Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Poverty, Child Slaves, Education

Poverty....It's an ugly word. Nepal is no stranger to it as it ranks in the top 15 poorest countries in the world.
Everyday I'm reminded of the poverty here in Nepal. In the mornings I sometimes go to roof top and gaze the landscape around me. Women and children walk down the dirt path with empty plastic bottles in each hand to go gather water. They wait in line as other people are using that same watering spot as a shower/laundromat. Everyday the power goes out for a total of 4hrs. Soon it will get into the double digits. 37.7% of the people spend about 1 dollar a day, while only 35% have use of adequate sanitation facilities. Out of 1,000 kids 75 don't get to the age of 5. Health is a big issue for Nepal.
There are very kind generous people here, but there are also very corrupt people here in Nepal. They will do anything for money it. There are people who will go to rural villages and tell families their child can go to school and be taken care of. The parents not being able to take care of the child want the best for the child and accept. They sign a paper not knowing what it says because they can't read. What ends up happening is the "home" that the man works for puts the kid up for adoption. He can do this because the mother/father signed their kid away and didn't even know it. A wealthy family for the west adopts the kid for up to 25,000 dollars. When the parents find out its too late and can do nothing about it.
This leads to the literacy rate. 48.6% of the total population can read, while only 34.9% of women can read in Nepal. This has to change. In Nepal women are thought as a burden. Families rather have boys and if the mother has a girl she is considered bad luck or its her fault. The women do all of the work. I see this everyday with my own eyes. When I walk outside my door I see women cleaning the dishes or getting the water. The men in the meantime are playing games or just sitting drinking tea.
If a family is really poor and needs money they usually sell the girls. Women are promised sometimes better futures, money, and schooling by people. These people trick them and take them to brothels to become prostitutes. They are trafficked all over the world. To India all the way over to the middle east over to eastern China. When they go to other countries they can't escape because they can't read or know anything about the place. Also the people who are holding them there say they will go to jail cause they are there illegally.
These girls are as young as 9 years old. They work 7 days a week and have maybe up to 11 "clients" a day. There are estimated around 200,000 women and girls as sex slaves in India. Police are paid off by the brothels to not do anything. In the world its said that every minute 2 children are sold. The girls are usually set free when they either contract HIV or some other STD. They can not return to their homes after because they are not allowed back. They usually stay in the business and become recruiters for new girls.
There is a vicious cycle, but it can be broken. Education can fix the problem I believe. Kids should be able to go to school, learn and laugh. Be able to write and read. Be taught about the dangers that are out there and how to stop them. There are many problems in Nepal these are just some of them. Hopefully the children of the future will see the change soon...

Monday, December 14, 2009

Dhapasi Days

Since my last entry I have not left Dhapasi once. I've spent all my time hanging out with Vinod, Anita, and the children. For those of you who don't know, Dhapasi is in the northern part of the valley in Kathmandu.

Nepal Orphan Homes is the name of the organization I am volunteering at. In Dhapasi it has now four hostels. Three girls hostels and one boys hostel. Vinod (21) is in charge of the boys hostel and his sister Anita is in charge of one of the girl's hostel.

My days have usually started whenever I hear one of the other volunteers getting up, children yelling outside, adults singing outside, or people building things next door. I usually stay in my warm sleeping bag as long as I can. I think about what i'm going to do that day.......even though I know, but I think the real reason is because I just like having a little time to myself. You know just to think about things and put thing in perspective. So anyway I get up at like 8:30 and have a quick bite to eat then run down to Vinod and Anita's hostel to take the kids to school. When I get there the kids are usually already lined up and waiting for the kids from Michale's (founder) hostel to come. As I walk in the youngest children are the first to come up to me and greet me. "Hello Sam Brother! Good Morning! How are you?" For six days out of the week i'm lucky enough to have this happen to me. The same thing also happens when we pick them up from school.

While the kids are at school I either go out with Vinod and help him with some work that he has to do for Michael or I stay and teach the new girls, which are not ready to go to school with the other kids yet. These girls who are from the Dang district in western Nepal are ages 5-15 I believe.

During the week of Thanksgiving Vinod and Anita had to go to their village for a few days. Michael asked me if I would stay at the boys hostel and watch them. I said "yes" of course. It was a really good experience and if Vinod needed a day off ever I would do it in a heart beat. (I dont think this would ever happen because Vinod loves his job too much!!) The children wake up around 5am everyday. They do morning exercises,basketball,study,drink tea, eat breakfest, and then get ready for school. At night after dinner I would go around to the boy's rooms and give them meds that they needed. Cough medicine was the main thing givin to them.

I'm really thankful that Michael trusts me enough to watch the boys while Vinod is gone. I really enjoy being with the kids and hanging out with them. Last year when I was here it was kinda hard leaving, but this year I know its really really not going to be easy.

It's getting pretty cold here and Christmas is really close now. The kids are getting excited and I know they are going to love whatever Michael and is staff have in store for them. After Christmas I think im going to head south down to Narti. Its going to be much warmer there and I think I should leave the city at least one more time before I head back home. In Narti I'll prob be teaching there and hopefully learning more about child slavery and how to help stop it and prevent it from happening.

Well thats all for now. Have a great Christmas!!!
Ill post some pics on here sometime when I get the chance

Saturday, November 7, 2009

Bigu

About 1 week ago 3 other volunteers and I went to a small village to teach. The village's name is Bigu and is located in the Dolakha district of Nepal. The trip to get there includes a 10hr bus ride if nothing goes wrong and a day and a half walk up through a valley. After the valley the trail leads up and down a few hills before making a steep decent up to Bigu.

On our trip however it took 12hrs on the bus. Part of the bus ride is just goin up and down sides of mountains. This happens on non paved roads, which are bumpy as hell. So on the last leg of the bus ride the bus was coming around a corner and suddenly without warning slams into the side of the mountain on the left side. Everyone hurried out to see what had happened. I guess part of the axle had broken and the driver could not turn. So instead of turning right and going off the cliff to our death he slammed into the side of the mountain. THANK GOD..... We waited there about 2hrs, while someone went back to get a new part from another town. By the time we started up again it was dark and everyone was a little nervous getting back into the bus. We finally got to Singati were we spent the night.

The next day we began our hike to Bigu. The hike like I said starts down low in the valley and then rises up. We followed a river up most the whole day until we reached our stopping point for the day. We stayed with a family that the guide knew i guess. It was really cool to see a traditional Nepalese house and traditional cooking. However before i could enjoy anything I realized that i lost my camera somewhere. We looked everywhere for it, but finally gave up. Then suddenly after all hope was lost our guide came in and said someone found it. Turns out a kid found it then took it over the bridge to the other part of the village.

The finally day of hiking up to Bigu was by far the hardest for me. The trail lead up away from the river and up into the mountains. I haven't really trained and was not in shape for this at all. My knees kept cramping up and I was by far the slowest person out of the group. 4 hrs later we reached Bigu, which is perched on the side of the mountain 2500 meters high (8,000 ft).

Bigu is a spread out Sherpa village and is made of about 1,000 to 2,000 people. All of the people are Buddhists and speak Sherpa. Most of the younger residents speak Nepalese, but the older ones speak just Sherpa. The lodge we stayed at was very nice. The name of it was the Bigu Community Lodge. We all had beds to ourselves and the rooms were very clean. The lodge was built by an Austrian NGO from back in the day. The couple that runs it are very sweet and kind. They take good care of you and make you feel at home. The only flaw the lodge had was that it had bed bugs. I was the only one who got them too. If you have ever had them you know that its not fun at all.

The next couple of days we met with the monk that was volunteering teaching for the little nuns. We were very excited that we were going to be teaching them at the Nunnery. The Nunnery is home to about 60 nuns old and young. The kindest people you will ever meet. The volunteer teacher we talked to was 1 of the 2 only men there. The other was a man named Dawa who is a Tibetan doctor. He is also the village doctor. He is 26 years old and speaks only Tibetian and some broken English. He spent the most time with us and took care of us. He would always feed, explain stuff, or just bring us tea all the time. He had a big heart and wants to help that Nunnery out as much as he can.

A few days being in Bigu we were told that the main Lama of the Nunnery was coming to visit. This was a pretty big deal since he only comes every few years or so. When we meet him he had a smile on his face and just a positive presence to make you feel good inside. His English was good and he talked to us all the time. We got to have lunch/tea with him a bunch and talked about Nepal, life, the future of the Nunnery, and about each other. He even gave me a new name which is Samba Zangpo. This means "Good Mind". He said we were brothers because our ancestors are from Mongolia.

When we weren't drinking tea with the Lama or Dawa we were teaching. Me and another volunteer Dough taught the older girls while the other two taught the younger ones. These girls were great and wanted to learn a lot. We taught them English and then math. Doug and I went over the alphabet and did basic math problems. Some of the girls that had already been to school caught on quicker than the rest.

One of my favorite days in Bigu was the day Dawa took us up the side of the mountain that rose above Bigu. We woke up at 5am and started up the trail. The trail made a zig zag back and forth, but finally we made it right as the sun was rising. Dawa brought a pan and some food, which contained cookies, eggs, noodles, and some vegetables. We started a fire and watched the sun rise over the mountains as we looked down at Bigu. After breakfast we went up a little higher and there could see Tibet juts over in the distant. It was an amazing view and a great day.

Our last day in Bigu ended with us having dinner with Dawa and some of the older Nuns and the volunteer teacher/Monk. The food was great as it had been all week. We had a big day tomorrow. We were invited by the head Lama to ride back with him to Kathmandu. This was going to be an awesome day I thought to myself.....I think I jinxed myself.

Last Day: We wake up early in the morning. Some of the little nuns follow us to where the Lama is 1 and half hrs away. Our porter that is carrying some of our stuff wants to go one way while the nuns are going a different way. I and other Sam follow the porter. Doug and Rima go with the nuns. Sam and I go up this road forever and still no Lama. A jeep passes us going down and we think it's going to come back for us, but doesn't. Finally Sam and I stop. The porter won't go any further. We end up firing the porter and keep going thinking the Lama, Rima, and Doug are waiting for us further up. We keep walking and walking. Still nothing as we are reaching the highest part of the pass. We finally go into survival mode. Our plan is to keep walking until we get to the next town. Then we will try and find a bus to Kathmandu. It's about mid day by the time we get to the highest point of the pass. We are about 11,000-12,000 ft high. As we look down into the valley we see we have a long way to go. After cursing a bunch we start heading down. Maybe a hr and a half into walking to stop to take a break. Suddenly Sam says to me "I think I hear something". He quickly changes his mind and says "never mind", but the sound gets louder and I say "NO LOOK". The jeep rolls around the corner with the Lama in it. We are SAVED.

Doug and Rima are in the back of the jeep dirty as hell. The back of the jeep was like a cage and there was dust everywhere. We rode down the mountain like this for 2-3 hrs. Finally the bumpiness stops and we reach a paved road. We are now about 2hrs from Kathmandu. We Made It!

Bigu is full of warm people. The nuns at the monastery and the couple at the lodge were some of the kindest people I've ever met. Hopefully I can go back there one day and help out. Hopefully you can go there and see for yourself.

Namaste

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Less Than 10hrs in Western Nepal (Narti), 300 hundred Vomit bags, and a 3hr traffic jam

The title is very long, but it sums up a very frustrating trip I just attempted to take. This past Sunday 3 other volunteers and I headed out to western Nepal to visit Narti, which holds 50 girls in the hostel there. The hostel's name is Lawajuni, which means New Beginnings. This hostel is the second biggest one of four that Nepal Orphans Homes has created.
But lets hold up a second. Before we got to Narti there was a eleven hr bus ride not only with the volunteers, but with 20 something girls. Vinod the young man who is in charge of the boys hostel was also there to help the girls get there. So at 6:30am we took off from the big city of Kathmandu and headed to the wild west.
At first all of us were excited, but I started looking around the bus and noticed the girls heads in their laps or with their hands over their mouths. I looked at Jill another volunteer who was sitting next to me and then to Blanca who was in front of me. They both were seeing what I was seeing. Then I remembered the stories Vinod had told us the days before about how the girls vomit on the bus. Those poor girls were not used to riding in buses or cars like we were. To prepare for this however Vinod had thought ahead and brought 300 plastic bags with him. About half way to Narti Vinod had run out of bags. All 300 hundred!
When we got through the mountains and into the flat lands of southern Nepal the kids spirits started lifting and sick faces turned into smiles. They knew they were getting close to their homes and their families.
Now I forgot to write this before and I should probably explain something. These girls that are from Narti are all rescued child slaves. Their families sell them for money. Maybe some don't want to sell them, but most in my opinion could care less about them. Females in the country are thought as a burden. The girls are known as Kamlaris or indentured girls. The youngest girl that was on the bus with us had to be around 9 years old. As slaves the girls jobs are to clean, make food, or whatever the owner says. The girls are promised to go to school, but they never do. They eat the left over foods or don't even eat at all. The sleep on matts like dogs or dont even have a bed.
Ok so here's the crazy part. During Dashain, which is the 10 day national festival of Nepal. Most of the kids that have families go home. Even the girls who have been sold go home to their families. It's really strange. They are so used to this culture, which has been happening for generations that they dont see anything wrong. They think this is how life is supposed to be.
This blog is all over the place and im really sorry but just bear with me. We finally get to Narti and somehow on the way over i have started feeling really sick. My throat feels on fire and my head is just pounding. It's not looking so good for me. We step off the bus and the heat just hits us with a strong touch from ol' Mr. Humidity. We don't feel like moving and its just insane how hot it is.
We walk to an open field where we see parents waiting to pick up their kids. This makes me and the rest of the volunteers sick. These girls the sweetest people you will meet have to go home with these people who are not even excited to see them. One by one the girls leave smiling saying happy Dashain to us. The parents just have a blank look on their face with no emotion at all. I don't understand how you cant keep your daughter, but you can come and pick her up on your nice motorbike. Finally all the girls that have family are gone.
My body is weakening and the heat is still going strong. Vinod who brought the girls over is going back to Kathmandu in the morning. I think im going to join him if my sickness keeps getting stronger. The next morning i decided at the last minute to go back with Vinod as he is buying the tickets.
The bus ride home was good. I saw a girl vomit on herself, but I didn't really care at that point. I just wanted to get home. Then as we are going up the final mountain side before dropping into kathmandu valley the bus stops. The longest traffic jam I have ever seen has stopped us in our path. Inch by inch we creep up the hill side. Stopping and going never knowing when we will get home. The sun fades away and we are still not close to the top. I look at Vinod and ask "should we walk?" He thinks about it, but then decides not too. Thank god because the traffic begins to move. We finally pass what was making us wait for 3 hrs. A small semi truck had tried to pass another truck, but somehow slammed into the side of it. It didn't look fatal, but we don't know if anyone was killed or hurt. We decend into the valley and finally are home.

Saturday, September 12, 2009

End of the Monsoon

The power is out and its 8pm. Ive just brought a chair up to the roof at the volunteer hostel. As I sit there gazing across the northern part of the Kathmandu Valley I gain a sense of peacefulness. The warm breeze keeps the mosquitoes away from me, and lets me keep wearing my basketball shorts. Across the valley lights flicker low and high into the hills that surround me. Stars fill the air as I look up into the sky.
The first five days since I've been here it has rained. The last two however have been humid and sunny. For the first time I feel that the monsoon season is ending for good.
As the peacefulness engulfs me I am quickly disturbed by the dark valley lighting up again. The power has returned.

Sunday, September 6, 2009

The Begining of Nepal

I guess I should start this out by just saying I hate being on planes. It doesn't help that one of my favorite places in the world is in the other hemisphere. The plane ride over here to Nepal was uneventful. A flight down to San Fransisco from Seattle and then SF to Hong Kong. Finishing in Kathmandu, Nepal.
I arrived at night, and nothing was really going on when I landed. Vinod who is 21 years old picked me up at the airport. He is in charge of the boys hostel and is one of the kindest people you will ever meet. He brought me too the volunteer hostel, which I have never been to. Last year when I was here the volunteers shared a hostel with the boys, but that change this past year.
So there were already 4 volunteers there when I arrived. One of them I volunteered with last year so I was happy that I knew someone already. They are all really cool and down to earth people.
The next day I went to the childrens hostel to see all the kids that I meet last year. They all remembered me and made fun of me because of my beard......And because I had gained a few extra pounds bhahah. Anyway there were 27 new girls there at the orphange. They all used to be former Child Slaves. The old volunteer/boys house is where they live now, and the boys had a new hostel built for them this past year. There are 4 hostels in all for the children. Three girls and 1 boys hostel. The new girls at first were pretty shy, but on this second day have warmed up to me and are very sweet and kind.
Nepal is amazing I feel like i've been here for longer than two days. It feels like im not even away from my home. I wish there was more to say, but nothing has happened really. Just some light rain showers, quality bonding time with the children that make me smile and being with some great volunteers from around the world.

peace (more later)

Thursday, April 9, 2009

Testing this out?!?


I was just wondering how this whole blogging thing works.... Now i know, hopefully this will come in handy in the future.
Anyway this picture is of me and my two friends Hans and Mersia, who are from Sweden. I met them while i was volunteering in Nepal. They were traveling through America and decided to come visit me in Port Townsend. I actually helped them find a car for $500, which they drove across Amercia. Many thanks to Dave Pemberton for hooking up the car. They ended up selling the car for what they got it for. Hell Yea.