An explosion of colours

Articles, Human Rights, Street children

Visiting the market in Parwanipur is amazing, every single time. In Nepali they call it “bazar”, and it’s a chaotic mix of people, smells and food items. I particulary enjoy watching the saris that woman wear, which create an explosion of colours.

Portrait at the market.

Getting there takes about 20 minutes walking from the childrens’ home. It’s the fifth time I’ve come to the house but I’m still as mesmerized by the town and its people as when I first arrived. I enjoy the peacefulness of walking through the path in between the fields, with no more company than the birds singing, the blowing of the wind, the people working the land and occasionally a bicycle or motorbike.

The people from the town are now used to seeing me, so besides “Namaste” and smiles, the kids also have the courage to come next to me and shake my hand with amusement. As I walk by, I hear a symphony of bye-byes that always makes me smile

Children of the village.

When I arrive to the market and I take my camera, what happens is kind of magical. People stare at me with curiosity and when I ask someone for permission to photograph them, they always say yes with a warm smile. Once I’ve shot the first picture, more and more people come asking me to photograph them as well, and then their families or friends. I love it. Visiting the market is truly a unique experience. 

Celebrating Dashain at the childrens’ home

Articles, Human Rights, Street children

I was very excited on my second visit to the childrens’ home. Not only because I was thrilled about seeing the boys again, but also because we were going to celebrate Dashain, the biggest Hindu festival of the year, in which all Nepalis, regardless of their cast, worship the goddess Durga with ceremonies, rituals and animal sacrifices.

Dashain celebration at a temple in Parwanipur.

It was very interesting. I gladly didn’t see the animal sacrifice part of the festival, and just experienced the “happy” celebration. The boys got new clothes: a pair of jeans and a shirt, and they wore them happily when we went to the fair (or ‘mela’, in Nepali). There, we ate some snacks and sweets and the boys bought little toys or a traditional necklace with a golden coin with a Hindu god such as Shiva or Hanuman (‘the monkey God’, one of the boys told me), with a bit of pocket-money they had.

During Dashain, it is very common to fly kites, particularly in the rooftops of Kathmandu. According to the tradition, flying kites is a way to send a message to Indra, the God of rain, telling him that there is no need for more rain, since the festival is celebrated after the monsoon season. 

In Birgunj, the boys also took their kites and spend a whole afternoon running around with them in the garden, laughing. Some of the boys were really good and managed to make the kite fly up in the sky, while other kites were barely flying at all. But all the boys had a good time, and seeing them I had as much fun as them.

Before that, the kids were still going to school but getting ready for holidays. On the last day of classes, the school organised a special programme with speeches and performances. Samrat and Rohit danced a song that they had been practising a lot at home, and Ramesh sang a song. I was watching everything with amusement, trying to go as unnoticed as possible. But then I got put in the spotlight when one of the teachers asked me to give a speech. Even though I’m not really a fan of speaking in public, (especially when I have nothing prepared) I accepted and found myself explaining where I come from, what I do and why I came here. I received an ovation from my audience when I said in Nepali: “malai Nepal man parcha”, which means ‘I like Nepal’. And then this phrase became a joke that the boys kept repeating to me the following days.   

One of the boys singing a popular Hindi song.

*Article published on the website of Our Sansar, a british NGO helping street children in Nepal.

Time goes by at a different speed

Articles, Human Rights, Street children
I’ve noticed that time goes by at a different speed in the children’s home. 

The day starts early and goes on relaxed. While the boys are at the school, there’s literally not much to do. I eat some fruits, read a book, write, try to learn some Nepali with the help of Sushma… Sometimes I go back to sleep for a short nap, as my body is still not used to the heat and I feel tired quite often. 

Morning views.
When the boys come back, it’s a totally different thing. 

Of course, I can still have some time for myself and just stay in my room (chilling under the fan, when I can’t stand the heat any more), but once I leave my room, there’s always something for me to do, watch or photograph. “You play marble game?” is one of the recurrent questions I get. Other times it’s cricket, hide and seek or flying a kite. Some boys are really creative and enjoy showing me the things they have built with some cardboard and glue. I’m amazed, every single time. 

A funny time is when, twice a day, the boys do their homework, and Sushma and I help them.

They enjoy reading out loud their exercises and showing me their good marks. Sometimes they ask me to read them a story of one of the books that are in the shelf, or they grab a photograph book and play to imagine that they live in the places shown in the pictures. “This is my house”, says Ramesh pointing at some San Francisco buildings. 

Occassionally the boys watch TV or a film. I can’t tell what’s more entertaining for me: their concentrated faces or the Nepali movies or music clips, wich I don’t understand but make the boys laugh. 

Around 8pm we usually have dinner: dal bhat, a plate of rice with a lentils soup and some vegetables and pickles on the side.

After that, we usually play some Nepali music and the boys dance. They are so good! By now, I have gotten used to this kind of music, so I try to copy some dance moves without making a fool of myself. And I have the best time. If this is what routine looks like, I’m not complaining!

Sarita, the cook, serving dal bhat.

*Article published on the website of Our Sansar, a british NGO helping street children in Nepal.

The journey to school

Articles, Human Rights, Street children
Final touches before going to school.
At the children’s home the day begins really early.

At around half past 5 the boys start to wake up and get ready to go to school. They freshen up, put on their school uniforms, eat breakfast and brush their hair in front of the mirror, the one and only mirror, behind the entrace.

At 6am, it’s time to line up and when everyone is ready, Sujman takes the boys to school. At first, I thought that I would find it hard to wake up so early, but after I went with the boys and their “didi” to school, I loved it so much that I kept going every day. 

The journey to school takes a 20 minutes on foot each way, and it’s beautiful.

The sun rises in the sky while we walk in a tight path between rice fields. On the way we meet country men and woman wearing traditional clothes  (I love saris so much!) and working the land. 

The walk to school.

Then we arrive to a small town, where I see the Nepali countryside life for the first time. Mud houses and people wearing no shoes, basically doing everything in the open-air: washing clothes, cleaning their body or teeth, napping… There’s also horses, cows, buffaloes, ducks and goats everywhere. It’s funny because everybody seems surprise to see me, so I get a lot of looks. Sometimes they stare at me, surprised, others smile, say ‘namaste’ or even a few words in English.

As we get closer and closer to the school, more boys and girls with the same uniform join us and we all arrive to the Modern English School.
Students taking part in the “welcome assembly”.

There, every day starts with the same routine, the “welcome assembly”. They line up, listen to some speeches by teacher and other students, do some exercises and sing the national anthem. I try to go unnoticed while I observe this, but clearly I fail in my attempt. My presence is a distraction. However, the curious and friendly looks I receive from the kids are very funny.

Overall, it’s a very beautiful experience and the reason why, while being there, I keep waking up at 5:30, day after day. 

A villager on the way to the fields in a foggy morning.
Familiar scene seen on the way to the village.
Huts outside Parwanipur.

*Article published on the website of Our Sansar, a british NGO helping street children in Nepal.

Smiles don’t need translation

Human Rights, Street children
I feel that I have found a family in the children’s home in Birgunj. 

Growing up as the youngest of two sisters, I had never experienced what it was like to have someone younger to look after, but now it’s like having 17 little brothers, and I love it. Although I have my “real” family very far away, since my parents, sister and other relatives are in my home town, Barcelona, it’s still impossible to feel lonely here. Sujman (or “didi”, for the kids) has become my Nepali mummy, my “ama”, and she is really sweet and treats me as if I was her daughter. 

Homework time.
The boys have quickly opened up to me. 

Even the ones that at first seemed a bit shy, have now no problem in talking, playing, asking me to help them with their homework and even dancing with me to the rhythm of Nepali music. They have taught me how to play cricket and I have taught them some basic Spanish and and how to dance the famous Spanish song La Macarena, which now we dance together. I hadn’t laughed so much in a while. 

I also have lots of fun with the Nepali staff, even with Nur, the cook.

We share part of the name and we approximately have the same age (she is not sure but believes that she’s 21 or 22). Nur doesn’t speak English and my Nepali phrases are very limited, but still, we manage to communicate and we enjoy spending time together. She introduced me to her son and daughter, she gave me some of her bracelets and painted henna to me. Some time we take selfies together, we dance and hug, but mostly, we smile to each other. And smiles don’t need translation.   

Dancing and laughing with Nur, the cook.

*Article published on the website of Our Sansar, a british NGO helping street children in Nepal.

First impressions of the children’s home

Human Rights, Street children

I was sweaty and exhausted when I arrived to the children’s home in Birgunj after a bumpy and long ride from Kathmandu. The first thing I noticed when I got off the Jeep and stepped in Terai for the first time was the extreme heat. Soon I met the Nepali staff, who came to pick me up and were really nice, and once in the house, I was welcomed with warm, curious and (at first) shy smiles from the kids. 

Later on, wandering around the house, I wasn’t sure what to do at first, but I started introducing myself in the few sentences I know in Nepali, and asking the boys names even though I knew I wouldn’t remember them later. One of the kids approached me and we started playing clapping games, trying to slap each other hands. That was it, suddenly many other kids were interested in playing as well so I had to make turns. After that, everything went smoothly and I soon felt at home. 

It’s impossible to come to the children’s home and feel indifferent.

I’ve hardly been here for about 24 hours and I have already fallen in love. The kids are amazing: sweet, funny, intelligent, cheerful, creative, active and extremely cute. They smile, play, joke and dance with so much energy, and seem really happy. It’s easy to forget that they used to live on the streets, that they have been through really hard times and that unfortunately they haven’t had a peaceful happy childhood as I have. They temporarily lost their childhood when, living in the streets, they had to grow up too fast. But finally Lady Luck was on their side and thanks to the NGO Our Sansar, not only they have a house to live in but also have access to an education and a big and welcoming family. And the future is theirs.

One of the boys proudly showing the table soccer board he made.
Playing with a kite.

*Article published on the website of Our Sansar, a british NGO helping street children in Nepal.

Discovering Nepal’s beauty

Human Rights, Street children

Deciding to go to Nepal to become a volunteer was a well thought decision. 

I didn’t take it lightly or without considering what it would imply. Long before setting a foot in the plane (and frankly, even before getting the tickets), I had pictured in my head what Nepal would be like. However, this didn’t make my arrival at Kathmandu any less shoking. 

The airport, was unlike any other I had ever been to.

Not the big, bright, clean, brand-new Terminal 1 of Barcelona’s El Prat Airport, but instead, small old buildings made of bricks, very very simple. After picking up my backpack, I headed to the currency exchange counter where, to my surprise,  I didn’t find any queue or any kind of organisation, but men pushing their way through to get their money. When travelling, you always have to adapt to the local ways, so that’s what I did without hesitation: push like a true-born Nepali, even though I was carrying a backpack that was taller than me. And I got my rupees sooner than I’d expected.

Getting a taxi was far easier than I anticipated (thanks, pre-paid service!). In the back seat, looking through the window, I couldn’t be more astonished looking at the streets of Kathmandu for the first time. The dust, the crazy driving, women dressing in colorful saris, some kids bare-footed, the street vendors, the abandoned dogs, the lack of traffic signs… 

I have to admit that when I arrived to my hostel I felt a bit relieved…

As if I had found a bit of peace in the middle of Thamel’s chaos. But now, a week after my first encounter with the city that will be my home for the next few months, I have discovered that its beauty lies in the simpliest things. In the sincere smile of kids when they greet you in English and you reply something in Nepali, in the Tibetan prayer flags moving at the rythm of the wind in some temples, in the contagious laugh of people dancing traditional music, or in the evenings in the terrace with the staff of the hostel, drinking Nepali beers, which might be a bit too big. Or not.

Celebrating the Teej festival in Kathmandu’s Durbar Square.
Views from the World Peace Pagoda, in Pokhara.

*Article published on the website of Our Sansar, a british NGO helping street children in Nepal.