If I could somehow take almost everything as metaphorical, I would. So, you can only imagine how I’m handling the resurrection of the once seemingly abandoned construction project outside my window. Perhaps where I’m headed is some sort of connection between the construction of the building across the road and my own inner construction that’s taken place over the past two and a half weeks. I have begun working with two more projects in Kathmandu. One is with an orphanage in the area (I will come back to this). And for the other I am doing PR and promotional work and writing for a great non-profit centered on women’s empowerment and skill building that takes place in my very own home here in Kathmandu. I shall return to explain these soon. I am beginning to feel comfortable here, and the stares, even if they involve the starer stopping right in the middle of the road just to look at me, don’t phase me as much anymore. Sometimes I forget the color of my skin, or at least forget how very different I am from them on the outside. I only remember by the stares. It’s so interesting because there would never be a scenario where I am from in which a single darker skinned person walked through a crowd of light-skinned people and the majority group just stared pointed and laughed quite obviously. Apart from a good portion of hippies, and those who only hang out in the concentrated tourist district, people outside of that area get confused by my very existence. I am beginning to understand life here, and for as much as I often crave my normal standards of living, breathing, and eating at home, I feel obliged somehow to stay here and soak in the lifestyle even more.
I am beginning to see the same faces, everywhere: in the neighborhood where I live, the neighborhood where I work, in Thamel-some of the same shop owners say hi to me repeatedly. It’s not tourism, doing it this way. It’s something more.
I will eventually cover one of my new duties here in a separate post, but for now I’d like to talk about my morning at the orphanage. I knew it would be challenging, but all was illuminated when one near flawless little girl sang the Happy Birthday song while I was holding her. This told me a few positive things: 1) She somehow telepathically, maybe, knew it was my birthday in 2 days, 2) She’s learning English, 3) And despite the fact that she was orphaned and had such a tiny physical frame, she seemed pretty happy. The orphanage wasn’t all good though. Only three of the children were full orphans. Some had no mother or father and some had both parents but just dropped the children off for the day since the orphanage also operated as a day care center. Not all of the day was full of lots of love and hugs and kisses from little kids, though. Much of what I saw struck me hard. One of my friends, who has been volunteering at the orphanage for about a week now told me that one of the baby girls, only a few months old, was wearing the same outfit she had work the previous three days. The baby did not smell good, and after she had an accident there was no way of cleaning her up or changing her clothes. I am also sure that she had no diaper either. I felt horrible just watching her cry in her dirty clothes. This would be unacceptable in our country. A parent would be shamed, but here there are not many other options. The little girl Nisa, who I mentioned before, was very beautiful. She had hazel eyes and looked more Mongolian than Indian, as Nepali people tend to go either way. She was very different from another girl, Ishna, who still had her parents. Ishna was showing off her snacks and pretty pencil case full of things to Nisa, who clearly did not have these sorts of things. Though they seemed to be friends, I could not help but feel for Nisa. I took to her immediately. The children somehow make things more worth the while. One thinks, If I do this than one day they will believe they can do this. The will remember what I say, how I hold them, how I smile at them. They will remember how much I care.
Outside my window, the men are finally recommencing their construction work. Panels are being erected on top of the building. They are whistling and sweating and working hard. The building is coming together. I like to look out every morning and have poetic moments, naturally. Maybe I’m gaining new panels, some of them are being painfully hammered into me, but once they’re in, I feel strong and empowered, like I can make a definite difference. I feel differently about the world. I feel differently about myself. I am a different building than what I was before.