Two days ago this was my Facebook status: Today while interviewing a counselor and teacher for child domestic workers for my research publication, the counselor told me that the non-profit organization Room to Read is helping to fund new resources and books for the school. Three years ago I read a book by the founder of that same organization, and that was when I knew I wanted to go to Nepal. Life works in really strange ways, but seems to still come through with letting me know that I am in the right place.
I knew I was in the right place when I walked in to find the woman I was to interview reclining back and having her eyebrows threaded amidst young school girls getting hair cuts. I later learned that it was a special day at the school. The girls were receiving basic hygienic facilities, like haircuts, that the superior person of the home for which they worked usually did not allow for them to receive. Of the four teachers I was assigned to interview about their experiences as teachers and counselors for child domestic workers, she made the most impact on me, so I shall speak mostly about her.
First of all, any women to rock a bob hair style in a traditional society of women who all seem to sport that same long hair is my hero. And at least for the day, she was my hero. It’s interesting, interviewing someone who does not speak your language, and although there is a translator, you know you’re not getting nearly half of what she said in her native language. The teacher would speak for maybe five minutes ebfore I got my four second response from the Nepali volunteer who translated for me. This time, though, things were different. For some reason, when the translations came, I felt I had already known what she was saying. She spoke Nepali clearly, slowly, and passionately, right to me, looking into my eyes. I knew how she felt. I knew that in her 10 years as a teacher for children who had to choose between the bad and the worse, girls who hid their scars and emotional baggage from years of sexual assault by their domestic employer just so they would not have to face attention of pity, because they knew that life in the city with an education was better than being back in their rural home, with a step mother who abused them verbally and physically and a father who couldn’t care less about her well-being. I knew how much she cared and what’s more: I knew how happy she was to see me. My final question at Shree Rudramati Lower Secondary school was an open ended question asking the teacher what she thought was a very important point that I should be sure to stress in my report. She said, “More than we need education, we need counseling. Counseling plays a vital role; it is more than work. Every human needs it, in every culture, in every value system, and every society.” She also said that counseling always has a reciprocal effect on her. I then asked her if I could see a classroom and perhaps take pictures of the children. I was pleasantly surprised to find the class being taught by an energetic blind Nepali woman who was dancing and shouting excitedly in the middle of the room while the children sat repeating after her. I was introduced and the kids all stood and, in one accord, greeted me in English.
It was only right that while I was still on a high from the last group of children, I get caught in a swarm of excited Nepali kids testing on their English and admiring my whiteness at the next school. One of my favorite moments of the day was when a little girl, about 8 years old I’d guess, pinched me cheek and said, “You are so cute, miss.” Hey, I’ll take it. I love getting called cute, and if it’s coming from a young child, so be it.
All in all, I felt so much love in my two days of four interviews and school visitations. If I walk away with one single memory as I embark on the difficult task of interviewing the children, themselves, it will be a quote from my final interviewee, a 29-year veteran teacher. Her strength and motivation amazed me. Even after she told stories of cases where she did not have sufficient funds to help children in abusive situations and thus had to watch them drop out of school, even after she described to me that the only scholarship for girls of the Dalit caste (the lowest caste) is a 400 rupee (approximately 4 USD)/year scholarship, after she told of the abuse she’s seen and the stories she’s heard, she stated “I am proud because most of all, I have made them conscious of their rights as human beings.”
I came full circle in these two days. I sat in 2 school libraries funded by an organization that prompted me to come to this country. I sat there thinking: here I am, all kinds of marvelous things are going on, they’re cutting hair, they’re counseling, learning, speaking, loving. I must be on holy ground.