I have been given the opportunity for the journey of a lifetime - to volunteer in orphanages of Southeast Asia. While traveling and volunteering in Nepal and Thailand, I hope to contribute significant research to the field of children's human rights. The children of these countries suffer unbearable realities of human rights violations through child labor, bonded slavery, and sexual exploitation. As work for my graduate thesis, I am researching the organizations that exist to return these unfortunate children to their childhood.

Friday, December 12, 2008

It's not the end, but only the beginning....

I apologize for totally flaking on keeping blog updates over the past few months. I was just very involved with the children, and could never count on electricity when I had the time to blog!

I returned to the States a few days ago, and I'm feeling extreme reverse culture shock. I'm missing my Ama Ghar family so very much, but cannot wait to return to them next summer!!! It's difficult to put my overall experience into words, other than simply saying life changing. My heart is in Nepal with my new brothers and sisters, and I look forward to having them in my life forever.

Saturday, October 18, 2008

new pictures!

I have finally had time and electricity to download pictures! Since I am behind on my blog, several events have passed with these pictures- dancing competition, ground breaking ceremony, Pyuthan, and rice harvesting!

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

sweet comment

I just finished dinner (delicious as always!) with the boys. They secretly share food, or dump food on their neighbor's plate if they don't want it! One of the boys was sliding his plate around to everyone. I looked at him with question in my eyes and he said, "sister, sharing is caring." He gave me a big smile and then went back to eating. I could not stop laughing! It was just so sweet, but he is such a jokester that I never know if he's serious or not! Oh, and apparently I've picked up poor eating habits from our youngest boy, because I mix my dahl (lentils) and baht (rice) around on my plate, making a mess of my food. I keep forgetting that there are manners involved when I have my hand in my plate!


Bonjour and namaste! I started French lessons last week, so I’m doing my best to go back and forth between languages! My tutor is wonderful, and very, very French, so she’s been incredibly helpful. Who knew I could find a French tutor in Nepal?!

Shrawan, the founder of AmaGhar, arrived last week! He is such an amazing man. The house has been full of visitors every day! I’m really grateful I have the opportunity to interview him. And, Bonnie Auntie is back home too!!! This Saturday is a huge event – the formal ground-breaking ceremony for the new AmaGhar. Once the construction begins, the children should have a bigger, newer home within the next year or so. About 500 people have been invited to this event! In true Nepali fashion, the planning has just started today, so I’m interested to see how everything comes together….

In a few weeks I will be leaving for an AMAZING journey…..I am going to visit the children’s villages during their holiday!! During the month of October is the Hindu holiday of Dussain. Every year for Dussain, the children go to their homes to visit any family they may have. Most of the children come from an area called Pyuthan, which is where I will be traveling. After an 18 HOUR bus ride, I will have the opportunity to experience the “real” Nepal – no running water or electricity, walking hours from village to village, homes made of mud, and further simplicities I can’t even imagine. I am so very honored that the children have asked me to come to their homes. This will be a great way to become even closer to my new brothers and sisters. I am already considered part of the AmaGhar family, but this will certainly set that in stone. The journey will be long, uncomfortable, and difficult, but I’m up for the challenge! The intrinsic rewards are so much greater than any risks I may face.

Sunday, September 14, 2008

The daily questions

I have lost track of the number of times I have been asked,” what is this auntie?” “sister, why do you have so many things for your face?” On a daily basis the children will pick up every single thing in sight and comment or question. I am fully aware that I am a walking CVS, and have enough medicines and beauty products to supply an army. But what I’m realizing now as I explain myself to the children is that I never use these things! “Then why do you have it if you don’t use it?” Why has it taken a five year old to make me understand that I have way too much crap and it is all a waste of money?!!

The un-comical side to all this is when the children say, “oh auntie/sister you are so rich!” “No, I’m not” I insist. But then I realize that in comparison I really am. This is the hard part of being so close to the children. I am so grateful that they are comfortable enough to come into my room (always asking first, “may I come in?”), share stories, and ask about my day. But, I don’t like them having the perception that I am rich. I haven't been employed for over a year, but they have no conception of credit cards and the pointless debt I carry around. This totally negates my feeling as being their sister, as part of the family. I’m hoping this feeling remains when I return to the states and fall into the trap of Target….roaming for hours and putting pointless things in the shopping cart.

I also had this experience in Thailand with the children of the orphanage. Because Jennryn and I took taxis to the site, we were seen as “others” because we had the wealth to pay for this service. We started having the taxis drop us off away from the orphanage so we could create the perception that we were walking there.

So now, back in that yucky feeling of being viewed as overprivileged, I think I’m going to have to keep all my “stuff” tucked away. It’s funny how in America I am accepted to be a poor, unemployed graduate student. But, here in Nepal, simply because I lug around what I feel are necessitites, I’m viewed as rich. Here at AmaGhar (and most of Nepal) shampoo is considered a luxury item which is too expensive to be used. A simple bar of soap does the trick for the entire body. I tried this for about a week, but never seemed to feel clean enough! So, a few times a week, I indulge myself with a bit of shampoo and conditioner!

Reading with the boys

My favorite activity with the children is our reading groups. Because they are full of questions, we usually get distracted for a bit with stories about each other, and always a fit of giggles! I realized today though the difference between reading with my sisters and reading with my brothers…..spending time with teenage boys….In the midst of reading we went from the pronunciation of “garage” to seeing who could flare their nostrils. From endless contortions of our noses we then moved to making fish lips. A few times we would try to get back to reading, but I had already lost them :)!!! Once the boys moved from fish lips, they moved to making noises, and I don’t need to mention which bodily function they were imitating! Oddly though, it is much more relaxing to eat dinner with the boys than it is with the girls. I think it's because the boys are better at letting only 3 people talk at once, rather than the 6 simultaneous questions I get from the girls!

Friday, September 5, 2008

Home Sweet Home!!!

I'm back home at AmaGhar and couldn't be happier!!! From the minute I stepped in the doorway last week, I have been smothered with hugs and kisses from my brothers and sisters - I just can't get enough!!! I'm alternating nights of eating dinner with the boys and girls, and yep, always eating with my hands!

Already I have been a part of holiday celebrations. Last weekend was Father's Day, and all the AmaGhar children gave fruits, cards, and tikas (form of a blessing with red powder/liquid on the forehead) to their house fathers. It was so very sweet. I even made an attempt at giving my first tikas, and they of course ended up dripping into the poor men's eyes! I'll have to get a lesson on that later.

A few days later I was part of celebrating Teej (pronounced Tease), which is a holiday for all girls and women. The first step was getting fitted for the perfect bangle bracelets, my first ever! It was amazing to watch the girls choose their bracelets with such interest. After cutting my hand to pieces in the attempt to take the bangles on and off, I decided this will not be a normal occurance to wear them! I found out the hard way that the bangles are made of glass, not plastic!

The main celebration of Teej is around the temples of Durbar Square. I went into town with a few older girls, and two of the younger children. The beauty of all the red saris and glittering jewelry was stunning. I was fortunate to be dressed in Nepalese attire, so did my best to fit in. The women would gather in groups throughout the square to dance and sing, while drums pounded in the background. I was finally able to squeeze into a circle to get some pictures. One of the women grabbed my hand and pulled me into the dancing circle!!! Someone offered to hold my purse, the other took my camera and went crazy with taking pictures. I had no other option but to dance with the women, and pretend I knew what I was doing! The cheering got louder, and the crowd around us grew larger. Soon the woman who seemed to be of greatest importance wanted her turn with me! I didn't have a second to feel any embarrassment, but simply go with it! After every song I was pulled back up to dance :) It was such an indescribable feeling to be a part of such a special time with these women and their families.

I have pictures to post from this past week, and also from Thailand. But, with even more power limitations, my internet access is rare. Keep checking though!