that time I was in Nepal and this kid cracked his head open and needed 5 stitches and there was no anesthesia and a pair of rusty scissors. Sujan is the kind of kid whose affection you sort of have to win. But once you win it, every so often you'll look over at him and catch him looking at you and winking and smiling this shy little smile and you just want to scoop him up and kiss his devilish little cheeks. Poonam is absolutely the smiliest kid I've ever met. Except that she also seems to know the power of her tears and will cry when she's not getting her way. I totally identify with her, because I remember being 5 and feeling sad enough to wail about nothing at all. She also feels a really strong connection with Matt and will walk up to him about 5 or 6 times a day just to grin and run away.
Vijay is the most ticklish of the group. He's also 5 and is a very, very happy kid. He's so ticklish that you can stand about a foot away from him, wiggle your finger in his general direction, and watch him fall to the floor, laughing and gasping for air. Because he's quiet and very unassuming, I tend to forget that he's there. But then he'll run up to me with his notebook in his hand, grinning and saying my name (which sounds a lot like "Lijjy" over here) and screaming, "tickle, tickle, tickle!"
Vivek and Vikesh are also siblings. Vivek is 4 and Vikesh is 2 and they're both just so cute that I have to remind myself not to hold them all the time. vivek is the type of kid who would probably be considered ADD at home, but here he's just got a ton of energy, is surrounded by kids twice his age, and has already experienced a life that's harder than most of us will ever dare to have nightmares about. Even in the week that we've been here, he's calmed down more, which could partly be due to the fact that he and his brother were finally united last week. Vikesh is just a little smooshy thing, always wanting to be carried, trotting around behind the older kids just in case they remember him and want to play with him.
Before we came here and spent this time with these kids, I knew that kids could be amazing and inspiring. I knew that they could make you sit back and take stock of your life and wonder what on earth you were doing before they came along. I knew that someday, when the time is right, I would want to come to a country a lot like Nepal and adopt a kid a lot like any of the kids at this orphanage. Here's what I didn't know: I didn't know that you could fall in love with a kid in an instant. I didn't know that loving a child is probably one of the easiest things to do, even when that child isn't yours, and can only say "Hello, how are you I am fine thank you" in your language. I didn't know that an orphanage could be a happy place, filled with laughter and songs and kids who are healthy and sweet and amazing. I also didn't know that despite the happiness of the New Life Children's Home, that once a day a kid like Sangita walks over to the corner, and looks out at the room with an expression on her face that spells the sadness of a thousand lost experiences. I didn't know that a kid like Ramesh would walk up and tell me that he didn't have a mother and he didn't have a father, but that he would really like both, please. I knew that being here would plant a teeny tiny seed of change in me, in the way I think about the world and the hungry and lonely children who live in it. I just didn't expect it to happen so quickly.
We've got just under a week left in this amazing little corner of the world. That's 13 meals of daal bhaat, at least three plates of mo:mo, heaps of Everest Beer, and as many hugs and kisses and tickles as I can fit into the next 6 days.