Nepal: January 13th

13 Jan 18
Pokhara to Dhampus

This morning before we left the hotel, we had a lovely conversation with Razana, a hotel worker. She has worked in the hotel industry for eight years, but this hotel only thirteen days. She told us that her sister lives in Connecticut and is being adopted there. She is in college, but comes back to Nepal for service projects. Razana wants to visit her in the U.S., but is awaiting a visa. “I want to visit once in my life!” She told us that Americans are so nice, that when Germans and French come to the hotel, the workers are afraid to say “hi” to their guests. “But you, we have the same heart!”

I found it so refreshing that as I view with sadness, so many hateful posts on social media directed toward foreigners visiting and immigrating to the U.S., that this disdainful view has not made it to at least all the foreigners in the world. I am glad that to some at least, we are seen as kind and welcoming- let’s keep it that way.

Food we love here:
Mo mo!
Milk tea
Naan (though it’s not so common that everybody serves it)
Tibetan bread (explanation later)
Grilled tomato

Each time we arrive to a new place, we are greeted with “namaste” and colorful scarves. We have so many scarves!

This morning, we visited an emergency shelter home in Pokhara, which offers a home to girls under the age of 18. Here, girls stay anywhere from one day to six months and are those who are either without guardian care or have been removed from risky home situations. The six month time in the home makes it difficult for workers to effectively help and equip young women to face issues in their lives, so they are looking to change the facility to a long-term shelter.

The shelter, until recently, sent their girls to government schools. Now they send them to private schools after a harassment issue took place within the government schools.

The Nepalese government does have a branch to look after child welfare, but will use an organization such as Shakti Samuha to carry out the mission.

What percentage of these girls come here from domestic issues versus commercial?
Most here in this home are domestic. Domestic issues are a huge risk factor to push girls into the commercial sector and traffickers.

Is there a way to have the girls receive their education right here in the home?
If we had teachers, that would be wonderful!

This visit truly expanded my view on the mission and work of Shakti Samuha. Before our visit to this home, I suppose I was under the impression that Shakti mainly worked with women who had been formerly trafficked and raise awareness about the presence of trafficking. I wondered briefly what, if anything, they did to fight trafficking before it ever happened, and here was my answer. These were not girls who had necessarily been trafficked, but they were at risk of being trafficked in the future. And Shakti Samuha was working- in their amazing networking with so many other organizations and the government too- to help provide a better environment and lifestyle for these girls so they would never be pushed to seek foreign employment and find themselves trafficked. I am humbled and impressed by all they are able to do within this country.

Our second half of the day was devoted to getting to Dhampus, a mountain town from which we would be within spectacular view of the Annapurna mountain range. From what I gathered, our original plan was to get to the bus park and catch a bus up the mountain, which would drop those in our group who wanted to hike halfway up. However, we missed our bus. Sarala negotiated with some other drivers at the bus park- one who was driving a land rover/jeep vehicle. We had taken two such vehicles on our day trip to Sindupolchuk, so figured that would work- we had taken two for our group. Turns out, we were to take one this time! Our next half-hour was spent “sardining,” figuring the best way to fit our group of one dozen people into one vehicle- an adventure that literally “brings you closer together!”

Luckily, our sardine ride was not long and half our group was dropped off by the trail halfway up the mountain. Turns out the trail was more like a continuous set of stairs- I have a new respect for the power of gravity! The views, though……were breathtaking. And the view of the Annapurna mountain range when we reached the top was alone worth the entire trip!

We found our hotel at the top of the mountain and while we made ourselves at home, David & Sarala ordered our dinner. A group of us took a hike to the ridgeline while dinner cooked to watch the sunset over the mountains. We had a spectacular view of both sides: the sun shining on the Annapurnas on one, and the sun setting over the valley on the other.

Sunset greetings from some locals.
Our first view of the Annapurna range- that sharp peak behind us is commonly known as “Fishtail” and has never been scaled because of its sacred status.
Every dancer needs a jumping photo when they travel someplace cool!
Spectacular sunset over the Annapurnas.