May 1, 2009: I am in Nepal. The first thing I noticed was the slight smell of burning in the air. Someone picked me up from the airport and discarded me into a taxi without any direction.
May 2, 2009: I already feel like I have been here for a week. The city outside the tourist trail is insane. Just a constant flow of kicked up dust and never ending beeping. It's a constant stream of people and cars.
May 4, 2009: I am in the orphanage. I don't know how to describe what and where I am. As I sit and write I am covered in flies. the 23 children are everywhere. They are the most lovely/smart/gracious people I have ever met.
May 5, 2009: The kids put their uniforms on and from a closer look I can see that they are dirty and tattered...They take great care in their presentation for school...I pray I am not getting lice.
When I arrived in Nepal, I realized that I had not thought anything through. I found an orphanage organization online and said to myself, "I'll go there." My orientation nights in Kathmandu were odd. The city seemed a hippie haven fighting against one of the poorest countries that experiences rolling blackouts and sits beneath an electrical-wire web canapopy that begs one to wonder how any of it works.
On my final orientation day, a random car brought me forty-five minutes into the hills to an orphanage of 23 children, no flushing toilets, one spicket for a shower, literally no actual chairs, a buffalo for milk, a meager garden of mostly potatoes and a chicken coop filled with howling foul that produced eggs for them to take to market.
Upon arrival, one child, Susma, greeted me, all smiles and an impressive command of English. Technically, they should all have spoken English since they went to an English speaking school. After I taught there for a few days, I realized that what they were speaking was not an English I, or you, could recognize.
I helped get the kids ready in the morning, a task they took very seriously, especially the girls. Hair had to be perfect, shirts tucked in, socks up. All the care couldn't hide, though, that they were ragged from life in a dirty, cramped, barely surviving orphanage.
The strongest feeling I still have is a rotating pressure of little hands in mine as I walked them to school. They would argue over who could hold my hand as we passed shrines adorned with flowers that more than once a child stole to offer to me.
My time in Nepal did not involve going to open-air flea markets filled with post-grandeur household object because, of course, they have never been grand. Instead, I collected the local Rudraksha beads, a seed traditionally used as prayer beads in Hinduism.
In the evenings, they would recite a hindu prayer, in dim light, (not for mood, there just weren't lights) and tighten their eyes with such piousness it could make you cry.
My Nepal line, after all these years, is made from the sacred Rudraksha bead, for those eyes that kept in the prayers.