More From Nepal…

by   |  04.26.11  |  Uncategorized

After Awhile, Crocodile
By redthreadmovement

Rule Number Nine (While in Asia): They will assume you have rhythm and like to dance.

I have been to my fair share of countries, so I think I’m qualified to say that, compared to the rest of the world, Americans are rhythmically challenged. Apparently, the Nepalese are not aware of this because I cannot count the number of times they have asked me to dance. I think they assume that I have some moves they’ve never seen before (which is true, my dance moves probably have never been seen before, but that’s because I’m so bad at it!) I should probably also clarify that when they ask me to dance, they’re assuming that I am just going to dance, by myself, in front of them, to Indian music I’ve never heard before. Yeah, no thank you!

I had two new experiences today:

1. I learned how to drive stick shift. Perhaps I should clarify. I was not actually in the driver’s seat (if I was I probably wouldn’t have lived to be writing this post). The driver simply allowed me to move around the stick while he drove, so that I could learn how to change gears…baby steps.

2. I rode on a motorcycle! I am now convinced that the first vehicle I purchase will have two wheels (and a motor! My mom and dad thought I should also only have two wheels for college, but their version involved pedaling).

A woman in the market yesterday asked me where I was from. When I told her the United States, she seemed thoroughly shocked. She told me that my face was so cute, I must be from the Middle East! While I’ve been told that I look Middle Eastern before, it’s never been justified by the fact that I have a cute face. I got a good laugh out of the encounter!

This morning, I met with the U.S. State Department’s Trafficking in Persons Analyst. We had met by the U.S. Embassy in Kathmandu on my previous trip to Nepal in January, so this time I asked him if he would like to come out and visit one of the border stations supported by the Red Thread Movement. I enjoyed going back to the border and visiting some old Nepalese friends, while showing him around. He is doing research right now for the 2011 Trafficking in Persons Report that will come out this summer, featuring a section on the trafficking in Nepal. To read last year’s report, check out the 2010 Trafficking in Persons Report.

I also left for Kathmandu today. It was really hard to say goodbye to the girls. I am an emotional wreck when it comes to goodbyes, and as soon as someone else starts crying I just lose it. So, it was a pretty tearful farewell. I only have one brother, so I’m not exactly sure what it feels like to have a sister, but I think it’s safe to say that those girls really became like the sisters I never had. Despite being victimized by trafficking, cheated by love and deceived by lies, these girls taught me what it means to be “home,” how to love purely and fully and what it looks like to be lit from the inside by this contagious joy. I may never see all of these girls together again, but I consider them my adopted family, and the virtues they’ve taught me will stick in my heart for a lifetime.

More to come from Kathmandu:
Tomorrow: Meeting with International Organization for Migration
Monday: Meeting with UNICEF and UNDP

April 16, 2011
Happy New Year!
By redthreadmovement

Rule Number Eight (While in Asia): Not only is Nepal 10 hours and 45 minutes ahead of the Midwest, it is also ahead by approximately 57 years!

Yes, on April 14, I celebrated New Year’s for my second time this year (this due to the fact that Nepal runs on a different calendar than most of the world).  In honor of this happy event, the girls and I went for a picnic in a park about three hours from the safe house.  They loved the field trip, and the drive to the park was beautiful!  I am a native Minnesotan, so even the foothills here look like mountains and take my breath away.  What also took my breath away was how close our driver got to the edge of the road driving on these “mountains” (I’m not so good with heights).

On New Year’s we also celebrated the House Mother’s birthday with a delicious black forest cake that I hunted down in the market.  The birthday party was a blast as we ate and danced to Nepali/Hindi music (I was also so relieved to get some sugar back into my system).  The Nepalese people, probably for the best, don’t tend to eat many sweet things.  They much prefer salt, lots and lots of salt (oh, and don’t forget the chili peppers).  Needless to say, my mouth has been on fire for most of my time here!

Sugar cane juice has taken the place of coffee in my life!
Yesterday, one of the girls offered me this digestive tablet that you’re supposed to chew to help you digest your food.  The girls were all eating them with genuine delight, so I figured they must be good (and I can use all the help here with digestion that I can get).  I should have known, however, that if the Nepalese liked them, I was probably in trouble.  Chewing that little tablet was like drinking salt water from the Dead Sea (which I have accidentally done), and it was probably one of the top five grossest things I have ever tasted in my life (with pig intestine soup also being on that list). It took chugging a litre of water to get the taste out of my mouth.

In my personal opinion, Nepal’s two greatest attractions are its mountains and its markets!
Since being here, I have also learned some of the girls’ stories, as to how they ended up at the safe house.  The following is only one of these stories, but it provides great insight into what the trafficking process looks like and how it operates.  For the girl’s safety, I have not included her name:

This is the story of a 13-year-old girl who studied to grade six.  Due to the size and poverty of her family, she could not complete her studies, so she helped her mother in household activities and her father on their farm.  Her parents were very happy with her, but she was not happy because she had to drop out of school.  One day, a stranger came into her village and proposed that she marry him.  She was young and scared to marry him and initially refused his proposal.  However, the man was not ready to give up, and he and his parents forced her to marry him.  He was 26 years old, twice her age.  Although she did not accept her marriage, she was complacent to go with her new husband when he asked her to leave Nepal for India.  He promised that he would keep her happy, and she believed him, so they went.  On the border of Nepal and India, they came to a border station supported by the Red Thread Movement, where a counselor working there asked the two of them questions regarding their travel into India.  The man told the counselor that they were married and beginning a new life outside of Nepal.  However, the counselor did not trust the man, because he was so much older than the girl.  So, both were separated and asked questions individually, and the girl told the counselor how she had met the man. The counselor explained to her what trafficking was and told her that she had encountered and rescued many girls with stories like her’s, who had been forced to marry men intending to traffick them.  It was then that the girl understood she was going to be sold by this man now claiming to be her husband.  The counselor offered the girl an opportunity to leave the man and receive shelter and additional training at a safe house, and the girl agreed; the man was turned into the police stationed at the border.  After a year at the safe house, the girl has just returned home with an education in sewing and a new chance at life in her village.