Rule Number Three (While in Asia): No forks. No spoons. Just your right hand.
It is easy to set the tables here, because no silverware is used. For meals, you just eat everything with your right hand. For those of you lefties out there, I apologize. Using your left hand to eat is considered extremely unsanitary and somewhat offensive. This is because your left hand typically replaces toilet paper! I also found it interesting that the girls here only paint the fingernails on their left hand, as they do not want to contaminate their food when they eat.
Today, the girls and I went to the local market. We got fancied up in our punjabis (the customary Nepali dress) and walked about twenty minutes to what Americans would consider a Farmer’s Market. There were dozens of vendors sitting on the ground under blue tarps selling freshly grown vegetables and lots and lots of bananas (this is the fruit in season right now). I tried two new drinks while I was there. One was freshly squeezed bamboo juice, and it was fantastic! I actually watched the vendor mulch the bamboo shoots to extract the juice. The second was much less appealing. In Nepal it is considered a “soda,” but after two sips, it was clear that the drink was merely carbonated water with lime juice and salt. Not only did it taste awful, but drinking the water here is not a pleasant experience for foreigners, so I am expecting digestion problems in the near future.
I began sewing lessons today as well! The girls at the safe house receive sewing training for two hours everyday, so that when they leave the safe house after 6-8 months, they have a trade that they can bring back to their villages. In middle school, I dreamed of becoming a fashion designer, and I designed clothing day in and day out; however, I never actually learned how to make the clothes I designed. So, I have decided to buckle down and learn how the make the traditional Nepali outfit! We’ll see if I am actually able to wear any of my creations!
A few nights ago, the girls talked a lot about trafficking, and it was a great opportunity to educate them further on what trafficking is. A staff member from the Nepalese organization operating the safe house had come to visit, and she had not met any of the girls currently at the safe house. She asked the girls to introduce themselves, giving their name, their age, their education level and where they came from. I learned so much from these introductions. Most of the girls did not go too in-depth into their stories, as it was a public setting, but they did share enough for me to better understand their situations. None of the girls here have been educated beyond the tenth grade level, and one of the girls only has a third grade education; she is 13 years old. The majority of them left home because of poor or abusive family situations or poor financial situations, and they were stopped on the border before they went into India. Although not all of them had previously encountered a trafficker when they were rescued, their intentions to travel alone to find work in India would most certainly have landed them in a brothel. Because of this, not all of the girls here understood all that trafficking entails and the realities of sexual exploitation and of the brothels, so we had a time of educating them on what we learned in Mumbai about sex trafficking, what happens to the majority of Nepalese girls leaving Nepal for India on their own and how they can educate their villages and protect themselves from further exploitative situations when they go back home.
I am thankful that some of the girls here were rescued before they encountered sexual abuse, but that has not been the case for all of the girls. Some of them were forced by their families to marry men that secretly had intentions to traffick them after marriage; this is becoming prevalent in situations of sex trafficking. And there have also been girls that have come to the safe house pregnant.
I am learning more and more about just how vast human trafficking is. There is no cookie-cutter trafficker, and that makes it an extremely difficult injustice to both prevent and stop. Parents traffick their children, husbands traffick their wives, employers traffick their workers into brothels and the list continues. This is why education pertaining to sex trafficking is so important, so that the girls themselves are aware of what trafficking entails, so that families and communities learn to respect and value women, protecting them from the realities of what is occurring in their midst, and so that women are no longer viewed as a commodity to be exploited.