Rule Number Eight (While in Asia): Not only is Nepal 10 hours and 45 minutes ahead of the Midwest, it is also ahead by approximately 57 years!
Yes, on April 14, I celebrated New Year’s for my second time this year (this due to the fact that Nepal runs on a different calendar than most of the world). In honor of this happy event, the girls and I went for a picnic in a park about three hours from the safe house. They loved the field trip, and the drive to the park was beautiful! I am a native Minnesotan, so even the foothills here look like mountains and take my breath away. What also took my breath away was how close our driver got to the edge of the road driving on these “mountains” (I’m not so good with heights).
On New Year’s we also celebrated the House Mother’s birthday with a delicious black forest cake that I hunted down in the market. The birthday party was a blast as we ate and danced to Nepali/Hindi music (I was also so relieved to get some sugar back into my system). The Nepalese people, probably for the best, don’t tend to eat many sweet things. They much prefer salt, lots and lots of salt (oh, and don’t forget the chili peppers). Needless to say, my mouth has been on fire for most of my time here!
Yesterday, one of the girls offered me this digestive tablet that you’re supposed to chew to help you digest your food. The girls were all eating them with genuine delight, so I figured they must be good (and I can use all the help here with digestion that I can get). I should have known, however, that if the Nepalese liked them, I was probably in trouble. Chewing that little tablet was like drinking salt water from the Dead Sea (which I have accidentally done), and it was probably one of the top five grossest things I have ever tasted in my life (with pig intestine soup also being on that list). It took chugging a litre of water to get the taste out of my mouth.
Since being here, I have also learned some of the girls’ stories, as to how they ended up at the safe house. The following is only one of these stories, but it provides great insight into what the trafficking process looks like and how it operates. For the girl’s safety, I have not included her name:
This is the story of a 13-year-old girl who studied to grade six. Due to the size and poverty of her family, she could not complete her studies, so she helped her mother in household activities and her father on their farm. Her parents were very happy with her, but she was not happy because she had to drop out of school. One day, a stranger came into her village and proposed that she marry him. She was young and scared to marry him and initially refused his proposal. However, the man was not ready to give up, and he and his parents forced her to marry him. He was 26 years old, twice her age. Although she did not accept her marriage, she was complacent to go with her new husband when he asked her to leave Nepal for India. He promised that he would keep her happy, and she believed him, so they went. On the border of Nepal and India, they came to a border station supported by the Red Thread Movement, where a counselor working there asked the two of them questions regarding their travel into India. The man told the counselor that they were married and beginning a new life outside of Nepal. However, the counselor did not trust the man, because he was so much older than the girl. So, both were separated and asked questions individually, and the girl told the counselor how she had met the man. The counselor explained to her what trafficking was and told her that she had encountered and rescued many girls with stories like her’s, who had been forced to marry men intending to traffick them. It was then that the girl understood she was going to be sold by this man now claiming to be her husband. The counselor offered the girl an opportunity to leave the man and receive shelter and additional training at a safe house, and the girl agreed; the man was turned into the police stationed at the border. After a year at the safe house, the girl has just returned home with an education in sewing and a new chance at life in her village.