Thursday, July 29, 2010

more stories...

If anyone happens to stumble upon this blog and is interested in more current stories and photos of the children at Harka Orphan Home in Nepal, please feel free to check out my more consistent blog.

I just returned to the States after spending three weeks visiting the kiddos. Any new stories can be found in my July 2010 archive.

If you ever have any questions or interest in volunteering in Nepal with children, please contact me or visit the Kids Worldwide website.

Tuesday, April 15, 2008

making mountains out of deserts

I made it to Doha, Qatar, four nights ago--27 hours, many cancelled and delayed flights late--but I made it. Mandy and Eric have continued the undeserved hospitality I have received throughout my travels. We've already eaten great food, shopped at H&M, drank coffee and tea, admired the Muslim women clothed head to toe in respect of their tradition (all the while toting outrageous purses, shoes and accessorize when at all possible, I guess), cried watching 'Atonement', chosen some fine fabric, been puzzled by the Islamic men's fascination with their vehicles, and I am adjusting to the sudden shift: a land of tropics and mountains to the desert of the Middle East; a Hindu/Buddhist dominated culture to that of Islam. What an honor to be a learning drifter.

But such change did not come until after Britta and I made a surprise visit to our cuties at Harka, went on trek number two with Guru outside of Pokhara, observed Nepalis choose a new government for themselves, and spent a last day in Kathmandu with Oz and friends.

The kiddos were completely ecstatic, especially Jamuna (a much lovier, hole in her achilles tendon, child [apparently she was riding on the back of the bicycle with Prim, the house father who Britta and I cannot stand, and she got her foot caught in the back wheel spokes to the point that we're pretty sure she'll have nerve damage for the rest of her life]), Tulie, Ashish, Budi, and Manish. 'Fender' (Manish's nickname) whispered "Geeraph" from behind the door and five minutes later presented us both with works of art. My mom, dad, and sisters sent clothes for each one of the children which could not have been a bigger hit. The boys proudly displayed their WWE wrestling shirts and the girls looked beautiful in all their colorful, cute outfits.

Britta and I played Santa Claus

Tulie Bulie

The youngsters with their new outfits...pockets were popular

those girls LOVED their new style!

We spent time in the fields, helped cook, slept the night away as rain thundered on the tin roof and quieted the jungle fires that had stormed through earlier in the evening. Our goodbyes the next day were less emotional with a fulfilled promise that we would, in fact, return. Minus the fact that Secil, Sarswati, Radika, Samjana, and Ishwor were absent (visiting grandparents), our visit couldn't have been better.

Day one of trek two took us on several local buses from Lakeside (including our mountain village rooftop adventure), and climbed our way to Chiso Pani (cold water) where we saw instantly rewarding sites of the Annapurna Range (the crystal clear view was similar to what took 12 days to see in Everest) and arrived after dark to a family of 9 who took us in for the night. As Guru chatted away and made friends with everyone he met, we realized that our position as observer had escalated to literal and figurative new heights. And we definitely had our first taste of Roxy, mountain-made local liquor...could have been better.

After this first day, we quickly learned that Guru's 4-5 hour estimates were more accurately 8 hours and that it was the "Nepali way" to stop and chitchat with strangers for an average of 45 minutes. And then there was the heat...oh, the made us finished with trekking. But we pressed on, and found moments of absolute joy: when we stopped on the side of the road for a break and 3 children ran from their house to happily pick fistfuls of their wildest berries; the fact that we didn't see another foreigner for 4 of the 5 days we hiked; the hospitality of Guru's friend and his family as we acted as their unexpected guests; gnawing at sugarcane; the night sky so filled with stars that it looked as though God pricked a million holes in a black-clothed sun; the nature of walking through villages, alongside river basins, and next to the Himalayas.

A sunburn, calloused feet, hot showers, a little internet (when gloom entered my heart as I realized my Memphis Tigers had lost while I was in the mountains), and good food later, Britta and I had left Pokhara and given a last hoorah to Kathmandu. We feasted with Oz and his friends Greg, James, Alice, Kylie, Tim & Mai (who were the cutest couple/hosts that had been working for USAid since the Kennedy administration)--couldn't imagine a better send-off.

Britta is in England having an hilarious time, I'm sure, with our friend, Hayley, and I will be spoiled for the next few days here in Qatar, and enter the United States of America Saturday night. We are both so excited to see family and friends and to soon start the next chapter of this life. Thank you all for participating in our story--one that has inevitably shaped my character, passion, and family--who knew the youngest of 3 girls would ever have so many younger siblings herself!

More photos will come stateside. Until then, peace, grace and love to all, Becca.

Wednesday, April 2, 2008


We've been nestled back into Kathmandu for the past couple of days now since our 25 day trip turned into 15 days of glorious and torturous heights.  Our tales included two Swedes, sore knees, suspension bridges, a snowstorm whose flakes resembled Dip N Dots vanilla ice cream, local lodges, a lama slumber party, mountains of the most famous caliber, the cutest (and some of the more annoying) Sherpa babies, hard decisions, and thankful encounters.  Perhaps the best way to go about this telling of our times is to just share with you some of my daily entries.  

Day One: Monday, March 17, 2008.
Our 25 days to and from Sagarmatha began with a dreaded bus ride to Jiri.  The alleged 10 hours, however, was 7, and we did not lose our lives.  It was an absolute roller coaster and Britta nervously spun our Om Shante luck ring.  I never want to forget the old monk whose eyes were glass and smile broad.  His unusually large hands comforted his sister monk like a father as the bus swerved to the dislike of her stomach and equilibrium.  We officially begin our hike tomorrow, and for the night are resting at Sagarmatha Lodge & Cafe House Restaurant, room Makalu 8463 meters (Everest is across the hall, home to the Spaniards).  Wel-come.

Day Two: Tuesday, March 18, 2008.
On our journey from Jiri to Sivalaya we took an unexpected detour some 3 hours down a valley into the backyards of farmers building houses made of stone they chiseled themselves.  We were lost.  A cute 10 year old boy held 100 Rupees in one hand and a smile in the other as we paid him a modest sum to take us to a small mountain town bordered by a river.  
Our aching bodies drank milk tea, rejoined the comradery of our Swedish boys, and gained two more: Sarah from Holland and Robbie from California [the only American we would see for 10 days], plus a host of sweet Sherpas with healthy laughs and chess skills (I got cornered into checkmate after 8 minutes).  We are joined by candlelight and food at the 'New' Sherpa Guide Lodge & Valley Restaurant that boasts of "The Best Chips in Nepal."

Day Four: Thursday, March 20, 2008.
"Hello, pen." -every child we past from Bandar to Kinja who robotically asked for pens and sweets.  A cutie little boy was the only one on the giving end as he gifted Britta with a smile and a flower.  We a much-needed pitstop in Kinja for some food and relaxation.  The sun has left us with crisp layers of red skin and our packs with arthritic shoulders and necks.  After a wee rest we plan to hike on up to Sete for a night's rest...we'll see.
And so it is that we made it up the long climb where Kinja turned into a village of dollhouses and construction men hit on us.  
We found ourselves at yet another Sherpa Guide Lodge with a beautiful stairwell, comfortable beds, and the most adorable staff (8 year old houseboy and the Nepali version of Edge, U2's electric guitar player).  With good advice from him, the German couple and their guide, and the smiling good nature of their two porters, this was more than a pleasant stay.

Day Six: Saturday, March 22, 2008.
Rest Day...and how grand it is to rest.  Our little crew of Tobie & Johan (our unofficial Swedish trekking partners) and Demien & Connor (young father and 11 year old son from Vancouver, Canada) all took the day of leisure in Junbesi at the 70s Happy New Year/Merry Christmas decor of Junbesi Guest Lodge & Restaurant.  
We anticipated our remaining journey, shared in the agony/thrill of our previous leg, read, bathed in the sun, walked around the small village, did not go to the monastery because we chose to be lazy, and found Milky-like biscuits (a favorite brand).
I also discovered Sherpa Stew...a new staple in my remaining meals.
The legs are ready for more.

Day Eight: Monday, March 24, 2008.
Starting the day off, we continued down, down, down through rainforest surroundings of singing birds and mossy trees to the foot of the Dudh Kosi River where we crossed a steel bridge that would be used in movies if only you could carry cameras through such terrain.
As we turned upward, we made a lunch pitstop in Chokha where the chairman of something (Britta's convinced he was a political figurehead) greeting us with a welcoming smile.
We continued up and down through Kara Koli and up the interminable hike to Bupsa...ah, Bupsa....our little paradise.  What we thought was  a 5:00pm arrival was actually 2:30pm, so Gajid Sherpa hosted us with our first hot shower, took us to the small town's monastery, and insisted that we spin the giant prayer wheels while Bamala, his wife, filled us up with the tastiest of food.  Part of us wants to stay here forever with the cutest Sherpa couple.

Day Ten: Wednesday, March 26, 2008.
And we made Namche, that is.  The long day from Cheplung to Namche finally came and now we are waiting in this truly bizarre mini-Pokhara/Thamel Disneyworld nestled in between the Himalayas at 3440meters (11,000ish feet) with streams upon streams of Asians and pre-teen Europeans bombarding our once difficult but treasured lonely path.  
We took our time stopping in Phakding for tea and biscuits and Monjo for the best lunch yet (fresh tomato soup, hot mango juice, and homemade jam...we're definitely stopping there on the way back), and then after crossing bridge after bridge of rough wind and loose boards, we put one foot in front of the other up to Hotel Tibet where the prices have officially risen and the dinner are much warmer.  We made a pitstop late in the afternoon at the Namche Bakery (surprise, surprise) and met our first group of Americans coming back down from Kala Pathar and Island Peak.  It appears that Britta and I have reached semi-celebrity status for our long trek from Jiri with no porters.  
I slept curled up like a hermit crab which does nothing good for your back...blanket tomorrow night for sure.
And so we'll take another much-needed day off to get even more used to this lack of oxygen and tourist crowds...and hopefully clothe ourselves more appropriately for the cold.

Day Twelve:  Friday, March 28, 2008.
We woke up this morning with plans to hike to Tengboche via the Everest View Hotel.  We stored away our excess baggage, stuffed the 10 Snicker bars in our packs, hugged our boys and said Adieu (they were headed for the treasured Goyko Circuit...which I will for sure do next time)...Unfortunately, on the way up to the hotel, Britta started feeling much worse than the day before.  
With our bodies so exhausted from Jiri, the slightest bit of illness cripples the body, and so she descended back to Namche to rest and I went on to see the clouded Everest, Nuptse, and the staggering beauty of Ama Dablam.  I sipped my hot lemon in the midst of these giants and silence, minus the wind and a few birds.
I am so thankful that we made it this far, and perhaps later in my life I'll be back to visit this hidden (except to the thousands of expeditions and groups shuffled in and all the China media attention about running the torch to the top of the North Face) landscape.
We are going to try to make it to Tengboche for a few nights tomorrow via the much easier path..step by step.
If not, we've already concocted a rather fabulous remainder of our stay including K-du, Osborne, Pokhara, and our babies.

Day Thirteen: Saturday, March 29, 2008.
Once again we awoke and packed our bags for Tengboche.  We made it to the Stupa with a cloudless perfect view of Lhotse Shar, Everest, and Ama Dablam.  We took picture after picture of the mountains, us with them, Chuck (my ugly doll) and Buddha (for Britta's dad) with them.  It was beautiful.
We kissed the air, and with mixed emotions turned downwind toward Lukla.  Though my overtly competitive nature was disappointed that we couldn't be closer, that we couldn't finish our 'setout task' (whatever that American mindset means), I was far more overwhelmed with thankfulness to God for bringing us to this country together, for giving us good health, and allowing us the wisdom to maintain such health.
Thank you God for your presence, and Britta's friendship.

Day Fifteen: Monday, March 31, 2008.
As the early sun opened up my lids yet again, we watched the mountains for one last intimate time as we boarded a 20 passenger Sita Air carrier and flew in 20 minutes what it took for us 10 hours by bus and 10 days by feet.
Everything was surreal from above, as it usually is:  rice paddies and terraces that resemble an architect's model or an earth-sized tapestry.  The mountains were there, and then they weren't.  
And so we flew our tiny plane into Kathmandu, got the news that the Kathmandu Guest House was full, wandered into an even more delightful lodge, Sun Rise Cottages, and Osborne welcomed us back with open arms for the remainder of our week here.
The day continued to get better as Britta found her puffy vest, we ate a delicious dinner at the Organic Cafe (put organic in the title and Westerners will come) while eavesdropping on the table next to us that included Tim, a Canadian Everest expedition leader- definitely googling him later on- and the greatest news of all, and perhaps a perfect ending to our eclectic Nepali travels: a Guru-guided 4-day adventure in the backwoods of Pokhora--staying only with the families along the road, and getting as far away from tourists as possible.  This would be after we make a day visit back to our kiddos to pick up a package, take some photos in their new clothes sent by my family and do some lovin (we have a feeling that Jamuna is going to just run up to us crying).
This would also mean that we would have traveled to our major destinations 2 or more times each...just hopscotching across Nepal.

And so that's just what we're doing.  Tomorrow we leave for a bonus night with our children that Britta and I took 3 days to decide whether or not that was emotionally wise, will hopefully paraglide in Pokhara with sky-high views of the Annapurna Range, and then go on a 4 day trek with Guru.  We'll come back next Friday night just in time to share one last night and morning with Oz (it has been more than wonderful reconnecting with this friend), and then Britta and I fly out (me to Doha, Qatar, to spend quality time with my darling Mandy Plummer-Heller, and Britta to see our pal Hayley in England) Saturday night.  
Hopscotch fo sho.

Sunday, March 16, 2008

on our way to the goddess of the sky...

No doubt that our week in Pokhara was relaxing, cathartic, and gluttonous.  We ate at every 'German' bakery that tempted us with their apple strudels and not-so chocolate cakes, and enjoyed delicious Indian and Nepali food every night.  Fortunately, we came across early in the week two staples:  a small breakfast eatery for which the name escapes me & the Almond Cafe.  We ate at this small family business and enjoyed every breakfast of our time in Pokhara, and at the Almond Cafe, where we were sure of its food because only locals ate there, the waiter took a liking to us and we got a few tummy aches from eating ourselves silly with Nepali food.  

One day we took a day hike to the neighborhood Stupa which would have been the most delightful view of the town if the Annapurna mountain range hadn't remained elusive until our very last morning (those mountains were just a tease, really, insisting that next time we spent our trek-time on their grounds and paraglided through their skies), and made two friends along the way.  One, a 9 year old Nepali boy and two, a 60 year old French female artist.  He served as our cute porter who knew flawless English, showed us his school in the mountains, could say hello in 6 languages, and educated us of his hometown.  She became an instant friend who was a bit insecure with her English (though, of course, she was brilliant), picked up pieces of trash along the hike to add to an art piece she was working on in Pokhara, and had traveled the world (and was on her way to Calcutta for one of her shows) to present her art.  She was strong, beautiful, and a creative spirit.  It made me look forward to the array of characters we will inevitably meet on our trek.  

We arrived back in Kathmandu yesterday afternoon to the unbelievable hospitality of an old high school friend of mine, Osborne, who is working at the American Embassy for the next year and a half (total of 2 years).  In the midst of catching up on each others' lives, Britta and I found ourselves being astounded by his apartment filled with washer/dryer, refrigerator, and microwave (thought we'd been teleported back to America for a second there), and being overwhelmed by his hospitality.  Above and beyond.  He should go in to hotel management...or more friends should visit him in Kathmandu (:  

Tomorrow morning, bright & early at 5:45am, Britta and I catch our longggg bus to Jiri, the starting point of our 25 day adventure.  Like the vast majority of our time in Nepal, many unknown stories await us, and hilarity to be sure.  I look forward to sharing with you all many a ditty when I return to K-du April 11th.  

Until then, Namaste.... 

Friday, March 14, 2008


Britta has been able to add many great pics of the kiddos on her website, so you should definitely check them out:

And I have added a great cluster more to my Snapfish album (I promise to use an easier method to view when I'm not paying money for computers):

password: bereccasmith

More blog entries to come!

Tuesday, March 11, 2008

playa from the himalayas

Britta and I find ourselves sitting in a town called Pokhara, surrounded by too many hippies with bad dreads, high speed internet (I've had dreams of this for 2 months now), bakeries to satisfy our dulled diets of dalbaht and biscuits, fogged-in Himalayan mountains (in which we've only actually seen 2 days since January...come on now), and a vacant room in our hearts for children 97 kilometers and worlds away from this touristy haven of lakes and supposed mountains.

Our last few days at Harka we spent each minute with the kiddos playing familiar games and taking a multitude of photos and videos. Ashish continued to try to snag the scraps of potatoes and cauliflower we cut for dinner, Jamuna kept on eating the orange rinds off the ground, Tulie's 24 hour snotty nose still ran, Soniya didn't stop with the notes and illustrations to her sitaras, Sirjana couldn't stop giving me her photogenic smile, and Secil never even thought about ending the constant, "Photo, one minute." (his adorable plea to be photographer for more than one minute.)

Britta made the comment on the morning of our departure that the night before the last night seems to always be better than the last night: less pressure & expectations. And so it was that after dinner the night before the last night with no electricity and a sky filled with glitter I sat on a bench with Manish on my left, Soniya behind with arms draped around my neck, and Sarswati leaning on my right side. We sat like that, silent, for a good 15 minutes. They knew, I knew, but there was no pressure or expectations...not this night. And so we communed together under stars and with the comfort and trust of knowing you're where you're supposed to be. A beautiful gesture of love that needs no translation.

But this is not to say that the night before our departure was not good...besides the inevitable stress, it was hilarious. After a morning of finishing the wall mural and packing, we started cooking in the afternoon with the anticipation of Laxmi's arrival (when it always gets unpredictable and dramatic). As Britta and I sat in the firepit fort making roti (bread) and veggies, a more excited than usual voice beckoned our attention. I went to Laxmi as she was waiting outside our door and she, acting with teenage giddiness whispered, "Backa [my name]," That's right, Laxmi bought us both a liter of Mt. Everest beer. Of course, we candidly placed them away from the childrens' eyes (but later got pictures, encouraged by Laxmi, with our beer and the kiddos). This was our first drop of alcohol since our departure, and we're both lightweights; therefore, we didn't finish our liter.

We had an absolute feast, wore saris, and gave all the children their gifts. The biggest hits by far were Sheena's suckers,

glowsticks I brought from home, the bandanas my mom sent, the frog with a crown that has 'Kiss me' on its stomach and smooches 3 times when you press it (Rachel, I thought it an appropriate gift for Tulie Bulie--Levi would approve), and all the bracelets we gave the kids (including, the colorful collection of Friendship bracelets). We danced, the little bits stayed up to 10:30, Sirjana added a blanket headwrap to my already strictly Nepali wear, and we slept hard. I woke up early with the expected shallow pit of the stomach feeling. We took more pictures, we did final Febreze sprays on their school uniforms (the remaining bottle yet another gift they were ecstatic over), and Soniya refused to smile for the last photos. Our bus left at 9:30. The kids were purposefully late to school and we were late to the bus (though it waited). Hugs and kisses were all around, and in the midst of it all, Tulie cried out to Britta, "Mith, gu, pani, bye." (Translation: "Miss, poop, water, bye.") Britta took her and Jamuna to the squatter, and later I hugged and kissed Tulie as she tried her best to gu. The only youngster that really lost it was Ashish because Kumari (neither one of us are big fans) kept on telling him that we were concept of childrens' emotions, that woman. Soniya and Budi kept screaming goodbyes from their school path, and I cried my way to the bus.

There is less devastation than when I left Hajari and crew in Hong Kong, however, because we both want to sustain our relationship as Didi with these children who have had little sustainability (besides baisi dung to oven gas) in their own lives. We seriously have every desire to return...couple years from now, perhaps, but return nonetheless.

If nothing else, I have to see Manish as a teenager. I am speaking of this middle school blog title's namesake. Manish, a twelve year old boy who loves wrestling, somewhat gently invites Gonga and Secil to participate, quietly goes about chores, and who will win any person over with his startling and suppressed smile.

The first day, way back when, we had the crazy immersion of 15 children, their names, attention, personalities, and quarks. Since I had no set remembrance of any names until day five, I called Manish, Fender, because someone gave him a Fender guitar tee shirt and he wore it well. The nickname stuck even after his real name did, and 2 weeks into our going to school ritual, Manish surprisingly took my hand and bestowed the name Giraffe for me, Tiger for Britta. It was actually more like Geeraph.

Manish (Fender) with Radhika (Bright Eyes)

The first week Britta and I pretty much decided that if we were in middle school we would totally have a crush on this boy...he's an introverted, sometimes too cool for school, doll. What a cutie. We were also terrified, after saying how darn cute he was in front of him, that he was actually fluent in English (thankfully not the case). That first month, after he came a tad bit out of his shell, he would be picked up by his best friend, Bullay, on bike and return with little fruits that resemble crabtree droppings as secret presents only for Britta and me. And in the middle of these small gifts, one night while cooking dinner, he grabbed my wrist and put a black plastic bracelet on...I haven't taken it off yet.

He had his weeks of being the introvert he is, but once I found out that he was the most ticklish creature God ever created, no matter how distant he was, a smile always came when I attacked the ribs.

One bad habit we immediately broke him of was saying, "Goodnight, Baby." That only lasted one night. He took the photo project very seriously, and stole our cameras whenever he got the chance. Even as a twelve year old he would shed his cool demeanor to hold our hands and allow us to hug him. And on the last morning as I watched him on his top bunk rummaging through his gifts, I caught him writing 'Becca' and 'Britta' with marker on his bandana, and when he found the giraffe sticker we specifically gave him he looked up and excitedly said, "Becca, look, Geeraph."


We will be in this relaxing haven for another 3 days, go to Kathmandu for the weekend where I get to reunite with a high school friend who is conveniently living and working in K-du, and then Monday we take the interminable busride to Jiri...the start of our 25 day trek to Saggarmatha, or Mt. Everest.

I will definitely blog once more before the 25-day hiatus...and hopefully a whole bunch of photos to peruse.

Monday, March 3, 2008

dog dimples

"It is only now, these years later, that Rahel with adult hindsight recognized the sweetness of that gesture. A grown man entertaining three raccoons, treating them like real ladies. Instinctively colluding in the conspiracy of their fiction, taking care not to decimate it with adult carelessness. Or affection.

It is after all so easy to shatter a story. To break a chain of thought. To ruin a fragment of a dream being carried around carefully like a piece of porcelain.

To let it be, to travel with it, as Velutha did, is much the harder thing to do."

Arundhati Roy's The God of Small Things is one of the many novels Britta and I have gone through since we've been in Nepal. This excerpt is a reflection of the central character, Rahel's, childhood in which she, her twin brother, and cousin would use their 7-year-old imaginations to create an entire universe all to themselves. And during the day they would entertain their neighbor friend, Velutha, an Untouchable (lowest level of the Indian caste system) in his twenties who protected their childhood by going along with their imaginations...edifying their make believe.

I started to cry (I know, way too early for that) the other morning while playing with Ashish and Secil next to a morning fire cooking rice. It was the usual games of tickle fits and peek-a-boo but at one single moment I got a rush of realization: I have had the rare opportunity to sit in on young childrens' stories and dreams and conspiracies of fiction.

It happens just about every day when the older kiddos are at school that the younger four gather flowers, grab a huge stone, and start pounding them into 'chutney' (mimicking the salsa we make with tomatoes and stone and cilantro)...that concoction is then served on large leaves on an elegant floor of dirt and mud. I will miss this delicacy along with Secil's treasures of pencil tops and trash, Jamuna's facial expressions, Tulie's snotty smooches. Their whispers and giggles have been the grandest gesture of an invitation to childhood once again. It breaks my heart that they have no idea we're leaving in five days. Okay, still too early to start crying.

Seeing that our departure is Sunday morning, we are busybusy getting together our going away presents for all the children...and 17 is quite the task. Both Britta and I have a couple pieces of jewelry that we will leave, several goodies that we brought and have saved for such an occasion, and Sheena sent material for Friendship Bracelets that we have been mass producing. I seriously feel like I am 8 years old again going to summer camp (and I can still picture them all the way up my oldest sister's arm as she sported her '80s look (: ). The children have exams all this week which not only means working on our English reading and Algebra skills but also having all children home the vast majority of the week. So these last days are certainly l.o.n.g. ones. In addition to compiling gifts, we have taken the task of a wall mural in the children's room. And I'm not gonna lie, it's amazing! Britta brought a shoebox full of craft paint that we have turned into pictoral ABCs and 123s next to their beds. And being the talented artist that she is, Britta painted the most adorable pictures next to every letter including B for Balloon, G for Giraffe, R for Rhino, and J for John Cena (for those who don't know [I'm expecting most of you] he is the WWE world wrestling champion)!!

The older children have been reacting differently due to our upcoming departure...Sirjana could not be more sweet and clingy, Ramesh could not be more obnoxious asking for 15 different gifts, and both Sima and Soniya go in spurts of being snuggly and giggly to being super mad and giving us the cold shoulder. Which brings me to my girl, Soniya.

I see more of myself in this 9-year-old jokester than any of the other children, barnone. It all started at the beginning (as it tends to do), when for the first week or so Soniya did her best to not speak the words she knew in English and keep us confused as she spattered off directions and ditties in Nepali. She would laugh and carry on, making me entirely annoyed until I finally learned to play her game. So whenever she would jabber on, I would repeat the same speed talk in English making exaggerated facial expressions and cackle all the while...she would laugh hysterically as if to say, "Alright now, you can roll with my game." The game being sarcasm, of course. Those close to me know that I have used this since I was a wee lass (much to the chagrin of my middle sister), and can sense it out even through a different language.

Around the same time we realized yet another, and even more unique, similarity. We both have a scar on our right cheek that disguises itself as a dimple...and hers was made by a dog's clinched jaw as well.

Needless to say, we've been best buds ever since. Her impeccable posture, dark, rich skin, thick short hair, and loud, honest laugh are the characteristics to a young girl who wears her emotions on her sleeves (she can't help but cry when one of the older boys makes her mad) and who was born to nurture as she continuously takes Babu to her side or gives Tulie a gentle kiss on the cheek.

Soniya with Babu

Yesterday while I was painting she asked me if when I went back to America if I would forget about her. Sooooo something I would have thought and most likely said to any of my camp counselors growing up, and it's as if they've had us for an entire summer. By living with her emotions so loosely dangled around her neck, she allows herself to hurt more and get far too upset over simple things, but she also makes herself available to love with a strong, passionate, profound, even sarcastic language.