After a bad bout of the johhny-jump-ups I’m back to work and beginning to settle in. I rise with the rest of the Nepalis, at 5 or so, puddle around on the rooftop garden having tea in my pajamas and then get myself into the shower. On clear mornings I can see the Himalayas looming up behind the Kathmandu Valley hills like a huge, benevolent spirit. I study Nepali for about half an hour and then gather up whatever I’m bringing to the orphanage, and walk two minutes to the west to its gate. There I am greeted by beautiful, cheerful children who throw themselves on me, all six of them wanting to hug me at once. They grab my hands and pull me into the house.
On the way to this delightful destination, I pass intensely thin and dark-skinned women throwing bricks into enormous baskets that hang from straps around their foreheads and balance on their back. They are building a house. Sometimes they stand at a plastic barrel brimming over with water and cement, mixing the water into the sand by hand. Or they are shoveling dirt. They labor in the mud or on rocky ground in full sun from early in the morning until sundown. They wear ragged, faded saris and tie their hair back with the scarves that wealthier women wear properly draped across their chests. They work for men and receive very little to live on. They did not go to school. They have no marketable skills, no property, no support system. If they fall ill, they die. I think about this as I pass them on my way to work that never feels like work in the morning. I salute them with Namaste as I go, and they return the greeting. And then I thank the universe that we have the chance to save Gorima, Nirmala, Anura, and Krishala from their fate. Because of VSN, its staff, and its current and former volunteers, they have a clean and pleasant house, nutritious food, and a good school. They have also been very lucky to find a home with Bimala, who is loving, patient, and kind to them. All of this costs money, and without donors from abroad these kids would end up breaking and hauling rocks or worse. Many Nepali girls are sold into servitude or sexual slavery by parents who can’t afford to keep them. They spend their lives in windowless, dank rooms submitting to rape. Anura, Gorima, Krishala, and Nirmala are lucky. Today I brought earrings for the girls and nothing for the boys, so I’ll have to find something tomorrow.