One of the projects I’m working on in Nepal required me to spent the morning shifting through spread sheets and collating a years worth of trafficking data to pinpoint the top districts where victims come from and try to find some over lap with the districts they are trafficked out of. Blah. Boorrring. Research is not exactly what gets me going. The goal of the whole thing is to get district specific resources, shelter locations, local agency support and police numbers, for these victims to help keep them from being trafficked again. It seems like a worthy project on paper and it may be eventually, but for right now it is just pretty mind numbing work.
My work is not on the front lines like Dave working in the hospital, who gets to make an evident, tangible and life changing difference here in Nepal. I’m working from the background on things that may or may not have any impact what-so-ever. I don’t often meet with and see the trafficking victims and when I do I can’t fix what is hurting them. I’m kind of jealous of Dave in that sense and it has had me thinking about what exactly I’m doing here, besides using up the scarce resources of my host country. All I really seem to be doing is taking children back and forth to school and play-group, figuring out how to feed everyone, ripping through books and reading lists and occasionally some obscure legal and statistical research. Pretty much what I was doing back at home actually. I will quote the Godmother of the girly movie, Norah Ephron (name that film), as a synopsis of my current thoughts on what exactly I’m doing here my.
“Sometimes I wonder about my life. I lead a small life. Well, not small, but circumscribed. And sometimes I wonder, do I do it because I like it, or because I haven’t been brave? So much of what I see reminds me of something I read in a book, when shouldn’t it be the other way around?”
So after a boring morning of research I headed out to do grocery shopping and pick up kids. The town was celebrating Holi, the Hindu festival of colors. Holi is like a cross between Halloween and a ColorRun. Kids paint their faces and wander around town. They will ask you for money and then will paint you with various color powders and colored water. It looks like it would be fun, if you were 10 or lived on a college campus.
Also like Halloween, there are groups of teenagers who are just a bit to old to be doing the trick or treat thing, when all people really want to see are the cute kids dressed in animal costumes. I was walking along when I ran into one of these ‘a bit too old’ groups covered in Holi paint and their faces painted like skulls, obviously enjoying themselves. They wished me a happy Holi and like a good sport I let them to slop red, turquoise and brown, powder paint on my cheeks and forehead. All fun and games, until the paint covered hands drifted to an inappropriate place for paint or hands. “Hey!” I yelled. “Cut that out! That’s enough get out of here!” and they all ran away. Stupid kids. It wasn’t the first time I’ve ever been touched inappropriately but I’m willing to bet it didn’t happen to only me that day. I think the statistics are, in America at least, 1 in 5 woman will experience some type of sexual harassment in their lifetime, and though unreported, I’m guessing it is probably more in Nepal. The difference is not that Nepali men or boys are creeps it’s that I know I don’t have to take it. I come from a ‘No means No’ and a ‘Know your rights’ culture. I know I don’t have to allow anything of the sort and I know who to call and where to go, people will take me seriously and my culture will support me for doing so. How many Nepali girls have that? How many Nepali girls know that is not an appropriate place for Holi paint? How many Nepali girls know that they can say no, that they can leave, and that there are safe places to go?
So maybe I live a small life here and maybe I’m a little too lost in books, and maybe my project is at a really boring stage right now, but if one Nepali girl knows where to go to be safe and comes to understand that she doesn’t have to accept abuse, I will feel like I have been brave.