...i became part of a family in Nepal. That is, according to the Nepali calendar that neither shares months nor years with the Western world. Leaving the orphan home on Sunday left a pit in my stomach somewhat akin to the feeling of losing someone for a long time. Kind of like a breakup. But at the same time, I realized how much I loved the children and that I knew I would be back sometime soon. And that made me much happier. Though I didn't cry while hugging and kissing the kids goodbye (amazingly, how the hell did that happen?), I almost broke down on the walk to the bus as a flood of images of their faces and things they had said to me over the past two months filled my consciousness. The way each one of the children opened up to us over our time at Harka made me want to adopt each and every one of them. Unfortunately, having no money, job, stable living situation, or life partner, I am in no place to do such a thing. And I'm not sure that is what they need.
During our final night "party" put on by Laxmi (well, organized somewhat by Laxmi, but mostly put on by us) I realized how much these kids are all part of the same family. Ramesh and Sirjana got goofy posing for the camera in sunglasses, the kids danced and opened presents, and spent the night hanging all over us. Though they may have all come from different living situations (some even still have a parent alive) they have all become brothers and sisters at Harka, sharing in chores, daily activities, and love. Even though Becca and I won't be there to take Tulie to the bathroom and comfort her when the house parents ignore her cries, Sarswoti and Radika will. Even though we won't be there to toughen up Jamuna whenever someone accidentally touches her (she cried constantly when we first got there, and by the end we'd just say "go, get him back!" and she'd run after whoever it was to get them), Sirjana has taken to comforting her. Though we won't be there to love the kids permanently, knowing that we were able to be there for such a long period of time gives me solace. I am so lucky to have spent so much time with them, and though it was time for us to move on, I wouldn't trade in a day at that orphan home for the world. The final 3 weeks of our stay with the children felt like we had been there for years. Everyone was completely comfortable with each other (meaning us and children, houseparents don't count) and we were just able to love and be loved. The little kids started kissing us constantly, even blowing kisses through their bednets at night, and the older kids cuddled and hugged and danced with us galore. Though the kids are affectionate with each other to some degree, I feel as though they haven't ever had a chance to be affectionate with an older adult. Because the house parents are completely distant, demanding, and fear-inducing, there is no affection there... and Laxmi is only one person.
Amid a flurry of kisses and hugs on Sunday morning (the older children were leaving for school at the same time we were leaving for our bus), Sirjana came up to me and said, "Fast come! Fast come, okay?" I had no idea what she was talking about, and thinking she meant go to school quickly with them and come back, I said that I couldn't and I had to go to the bus. It was then that I realized she meant come back to Nepal soon, and I promised I would. Cross my heart, hope to die, I will come back to Nepal soon.
Though it has been a somewhat random transition (going to touristy Pokhara where we've been eating ourselves silly with Indian food and baked goods), everytime I look at my pictures of think about cuddling with one of the kids, the pit in the stomach comes back. Guess that's what love is, eh? As for a final sentiment on our departure from Harka, I leave you with my final conversation with Tulie (aka the scabby-faced baby, aka Tulie Bulie, aka Tules Bules, aka Bules, aka Beans, aka the baby i would take home if i could). The evil house parents told Tulie and Ashish right before we left that we were leaving (for good) which I specifically told them NOT TO DO, and they started bawling. I scooped Tulie up and hugged her, kissing her and telling her I loved her, and as she cuddled back she goes, "Pitaab miss, gu" (rough translation: "I have to go to the bathroom, poop"). She always has to poop at the most inopportune moments. I quickly pulled off her shorts and went on a final trip back to the latrine, Tulie in my arms. As I put her down, in a tiny voice amid tears, she says, "Pani denuna.." (Please get me water (for the #2)) and turns around. She takes one step up and turns back to say, "Bye, okay?"
Sweetest goodbye I could have asked for.