My friend asked about the mother of the daughter who has Downs Syndrome’s husband. What I heard her telling my friend was not similar to what she had told me, but I waited to double check that with my friend later. The lady told us of a time that her daughter was really sick and had to stay a week at a hospital in Pokhara. My friend told the lady of other avenues she could ask to get the money for the tests and told her she would also try where she lived and worked too. She also emphasized to the lady that I did not receive a salary so I was unable to give any money. We left telling her we would be in communication after we had talked to some other avenues.
As we went on the road back home, I asked my friend what the lady had told her about the lady’s husband. My friend said the lady had said her husband is not in contact with her so she doesn’t know where he is or where he works. I told my friend that the lady had told me that her husband works at a hotel in KTM, but sleeps on the streets. I told my family that because it didn’t make much sense to me and my family said that was probably a lie. Apparently, my didi also communicated to my friend prior to us visiting her that she thought the lady was not being honest with me, wanting me to give them money.
My friend and I both thought it was weird we were told two different stories. Also, my friend said the hospital where the lady’s daughter had stayed at for a week was a private hospital. They are more expensive than a government hospital so she wondered where the lady got the money for that when the lady told us that she did not have much money for food. She decided to ask a neighbor near her house. After ensuring we were talking about the same lady, the neighbor tells us the lady’s husband owns 3 hotels in KTM, has a furniture store in the area, and the uncle lives and works abroad. Basically, she has access to money!
We thanked the lady and continued our way home. My friend told me to put helping the lady out of my mind. We exclaimed our shock at everything the lady had said and done. I wondered what I should do ‘cause the lady’s house is on the road I take to leave site. My friend said she would call the lady and ask her why she wanted funds when she had access to money. I was also given a couple of things to tell the lady if I came across her again along the lines of “I have given you organizations. I can’t do anything else. You are responsible for what you do with the information that I have given you to help your daughter.”
I need to get into my brain that my role in Nepal is to provide people with information and let them do what they want with it. My jobs in the States have been providing information for people, but also assisting them in incorporating it into their lives. I thought that was what I was doing with this lady until she told me she had no money to pay for our plans. Monetary support was not involved in my jobs so it was not something that even entered my head that this lady would think I could do. Especially when I had already told her I don’t give money!!
We stopped by a different house on the way back where my friend knew some people. Again, my friend asked what the lady’s husband did and we got the same response as the other neighbor. This house was farther away and no leading questions were asked. These people provided us the information without us telling what we knew and it was confirmed a second time. As we continued on our way, my friend exclaimed shock again that the lady would ask for money when she had a lot of access to it. I asked if there was a possibility that the husband had a second family so that is why the lady asked us for some.
Any other explanation could not be possible due to Nepali culture. It is the man’s role to provide for their family. If they do not - they are not respected and disgraced. Respect is huge here and if you do not have it, there is not much you can do except to try and gain it back. Of course, abusing your wife is overlooked…but if you are not supporting your family in some way - it would not fly. There is a little wiggle room in this situation because the husband lives in KTM, but there are other ways to get him to provide money for his family without asking other people to give them money. Even so, there is probably not much wiggle room here ‘cause he has a business in the area. No one would go to it if the man was not respected.
The uncle living and working abroad may seem an outlier, but it is not in Nepali culture. Families live and work together. The uncle is a part of their family so he would be sending money back for the whole family’s use. Granted, having lived in the country where the uncle is working - I am not sure how much money he could send back as it is expensive to live there and I don’t know what job he has. However, there still is some access to money there.
When I talked with my mom about it, she wondered if what the neighbors knew was a story that the lady told everyone to save face. I told her I didn’t think that was the case in the Nepali culture context and especially with the furniture business in the area, it was not a possibility. My friend told me there there was no second family so the lady definitely had access to money. How else could the lady have paid for her daughter to be at a private hospital for a week? Many Nepalis, as well as others, have the mentality that white skinned people have money. My friend thinks the lady saw me and thought of an opportunity to get more.
From all of this, I have learned NOT to think about just going ahead and paying for something. I don’t think I would have done it anyways ‘cause I’m saving up for when my mom comes to visit, but it still shows me how I need to adjust my mindset in things like I stated earlier. Provide the information and leave it in the hands of the Nepalis. Check in to see what they are doing with the information to encourage action, but ultimately I need to watch how I try to assist them because even after 15+ months of living here - people still think I have lots of money.
Please know that not all Nepalis would do something similar to what the lady did! While many people still think I have money, there are still quite a few people that do not see me as such and are so helpful to me as I muddle my way through my role as a PCV (Peace Corps volunteer). While my district does not have a good reputation and after I have completed my service, only 4 out of the 10 volunteers placed in it will have stayed here for 2 years…there are still so many Nepalis that are welcoming and accepting of me for being me.
People from my village have called the cable car people and reamed them out for charging me a foreigner price - so much that I am pretty sure at least on our side of the cable car, I will be given the Nepali price. Didis came to my defense when a tailor tried to have me overpay for some clothes. When I tell people I don’t dance by myself, people dance with me. My Nepali is improved because my village helps me when I make mistakes. When I express frustrations with things, sadness of friends leaving, family members dying, and etc. I feel so supported! They laugh along with me when I am so joyful over my current life.
It does not matter where you go - there will always be nasty people. There will also always be people that are there for you even if you come from different beliefs and culture. You just need to be yourself. Look at everything from all angles. As I write this out, I am realizing just how many people have come to bat for me even if I have not communicated with them much. While in the States, people asked me if I had friends here. I do, but at the time was not really able to wrap my head around that question. Now, I can definitely say I do.
My closest friend during my first year is no longer living here as she has gone to further her education. I was a little bit at a loss because it was also around the same time as my closest volunteer was moved to another site as well as me readjusting to Nepali culture. Another girl began having me over and she is the friend that went with me yesterday. It is probably due to my being in my second year, she works in a similar capacity that I do, and have more Nepali that I feel like I am closer in this friendship. I ask her a few times why we didn’t know each other sooner!
Next week brings my first meeting with her that I remember. It was Holi, which I didn’t figure out until late afternoon. My other friend came to my house and had me come with her to throw red powder at people. We went in a circle around the village and came up to the new health post in charge. He told me to smear red powder on his wife. I remember being very embarrassed and not wanting to do it, but he was insistent. I looked at her and asked with my eyes if she was ok with this. She nodded and motioned where to put some red powder on her. Little did I know that around the same time next year, she and I would be hanging out!
It goes to show you that you go through many changes in life. You need to choose what you do with those changes. Are you going to have them make you a better person? I hope that I have been doing that. I know I could be doing better and I’m working on that. The realization I have had about how many people in my village are supportive of me is helpful. I am even more looking forward to these next months where what I have been wanting to do for a year will be brought into my community to bring additional nutritional access.
The road that I have been going on has been an interesting one leading up to this point! Now is the time for me to roll with everything as my coordination of plans comes to fruition. It’s both exciting and scary! I’ll just keep doing what I have been doing though. Take a day at a time. This way things do not seem as daunting as they can be!