Rule Number Five (While in Asia): Don’t bare your sole in Nepal!
I found this little tidbit out on my previous trip to Nepal in January. While in the United States, it is considered disrespectful to point your finger at someone, in Nepal, it is considered impolite to point the soles of your feet at another person, as they are an unclean part of your body. I am constantly catching myself doing this though, so I am doing my best to keep both feet firmly planted on the ground!
I have begun to teach the girls here at the safe house English. The office worker here, who is just one year older than me and speaks a fair amount of English, has become a quick friend, and she is helping me translate my lessons. In college, I taught English to refugees, but I am still finding myself somewhat unprepared for this undertaking here in Nepal. Nepali writing uses the Devanagari script rather than the Roman alphabet, so I began yesterday by simply teaching the girls the ABC’s and how to spell their names in English.
It’s amazing what you can do in foreign countries without a degree; it’s making me rethink all of my college tuition bills! Not only am I now an English teacher, I am also the resident counselor for the safe house, a position I am particularly enjoying! Using curriculum created specifically for women and youth seeking healing from abuse and sexual trauma, I led my first counseling session with the girls today!
We each drew a picture of our family members and shared about them. The girls put a lot of effort into their pictures and each got up in front of the group to share her picture and what she had written about her family. Most of them began by telling what each family member did (i.e. “my father is a farmer, my mother is a housewife and my younger brother is in Class One in school”). Most would then end by saying how loving their family was. There was one girl who told us that her father and brother were both working in India, which made me wonder if this is how she ended up in a situation of trafficking. From what the girls shared, it does not appear that many, if any, of them came from abusive families, and, while not knowing their individual stories, I would guess that most of them were influenced toward going to India by the promise of a job, as having a job to support one’s family or living as a housewife is very important in this culture.
Counseling is not a common practice in Nepal, and since being here, I’ve recognized that the girls are very shy about sharing anything personal within the group setting. So today, after each girl shared about her family, I told them about mine as well and a little bit more about myself, in hopes that they might feel more comfortable talking about their stories in the future.