so before I go into the saga about leaving the orphan home (which was like leaving a family, albeit a slightly disfunctional one), i thought i should go into detail about the oldest child at Harka, Ramesh.
Ramesh is 14 years old. When we first arrived at Harka (that crazy day where we were handed babies and plopped in front of 16 quizzical faces), he was the one with the firm handshake. We were told that his English was the best of the children, and though it took a while for him to come out of his shell, he definitely proved to be an asset in our lives during the first few weeks there. He told us what things were in Nepali, how things at the orphan home operated, and was genuinely interested in where we came from. Over time, however, it seemed as though his questioning would never cease and it became more and more prying in nature. He became disrespectful, and on many occasions we'd hear him talking about us with the aforementioned house parents in Nepali (not positively). Whereas we formed close relationships with all of the other children, I always felt like there was distance with Ramesh. Part of it was annoyance on our side, part of it could have been him being a difficult age, but part of it was also unwillingness on both parts to compromise and hear the other side out.
That being said, Ramesh was the hardest worker at the orphan home, hands down. Before school he would sweep the outside and inside floors, feed the bisi, clean up it's dung and turn it into fuel for the stove, and take him and the goats out into the field for the day. He worked harder than any of the other children and definitely harder than the house parents to keep the farm up and running. This was probably due to the fact that he was the oldest, but also because he was extremely meticulous...some may even say anal. His appearance was always perfect- he kept himself insanely clean and coiffed for being an orphan living on a farm- and his meticulousness was applied to any task at hand. He was the top student in his grade (he got attendance and discipline awards at their school award ceremony), and I believe it was because of his perfectionism and hardworking nature that he thought he deserved more. This is what infuriated Becca and I the most (though his disrespect for us as elders played a huge role in our fury as well). Ramesh thought he deserved more than the other children at the orphan home. He would constantly ask for things...be it a baseball cap, new shoes, sweets... he would even ask us to buy things for other people. He constantly told us about other volunteers and what they did/bought, as if our efforts weren't anything compared to theirs (this being said, no volunteer he mentioned stayed at Harka longer than 3 weeks...aka completely different situation). He brought up this "Jeanine" character daily (if not many times a day), evidently a volunteer who stayed for three weeks and was a reincarnation of everything holy in the world. In reality, we aren't sure what she was like, but Ramesh loved her because she liked Ramesh and Ashish the best. Um, what?? Yes, that's what we asked too when he told us that. Who volunteers at an orphan home and plays favorites???? Well, evidently this girl does. She wrote only Ramesh and Ashish (mind you, Ashish is 3 and his English limited to "come","cutting" and "ball") letters when she left, stating how much she loved him (we read these, they are real). None of the other children had letters. And none of the other children talked about Jeanine. Weird of all weirds. I can safely say she is the biggest mystery of my Harka experience. That and where the latrine contents go.
In retrospect, I have conflicted feelings about Ramesh. After leaving the orphan home and getting some space to think about my relationships with the children made me realize the complexity of our relationship with Ramesh. We constantly struggled to earn his respect (mostly by screaming at him to respect us), but it was futile because the house parents didn't respect us. At times he could be completely sincere and interested in what we had to say, and at times just downright annoying. He seemed very vain due to his perfect coiffed appearance and would ask us to take pictures just of him (posing with sunglasses, posing like John Cena, posing leaning against a wall), but in retrospect it was probably due to the fact that we didn't take pictures of him on our own. We didn't pay as much attention to him because he was the oldest, and maybe that's why he demanded it. As my only experience with a 14-year-old boy is Kurt, who can pretty much get along with anyone and respects everyone, I didn't know how to handle Ramesh. But I think he liked that we were there.
* sidenote: Because I helped him with his homework often (he didn't actually need help, but asked me to help him anyway) he developed a somewhat crush on me that culminated in a hilarious moment when he handed me a small note that read, "I love you Britta" and claimed it was, "from some girl at school" and then ran away. Hahaa.....